As a child of the 80s, I grew up in a world of “mommy wars.” That lovely term dates back to Jan Jarboe Russell’s 1989 Texas Monthly article “The Mommy War,” published back when I was the eight-year-old daughter of a divorced working mother. This family structure was not exactly en vogue at my Catholic elementary school, where most of the other mommies stuck with being mommies. My mom and all these fieldtrip-chaperoning, classroom-assisting, recess-supervising mothers with large suburban homes never quite figured out how to talk to each other. Fast forward to 2014 … and I find myself parenting in a culture that still gleefully pits mothers against each other.
Personally, I’m a weird mashup of parenting categories. I have a PhD, and some semesters I teach full time or more. I have lived separately from my family for months at a time. Other semesters, I write from home and am practically never away from my toddler and seven-year-old. I’m a homeschooling, homebirthing, breastfeeding mother. I’m a highly-educated professional and a committed feminist. I live in a different region of the US from my family and most of my friends, and I hang out online sort of all the time. As a result, I end up chatting with people whose assumptions about parenting are very diverse indeed.
Even in less quirky circumstances, every parent interacts with well-meaning counterparts whose lives and, like, basic senses of reality are different from ours. How can we abandon the tired script of “the mommy wars” in order to interact more productively and kindly across the abyss of really, really different parenting choices?