When the Mommy War is of My Own Making

I opened her blog and I saw it again. Another statement — an aside, really — explaining why she no longer writes about her children. It was just a quick note to her readers to help them understand the shift in her content, I think. Her babies are getting bigger, you see. And she wants to honor their stories as their own. To respect them and hold their hearts gently. To do everything in her power to protect their sacred space.

She wrote beautifully, as always. And compassionately toward her children. And gracefully. And honestly. And full of light and truth.

I was annoyed.

I will tell you now with as much honesty as I can muster, and I will confess, that I didn’t hear her words kindly or accept them as an invitation to spend time in her sweet spirit. Instead, I was a teeny, tiny bit eye-rolly and the smallest bit breath-huffy. Because when I opened her blog and I saw it again — again — it felt like a weapon. Subtle, for sure. But it hit the mark, aimed not just at what I do, but at who I am. A veiled critique of my writing, my sense of humor, and, most vulnerably, how well I love my littles and my bigs. How deeply I cherish them. How well I protect them.

I stopped reading her for a while, although I love her writing and her heart and her perspective. I stopped reading because her asides hurt my feelings and there was no practical way to defend myself. Also, it takes a lot of time to be grumbly.

But, I wanted to respond, can’t you see?

Can’t you see that I DO respect my babies in the very telling of our stories?

Can’t you see that in the middle of our growing, and the middle of our muck, and the middle of our pain and our joys and the wreck and the redemption that is family, I hold this space as simultaneously sacred and silly and holy and hilarious and irreverent and healing and true and deep and real?

Can’t you see that talking about this crazy, messy life sets us all free? And that silence traps us inside false models of unattainable perfection?

Can’t you see that I walk with my children and I ask for their permission and I hide some things in my heart and I do this — I write this — to honor them always?

Can’t you see?

Can’t you see me? 

And that last question was when I realized I was wrong. GAH. I was wrong for all the best reasons, of course, which I always feel should somehow erase the wrong if the universe is just or merciful, but nope. Still wrong.

In my desire to be heard, you see, to be known, to be trusted, to be liked, and to live fully into my calling as one who writes the deepest truths I know, I took her truth, her conclusion, her best way forward for her family, and I made it about me and mine. I took her experience, I fashioned it into a knife, I fell on it, and then I blamed her in secret for the Not Good Enough way it made me feel.

Which makes me wrong — again.

And I’m sorry.

And will you please forgive me?

I’m not a big believer in the Mommy Wars. In fact, I went on record debunking them after I found so many mamas with so many differences who all share the same desire to love our children to the very best of our abilities. (Our abilities which sometimes suck, but still.) But here I found myself harboring a Mommy War of My Own Making. My heart — the same one that beats to the rhythms of other mamas’ hearts — was unable to hear one mama’s story because I was too myopic, too defensive, and too afraid that her truth was too different from mine to listen.

Oh, this is not who I want to be, friends, this person with a bit of war hiding inside me. This is not who I want to be at all.

I want to be a Listener, friends. And a Story Honorer. And a Grace Giver. And a Love Sharer. And a Light Shiner.

I want to be a Door Opener. And a Back Patter. And Ceaseless Praiser. And a People Defender.

I want to be Myself and champion You, too, even though we’re different or perhaps especially because we are.

So I declare a cease-fire in my soul. I declare that Peace has won the day. I declare that her truths are no less true for me having different ones. And I declare that I will declare the same things tomorrow and the next day and the next day and however many days it takes to lay the war to rest.

Let us all be our truest selves. And honor others for doing the same. There’s room, friends, for every one of us to live the truth out loud.

xoxo,
B

……….

 

Please note: The “she” I mentioned up above? Isn’t just one person. There’s no one to find. This is a theme that popped up in many places over time, and I’m not pointing to any one specifically. Just so you know.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
20 comments
  1. It seems to me that when you become a parent you dive into a big pile of “not quite enough”. And self doubt sucks. But it is a constant reality. Because this is important stuff. You should doubt. You should question.

    My parenting motto: whatever fucking works. And I try my best to honor that for others. (withing reason and with as little eye-rolling as possible).
    The only universal truth I have learned about parents is that we all have our own truth.
    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. That idea of taking someone else’s business and making it about us might be the heart of the whole mommy wars business.

