Do you know what I am starting to get really sick of: being fed all this twaddle about mothers not supporting each other. Every other parenting headline seems to be about some apparent bone of contention between women and the choices they make in parenting.
Let us not be rivals, let us be mothers.
I won't judge you formula feeding your baby if you don't judge me breastfeeding mine.
Let's support one another instead of competing.
Yet the thing is, it isn't necessary to say this to any parent I know - there are no rivals to speak of - just mothers. And surely the wide circle of women I have come into contact with over the last two years has to be at least in some way representative of parents the Earth over. I don't live in a city different from any other and there are no non-judgemental exams to sit in order to enter the many groups / parks / soft play / cafes / shops I visit and converse with other parents at. Of course, I count myself lucky to have a lovely group of friends, but surely I can't be so privileged that I'm only meeting the nice mums, whilst the nasty, competitive types lurk in a dark coven nearby, waiting to strike?
Where are all these judgey cows desperate to trip me up on my parenting and explain why I'm not doing it right or making good choices? Why haven't I met even one woman who has condemned my snack-giving, slap-dash ways or been unsympathetic when I'm having a tough day?
It seems to me that this apparent war exists mainly on the internet, a patronising mould grown and spread until it begins to infect even some nice normal types into thinking that we women are a bit mad and battle-like in our mothering. Adding in the small minority of parents who feed stuff into the news suggesting others object to their choices, whip it up and send it back out again, the idea that we don't respect fellow parents is reinforced, and the largely fictional hoo-ha grows still.
Sadly it would seem web pages are not clicked on for these headlines:
'Mothers look after their kids and are kind to one another'
'Aren't women a supportive bunch?'
'Parents make decisions based on what is right for their family and nobody bats an eyelash'
They're not especially catchy I concede, but it seems that this idea of mothers hunting each other down and tearing strips from their comrades for their choices has been built if not entirely on lies, then grossly exaggerated until a bandwagon full of confused voices are clamouring to remind us how we should behave. Even though we, as intelligent, empathetic humans are already supporting one another and would just like to get on with it please, sans lecture.
Of course, there will always be someone a bit difficult, contrary or superior. But idiots aren't exclusive to women or motherhood - they're just a part of life. Judgemental parents are the exception, not the rule, and I am sick of hearing about them as if they represent all of mumkind (see what I did there?).
Stop telling us not to judge other mothers, we don't.
Stop reminding us that we need to stick together, we already do.
Stop feeding the myth that we are competing, we stand together.
It is quite simple: I love my child, and I know that you love yours, too. I know I'm not alone in understanding that everyone makes different choices, and also in honestly not giving a flying fig about how you parent your children. So long as you are all happy, what is there to have an opinion about?
And more to the point, who has time to worry about what other mums are doing - I for one am too busy obsessing over my own failings and mistakes. If you want to tell me about yours, pull up a chair my friend - but you won't get judgement - just biscuits and a sense of relief that I'm not alone in being clueless sometimes. Ultimately though, I couldn't care less whether you use a pram or a sling, breast or bottle feed, or if you co-sleep or use a crib.
I would like nothing more than to set fire to this lie that as mothers we are little more than a mass of judgement, campaigning for our way of doing things... because it simply isn't true.
The reality is there is nobody quite like another mum for being able to relate to what you are going through, and for me, the baby days would have been a much lonelier place without the women who gave me their friendship and reassurance.
I'll never forget the genuine excitement and relief when talking to a very newly made friend about our newborns:
"Mine will only sleep in my arms too!"
"I have to dance him to sleep as well!"
"Sometimes I feel like my arms might actually fall off also!"
"Yes I too want to kill anyone who tells me to sleep when he does... I goddam wish!"
How lovely it was to not be isolated in this new, overwhelming world; to exchange if not tips then at least reassurance that both my parenting and my baby were normal. No trying to compete, no point to prove, just two women getting on with being new mums.
And then there are all the things both my family and I do differently from others, and that is fine. I think we all know that, yet this alleged war begs us relentlessly to defend our way of parenting (which doesn't need defending) or to end the judgement of others (when the reality is the only person a mother judges is herself).
And yes, perhaps while we are all finding our feet at this motherhood game, there are occasional comments of how Mum 1 makes all of her baby's food from scratch, or how advanced Mum's 2 offspring is - apparently he had skipped the dribbly, dopey phase and was straight on to his Oxford application (he didn't, he wasn't). And of course there will always be someone banging on about how well their baby sleeps (FYI if you do this you probably don't realise it but you sound like a bit of an ass).
But again, this is the minority and there will always be people in life who are a bit boastful, or maybe insecure, or even just really enthused and not meaning anything by it (how I categorise said parents depends wholly on how many times they do it and how much sleep I have had the night before).
But I hardly think us not getting it right every time - particularly in unchartered waters - is a criminal offence, or newsworthy. How did the occasional stealth-boast become the focus of what we do as mothers? We are about so much more so why are the few and far between negative parts becoming the centre of our shared story?
What about the honesty, the friendship, the kindness, the bonds, and the countless times I have been completely overwhelmed by the love and support shown to me by other mums?
Seeing as these aren't being reported, maybe we should write our own. Let's tell some of the millions of positive stories of friendship and camaraderie between mothers. Because my day-to-day life as a parent is enriched by other women, other mums - all of the time - from good friends to acquaintances; supporting my choices, acknowledging my struggles.
We don't need to lay down our weapons or change our attitudes, we need to acknowledge that we are already doing a sterling job of caring for and supporting our fellow mums; be it chats with our buddies or exchanging an understanding smile with a sleep-deprived stranger.
We rock every day as mothers: alone, together, side by side; doing it our way, in harmony. Let's make that the story - let's celebrate the truth.Suggest a correction