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Very often, the media makes something seem like a bigger deal than it actually is.  And sometimes, because the media makes something seem important, it actually becomes a real-life battle.  Quite the vicious cycle.  In my eyes, that’s how the so-called Mommy Wars exploded into the disaster that it is today.

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It’s my understanding that the Mommy Wars originally started as a battle between who was a ‘better’ mom:  working moms or stay-at-home moms.  But it’s extended to involve all sorts of topics:  natural birth versus medicated birth, hospital birth versus home birth, breastfeeding versus formula feeding, extended breastfeeding versus weaning, vaccinating versus refusing, disposable diapers versus cloth, attachment parenting versus … unattachment parenting?  Whatever.  The point is that not only does the media love to flame these ‘wars,’ but some women really seem to love to fight ‘em.

 

I knew the Mommy Wars existed before becoming a mom, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until Henry was born.  Thankfully, I get very little warring in the comments section of this blog – I think most of you understand that although I have strong opinions about many of the topics listed above, my opinions are personal opinions, and I do not think I know what’s best for any mommy or family besides myself and my family.  But still, I’m human – I have my judgmental moments; I try to keep them in check.  Others… not so much.

 

Before becoming a mommy myself, I wondered where this ‘I know better than you’ attitude came from.  Now that I am a mom, I have a theory:  Deep down, no mommy feels 100% confident in her choices, and by taking a ‘hard line’ about certain parenting ideologies, many mommies end up feeling better about their decisions.  By bringing someone else down a peg, they build themselves up.  The Mommy Wars is just a way to cover up our insecurities.  Warring is a way to convince ourselves that we do, in fact, know better.

 

I spend a notable amount of my parenting time feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I e-mailed friends and asked if this is common, and they all admitted that yes, mommies occasionally feel helpless and unsure and out of place.  One of the worst things in our society seems to be admitting that you don’t know what you’re doing – especially when you’re a mom.  Having a strong opinion – even a judgmental one – is perceived as better than being unsure.

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Moms aren’t allowed to say they don’t know what they’re doing.  What kind of mother doesn’t know what she’s doing?  And an extension of this issue is that our society stops treating moms – and pregnant women, for that matter – as individuals with their own needs and desires.  You are expected to give it all up for your child; your life is supposed to revolve around your child (I don’t think this occurs to such an extent in other countries; I would love international readers to weigh in).  If you’re pregnant and drink a coffee, you are a horrible person.  Heaven forbid you stop breastfeeding at three months because you simply need more freedom.  You’re selfish.  Or you leave your baby with his father to go out to lunch with friends?  Again – you’re self-absorbed.  You want to go to the gym and exercise for an hour?  Selfish, selfish, selfish.  I think what happens as a result of this attitude is that our self-worth gets terribly wrapped up in our children.  How can this not flame the Mommy Wars?  If our entire life is about our child, we start to think in very black-and-white terms.  We need to be justified in our choices.  We’re women – we’re competitive.  We need to be the winning mommy.

 

Again – these are just my theories.

 

The result of the Mommy Wars is that women on all sides end up feeling ashamed for their actions, no matter how great the reasons behind their choices.  Look, being a mommy is hard enough.  We don’t need to walk around feeling like crap because we don’t want to or couldn’t breastfeed, had an epidural, use disposable diapers, want to exercise, or just need someone else to hold the baby for five minutes while we take a freakin’ shower.  As women, we aren’t doing each other or our children any favors by being judgmental and harsh.  What works for you may not work for someone else.  Even if you don’t agree with or can’t understand someone else’s reasons, they are their reasons.  And having an identity outside of children is a very, very good thing – not something to be berated for.

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You know what makes someone a bad mommy?  It’s not giving a baby formula or co-sleeping or going back to work.  It’s emotional and physical abuse.  Everything else is simply a different way to parent.

 

However, there is a Mommy War worth fighting. Compared to other developed countries, it is extremely hard to be a parent in America.  We’re all about so-called ‘family values,’ but we fail our families in the most basic ways.

 

  • Women still aren’t paid the same as men.  Non-mothers earn 10% less than their male counterparts; mothers earn 34% less; and single moms earn between 34 – 44% less (source).

 

  • Research from the American Sociological Review shows that on average women who breast feed for six months or more are penalized at work with a long-term significant loss of wages.  That’s because our country has a distinct lack of policies to protect an employed mother’s right to breast feed on the job.  

