The term Mommy Wars refers to the contentious relationships between mothers over real or imagined slights, insults and thinly veiled criticisms over individual parenting choices. It is the high school mean girl, cafeteria sagas for “adults.” Moms criticize or judge based on their ideas of a perfect mother (which usually looks a lot like them, ahem).
What would a “perfect” mom look like? We certainly get bombarded with all sorts of messages, don’t we? Based on today’s parent media standards, she might look a little like the list below.
She would always be patient, kind, fun, and funny, never yelling or letting stress get to her. She would not work, or only work from home when the kids were napping. She would only feed her children organic, non-GMO, BPA free, locally grown produce and antibiotic/hormone/cage free lean meat (never fast food because she is too tired to cook), after, of course, having breastfed her children for at least the first year. Her children would never have anything less than hormone/antibiotic free milk, filtered water (the hose doesn’t count as a filter), or 100% (not from concentrate) juice. She would can her own fruits and vegetables, grown in her meticulously tended backyard garden. Her children would all be potty trained by the age of two, speaking in complete sentences and possibly starting to learn basic math skills. She would engage them in fun, educational play, even making chores a fun, learning activity. Her kids engage in physical play everyday for 60 minutes, but not dangerous sports like football or soccer because she doesn’t want them to have early onset dementia at 50 from too much childhood head trauma. Her children would be perfectly behaved at all times, never melting down in Walmart (as if, she’s so a Whole Foods’ girl). She has never parked her kids in front of a Disney movie so she can finally take a shower. In fact, her children would never watch television, or only 30 minutes of PBS. Her older children attend private school or are home-schooled. Her house looks like an HGTV set at all times. She does not allow disorganization or clutter in her home. Laundry does not spend three days in the dryer, cycling on the fluff setting over and over. Random toys do not spend a week in the middle of the living room being walked around because she refuses to pick them up, using them as an obstacle course instead of hiring a personal trainer. She is thin, naturally beautiful, but works out three times a week to stay healthy, but manages to do so without neglecting any of her other responsibilities, including book clubs, bible studies, volunteering at church, and coffee dates with friends several times a week. Of course she has two children, maybe three, but never just one lonely only or heaven forbid, four or more. And all of her cooking, projects, and crafts look like they are straight off Pinterest. Of course her relationship with her husband is also perfect and wonderful so her children grow up with a great example of a loving marriage. She loves her family with her whole heart, and she serves Jesus in everything she does with a glad and joyful heart.
I’m sorry, I know, I didn’t even get into baking or recycling or cloth diapering. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I got exhausted just writing it! Please feel free to comment about a standard or expectation that I missed. I’m sure we all have personal examples of standards by which we’ve been or felt judged. But can we all agree that this list is impossible?
And can we all agree that the only absolute on that list is the very last sentence? Because everything else on that list is negotiable. When it comes to the Mommy Wars, really the only way to win, is not to play.
Unfortunately, we tend to be opinionated, thrusting our opinions on others in a ferocious display of arrogance and pride. We know how difficult being a mother is. I do not understand how we can simultaneously know how often we fail or compromise while holding someone else to the same ridiculous standards that we can’t achieve. That isn’t how we should treat each other as friends, neighbors, women, or Christians.
Proverbs 31:26 ESV “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
I have lots of opinions. I love to share them. I am an external processor. By teaching, writing or talking, my ideas and opinions come to life. I really have to assess my attitude and purpose before I say something to someone. Sometimes my foot goes into my mouth despite my best intentions. Am I saying something to be “right” or because I am trying to lovingly direct or guide them? Is it even my place, in this exact moment, to be his/her correction?
James 4:11-12 ESV “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
James clearly says we are to be concerned not about judging, but only about following the law of Christ. Most of the debates and criticisms in these “Mommy Wars” have nothing to do with God or being Godly. Should you give your child chocolate cake and soda for breakfast? Maybe, maybe not, but some choices are simply between you, your family, and God. He is the only judge because he alone knows your every decision, every thought, and your heart and intentions. Maybe that person judging you doesn’t know that chocolate cake for breakfast is a birthday tradition for your child, or an upset tummy prompted you to allow a glass of soda, or since your husband deployed your child refused to wear anything except his superman costume because he thinks he can protect his daddy. Whatever the circumstance, it just doesn’t matter . . . there are some choices that we can just say aren’t important in the grand scheme of eternity.
Can I lovingly live my decisions in front of someone, allowing them to decide if they want to talk about it? Or can I simply be a Godly example and keep my mouth shut?
Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
The internet has become an amazing resource for parents. I know that when we brought home our daughter, I was reading “What to Expect the First Year” and subscribed to every newsletter, email article, and parenting magazine as I could because I wanted to make informed choices as a parent. My neuroses not withstanding, having access to that much information, with the current level of unfettered access to each other’s lives through social media, can lead to a mess of assumptions, opinions, and hurt feelings.
In the past week, and by week, I mean this week, since Sunday (and I started writing this on Tuesday), more than 5 of my friends have made Facebook posts about feeling judged or criticized by others. Of course these are always the vague rants that are so defensive and angry. I hate knowing people I love are hurting, but I also wonder if there isn’t a better way to handle the Mommy Wars.
If I was all computer savvy, I would make you a nice little flow chart, but alas, I am not. So you’re going to have to tough it out and follow along in paragraph form.
