I’m a veteran of the mommy wars. I fought in the Battle of the Bottle of ’05 and the Cloth Diaper Surge of 2006. My only child is ten, so he’s aged us out of most battles now. For all that motherhood lasts a lifetime, the Mommy Wars are concentrated in the first three years of each child’s life.
The Mommy Wars tell you to concentrate over much on how other women are getting by, not so you can help them, but so you can convert them to your army. Anything with the slightest evidence of harm is declared “child abuse”, even when it really isn’t. Before having a child, I had no concept of sleeping in a crib as torture, or being fed formula as being poisoned, but the Wars taught me that everything can be child abuse if you’re invested enough.
The Mommy Wars help conceal societal responsibility to all children and parents. Everything becomes a matter of personal duty, and any negative outcome must be mom’s fault. Do you know what has a more profound impact on child welfare than the breast v bottle, disposable v cloth diapers, crib or cosleeping questions? Maternity leave, adequate food and healthcare, and the option to parent full time at home.
If moms didn’t have to go back to work mere hours or days after giving birth, that would do more than Mommy and Me Gymboree ever could. But the Mommy Wars aren’t actually about what’s best for children or their parents. It’s the expression of maternal anxiety, guilt, and fear, symptoms of post partum depression. It’s a desperate search for reassurance and belonging.
If we didn’t choose to make mothering isolating, scary, and without support, women would need or fall prey to this largely unhealthy alternative. If every custodial parent received a living wage stipend, if every new mom had access to therapy and medication, if society would actually do its part, we could sap the Mommy Wars of their strength, and improve outcomes for all babies, the bottle and breastfed, the cloth and plastic diapered. We could improve life for all children and all mothers, but there’s big money in women’s misery. So we won’t.