 

  • There is a distinct lack of affordable, high-quality daycare in our country, which results in financial hardship for many hardworking families.

 

  • We have some of the worst maternity benefits in the entire world. Out of 178 nations, the U.S. is one of three that does not offer paid maternity leave benefits – the other two countries are Papua New Guinea and Swaziland (source).  The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 protects a mother’s job for 12 weeks but does not require pay; however, if you work part-time, work for a small company, or have worked at the company for less than a year, the FMLA does not apply, and you’re completely screwed.  About 50% of the workforce isn’t protected under the FMLA (source).  Our poor maternity benefits have little to do with the amount of taxes we pay or e-file in April – it’s about how our taxes are spent (other countries with lower tax rates provide much better benefits than those in America), as well as the laws that companies must abide by.   Some argue that maternity and paternity benefits should not be the responsibility of companies or the government, but I think the facts speak for themselves:  when your leave is shorter, you’re at greater risk for post-partum depression, may breastfeed for a shorter amount of time, may face significant financial hardship, and may be forced to quit the workforce entirely.  And short maternity leaves have a negative impact on our entire society.  Protecting mothers’ and fathers’ leave rights is everyone’s responsibility.  And look – I get it.  Having a child is a choice; I don’t expect the government or a company to pay for my children.  But the fact that nearly every other country has figured this out and we haven’t is sad.

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(Source – Side note: this chart may vary from your experiences because of additional benefits offered by your company)

  • Our paternity benefits are equally horrifying.  Most than 50 nations also guarantee paid leave for new dads; America offers dads no guaranteed job protection, let alone pay (source).  Happy dads = Happy moms.

 

  • Plus many, many other issues.

 

The problem with the Mommy Wars is that it is very distracting.  We spend our valuable time and energy attacking each other for parenting choices – and, when it comes down to it, unless we’re abusing or emotionally destroying our kids, we’re all pretty decent parents.  Instead of fighting each other over issues that really do not matter, it’s time we start supporting each other.  The real Mommy War isn’t against each other – it’s against institutions and rules that make it hard to be a mother and father and hurt our and our children’s quality of life.

 

All that being said – here’s my promise.  The next time I feel the need to attack another mommy, I’ll ask myself:  Why am I doing this?  Is this really about me, not her?  I’ll remember that what all moms really need is a freakin’ break.  And then I’ll continue to lend my support to organizations like Moms Rising, vote for politicians who really support family values, and frequent businesses that are mom- and dad-friendly.

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If we channeled all the energy we spend judging each other and focused it on issues that matter, I really think we could create positive change.  And that, my fellow women, is something that is actually worth fighting for.

 

(Disclosure note: e-file link is an HTP sponsor.)

{ 273 comments }

 

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  • Liza July 17, 2012, 9:11 am

    Whew, Caitlin – amazing post!!!! I don’t even have kids, and aren’t even sure I want them – but that was a great one. I love your balanced and level-headed way of looking at topics that tend to be controversial. Very inspiring!

    Reply
  • Willemijn @ Run Eat Travel July 17, 2012, 9:15 am

    I am from The Netherlands and it’s true about the 16 weeks paid. But I don’t think it’s enough yet. But I have a girlfriend in Germany and she got 52 weeks of paid leave, not 14 as shown above.
    When you see this, it’s weird that such a big country as the USA, has zero weeks over paid leave…

    Reply
    • Ania July 17, 2012, 12:22 pm

      I agree, I am from Germany and my friends that still live there get 52 weeks and 2 out of those 52 have to be taken by a dad. I hope something changes in America, because I might consider of moving back to Germany to have my kids or another country that offers something realistic.

      Reply
      • susan July 17, 2012, 2:25 pm

        I have to agree, as a German living in Canada, that chart is not quite right. In Canada I only got 16 weeks paid maternity benefits (people that get more after that can get employment insurance for up to one year, but it’s not the same thing and not everyone is eligible), whereas Germany is 52 weeks paid and if I remember correctly, you can get up to three years off unpaid there. Not that that would be a reason for me personally to move back there though. And maternity benefits are never really “free” as it’s paid for in tax money, which (in Germany, or Sweden, where my husband is from) often means giving half of your income to the government… but I’m getting off on a tangent here…

        Reply
        • jenny July 20, 2012, 9:00 am

          I am swedish and We get 480 paid days off. And. We pay about 30 % of our gross income in tax, not half!