    I’m guilty of it, and I know I have upset other moms by merely mentioning my boys’ diet. Almost everyone feels compelled to give a reason why they feed their child differently, when I wasn’t suggesting they do anything our way. It’s so sensitive I try to avoid talking about parenting choices at all (breastfeeding, sleep stuff, etc.) it would be nice to be able to share ideas, but it never seems to go over well.

  3. Darn it all! I’m crying now.

    That was so beautiful. Thank you!

  4. Thank you, Beth. Always~

  5. Love your honesty and vulnerability, friend.

    Just saying I’m here with you, struggling with the same things. Thank you for your insight.

  6. Wow! First of all, THANKS! Second, reading through the comments I am struck by how many of us are these islands of self-doubt and recrimination! Why, why, why do we live this way? Why do we need to measure ourselves against others all the time? (speaking as a chronic people-pleaser and secret mommy war commander) I wish we could somehow only see ourselves the way God sees us – treasured, precious, and unfathomably unique! Why do we want to fit into someone else’s shoes? Today I am committing to live a little more authentically in the awareness of my special place in the world and forget trying to do anything otherwise!

  7. That is the very hardest thing for me about the Mommy Wars. Only rarely does someone try to intrude on my life with their judgements. Most often it is I, myself, who becomes defensive when no offense was even meant. I KNOW that I SHOULDN’T compare myself and that I SHOULD have confidence in my own mothering. But some days it is so hard to know if my mothering is adequate for my children. (Of course it isn’t, because the Lord wants to step in and be the completer of the job He gives me to do. And it is because He gave these sweet children to ME to mother and know knows exactly why he did.) When I lose confidence in myself and in the Lord, I do exactly what you did and so eloquently confessed. I understand.

  8. This is a battle we all wage -inside and out- every day, and I agree we must lay it down and respect our shared and individual truths. I’m calling it, and I’m crying Uncle. Thanks, Beth….AGAIN! I appreciate you more than you know.

  9. Love the risk taking Beth! And ‘just so you know’, I’m not sure I totally buy your ‘please note’. There wasn’t a big she, really?

    I feel it too when momma bloggers change the names of their kids and cut off their heads in photos, and it’s like a little bump and I pass over it with an easy, ‘she does it her way, I do it mine.’ But when big momma blogger comes out and says it, and says it so beautifully, and you always find so much truth in everything she says, and it feels like, ‘hey, wait a minute, full disclosure and honesty and owning it isn’t always the right move? what?’

    And we stop and we think and we question the whys and hows of what we do. And it’s a good thing. I’m starting to wonder if the cage rattling and initial defensiveness is a good thing. That the reaction is where we learn and the response is where we grow. And haven’t you done all of it so beautifully just now, right here?

    I see you share with respect for each of your children’s personalities. Privacy for the ones who are private, challenging ones for the ones who challenge and silly ones for… well… the silly ones.

    I hear you. I trust you. I like you. I very much share your desires and aspirations. I very much share your humanness in sometimes arming yourself for war. And I like you all the more for it.

  10. Ah, I can relate so deeply to this. And I appreciate everyone’s comments also. The idea of “not good enough” is so rooted in fear and so far away from love. When I feel my smarmy self talking in my head to try and shore up my own self-worth by diminishing someone else’s, that is a sure sign that “I am calling for love” instead of “extending love” as Becky Bailey talks about in her parenting stuff. That and the thing I heard once that “compare our insides to other people’s outsides”. That one gets me every time. To others who see me in the grocery store I probably (hopefully) look fairly normal (or as normal as once can be with three boys ages 15, 10 and 7) but there I am looking at the “perfect” people and comparing my messy heart to their matching bag and shoes. (Do people really do that?). Soldier On Friend!

  11. I don’t think you should beat yourself up about your secret heart. We all have them. I have heard comments from other mothers, read blogs and thought to myself “that’s wrong”, “that’d never work”, “OMG, don’t you know the problems you are setting up for yourself?”, and of course “hah! I do better”.

    BUT, I don’t say these things. They’re my first thoughts.

    I say “that’s different”, “I hadn’t thought about it like that” (and then is the hard bit, actually listening to the other way to truly see if it has power for me) and when I’m worried, “I have some other ideas if you’d like to hear them” (and then comes the hard bit, shutting up unless she actually says yes, she’d honestly like to hear them).

