I can clearly remember that first moment I felt like a foot soldier in the “mommy wars.”
Six years ago, in between news assignments, I raced to catch my then-2-year-old daughter’s gymnastics class. It was Parents’ Day, which meant all of us moms and a few dads gathered to “ooh” and “ahh” at what our future Olympians had learned so far. But then class was over and I had an interview I had to dash off to, something not many toddlers would easily accept.
My daughter cried her eyes out and clung to my body. As I had to gently pry her arms off me and make my exit, I noticed all the moms staring at me — or rather glaring.
Their eyes said it all. “How could you leave your daughter?” “I would never do that to my child.”
As the tears began to flow on my way back to the office, I felt guilty, but also angry.
“Why all the judgment?” I thought to myself, but I knew I was guilty of some of that same judgment from time to time. It’s not something to be proud of — those moments, for instance, when you see what a mom is feeding her child and think, “I would never give that to my daughters.”
Just writing those words makes me cringe, but they’re real to some extent, and they stem from, I believe, deep insecurities that all moms feel, especially when we compare ourselves to moms around us.
Can’t we all just get along?
That’s the thinking behind a fabulous photo spread aptly titled “End the Mommy Wars” on the site Connecticut Working Moms, which first went viral last year, and continues to pop up. Women hold signs with messages such as “Let’s love more & judge less.” Hear hear to that!
“The message really resonates with people because … nobody likes to feel judged,” said Michelle Noehren, 32, the site’s founder and manager. “They’re tired of this negativity.”
The site made waves in 2012 with a photo spread celebrating women and their post-baby bodies, which got national attention on television. As a follow-up, the site launched its Campaign for Judgment-Free Motherhood, with photos highlighting issues sometimes used to “pit moms against each other,” said Noehren, mom to a 3-year-old daughter in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
“I work outside the home,” says one woman via a sign. Next to her, another woman declares, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
In another, one mom touts she practices “peaceful parenting,” while another mom admits to sometimes yelling at her child.
“We wanted to take those (topics) and say, ‘Hey, we’re all people. We’re all equals, and no one is better than someone else and we don’t know why other people make the decisions that they do, so what’s the point in judging that?” Noehren said.
Judgment-free motherhood is a wonderful concept, but I can hear the skeptics now saying it’s about as likely to happen as losing weight by eating daily hot fudge sundaes.
“It’s a journey for everyone. It’s a journey for me. I still find myself judging other mothers,” said Noehren, “but I think the difference is that now when I realize I’m judging somebody, I realize it and I’m like, ‘Ooh, I don’t like the thought I’m having. I’m going to just not follow that thought and go down a negative mental spiral and instead just remember that every mom is doing the best that (she) can.’ ”
Noehren has written about the practical steps moms can take to stop the reflexive judging that we’re all so used to in today’s society.
“The only thing that we can control is our own mind,” she said. “We can’t control what other people are doing in their life so we can choose to let go of those negative thoughts when we have them and that’s really, I think, the key to becoming a less judgmental person.”
Another way? Listening to other women’s stories and realizing we all have our challenges — whether we stay at home or work outside the home, breastfeed or formula feed, buy fast food or organic, choose home school or public school or private schools.
After that disturbing incident at my daughter’s gymnastics class six years ago, I was really helped by an anthology of essays from women from different perspectives, Leslie Morgan Steiner’s highly regarded “Mommy Wars”.
But I have a lot more work to do to truly live judgment-free.
I’m inspired to try to do a better job. Are you?
By Kelly Wallace
Editor’s note: Kelly Wallace is CNN’s digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. She is a mom of two. Read her other columns and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.
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