Monday, November 15, 2010

Dropping Out of the "Mompetition"

For the past 20 minutes or so, I've been inwardly huffing and puffing about a post I read where a non-parent denounced child harnesses (usually cute backpacks with "leashes"), calling them cruel. She insisted that parents who use them are lazy and that the kids will grow up to be rebellious, drunken teens who can't wait to get away from their parents.

First, I don't use a harness on Sarina. But I do know something about the absolute terror of having your little child outrun you at an amusement park, resurfacing at the top of a ride she didn't belong on. I would never judge someone for using a harness. Others who do just can't get past the "leash" imagery, but you know what? It's less restrictive than holding a child's hand firmly or placing a child in a stroller or baby carrier. Where are all the insulting outcries about how children are being oppressed because they're in strollers? A harness gives the child some range of movement, some autonomy. It shouldn't be used as an excuse for inattentiveness or lazy parenting, but it also shouldn't be discouraged because some adults will tsk tsk and snoot all over the parents who use them.

Which brings me, of course, to the "Mommy Wars" and the "Mompetition." That's when moms negatively judge other moms' decisions and preferences, playing a game of one-upmanship about whose methods are the "right" ones. It's ugly, and it starts before a child is even born-- did you get a flu shot while pregnant? Then you're either probably injecting your child with poison with unknown long-term effects or being irresponsible for putting your child at risk of brain damage when you get the flu. Are you eating peanut butter? Then you're either doing a great job to lower your child's risk of getting a peanut allergy, or you're so damn selfish that you won't even avoid peanut butter for 9 months to lower your child's risk of a peanut allergy. (That's right. The experts have flip-flopped.) Are you getting an epidural? A c-section? A homebirth? Well, do you even KNOW how much you're abusing your unborn child by getting him stoned/doing an unneccesary procedure/not being in reach of emergency medical personnel?


(Funny video about the Mompetition)

It's not even limited to moms-- women who don't have kids will often start their judgmental nonsense with, "I'm not a mom, but I've been a [babysitter, aunt, teacher, nanny]." Sorry, not the same. Not the same.

Once the baby is out, it's like a fountain of new things for moms to get all mompetitive about. Circumcision and breastfeeding are just the most obvious ones. Then there's cosleeping, babywearing, canned vs. homemade baby food, pacifiers vs. thumb-sucking, developmental milestones, vaccines, whether or not to ban all television, whether it okay to go back to work and when it's okay, and so on.

You have the OMG! You gave your child a french fry? moms, and the Kids today need more discipline! moms. The ones who say, "Boys will be boys" and the ones who say, "If your child pulls my child's hair, I will sue you."

This is totally different from the legitimate reasons to be judgmental. If you smoke around your kids, I am going to judge the hell out of you, because you are full of suck. If you leave your kid in front of the television for hours so you can gossip on the phone with your cousin, I will judge you. If you leave your baby to "cry it out," I will judge you, because it is proven to harm children, period, full stop. If you hit your kids or verbally abuse your kids, I will hope you land in the hottest corner of hell. Oh, and I'll judge you. Oh yes, I will judge you.

But all those hoity-toities who like to give sharp glances because they see a child having a tantrum, or a mother who gives in and buys the candy at the checkout line, those people can bite me. Other moms' decisions don't have to match up with ours, and we do not know how we would act were we in someone else's life. I don't know what it's like to have five kids. Maybe you don't know what it's like to be a single mom. There are things about each of our lives that affect our decisions. As long as we're all offering a lot of love and attention to our kids, and not purposely putting our kids in harm's way, then there's no reason to get into the mompetition. It's stressful enough being responsible for a child without all the added bitchery by fellow moms who should be our friends and confidantes.

So I'm dropping out of the mompetition. Don't try to drag me back in, either. I'm going to make the best decisions I can for my child, and I'll expect you to do the same, and we can send each other nothing but the best wishes. Okay?


Photobucket