          Reply
  • Erica July 17, 2012, 9:23 am

    This is a beautiful post – there’s not much more for me to say.

    Reply
  • Claire Zulkey July 17, 2012, 9:24 am

    The crazy thing to me is how unwilling some people are to let the Mommy Wars go. The Frisky had a post on this a few months ago and one commenter said “I agree, the Mommy Wars have to stop! That said, women who choose not to breastfeed are totally selfish.” Yeah, lady….you kind of missed the point.

    Reply
  • Cassidy July 17, 2012, 9:25 am

    Thank you, Caitlin. I think that, as long as we are doing our best for our children, and not causing harm to them, we (mothers) need to do what feels right for ourselves and our families. In my four months of being a mother, I have been shocked at the judgments of strangers, acquaintances, and, even my own family (including my own mother).

    Reply
  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 17, 2012, 9:25 am

    Great post Caitlin! I’m not a mommy myself but I really enjoyed the insight you bring to all of these issues. I can only imagine how confusing it must be to make decisions about how long to breastfeed for, what type of birth is right, etc. Ultimately, I think that for those types of issues, you should do what’s best for you. And I like the wars you highlighted that deserve fighting, because I completely agree. I had no idea that you guys in the US don’t receive any paid maternity leave. As the chart shows, Canadians get 50 weeks, and it shocked me that we are the highest because I was pretty sure that some European countries have more. I really really hope US mommies win that war in the near future, because I can’t imagine having to worry about the financial stress that they must go through. Great post!

    Reply
  • Katie @ Year of Katie July 17, 2012, 9:25 am

    Go girl! Excellent post!

    Reply
  • C. July 17, 2012, 9:26 am

    Caitlin, a friend turned me onto your blog, and neither of us has kids or plans for kids, but yours is the only now-”mom blog” I actually enjoy. The fact that you admit that you’re nervous and just doing the best job you can makes you a great ambassador to parents and non-parents everywhere.

    I think you’re spot on about other parents shoring up their choices by digging in and refusing to see others’ choices as valid. The same happens on a macro level with parents vs. nonparents, and both sides do it to each other.

    Reply
  • Xiomara @ Parkesdale July 17, 2012, 9:26 am

    Caitlin, thank you for such a great post. People really loose perspective of what’s important. Whether you breastfeed or not, whether you co-sleep. It doesn’t matter as long as it was the right choice for you and your family.

    Reply
  • sue July 17, 2012, 9:26 am

    There’s only one thing I want to say:

    There is no way to be a perfect mother — and a million ways to be a good one.

    Reply
  • Megan July 17, 2012, 9:28 am

    Extremely eye opening post. I don’t have any kids and don’t plan on having any kids in the near future (21 y.o.) but I have been a child of parents who never got any kind of maternity or paternity leave and it’s kind of shameful to say we live in a country that doesn’t recognize this basic need for parents. I had no idea. People like you are exactly what we need Caitlin :]

    Reply
  • Kelley July 17, 2012, 9:29 am

    All of your points are well and good, as I agree that there are many correct ways to parent and everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I do not extensive experience, as I do not have children and don’t want them, but I guess I don’t understand the need to be breast feeding at work? I’ve never seen this even be an issue before, but if you’re choosing to breast feed I really don’t think the workplace is the place to do that, and it is not really a company’s responsibility to factor in resources because of the way you choose to feed your baby.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding the statistic or the argument.

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP July 17, 2012, 9:31 am

      I’ll be happy to explain!

      If you are breastfeeding and pumping, as mothers who work must do because their children are obviously not with them at work, you have to pump in a pattern that mimics nursing. If you nursed your baby in the morning before leaving and when you arrived at home, you would’ve missed as many as 2 – 6 feeds. What happens then is that your supply dries up. So employers who are supportive of breastfeeding/moms must offer a way for their mothers to pump safely and comfortably at work, otherwise you cannot continue to breastfeed.

      Reply
      • Kelley July 17, 2012, 9:57 am

        I understand the need for it, I guess I also understand why companies haven’t been doing their part. It may be silly, but I guess I view that almost how I view those coworkers who take extra breaks for cigarettes. It would certainly depend on the environment of the specific workplace but I have always complained that I have to start smoking so that I can walk away from my work whenever I feel like it, and now maybe I need to have a child to get breast feeding breaks. I know, I know, I’m sure breast feeding is not funfest 2012… I really am pretty level and can see both sides. If you are needing to breast feed and pump, I do feel that perhaps you should be at home, which I know is almost impossible because of the maternity leave policies. I support the mom’s fight for more time off, because once you come back to work I believe you should be focusing on the job like everyone else. I’m prepared to be yelled at.

