I’d never heard of the term “Mummy War” before yesterday. Apparently it refers to the battle between mums who work and those that don’t. Or between mums who co-sleep and those who don’t. Or between mums who use controlled crying and those that don’t. Or between mums who breastfeed their children for two or more years and those who don’t. Or between mums who vaccinate and those who don’t.
Kerri Sackville wrote in response to the 60 Minutes piece about Attachment Parenting that was screened on the weekend. She was pleading with the media to quit pitting mums against each other and accept that as mums, we are OK with how others parent, even if it is different from what we do.
I agree with her that women generally are OK with what other mothers do. I know loads of mums who do things differently than I do, and that’s fine. There is no war. In fact, there is barely ever any debate about things. In my experience, most mums I know happily hear each other out and are more interested in maintaining a peaceful friendship than challenging a status on co-sleeping, or whatever.
I do think though that healthy debate or discussion (not war) is acceptable. I also think it’s a good thing to look into how you want to parent, and make a conscious decision about the parent you want to be. It can be totally overwhelming, because there is so much information and the goal posts are constantly changing. I think it’s important to look into what is considered normal, and question if it is the best thing for you and your child.
For instance, the whole sleep debate gets me. I sat on the floor of Borders 6 months pregnant reading Tizzy Hall’s Save our Sleep and decided this was the life for me. Once having a child though, routines flew out the window. So did the notion that my child would sleep away from us in another room. And we definitely knew that comfort crying wasn’t for us or our child. We couldn’t leave a little one alone in a room, howling her little head off, while we sat tortured on the other side of the door. Comfort crying (controlled crying) and sleep routines are accepted practice and the majority of parents I know have at some point resorted to this strategy. But just because something is normal, doesn’t mean it has to be right for you or your child. Maybe it’s worth looking into a little more.
The (dare I say the word) vaccination debate is rife in my part of the world. Most parents I know hold strongly onto the fact that they will not vaccinate their babies. Here, we had to go against the grain too. On the eve of the first immunisation appointment, my husband and I sat up researching and debating furiously. There were so many contrary points of view and so many strong opinions against vaccination, it was hard to make a decision. In the end, the literature stacked up on the side of vaccination. And as we ploughed further through it, looking up links, reading articles in full, looking at graphs in their original context etc. we reached a very conclusive decision that vaccination was the way to go, as much as it hurt our souls to take our tiny baby in to have a needle.
So, I think it is (and should be) possible to have a peaceful cup of tea with other mums and talk about the ins and outs of how you reached a particular parenting decision. It’s definitely not a Mummy War – perhaps more an exploration of the parenting landscape…a healthy thing to do. It is only through conversation, investigation and exploration that we can challenge social norms (if we need to) and find the path in the parenting world that best suit us and our children. As Mia Freedman wrote in the editor’s note following Kerri’s article, “when men disagree about something, it’s not called “The Men wars”. It’s just called discussion”.