1. Did someone say something to you or about you directly?
No? Then ask yourself why are you feeling judged or criticized?
I have a friend whose blog has made me feel critical about my choices by no fault of hers. It is simply a sensitive subject for me. I really worry about what I’m feeding my family. Between blogs and articles about pesticides, GMOs, BPA, and chemicals, I just feel like everything in my home is poison. She has an amazing garden. They grow most of their own herbs and vegetables. I would love to have that at my disposal, but had to realize that I can celebrate her ability and enthusiasm without feeling criticized because her choices are not mine. I don’t enjoy gardening, at all. I do not have any successful experience growing plants. I do not have a good place to grow a garden in my yard with three kids and two dogs and a swimming pool. My sensitivity about my own choices was my problem. I had to adjust my attitude. Today, I can just marvel at how she does what she does, knowing that her gifts are not my gifts.
1 Peter 4:10 ESV “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
Yes, someone said something to you directly? Then ask yourself 1) is it true?
This is the tough one, but before I even reply to a criticism, I have to search my heart. If what is being said is true, then I need to decide if it something of which I need to repent and change. I don’t want to search my heart. I want to lash out in righteous indignation, but thinking I am smarter and wiser than everyone else isn’t righteous, it’s self-righteous. God tells us to listen to the wisdom and reproof from others. I’m still working on knowing how to soften and listen in the moment, but I know God’s instruction can come in many forms. If I hold all things against the Bible as my source of truth, against who I know God to be, then I have to accept correction. Even if it wasn’t handled the way I would have wished, I can still choose to get wise or offended.
Proverbs 13:18 ESV “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.”
God puts people in our lives from whom we can learn and grow if we don’t let pride get in the way of instruction. Everyone has a perspective, learn to listen and be able to sort through what is good and useful without letting what isn’t hurt you.
Proverbs 19:20 ESV “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
1 Peter 5:5 ESV “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
And if it isn’t true? Then you have to focus on the truth. You are known by God. He is the only judge who matters. The rest is rubbish and can be dealt with accordingly. Even when things aren’t true, we worry. We worry about if this becomes gossip, what will others think, etc. I have no easy solution for letting go of those feelings because the only way to let those things go is to know who you are in Christ so completely that other’s opinions can slide off your back. One of my earlier posts dealt with my personal experience on the Mommy battlefield, Holding Grudges.
Was the statement false or based on a misunderstanding? Go to the person. Talk to her directly, once you have calmed down. If talking to her in a calm, clear manner, after searching your heart and scripture does not resolve the issue, chose someone wise in faith and life to take the issue before. If the other person will not discuss the issue or refuses to go before an elder, then . . .
Titus 3:10 ESV “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,”
Someone who is repeatedly contrary in nature to the kindness, gentleness, grace and forgiveness of Christ is directly in opposition to the relationships we are supposed to cultivate within each other.
Romans 16:17-18 ESV “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”
We are not called to to decide if someone is saved or judge if someone is truly a Christian. God will handle that, but we can walk away from someone whose current actions are not Christlike once we’ve followed all the Biblical steps to restoration.
2. Does the person criticizing or being criticized identify as a follower of Christ?
No? Then, as much as I wish she were, would lovingly invite her to know Him, she isn’t going to follow the same set of rules. If she’s playing Candy Land, it would be ridiculous to hold her to the Chutes & Ladders rules. My job as a Christian is to love her, to see her the way God does, in need of saving just like I am, but the Bible tells us we are not to judge outsiders. And Christians should only worry about the judgment of outsiders if our actions are truly interfering with our witness.
1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?“
Yes? Both parties identify as Christians. Then God’s rules are to govern all of our behavior, whether we’re the speaker or the target of the criticism.
John 7:24 ESV “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
We can’t know the truth of someone’s journey with God. We see someone smoking outside of church and judge her. We don’t know that if she weren’t smoking, she wouldn’t be able to fight her other addictions. I really believe it is better to pray for her for strength and go over to her, talk with her, give her a hug, tell her you’d love to get together.
1 Peter 3:8 ESV “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”
Peter’s statement about ‘unity of mind’ means to have our affections focused on the same goal, God, and ‘sympathy’ or compassion meant literally to feel with each other, celebrating or grieving together. If we all are focused on loving God and on true empathy, we don’t have much room for the pride and anger that leads to judgment and criticism.
Galatians 5:13-15 ESV “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
While I started this entry focusing on “the Mommy Wars,” I really think that people have a tendency to judge, and the Bible calls on us to love each other, help others, but not sit in judgment over anyone.
Sometimes really poor decisions do lead to appropriate church discipline, but God gave us guidelines for how to properly bring a brother/sister into loving restoration within the church, if he/she is willing to repent and be restored. If he isn’t, we are to let him go for a time, knowing that God never really wants to let us go and keep that brother or sister in our hearts in prayer.
Philippians 2:1-11 ESV “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”
We find the Bible is the only real source we need. Encourage each other in Christ with affection and sympathy, do not compete or be arrogant, do everything humbly considering the other better than yourself, and look out most for the interests of others. If tomorrow, every Christian lived this scripture in all our relationships, what a witness we could be to the world.
Again, the only way to win the ‘Mommy Wars’ is not to play at all.