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        • Sara July 17, 2012, 10:05 am

          My employer created a room for mothers to breast feed. We’ve had a lot of new babies around here recently! It’s a room that has a lock so the women have privacy and there’s a refrigerator to keep the milk. There are comfortable chairs and women can go in and discretely pump as needed. I’m fortunate to work for a compassionate company. I know if I end up breastfeeding past my FMLA, I’ll be able to do so in a comfortable setting.

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          • Jaclyn @ JustJac! July 20, 2012, 3:44 am

            THAT IS SO COOL!

          • Kristin July 20, 2012, 1:43 pm

            My work did that too! I work in a hospital and the lactation area is quite a hike from our department so a couple of the doctors had a room created for the pumping moms with a couch, a couple chairs, a computer/desk and a telephone. Its quite convenient and its locked for privacy. All the pumping moms just coordinate around each other and it works like a dream.

        • Angie All The Way July 17, 2012, 10:07 am

          I should also point out that there is nothing “break” related about pumping. It’s hard hard work and not like you’re sitting there having it “easier” than anyone else and nothing at all like someone taking a smoke break. At least from my own personal experience.

          Reply
          • Kelley July 17, 2012, 10:19 am

            If you read my post, I acknowledged that. Thanks.

        • Lisa @ The Splattered Apron July 17, 2012, 10:13 am

          Kelley, federal law requires that employers provide a space for breastfeeding mothers to pump for their children, and that space cannot be a bathroom. It is not a choice for the employer, it is a right provided under the law. (Unless the employer has less than 50 employees, like with FMLA, they are exempt). I work full time and have been breastfeeding my daughter for 11 months. When I need to pump, I lock my door and put down the shade that my employer provided so that I can continue to work at my desk while pumping. It works for me so that I don’t have to take a 15 minute break, I can continue to work without interruption.
          I’m not arguing with your opinion, I wanted to provide the facts. Breastfeeding is a commitment and one that I will make again and again for my children and I feel very fortunate to work for an employer that easily accommodated my needs. Happy employee = productive employee.

          Thanks for this post, Caitlin, I have the Mommy Wars and you’ve hit the nail on the head–moms should be working together not against each other.

          Reply
          • Kelley July 17, 2012, 10:18 am

            I would not have known about any laws or policies, because of the 3 companies I have worked for, not 1 had had any sort of breast feeding space. I suppose no one requested differently.

          • Lisa @ The Splattered Apron July 17, 2012, 10:19 am

            Ugh, I meant I HATE the Mommy Wars, not have them. Typo!

          • Caitlin July 17, 2012, 2:00 pm

            That’s awesome the FMLA requires that – I didn’t know that!

        • C. July 17, 2012, 10:19 am

          I typically don’t give much of a darn about mom politics, but Kelley, I think your perspective here is part of why there’s still a stigma attached to working mothers of infants. My only opinion is that I don’t want to see women breastfeed or pump in public, and even that is a pretty unpopular opinion in a lot of circles. But to believe moms who need to pump are somehow less there for their jobs, and that pumping is like a smoke break (!), is a little extreme.

          Reply
          • Kelley July 17, 2012, 10:24 am

            I only compared it to a smoke break because of the personal reasons to keep interrupting work flow. I really have never given thought to any of these things, because I have never been affected and neither has anyone I know personally. I dont really enjoy watching breastfeeding in public, so a separate private designated space is a step in the right direction. I choose to not have kids for a reason, so of course that reflects on my opinions regarding everything baby related. However, i am not extreme in any way and was very polite. I was simply arguing both sides (which no one seemed to catch onto)

          • Maggie July 17, 2012, 11:52 am

            Kelly, I do catch on to your trying to argue both sides, however…

            Motherhood (for most) requires breastfeeding. Discouraging this is directly discouraging women from working. If you follow this part of your argument through to conclusion, you would be making it impossible for a group of women to work. That’s unconstitutional.

