Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Going to battle in 'Mommy Wars'

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Perhaps the Mommy Wars are just an extended cry for help, an acknowledgement that motherhood isn't always easy.
Photo / Thinkstock
Perhaps the Mommy Wars are just an extended cry for help, an acknowledgement that motherhood isn't always easy. Photo / Thinkstock

The "Mommy Wars" is the Americanised term coined to describe lively arguments between mothers who have diametrically opposed views on "what is best for baby". A small skirmish broke out recently when the Duchess of Cambridge left her eight-month old son to go on holiday in the Maldives. While some people wondered what sort of callous mother would "abandon" her baby for a week, others said they'd do the same given half a chance.

Then there were the mothers who thought everyone should just leave Kate alone to raise her baby as she saw fit. But this last group missed the entire point of the Mommy Wars which, of course, is to generate as much ill-will as possible. Hostilities are unlikely to flourish in the face of reason, respect and understanding so there's no place for conciliatory tones in such dialogues. (And, if it's true Prince George started to crawl while his parents were on holiday, then Kate's critics can dine out on her missing that milestone.)

Favourite Mommy War topics typically centre on breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding, cloth nappies versus disposable, routines versus freestyle, working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers - and nannies versus day-care. Such debates have no doubt raged since time began.

The reason they've developed a life of their own of late is thanks to social media platforms which allow views to be exchanged publically and uncensored.

Despite calls for a ceasefire, there's no end in sight for the Mommy Wars. When you're absorbed in baby-land, up to your eyeballs in milk, dribble and poop, perspective is sometimes lost and these issues become the Only Things that Matter. And even though such topics are well-worn territory and one would suspect there's no fresh opinion left to share, newly-minted mothers continually enter the fray and reignite the dilemmas.

Judging from the sometimes spiteful tones with which these mothering battles are conducted, it's easy to wonder whether these women really are concerned about the particular point at hand - or whether are they just taking the opportunity to show off their vast knowledge and simultaneously cause other mothers to doubt their own decisions.

To keep this in perspective, I'd guess that 98 per cent of mothers just get on with the baby-raising business, unconcerned about the politics and issues that keep the Mommy Wars on the radar. The vast majority of mothers don't use their parenting choices as an elaborate branding exercise, a way of differentiating themselves.

There's no doubt that both sets of women (the Mommy Warriors as well as the Mommy Pacifists) have the best interests of their offspring at heart, a baseline urge to bring up the next generation as skilfully as possible. But what could be the reasons that, say, two per cent of mothers see fit to push their own agendas and become agitated about what, to most people, are fairly innocuous domestic matters?

I imagine some mothers engage in the Mommy Wars as a way of channelling their intellect. Perhaps feeling sidelined from the mainstream in their new role as primary nurturer, they're determined to master a baby-related subject - and so they direct all their research skills and powers of critical analysis towards this area. It could be a way of compensating for a drop in self-esteem, a way of ensuring they avert the onset of the dreaded "Mummy Brain". It's a shame that bolstering one's own ego must sometimes mean eroding that of others but, in the context of warfare, it is, no doubt, considered mere collateral damage.

Perhaps soldiers in the Mommy Wars participate as a reaction to their own fears and doubts about their mothering choices. Angry attitudes and demeanours are often borne of uncertainty. And maybe some mothers are bored and need something to engage with, some stimulation of the mind while baby naps.

At the very least, the Mommy Wars may serve as a bonding exercise. While you're criticising those whose views lie at one end of the spectrum you're simultaneously aligning yourself with like-minded mothers. Perhaps the Mommy Wars are just an extended cry for help, an acknowledgement that motherhood isn't always easy and it's often confusing. It's possible then that in-fighting between factions is more about collaboration than confrontation. On the other hand, it could be motivated by pure nastiness.

What's your view of the Mommy Wars? What do you think distinguishes the mothers who simply get on with it from those who campaign about particular issues?

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