Recently, Similac released a commercial depicting every stereotypical type of mom you could think of at the park. The commercial portrayed "the mommy wars" in all their glory. I thought it looked like an SNL skit, and found myself laughing at the unrealistic portrayal of so many groups of moms. The working moms were fighting with the stay-at-home moms. The breastfeeding moms were at war with the formula mommies. Even the stay-at-home dads were in the mix. At the end of the commercial, a baby accidentally rolls down a hill in a stroller, and they all suddenly reunite and are friends because they realize at the end of it that they are all just moms (and dads).
Overall, I liked the message Similac was trying to send. But, for me, I'm just plain tired of this portrayal of moms at war with each other. Because I don't feel like I'm at war with anyone. And my guess is that the average mom feels the same way.
In fact, I think the term "mommy wars" is overused. Sure, we can see extreme articles written on hot topic issues and they are full of hateful comments that make you think that the "wars" are real. That people really do judge, and spew hate and say ugly things to people they don't know. Because they do.
But I think the majority of moms are not at war with anyone. We're just doing our own thing. And hoping that we're getting it right.
What about those comments, though?
I remember not too long ago reading an article published on The Huffington Post called 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People. I found myself nodding in agreement and wanting to share with the FB peeps how sensitive I was. But I held back on sharing that post, as I saw several of my friends sharing it.
"This is SO me!" one friend shared.
"This describes me to a T," another friend would say.
I found myself re-reading it and wondering, Does everyone in the world consider themselves a highly sensitive person?
So, since then, I've been thinking a lot about the subject of being overly sensitive, both consciously and sub-consciously. Especially as it relates to motherhood. In some ways, the article paints highly sensitive people as having better manners, working better in teams and feeling more deeply. All traits that seem positive, and like something we'd all like to claim about ourselves.
There were a few negatives thrown in there, too, like "prone to depression" check and "crying more easily" check. But the article as a whole painted highly sensitive people as more compassionate, deep-feeling people who take time in making decisions and are therefore maybe slightly better than those who aren't so sensitive.
On one hand, I take pride in my sensitivity when it comes to friendships and relationships. I feel like when my kids are sad, I can be empathetic, and I don't take it lightly. I don't like hurting anyone's feelings, and I like to claim that I'm a good listener and a good friend. All of which I attribute to being a sensitive person. That's the pretty side of sensitive people.
But being overly sensitive has its consequences, too. As a writer and blogger and mother, I read a lot of blog posts and articles on mommy issues. And what I keep feeling over and over as I read one article, supposedly in opposition to another, is that we're not at war at all. We're all just sensitive.
Because mothering is something none of us wants to get wrong. Period.
Some of us fall into motherhood naturally, while others struggle with our own identity crisis of sorts. None of us wants to mess up these little humans who have been entrusted to us. And ALL of us just want to make the right choices for our kids.
So we take to the Internet, the place that can unite a mother in the Philippines with a mother in the United States and connect them. We can feel in those moments of connectedness through social media that we aren't alone in this vast world of parents trying to get it right. The fact that someone in another country struggles to get their toddler to eat just like I do -- Ii's comforting. But the opposite can take a toll on us in an ugly way.
In the moment we feel connected, we can also feel so alone in our own personal struggle. Perhaps we might read a beautiful viral blog post or article and disagree 100 percent; we suddenly feel the need to defend, protect and speak up to what we believe about mothering. Not because we're at war. But because we love our kids. And we want to get it right, and maybe we want to help others feel like they're getting it right, too, even if they're doing it differently.
In the technological age in which we're raising our kids, it's so easy to defend our choices, write about them or share them in an article we love. Parents have never had that before now. My guess is that the mothers before us judged each other, too... but it was usually judgment behind closed doors, or maybe a whisper to their best friend about a neighbor; nothing like moms experience in this day and age, because we're all too accessible to each other.
However, even the moms from the '50s who may have judged each other still probably didn't feel "at war" with anyone. They just felt sensitive about a mom doing it differently. Am I wrong? Why would she do that? Should I be doing that, too? are questions we might ask ourselves because we're insecure. We've never done this mothering thing before.
Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, said, "Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen."
So let's be our own true selves as mothers, too. Speak what is true for you, and be real about it. Maybe someone else will be sensitive to what you share on FB, or what you say about your own choices. But it's OK to be the mother you were always meant to be.
Let's not say we are at war with another mom. We may disagree with another's voice. We may even write about it on Facebook or in a blog post -- but saying moms are at war just doesn't give moms the benefit of the doubt that we're all trying to do our best.
I think it's OK to want to get it right. And we will for sure doubt ourselves in the process. I know I do all the time. When we are sure of our choices, it's also OK to want to speak up about it. In a kind, civil, adult-like way. As long as we remind ourselves as our fingers are flying across the keyboard in frustration, or anger, that maybe we're just a little sensitive, too. For our own personal reasons.
And, really, this isn't about a war at all.