          • HR person July 17, 2012, 10:40 pm
        • Lissa July 17, 2012, 10:19 am

          I brought my laptop with me to pump. I worked and pumped — hands-free. And I had to budget my day better than ever while pumping … and work my meetings around it. I think it made me a more effective and efficient employee.

          Reply
        • Rebe July 17, 2012, 11:27 am

          I bet the frustration from all sides – mommies who need time to pump in private w/out fearing coworkers perceiving them as a lesser worker than before they had children AND coworkers who do have to try to remember when so-and-so won’t be available could be helped along if the USA had those longer paid maternity leaves.

          IMHO, I would not equate pumping interrupting workflow as anything more than needing to use the bathroom at work interrupts your workflow – technically going to the bathroom interrupts your workflow, but you also have to use it and nobody is going to say it isn’t fair that you got to use the bathroom 3 times today (pumping does take longer but it’s hardly a break at all, and I know many who work and pump at the same time).

          Although I don’t have them at my fingertips, I have read many articles proving that if parents (dads included) are given the time to not only take care of their bodies after a major process such as birth (and major surgery if you get a C-section) as well as their baby, they come back to work more successfully. Think about how long it can take to be cleared to exercise again – for some people it takes 4 – 6 weeks and yet you’re expected to be back at work not much longer after that time frame in the same way that you were before? Insanity.

          I have a hunch providing more than adequate time away from work to care for the family would also help companies who have parents on maternity leave and then decide not to come back to work – it takes far more money to train a new employee than it does to get one back. We should ALL be fighting to ensure that working mommies/daddies have the time they need at home AND have the support of their work families when they come back without fearing judgement from coworkers.

          Reply
      • Lissa July 17, 2012, 10:04 am

        I pumped for 6 months at work and it was HARD. Like, really hard. (3 months nursing/pumping at home, 6 at work). My employer had a special room for us with a mini fridge to store our milk. I watched the daycare webcam to help stimulate supply. But it was THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m glad my employer was so supportive; I pumped 3-4 times a day.

        Reply
        • Stephanie July 17, 2012, 10:39 am

          I’m jumping in here to back-up Kelley a little bit. It can be very frustrating for non-parents to have to schedule their meetings and work days around someone else’s pumping schedule and to see that person leaving work every few hours to pump. It can certainly seem like that person is getting a break that others are not allowed to have as well as getting preferential treatment for having a child, which was their choice. I’m not saying that companies should not have family-friendly policies, just that I think parents have an equally difficult time seeing things from the perspective of those of us who choose not to have children and understanding how frustrating it can be to see someone else leaving early to pick up their kids, taking time to go pump every few hours, and so on.

          Reply
          • Kelley July 17, 2012, 10:44 am

            If I had originally written out a post like Stephanie’s, I think I would have gotten myself into less of an argument. I used analogies that only made sense in my brain, but all I was getting at is that everyone’s personal choices result in sacrifices and understanding of others.

          • C. July 17, 2012, 12:39 pm

            If anything, it seems like this issue speaks to how rigid and puritanical most of our work environments are, really. Many hourly workers don’t get the OSHA-required rest and meal breaks, are “encouraged” (pressured) to minimize or underreport their overtime — and those standards don’t apply to salaried workers at all! It speaks volumes about our employers and culture that we’re upset when our fellow workers have whatever reason to take a needed/earned break. Most office workers I know don’t even observe basic rules for preventing eye strain or repetitive stress injuries because we’re expected to work straight through the work day. No wonder we look sideways at each other for exceptions to the unspoken rule.

          • Mary Nell July 17, 2012, 8:05 pm

            I’m not even sure if I should reply to this because as polite as your response is worded, it is such a frustrating viewpoint. BC (before children), I went to work at 7:10 and came home whenever I finished my tasks (I have a salaried job). Now, I am locked into a day care schedule where I can’t get to work prior to 7:40 and I have to leave by 5:15. Plus, I want to spend time with my children. So, any work I don’t finish, I’m working on from 8:30-11:30 at night. I tried to breastfeed/pump, but once I returned to work, it was impossible due to the meetings and interruptions throughout the day so I couldn’t stick to a regular schedule. And lastly, people make decisions about promotions, pay raises, etc. based on whether you are having to leave early or take a day off because your child is sick. My family wasn’t in a position to have one income so I needed to work, and I know that was my “choice”; however, I just feel the analysis of the situation here just seems so cold. Prior to having children, I was never frustrated by people having to deal with their children or leave to do things with them. My only frustration was with people with children making comments that assumed I had no life outside of work if I had no children or that I just couldn’t understand if I didn’t have my own child.

