As a card-carrying member of the sorority of motherhood for the past eight years, I've encountered a wide variety of social situations with other moms. Some of these meetings have been incredibly positive, uniting experiences, while others have been downright hostile... or led to people "actin' ugly" as we say in the South. Issues that fuel the "Mommy Wars," like breastfeeding advocates clashing with formula feeders, or conflicting beliefs on how to discipline children, leads to verbal face offs as fierce as any physical battle... these exchanges and the hard feelings that follow are what I call Mama Drama.
Although I do feel strongly about my personal position on most parenting topics, I've come to realize that my allegiances to them don't have to dictate who I'm friends with as a mom. Time has shown me that I can still have a great relationship with those who think cloth diapering is disgusting or that I think take being thrifty too far. Our connection comes down to the basic child-raising goals of most moms and the universal situations we experience while trying our hardest to succeed.
I call them the Ultimate Goals of MommyHood. These include but aren't limited to:
- We all love our kids
- We all want what's best for our kids
- We all endure the perils and frustrations of motherhood (sleep deprivation, the nasty situations like vomit and poop, Mommy Guilt etc)
- None of REALLY know what we're doing.
- We don't always like our children, even though we love them.
- Our kids are growing up faster than we like, and that makes us sad.
In an attempt to foster better mom-to-mom relations, I present the list of 8 ways to combat mama drama.
1) Keep the above Ultimate Goals of MommyHood in mind at all times, and I can promise you that you will find common ground with just about any mom, no matter how different your parenting styles. Heck, just mention how exhausted you are and just about any mom can and will relate.
2) If a more controversial parenting subject does come up, ask the mom about her side of the ongoing "argument." Ask her for information on it or how you can learn more about it. Because guess what?! None of us know everything, and she just might have the keys to solving a problem you're battling. Over the past few years, my eyes have been opened and my mind endlessly expanded by doing this -- in some cases, my original opinion changed. It's not about being "right." It's about accepting that others have tons to offer. Moms should tap into the wealth of knowledge sitting next to them on the park bench.
3) If you see a mom that's upset, ask her what's wrong. And just LISTEN. Don't stop to offer advice unless SHE ASKS for it -- and she very well may. But most moms just need someone who can understand their innate struggles as a mother to LISTEN for a moment. God knows that I feel like NO ONE in my house is listening to me most of time... help a motha out.
4) If a mom that hasn't read this list tries to give you advice, just listen and be polite. That poor mom may be feeling like no one listens to her, either! Plus, she might actually have some good advice or encouraging words. And if you become friends, you can always direct her to this list.
5) Accept that some moms are insecure and will try to make you feel like you're inferior to them in some way. When this happens, keep in mind that they probably (HOPEFULLY) have the same Ultimate Goals of MommyHood, and that her behavior may stem from her feeling insecure about being a mom. Either blow her off or try to lead the conversation to one of those universal goals. If she resists letting down her guard, move on. She's not ready to join you on the path of Mutual Mommy Respect, and we ain't got time for that.
6) Accept that other moms will have different dreams for their children and how they intend to help them get there. Don't minimize them or crush them, even if you think they're unrealistic or impractical. Their kids, their dreams. NOT YOURS.
7) As moms we all evolve in our attitudes about certain subjects and in how we react. Just because another mom doesn't understand where you're coming from doesn't mean that she won't one day. She just might not be ready. This especially goes for veteran moms talking to first time moms. I've mellowed out BIG TIME since I first started having kids. I no longer feel the need to clean everything my kid drops on the floor before giving it back to them or freak out every time they get a skinned knee -- but I try not to judge newbie moms that do. They just haven't arrived at my particular exit on the interstate of Motherhood. They will. And then they'll tell their kid to rub some dirt on it.
8) Make a conscious effort to see the beauty and appreciate the awesomeness in another mom's child. And tell her what you see! She may be frustrated with that kid that day, and being reminded of something positive may help her perspective, or she might've been working really hard with him on mastering a new task. We all need an "atta girl" in our day.
Just remember, we are all fighting many of the same battles each day as moms, and as strong as we are individually, just imagine how much Mama Drama and bad feelings we could eradicate if we showed each other more respect. We all have a ton to offer, and by utilizing each other's strengths and knowledge by talking we are gaining information to make each of us more well-rounded as parents. It's also a great example to set for our children in that they will see that respectful dialogue with others is beneficial, and that being open-minded doesn't mean having to forsake their beliefs.