When I was pregnant with my first son, I joined a mommy group online through the Bump (a popular pregnancy website). I was so excited. “Look at how many women will be able to help me through this process!” I naively thought. Young and veteran mommas united to share wisdom and support from states all over the country. How amazing, right? No.
Instead, after a month or two, I had to not only leave the group of mommies who also had babies due January 2015, but I also had to cancel my account on the Bump, because my stress levels were so high. Every time I posted something someone didn’t agree with, it was a bandwagon of insults shot my away. The pregnancy hormones plus my then-shy-and-self-conscious personality did not handle this well at all, and it wasn’t just because I was “sensitive”.
Some people were actually cursing each other out or being condescending to girls that used certain lingo or were unaware of other things. It was cruel, and this is when I learned that this community meant to inspire moms and future moms was a microcosm of what the real-world mom circles can be. Ladies (and gentlemen), mommy wars are real, and we need to stop them.
After four years in the battlefield, I’ve developed some tricks for surviving around other mothers—sometimes it’s caused me friendships or my pride, but I never lose my self-respect, happiness, or my mind when I keep in mind the following tips:
1. Don’t criticize or compare
No one wants to hear that their kid is “behind” for not being able to speak as many words as others their age. And honestly, no one likes to hear criticism in general, so if you haven’t developed a close relationship with a certain mom (you know, the kind where you can tell her she’s had enough wine without her throwing a glass in your face or blocking you on Facebook), then keep your opinions to yourself. Sure, Ashton might not be as tall as your handsome Parker or maybe someone’s parenting style is not the same as yours—their kids go to bed way later than yours or they spank and you don’t. But is it really the end of the world? We are all different, the sooner you accept that and stop trying to make everyone the same, or rather wanting everyone to be the same, the sooner you’ll start to get along better with others, especially moms whose personalities vary in volume, aggressiveness, and thoughts.
2. Be honest
There have been times when I stopped hanging out with someone without telling them why, because it was easier than dealing with a confrontation. I think this is now called ghosting, by the way. But now that I’m an adult woman, I have come to appreciate the raw honesty of someone telling me to my face something that they don’t like about me or a situation. This is Minnesota, so many people don’t take this approach. Though I’m sure husbands hear their wives complain all the time about that playdate at the park or sit through stories of what someone did in class or at Target. But I have found that the more open I am with moms, the less time we each waste (if it’s a friendship that’s not bound to last), or the closer we get if it’s someone who gets me at every level despite the fact that she yelled at my kid. These connections are important to me and I’ve come to value them enough to sacrifice a little discomfort on my part if a tough conversation will allow me to overcome a larger hurdle or misunderstanding with another mom. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found a secret and super effective way when it comes to doing the same with my own mother or mother-in-laws, but I’m working on it!
3. Stop expecting ANYTHING.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, and a good one to apply to life in general. The more you expect from people, the more you’ll be disappointed, and it’s difficult for you to form a bond with a mom when she’s not meeting your expectations. Maybe someone doesn’t reply to your texts as quickly as you want, or she planned a birthday party without inviting you when you thought you should have been invited. The truth is that everyone lives by their own rules, whether those be set by their individual preferences or their belief system, but your opinion and feelings are rarely going to make it to the top of anyone’s list. They want to live their lives for themselves and their kids not for you. So don’t focus so much on what you can get from others as much as what you can give to your own family and how you can learn from all your interactions with other moms and their children.
At the end of the day, it’s sad that more moms can’t come to one another for support in what seems like one of the most challenging jobs a person can ever be asked to do: raising another human. Society already places enough pressure and expectations on moms to be perfect and not disturb anyone. Moms need to do a better job of remembering that we are all in this together, and it’s really not the end of the world if we don’t agree, but that we can disagree with respect sets a way better example to the little ones watching our every move. And if most of what we do is with them in mind, it makes sense to set aside our selfishness every once in awhile and follow the golden rule.