    • Angie All The Way July 17, 2012, 10:03 am

      Further to Caitlin’s response – if you choose to formula feed your baby that’s a choice just like choosing to breastfeed. You shouldn’t be forced to formula feed simply because it’s more convenient for everyone else. It’s not often a concept you think about until you are a Mom and need to think about providing for your baby and family. You should have the right to provide breast milk for your baby which is actually more economical for families as well. It ranges around $30 for a can of formula by the way.

      Reply
  • Emily July 17, 2012, 9:29 am

    Caitlin-

    I have been reading lots of HLB’s with diminishing interest lately; this post is exactly why your blog is one I will continue to read consistently. You are honest, clear, relevant and engaging.

    It also probably doesn’t hurt that I am in complete agreement with you. From the importance of having your own identity outside of children, to the scrutiny and judgement of parenting, to the ways the government affects the health of our families- you covered a lot of ground! It is especially important to shed light on how critical public policy issues are impacting families today, and the need to have policies that support affordable caregiving for all families.

    Have a great day.

    Reply
  • Sarah July 17, 2012, 9:29 am

    Go girl!! Thanks for bringing so many important facts about our country to light. I had no idea that we were only one of three countries that doesn’t over paid maternity leave. That is just sad (among all the other things you mentioned). You write very well in general but I believe this may be the best post you’ve ever written :)

    Reply
  • Courtney @ Translating Nutrition July 17, 2012, 9:31 am

    Great post! I’m from CA but live in Belgium now, and am quite often in awe of the supportive policies and programs for parents here. I think mom’s here are not faced with the choice of having to give it all up and stay at home or stay with their job/personal life. They can be both — a mom and an individual/have a job — because of the affordable child care and policies in the government and companies which support parents taking time off, etc. They can take maternity leave and know they will have a job waiting for them when they get back. I’m not trying to make it sound like an ideal world over here, budget realities are starting to take their toll, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of the ‘every woman for herself’ policy situation happening in the US.

    Reply
  • Presley @ Run Pretty July 17, 2012, 9:32 am

    I feel like the Mommy Wars are just another extension of the Women Wars. We are very critical of each other in most aspects of life. Crazy.

    And I must be the worst new mom ever, because I have zero time to think about what I’m doing- much less anyone else! haha

    Reply
    • CaitlinHTP July 17, 2012, 9:33 am

      I think that actually means you’re being an awesome mom.

      Reply
  • Allison July 17, 2012, 9:33 am

    WORD. Thank you. I am tired of “family values”/”fiscal conservative” (lol) politicians continuing to ignore the fact that setting parents and babies up for success early in life pays off over and over both socially and economically down the line.

    Reply
  • Nicole July 17, 2012, 9:33 am

    Great post! I sometimes feel a little weird buying beer for my husband with my big belly, but I don’t dwell on it. And if I want an iced coffee or caffeinated water on the weekend, I drink it and don’t feel bad or let myself be judged because I know that my caffeine intake for the whole week tends to be only two servings. I enjoy them like they’re a treat.

    My biggest pet peeve right now is people who think just because I work at home that I can “get by” with both taking care of the baby and working at the same time (mind you, these people haven’t had a real full-time corporate job ever). I’m on the phone a lot for my job, so I can’t have a crying baby in the background. We’re hoping to have in-home care for our infant, which will be great to be close by in case I’m needed. Yes, it would be nice to have a 24/7 parental role, but I need to return to work.

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    • Sarah August 1, 2012, 3:51 pm

      I have a home office as well. My children go to daycare. It’s not fair to the kids or the job to attempt both at the same time!

      Reply
  • Susan July 17, 2012, 9:37 am

    I couldn’t agree more. After I had my first baby, I got so wrapped up in Mommy message boards, blogs, other moms on Facebook, etc. While sometimes it can be helpful to find out about a different approach to something, it mostly left me feeling crazy. I felt like there were certain things I “should” be doing as a mother and (worse) certain things my son “should” have been doing as a baby. I finally realized that parenting styles and babies are different and, really, they’re mostly all fine. Different things work for different families. I was shocked at the amount of guilt I experienced as a new parent. This is so damaging and unnecessary! I forced myself to avoid a lot of the social media surrounding parenting and just go with what feels right to me. I’m happy to report that 4 years and another son later, we’re all doing just fine.

