The mommy wars. If you’re a mom, you know what they are. If you’re a mommy-to-be, you’re slowly biding your time, getting all your ducks in a row, because you know, they’ve got you in their crosshairs. Quite possibly, you won’t even go a full 12 hours before being judged by another mom. The nurse checking on you late at night merely makes a comment about the baby being in the nursery, but you notice it. The judgement. The comment. The intent. It’s slight, but you notice it. You grit your teeth, now defensive. What else will you have to defend today? Seconds ago you were merely sitting in your hospital bed, gathering the strength needed just to walk to the sink to brush your teeth. But now? Now you’re at war. And so it goes. You loathe the mommy haters, but you catch yourself making completely innocent sounding comments from time to time that are interlaced with guilt-inducing code. You want the upper hand, lest you be judged. It’s all a game of chess, and you playground position your pawns and rooks juuuuust so. Because once you take your eyes off the board, actually spend time enjoying your child? Try to duck out of the playground minefield for just a moment? Check. Mate. Mother ducker. Game over.
And so it goes. You know the game. Detest the game. Unwillingly have become a player from time to time. The topic has become a national talking point. Ad campaigns are wielding to bringing back the sisterhood. Let’s put down our weapons and pick up our babies. Yes! You like it. You want that. You vow to do better. But then? You realize that there’s always been a phantom player, playing on the white spaces and taking you out before you even knew he was there.
The STAHDAD. The carpool dad. The gym dad. Lunchtime visit dad. He’s always there at just the right moment to point out exactly what is going on that shouldn’t be. That you should be all over. He knows because he would be all over it. He wants to be all over it. Instead, he’s all over you. But it’s not subtle, he doesn’t know the rules of the game. It’s blatant. Scolding. It’s a piercing disdainful stare at church when your toddler toddles too far ahead. It’s a rousing lecture at the farm when your four year old too tightly holds a chicken before you even have a chance to intervene. It’s a digusted head shake when your kids don’t want to share with each other within his earshot. It’s mommy wars times ten. It’s mommy wars plus a drone strike. You didn’t know you were being watched. And Boom. There it is. You’re rendered without a witty comeback. Your Arsenal is empty of retorts. Your brain is almost wiped completely clean because you’re not defending your parenting choices. It’s not your choices that are being challenged here. He doesn’t care if you breast or bottle. Work outside or inside the home. Team sports over chess team. iPad or Uno. What he is challenging, this stranger here, is that you are even capable of being a parent. Of knowing what to do. Of handling it. Of knowing your own kids. Because this stranger has summed you up, and decided in all of 15 seconds. And you. Aren’t. It. And his endgame is to make sure that you know, that you. aren’t. it.
What a tangled web we have woven. We, women, demanding job equality, pay equality, the right to vote. Our audacity to ask for reproductive rights. To ASK for reproductive rights. Because of all that we have asked for, worked for and demanded, the role of father has been redefined in our modern day culture. And we find ourselves squarely at the table with the men in our culturally gender specific role of mothering. However, are we starting to lose our place at this table too?
In the mommy war crusade, the endgame isn’t to cut another mother down. It’s to justify your own choices. To steady yourself in your mind, that the decisions that keep you up at night are the right ones. The sisterhood has always been underlying because I understand this is at the heart of the snide comment you made about my non-glass bottle. And in turn, you understand why I loudly discuss our healthy snack that was perfectly packed at the USDA-approved temperature when I see you pull out those goldfish (hello, bunnies!). I’m not making you second guess your identity, just your goldfish. But these dads, they don’t fight fair. While moms will swoon over a hands-on dad, that same dad will dismiss your entirety with a head shake at the sound of a two year old sounding, well, two. Hands-on dads are the business. Hands-on dads make the world go round. But let’s not forget that there’s no such language for hands-on moms. Moms. Just. Are. So back off Sheriff. I got this. And if I don’t, I promise I will ask. Us women, we’ve had practice. So, you can police your precinct and I will warden mine. But I won’t so easily hand over the keys to the city. And you won’t so easily pull up a chair at this table and become judge, jury and executioner. You have as much of a right to shame me as a parent as you do to my right to become one (or not) in the first place. And by the way, welcome to the mommy wars. Sisters (and the non-shaming dads of the world), unite.