The greatest commandment tells us to “Love God and Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” Sometimes it seems that the hardest “neighbors” for us mothers to love are our fellow mothers. The “mommy wars” are so much a part of life. If a group of mothers gets together and any parenting subject comes up, chances are there will be a debate on the “correct” way to parent. The battles start even when a child is still in the womb. There are the big topics of course such as working vs. staying-at-home or breast-feeding vs. bottle feeding. There are many other smaller hot-button topics as well: natural vs. medicated childbirth, public vs. private vs. home education, whether to celebrate Halloween or not, the proper way to feed one’s family, co-sleeping vs. having a child sleep alone, comforting a child at night when he is crying vs. letting him cry it out, how to discipline, the correct way to bring up a child in the faith, and the list goes on.
We mothers don’t necessarily intend to be mean or critical of other mothers. Rather, we simply want to do the best for our children. Parenting can be so hard and we don’t know how things will turn out for at least twenty years. There is always the element of uncertainty. We each make the decisions that we feel are right. We get so invested in the choices and sacrifices we make. It is easy to think that if we have made the right choices, than different choices must therefore be wrong. We also sometimes feel so certain of our choices that we try to convince others that they should follow the same path.
So, then, what is a mother to do? How can we be comfortable with our own choices, while respecting the choices of others? The answer does lie in that great commandment to love one another. There is an old adage not to judge another person until one has walked a mile in her shoes. While mothers have many things in common, the journey each mother takes is unique. We each come to parenting with different backgrounds and experiences. We each have different levels of support from our spouses (or lack thereof), our extended families, and friends. We have different health issues and personal abilities. We have different economic realities that we need to deal with. Perhaps most importantly, we have different children. Parents with more than one child know that what works for one child doesn’t always work for a different child, even when those children come from the same gene pool. The “right” decision for one child isn’t always the “right” decision for another child. Different stages of life also can require different choices.
Perhaps the next time we are tempted to judge another mother or the decisions she has made, we can step back and take a moment to reflect. We can remember that we don’t want our parenting to be judged and that we should give others the same curtesy. We can also remember that motherhood is hard and we don’t know what challenges the mothers we encounter are facing. We can recall that Jesus told us to love one another. We need to respect and support our fellow mothers on this difficult journey. We need to stand by each other and encourage each other, not tear each other down. Hopefully, then, the “mommy wars” could come to an end.