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  • Sarah July 17, 2012, 9:38 am

    I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while and I’m so happy you wrote about this issue. Its sickening how we treat parents in this country. Most other countries “get it” that allowing Moms (and Dads too!) to take adequate leave is beneficial for the baby, as well as, the health of the parents. Non paid maternity leave brings stress into an already stressful time for a lot of parents. Unfortunatley we can’t even agree on getting up to speed with the rest of world on providing healthcare for our all, seems like it would be a no brainer. Healthier people makes for a more productive society…

    Reply
  • Katy July 17, 2012, 9:39 am

    I’m due in 11 days, and this is the first I’ve heard of this. Makes sense that it’s out there. Thanks for the heads up!

    Reply
  • KACI July 17, 2012, 9:40 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. My baby is 5 months old and my other daughter just turned 8. It’s amazing how things have changed in those 8 years and what is considered good and bad when it comes to the above subjects. I do work 30 hours and I breastfeed. I pump at work and did I mention I am the only female in my office out of 10 men?! Awkward but I don’t care, I do what I feel is best. XOXO Thanks again. =)

    Reply
  • Kelly July 17, 2012, 9:40 am

    I have been reading your blog for years now and I have had a few favorite posts…this is by far the best post ever! Nice job!!

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  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More July 17, 2012, 9:41 am

    Dang girl! I give you props for tackling this issue with beauty and grace. I think you’re spot on. We can’t attack each other for the way we parent (or really do anything in life) because it’s this big question mark and aren’t we all just doing our best? It’s better to fill our world with support than to attack and bring each other down.

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  • Lindsay July 17, 2012, 9:44 am

    Well said Caitlin! I am a Canadian who moved to the US 3 years ago, and I like to joke about moving back to Canada to have kids. Except it’s not really a joke, the maternity/paternity benefits in this county are non-existant. How are you supposed to have a career and kids?

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  • Angie July 17, 2012, 9:44 am

    You said it, sister!

    I have always thought exactly as you do – we judge because of our insecurities.

    When my first child (he’s now almost 12) was in a co-op nursery school I was not working outside the home and had lots of time to devote to the school. I found myself being very judgmental of those who had less time to give to the school because of other children and/or demanding jobs. Then I had both more children (3 more!) and a job and realized that those families were making tons of sacrifices to be part of a co-op. maybe they couldn’t volunteer extra, but they were doing the best they could for their family. That has become my mantra when I hear people complain about other families in terms of volunteering, etc: WE ARE ALL DOING THE BEST WE CAN WITH OUR PARTICULAR FAMILY SITUATION.

    Why can’t we all just get along? Because it really does take a village to raise children and if we started off by just being kinder to each other, everyone would be better off.

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  • Amanda July 17, 2012, 9:46 am

    It is a hard balance in a Mother’s life to provide for her child but still take the time for herself. I’m finding more and more that I’m a better wife and mother when I take time for myself. Otherwise I get overwhelmed and then doubt myself even more.

    I learned all those facts about other countries in one of my women sociology classes in college, its just sad. I am choosing to be a stay at home mom and I am so thankful we can have me stay home. The quality of child care is just terrible especially for the price. Its just easier for me to stay at home rather than work so someone else can raise my child.

    Reply
    • Krista July 17, 2012, 10:43 am

      “so someone else can raise my child” – think you missed the non-judgment point of this post!!

      Reply
    • Meg July 17, 2012, 2:51 pm

      Exactly – you’ve missed the point. You wrote that as if women work for the sole purpose of paying someone else to raise their children. As a teacher, I get a lot more out of my job than an income that goes straight to my childcare provider. But thanks for the backhanded comment!

      Reply
  • Dana July 17, 2012, 9:46 am

    When you talked about how moms are expected to give up everything for their children something clicked for me. I love watching “The Biggest Loser” and over the past 13 seasons I can’t tell you how many women say they packed on the pounds once they had kids because it became all about taking care of their family and not themselves. Vicious cycle…

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  • Ashley // Our Little Apartment July 17, 2012, 9:47 am

    I think you are right, but I also think that we FEEL judged more than people are ACTUALLY judging.

    I am a crunchy parent who leans towards attachement parenting, but that doesn’t mean I look at someone NOT doing what I do and think they are doing it wrong. I did what was right for us and our values.

