When Mommies Lay Down Their Spears

Will Solidarity Replace the Sniping Over 'Parenting Styles'

Parent Power: Will mommies decide to join forces rather than bicker?
Kurt Hoffman
Parent Power: Will mommies decide to join forces rather than bicker?

By Jordana Horn

Published January 04, 2013, issue of January 04, 2013.
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If you want to generate a spike in traffic to your website, to sell more copies of your paper or magazine, or to get more ”likes” on Facebook, you should write a screed taking down the way particular people parent their children.

“Mommy wars” trigger media feeding frenzies whenever one of them rears its soft-spotted head. Time magazine published a cover photo of a mother breastfeeding her 4-year-old, and the talk shows erupted in a blaze of static. Various experts, both self-appointed and not, were interviewed, as well as celebrities and random pedestrians who believe they have the know-how to opine on the parenting of others.

The Wall Street Journal published a book excerpt with the headline “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” and in so doing, netted Tiger Mom Amy Chua thousands of dollars in appearance fees while setting off an avalanche of blog posts (never mind that within months, the paper would publish another piece, “Why French Parents Are Superior”).

I’m a mother of four children. With each birth, I found myself more and more bewildered by why parents honestly care what anyone else thinks of their “parenting style.” (a misappellation if I ever heard one: When someone barely has time to brush his or her teeth, it’s not a “style” so much as an “accident.”)

Personally, I’m a reformed mommy warrior. I used to readily engage in the back-and-forth of happily, if not outright snarkily, judging other people’s parenting. As a new parent, this kind of activity is a self-fulfilling prophecy of insecurity: You doubt what you’re doing as a parent. In defense, you point out the flaws in what other people are doing.

You suspect that other people are pointing out the flaws in what you’re doing, and so you keep your ear to the ground to hear more. What other people say makes you doubt what you’re doing as a parent. Repeat ad infinitum, through the day and sleepless nights.

I suspect that I judged others’ parenting in part out of insecurity and in part so as to avoid focusing on my own parenting decisions. Parenting is a long, tough road that, ideally, you tread for the rest of your life once the kid is born. There’s nothing easy about this journey: I understand the need to look for signposts, for maps, for directions.


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