It started a year ago. Oh, she was a long way from being born. I had yet to know that she existed. But I was a mother a year ago. How strange and beautiful that she knew me before I knew her. That second line showed itself, and it was shock and giddiness and such a deep joyful thankfulness that He looked at her, and He looked at me, and He said “yes, you will be her mother”. There is an honor to motherhood.
And we trash it.
You wouldn’t think that it would start so early, these “mommy wars”. I didn’t. I started researching all of the choices that I now had to make, discussing them with my husband. Choices about our pregnancy, our birth, our parenting. And then I started discussing them with other women, and naturally met those that made different choices than me. Some felt so strongly about their decisions that it felt as if a line had been drawn. I was either on this side of the line or that side of it. I either fit a label or I didn’t. There is, apparently, a right way and a wrong way to be a mother, and this – this giving of guilt, this culture of second-guessing, this my way or the highway mentality – this is what they call the “mommy wars”. As soon as you’re pregnant, they start. They start the instant that you make a decision. They war on your pregnancy, your birth, your motherhood from baby to teenager.
And I understand it. It’s because we love our children. It’s a scary big love. Motherhood and marriage bring Gospel love to life in an incredibly real and humbling way. There is not a single thing that I would not do for her. She is so helpless, so needy, and she has so much to learn and so far to grow. I think of how fiercely I love her, and my capacity to love is broken and flawed and cracked. Holy love, Gospel love, that is the stuff of legends. That’s the stuff that shakes heaven and hell. That’s the stuff that saves and heals. And I understand that holy love just a bit more by loving my little girl.
Now, I’m new to this. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have that scary big love. I see the choices in front of me and I see the little child cooing to her animal friends on the playmat, and I absolutely do not have it in me to make any choice that is not for her good. Sometimes what is for her good makes things much more difficult for me, or it is something that my heart desperately wanted to avoid but I just have to set my pride aside. Every mother is like this. Motherhood is an honor and a deep responsibility. A lifetime mission field. It is so much a part of who I am, of my identity.
And so, when I hear another mother speak out against my choice, in person or more often behind a screen, what I hear is someone saying that I don’t have her best interests at heart, that I don’t love her enough, that I’m doing wrong by her. Perhaps they mean nothing by it, but I bristle. I’ll shy away, taking the guilt that they’re handing me without contest, or I speak back and unnecessarily add my voice to the noise. It’s the mixture of loving our children while simultaneously not having all the answers (oh no, say it ain’t so!) that creates this tension, that feeds these “mommy wars”.
But here’s what someone once told me – an informed decision, made out of love, is never a wrong decision.
I am not a better mother than you. I am not a worse mother than you. We are both mothers that are doing our best out of love for our children. We have different hearts, different needs, different children, different strengths, different struggles. Our families are different. Our support systems are different. I can respect your decision to use formula while you respect my decision to stay at home. We can discuss the things we know, the tricks we’ve learned to get the littles to sleep, how to soothe a crying carseat while driving. We can question the things we don’t understand. We can talk to the mothers on the next step, decide if their decisions work for our hearts or not. We can give each other grace enough to change our minds halfway through. We don’t have to feel guilt or be defensive when we mother differently.
The sisterhood of motherhood needs all of those differences. The differences add richness. It needs the breastfeeders and the formula feeders, the mothers that go back to their careers and the ones that stay home. It needs the sleep trainers and the co-sleepers, the mothers that swear by essential oils and the ones that go to the pediatrician. It needs the paleo all-organic family and the premade chicken nuggets, the mothers that space out their two kids and the ones that have seven kids back to back. Pinterest-perfect or yoga pants, there is room for all of us.
I am not better than you. You are not better than me. We’re mothers. Let’s just be mothers.