Opinion: Calling a cease-fire in the mommy wars

By Becky Benoit

Recently on Facebook, I observed an interesting cyber-argument between two of my mom friends, which made me ponder what it means to be a good mom, if anyone on earth could actually live up to this paragon of virtue, and why we’re all so darn hard on each other.

My friend, posted a cute picture of her son, bundled up for winter and tucked into his car seat wearing an adorable hat and mittens.

Amidst the comments of “Adorable!” and “soooooo cute!”, a mutual friend wrote something along these lines.

“I don’t mean to preach at you, but you DO know that you’re not supposed to put your kid in their winter coat and then strap them into their car seat, right? It’s very dangerous!!!”, followed by a helpful link to a terrifying article about children being hurled out of their car seats in high-speed crashes, thanks to bulky winter coats and ill-fitting car seat straps.

And the fight was on. His mother fired back that yes, she had heard that, but in her opinion, the straps were tight enough, the coat wasn’t that bulky, and she was confident that no harm would befall her son should she be unlucky enough to collide with another vehicle.

Some catty back-and-forthing ensued, in which the other mom extolled all the reasons why her position was better, and subtly suggesting that perhaps Erica was being a bit negligent for sticking to her guns on her winter coat position, while Erica argued back that the risk of frostbite or hypothermia was more significant than the possibility of her son slipping out of his straps.

Then the unthinkable happened, plunging our entire Facebook micro-community into chaos: apparently unhappy with the lack of progress she was making, the other mom posted this rather unpleasant status update for the world to see: “Why do some people think that car seat safety is not a big deal? I mean, it’s our children we’re talking about. I’m tired of being criticized for just being honest and telling the truth. Come on people – this is about keeping our kids SAFE,” read the post.

And the gauntlet had been thrown down. After much digital hysteria and weighing-in by everyone privy to the conversation, the bottom line is that Erica is still maintaining her stance on winter coats and car seats, and the two are definitely not friends any more, Facebook or otherwise.

The whole debacle just made me sad. Granted, if you really think that a fellow mom’s parenting choice is putting her kids in harm’s way, you’re well within your rights to speak up, but let’s get some perspective here.  His mother wasn’t dumping her kids off at the playground for hours while she hit the casino, nor was she substituting instant breakfast for baby formula or taping her child’s pacifier into his mouth to keep him from crying. Was she really putting her child’s life at risk? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that the mommy one-upmanship helped matters one iota.

I can’t help but wonder, sometimes, if as moms, we’re a little too quick to leap down another mom’s throats for parenting decisions we disagree with, because it makes us feel just a little bit better about ourselves. It’s as if, by knocking another mom down a peg or two, we raise ourselves up a bit in the constant battle to win the Mommy wars.

It’s not exactly a new perspective – there are plenty of books written about the Mommy wars, usually with two opposing viewpoints: the stay-at-home mom versus the working mom. But I find that even amongst the stay-at-home mom crowd, there’s much nastiness and fault-finding.

We all want to be good moms. What exactly that means differs from woman to woman. To me, being a good mom involves teaching my girls those all-important life lessons, the things they’ll need to be successful, independent women who can think for themselves without blindly following along with the rest of the flock. Does it really matter if I make every Halloween costume by hand, or if I meticulously scrapbook every moment of my child’s life from birth to first-year university? Probably not, but if that’s what being a good mom means to someone else, who am I to judge?

Isn’t it more important to be supportive and offer another a mom a much-needed high five than it is to be right? We all make mistakes in parenting at one time or another, things we wish we’d done differently, things we’d take back in a heartbeat, if we could. Offering a few words of friendly advice is one thing, but posting an obvious put-down of another mom for the whole Facebook world to see is something else entirely.

When I told my mom about the argument, she snorted. “Seriously?” she said, clearly taken aback by the inanity of the disagreement. “We didn’t even have car seats for toddlers when you were a kid, and you turned out all right, didn’t you? You kids these days have way too much time on your hands

It’s time to call a cease-fire. We’re all in this together, right? Instead of one-upping each other and posting preachy, passive-aggressive comments on Facebook, let’s put aside the judgment and the nastiness and support each other. After all, the job of a mom has to be one of the most difficult on earth, fraught with potential for error and second-guessing.

And as my mother always says, if you can’t say something nice, sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.