The so-called “mommy wars” drive me up the wall. Most of the time, I think they are more hyped up by the drama-loving media than they are perpetuated by actual moms—but then I get on Facebook and remember that they are all too real.
Happily, I have been able to mostly disengage from participating myself. This is how I do it.
Remember that every baby is different. This is why I especially love mom bloggers who have 4+ children—they know from experience. They know that some babies sleep well, and some don’t; some babies are picky eaters, and others shovel any available food into their gullets; some are early walkers, and some are late; some handle disappointment quietly, and others process their feelings through ear-splitting shrieking. This is not always a reflection of the parenting methods you use. It’s just a reflection of that fact that babies are people and have their own unique needs, temperaments, and reactions. What works for one will not always work for another.
Remember that every family is different. Any other family, when compared to yours, may have more or less time available, more friends and family available to help lend a hand, more or less money in the bank, or just plain different priorities—because families are made up of individual people, and just like babies, we’re all unique. What works best for one family may not work best for another, even if some aspects of their lives look similar.
Remember that the results of scientific studies are pieces of information to consider, not infallible instructions for How to Have a Perfect Family. I strongly encourage all parents to educate themselves on matters of child development, attachment theory (not the same thing as Attachment Parenting!), and the parenting practices of other cultures around the world. But the most important part of that process is using the information you learn to make educated choices about what is or isn’t a good idea for your particular family—not building an inflexible list of rules based on what science says is best on average. Sure, exclusive breastfeeding has a lot of benefits for both baby and mom, but it’s not always easy or even possible—and while some of the blame for the difficulty falls on our culture’s lack of support systems and education, we also need to recognize that maybe the cost of recurring plugged ducts and mastitis may mean it’s not worth it for a mom of multiple little kids to keep nursing. She doesn’t have the time to let herself rest and recover over and over, and a suffering mom can’t serve her family well. Sometimes formula IS the best choice—not because the science of breastfeeding is flawed, but because individual families’ circumstances matter, too. Scientific studies are useful, but they are not the be-all, end-all of parenting. Babywearing is a great tool to have at your disposal, with a host of potential benefits demonstrated in scientific studies… but if your baby hates it, get him out of that carrier and let him look around from a blanket on the floor!
Science speaks generally about conclusions we can draw based on averages of large amounts of data. It can’t tell you what the right answer is for your specific family in any given moment. (On the flip side—the science isn’t “wrong” just because it can’t make you a definitive list of what you should do.)
Remember that other people’s choices are not made in judgment of your own. Just because someone else is doing things differently than you, doesn’t mean a) that they are wrong, or b) that they think you are wrong. Their family probably has different needs and circumstances from yours—and that’s okay. Don’t assume people are judging you just because they do things differently. (Still, we are a fallen people: some jerks will judge you. But they are jerks. Always ignore the jerks.) It’s really easy to get defensive and feel attacked when someone talks about parenting methods that are different from your own—but most of the time, it’s not actually an attack, it’s just a conversation. They do not think badly of you just because you don’t use the exact same ideas with your kids. Different strokes for different folks.
Have confidence in your own decisions. You are the world’s best expert on your own circumstances. No one knows your individual family’s needs better than you do. Once you’ve investigated your options and feel comfortable making a decision, make it—and forget what anyone else thinks. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should be foolishly obstinate: if your first decision doesn’t work out so well, try something else! Maybe this baby is different from the last one. Or if you learn new information and want to try a different option after all, go for it! We’re being blinded by pride if we refuse to re-evaluate in the face of new data. But still: you are the expert on your family. If everyone is happy and things are working well, don’t let someone else’s opinion make you question your choices. Other people may know what is right for them, but they don’t always know what is right for you.
Remember what’s really important. Do you treat your husband and your kids with respect? Do they know you love them? Are everyone’s basic needs being met? Do you make sure to take care of yourself, too? Then you’re doing great. Everything else is gravy.