The Mommy Wars Are All In My Head

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I felt like the worst mom ever when my older son started preschool. Like most working moms, I’d drop my child off in the morning, say a quick goodbye and then bolt out of there in time to get to my downtown office by 9:20 a.m. (20 minutes later than my 20-something colleagues). I wasn’t around to do pick-up; I never volunteered for class trips; and I visited my son’s class a total of once to hand out cupcakes on his birthday.

The worst part, however, was feeling judged by the other moms. I was the “fancy” mom in heels, the one who couldn’t be bothered with hallway chitchat or post-drop-off coffee. It was all because I had to get to work, of course, but I felt like the stay-at-home moms didn’t understand that. All they saw was the frantic mom with the kid who cried incessantly for the first two weeks of school.

Then I went on maternity leave with child number two and everything changed. Suddenly I was the mom lingering in the hallways long after the kids scurried off to class. I was on a first-name basis with the teachers, who every day at pick-up would tell me how my guy was doing, something clever he had said in class that day. I’d schmooze with the other moms in the parking lot before heading off to the gym or grocery store. I made play dates, handed in forms on time, edited the school newsletter.

And, once again, I felt judged, as if the working moms were looking at me – the messy-haired mom in Lululemons and Nike Airs – thinking, “Hmm, must be nice,” as they rushed off like madwomen for a 9 a.m. conference call.

Then, one day, as my mat leave was coming to an end, it occurred to me: these other moms don’t give a shit what I’m wearing or how I spend my days. They could care less if I volunteer for class trips or earn six figures at some highfalutin job (which I never quite did). They have their own lives, their own struggles and giant to-do lists. Plus – and this is a big one – if I’m not judging them, why on earth would they be judging me?

And so it finally hit me: the mommy wars are all in my head! Honestly, it’s embarrassing to admit that I even felt judged in the first place (it makes me sound self-important, which I’m not, or totally insecure – and I like to think I’m only partially insecure). There will always be moms judging each other, unfortunately, but we can no longer define it as “the  mommy wars.”We all know the archetypes: the slacker mom, super mom, co-sleeper, lactivist – the list goes on. But, still, these are simply parenting “styles” and they most certainly don’t define us. (Besides, you can be a breastfeeding fanatic and yet be staunchly opposed to co-sleeping, for example.)

In fact, just last month we wrote about a survey of 700 mothers – working and SAHMs; regardless of “title,” a whopping 90% of respondents were losing sleep over the exact same concerns (stressing over money, worrying about the kids, finding enough time for their partner and managing the household). And, not surprisingly, all types of moms admitted to cutting out “me time” in an attempt to balance it all.

It says a lot about the current state of motherhood. On the one hand, we all have these internal struggles over the type of parents that we are (and the type we actually want to be), and we’re often quick to label ourselves (and others). And yet, at the end of the day, we all just want what’s best for our children. We want to love and nurture them and keep them healthy and safe, all while maintaining our sanity. For some moms, that means working full-time (whether they need the money or not). For others, it means giving up the high-powered career, if even temporarily. But to have these choices define us – or, even worse, pit us against another group of moms – is absurd.

(Photo: iStockphoto)