    No-one’s way is exactly like yours, like mine. My first thoughts are sometimes not things that should come out in public. So I try not to let them out. (Sometimes they still come out).
    And here’s the thing. After listening to another’s way, sometimes I think my first thoughts were right.

    I don’t have to agree with her way. She’s trying the best she can, I’m trying the best I can.

    But I don’t need to beat her down in order to ensure my way still works for me.

    But I don’t need to beat me down just to make her feel her way’s ok either.

    And that’s trick.

  12. A truth I heard once that works like high-grit sandpaper on my rough and tough heart sometimes–“Comparison is the robber of contentment.”

    Oh so true, and so hard to admit. Props to you for entering in to the messy business of pride and insecurity and love and sincerity.

  13. Dearest Beth!!!!! How very very beauty-painfully honest. Both/and is such a beautiful concept. Because ONE SIZE FITS ALL is a lie. It makes for a baggy garment that really fits nobody. Thank you, so much for being willing to acknowledge and always, always enlarge the tent pegs of your heart… And this being uncertain, and not hiding the imperfection, but speaking and hearing the truth in humility and love, is what makes us a better mama to our littles and bigs and that is what we want and they deserve. Love you so much, and I would be totally stopping by with a flower or smoothie and giving you a big hug if we only lived closer 🙂

  14. You are refreshingly honest all the time. Thank you for being so poetically revealed in your topics and writing style! Comparison is one of my biggest hang-ups too, as if what’s happening ‘over there’ has any bearing on my own authenticity and truth. You’re amazing Beth – keep up the good mommy’ing!

  15. Thank you, THANK YOU for being honest enough to share this. I so often feel like I’m inadequate compared to other mothers, and that no one but me ever has doubts about the way I’m doing things. My friends who make their own natural care products and only feed their children organic food? I feel inadequate that I haven’t attained that level. My friends who say there’s nothing wrong with a bit of sugar or processed cheese? I feel inadequate for not letting my children have fun things.

    And the thing is, what’s right for their families is not necessarily what’s right for mine, and as far as I know, no one is out there judging me. I’m just sitting here judging them for making me feel like I’m not good enough with my family. Simply by doing what’s right for their families.

    So yes, thank you. I need to hear this. I need to put down my defense weapons and just *be* a good Mommy, instead of constantly comparing myself to others. I’m with you, sister.

  16. I feel like I can write about my kids in a way that honors them and doesn’t embarrass them. I think it will be wonderful for them to read these stories about their growing up someday. If another mom feels differently then she’s entitled to do as she wants. The mommy wars are all so silly. As long as we’re loving our kids the best way we know how then does it really matter who breastfeeds, who home schools and who blogs about their kids?

  17. I see a lot of this mommy-war-in-my-own-head stuff and I’m not even a mommy yet (but I work with plenty of new mommys). Especially when it comes to the internet, everyone has their own level of comfort. Some moms are terrified of their children being “on the internet for display” and other love to share the naked bathtub photos or potty-training stories. I think each person needs to do what makes them feel comfortable, makes them feel like their children are safe, and do frequent reevaluation of both of these (especially with changing privacy rules). Especially has children get older, they need to be asked for consent (just as we would if we were telling an embarrassing story about our husbands).

    And, just as an aside, I love hearing stories about other people children. It gives me a (almost too realistic) glimpse into my future. Keep it up!

  18. Yup. Truly, most often the worst ammunition in a “Mommy War” is the stuff we make and aim at ourselves.

    It’s okay, Beth. There’s room for “both/and”–your way of honoring the kids’stories and ‘her’ way of honoring the kids’ stories.

  19. HUGS!!!!
    I have come to realize there will always be a war inside. A war with myself; a battle only I can fight against me. But it’s a war that makes us strive to be better mommas. I allow other momma’s truths to be the knife I fall on because, I will ALWAYS feel like my littles deserve better than I will EVER be able to give them. And the truths of other mommas occassionally makes me see a place I can improve. And the scariest feeling I’ve ever felt is the fear of not being a good enough momma!
    So battle on, love! Because it’s that love that makes us strive to do better, to be better, to LOVE better. And love those littles (and bigs) the best darn way you know how!
    <3

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