So I was all prepared to launch my latest blog with a touchy, feel-good piece about something-something, when my Twitter feed received the second-hand smoke toxicity of one mom attacking another mom. In this case, it was someone attacking Jenny McCarthy, blaming her for the growing anti-vaccine movement in the U.S. (for the record, she's anti-mercury in meds & for lengthening shot schedules, not anti-vaccines). As someone who works with kids for a living - many on the spectrum - I could wax on-wax off Karate-Kid-style on that whole arena, but I digress.
When I see, hear, or vibe one mother spewing negative judgement towards another, it makes me cringe. Can we all agree that being a parent sometimes feels like the equivalent experience of being plopped into the pilot seat of of 747 without the instruction manual? Why are we so threatened by another mother's parenting choices, especially if we are supposedly so confident in our decisions?
Because deep down, we're all just praying we're getting it right, but fear we're just killing time 'til our kids land on the therapist couch, bitching about us, while living in our basements. Forever.
Working as a behavior specialist, my job is to come into people's homes, when they're feeling their most vulnerable, and partner with them to help their family in crisis. Notice I didn't say "tell them what to do." As an only child, I've never responded to authority well, so the last thing I want to do is impose mine onto others. Of course, cases of abuse are the deal-breakers, but I'm talking about garden-variety parenting choices. And there's a new parenting trend constantly pitting us against one another: from Amy Chua's Tiger Mother Mantras to Mayim Bialek's Attached to the Hip Parenting. For the record, neither work for me, but I don't berate others who want to live that way, as long as the child is generally thriving. Frankly, in my field, thriving is a bar rarely met - we often had to settle for basic safety and functionality.
I implore women, whether in the mama-mini-vans or in the childless-by choice lanes, to stop getting in one another's way and learn to support one another. And if you don't agree or can't understand why a mom makes the choices she makes, feel free to ask her and use your manners when doing so. Don't let the illusion of internet anonymity block your basic humanity. Oh and when you're hanging with friends for a kid's 'play-date', curb the snark in front of them because they pick up on everything - even before they can talk - they understand your tone more than you think. Otherwise, don't act all shocked when lil' Ashley grows up to be the alpha bully rivaling a 'Mean Girls' sequel.
And what do we - as mama warriors - when we see a fellow mama-member losing it on her kid in the grocery store? If you're brave, go up to her with all the empathy you can muster and say, "Been there! Tough day?" She'll probably feel embarrassed and try to brush you off. Don't lecture or give advice or even ask to help. Just do it without pomp or expecting praise. And if you can't do that, at least offer a smile. Because the best way to care for our kids is to offer compassion to their caregivers.