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Let's End the Mommy Wars, Once and For All

Is it because we need to feel validated in the way we mother? Is it because we are proud of our mothering skills and want to make sure everyone else knows we have figured out the only right way to raise a child?
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Oh, moms.

Here we are, we who have been given the ability to bear life, to build something strong and beautiful together, here we are tearing each other apart.

We get on our high horses. Hover, don't hover; let your kid sleep with you, don't ever let your kid sleep with you; spank them, don't spank them; and we will fight to the death because we need to let those mamas who do it differently, who believe differently, know that we are right and they are wrong; that the way they mother, because it's not our way, is a terrible, horrible, damaging way; that we are disappointed in and frustrated at and disgusted with their apparent ignorance for the proper way to raise a child.

We see it everywhere: in the line at the grocery store, where a kid is screaming and a mama is flaming because it's nap time and she just needed to squeeze this in because there's no other time to do it, while another mama pushes her perfectly-composed child into another checkout line; and in our churches, where a kid is running in wide open space and a mama lets him do it because it's fun and safe, where another mama death-grips the hands of her children so they don't run wild like those others ones; and on our playgrounds, where a mama hovers and another stands in the peripheries, watching.

The condemnation crackles between us.

Why are we so hard on each other, mamas?

Is it because we need to feel validated in the way we mother? Is it because we are proud of our mothering skills and want to make sure everyone else knows we have figured out the only right way to raise a child? Is it because we are deep-down insecure in our parenting way, and we feel threatened by another mama's different parenting way?

Is it because we're so hard on ourselves, because we know, deep down, that we're not perfect and our child is not perfect and, God, please don't let my child do something to show them all we're not perfect?

We are missing something incredibly important: We cannot do this alone.

This mothering? It's way, way, way too hard to do it alone, to do it separated, to do it divided into our neat little camps of like-believers.

It doesn't matter if we are a breastfeeding mother or a formula-feeding mother. It doesn't matter if we're a public school mother or a homeschooling mother. It doesn't matter if we are a working mother or a stay-at-home mother.

We need each other.

I wish we could get to a place where we assume good intent on the part of every mother, even if she mothers differently than we do. I wish we could remember that we do not know her story or her life or her circumstances in one ten-minute chance encounter.

And, yeah, there are mothers who may need a little help, who may not know what her child is doing right now, who may need us to point out that her boy is endangering himself or another, but there is a way to intervene and approach that spreads wide the arms of love and lets a mama fall safely into support.

We can get really good at heaving her outside the camp of "good mothers," just because we would have done it differently.

Lobbing hidden insults with our passive aggression and breeding insecurity with our withering glares and shaking our heads to prove our points, they are not the way, mama.

I have seen the looks we can turn on each other, that shrivel and burn and cut, and I know what it feels like to carry those wounds, and I know what it feels like to give them.

Don't we see what we are doing to each other, ripping and clawing and punching just so we can feel OK about ourselves?

We are not bearing life, as we were meant to do, and I think, deep down, we know it. I think, deep down, we want something better.

So how do we untangle this mess we've made?

Maybe we start with ourselves, exploring why we feel the need to catch that mama's eye and send our look of disapproval without a single word spoken.

Maybe we start with acknowledging, championing, declaring that there is no one right way, but there are millions of right ways, and every mother knows her own right way, and this is what makes motherhood so beautiful.

Maybe we consciously turn all those negative assumptions that we believe tell the story of this unknown woman's life to positive ones, choosing to believe that she is just like us in her love for her child.

We are walking broken, but we don't have to walk breaking.

So let's heal this together. Side by side, one joined with another so we are one mothering community, instead of divided camps that lob grenades at the ones who aren't like us.

Because we need each other to survive.

This is how we overcome. This is how love wins. This is how we change the world.

And we have much work to do.

A version of this post appeared on Rachel Toalson's website. Find Rachel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.