    It’s sort of the same as telling someone that you’re a vegetarian and why. They might FEEL judged, but you are just telling them what YOU do, not telling them what THEY should do.

    I have absolutely no desire to worry about how other people parent.

    As long as no one tells me I’m weird for still nursing my son at 22 months and not circumcising him, I’m good to go.

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  • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 9:47 am

    Amazing post!!! I’m 22 weeks pregnant with my first child and this was a great post. It is eye opening on the weeks other countries get for maternity leave.

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  • Maria July 17, 2012, 9:48 am

    Another great post! As an international reader I thought I would expand on the information in the chart. Here in Denmark, mothers are entitled to a minimum of 18 weeks fully paid maternity leave. But you are entitled to A FULL YEAR of maternity leave all in all. Up to six months of that may be fully paid by your employer depending on your contract. The rest of it will be paid by the State and the money you receive corresponds to what you would get on unemployment benefit. Fathers are also encouraged to take part of the year’s leave. We all pay for this through our high taxes but I think it’s well worth it.
    On another note – the Mommy wars. Recently I saw two mothers on the news. One was a single mom who had a baby through donor insemination and the other was a married mom. I was sickened by the way the married mom attacked the single mom. I checked out some of the blogs referred to in the news segment and I was shocked and saddened by the way women will attack each other even in a society like ours where we have great maternity leave options and inexpensive day care. There is a lot of fear and anger out there, I guess.

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  • jen July 17, 2012, 9:48 am

    I think you are spot-on with regard to international parenting being a little less child-revolving. I recently read “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman and it was extremely eye-opening. International parents seem to be just as committed to mapping out time for themselves as they are with spending time with their children. We always strive for balance in every other part of our lives – why not with kiddos? Probably for fear of being attacked by fellow mommies…

    Reply
    • Katherine July 17, 2012, 1:57 pm

      I am reading that book right now. Very interesting!

      Reply
  • Kelly July 17, 2012, 9:50 am

    I’m not a mom, but I am a feminist and I can say that motherhood appears to be the last bastion of unenlightened gender roles and stereotypes. With our current laws, tax codes and social constructs, it seems almost impossible to “have it all.”

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  • Brynne July 17, 2012, 9:51 am

    I am very lucky … at my job we get 4 months of paid leave for maternity leave. Maybe that is because we are German bank but yes, I agree that it is very important. I am not a mom but I know many here that are still respected regardless of a mom or not.

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  • Britt July 17, 2012, 9:51 am

    The best article I’ve seen on this topic! I’ve heard other people suggest that the “Mommy Wars” is just a control tactic. The easiest way to control women is to pit them against each other. To distract them from the real issues (like the ones you raise). Your article seems to suggest the same.

    I’m a Christian, and one of my favorite bible versus says “You can’t have faith without action.” Well, you can’t be a Christian simply by calling yourself one. You have to ACT like one. You can’t say you believe in “family values” unless you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is and DO something to protect family values.

    I resepct you for DOING something to support real family values and to protest the so-called “Mommy Wars.”

    Reply
  • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 9:52 am

    I love being Canadian!
    Very well said. So many mothers find it necessary to be hurtful and judgmental of another mom as if to raise herself up. It’s funny we judge other moms but all we really want at the end of the day is reassurance that we are doing right by our children. How can we accomplish this by being harsh to others and expecting kindness in return? It is a vicious cycle. Having two children ages 4 and 5 I am so much more confident in my skills as a parent than I was 5 years ago. I think when you feel confident in your parenting you feel less need to knock others down. It is a good feeling. :)

    Reply
  • Mo July 17, 2012, 9:52 am

    Once again, amazing post Caitlin! I love the way you research and write on such topics. I find that you really encompass “healthy living” in all ways, and are the most well written of all the blogs out there.

    PS- besides my 3 week old infant, Henry is the cutest baby I’ve ever seen! ;-)

    Reply
  • Abby July 17, 2012, 9:53 am

    Well said, Caitlin. This is an amazing post- I wish there was more we could do to help fight this fight.

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  • Maren July 17, 2012, 9:53 am

    I don’t really know much about these “mommy wars”, as I am not a mother, but agree that mothers should be focusing their energy (the small amount they have left!!) on positive things!

    Great post Caitlin!

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  • Lauren July 17, 2012, 9:53 am

    I think, like most discrimination, the mommy wars are a result of insecurity. Sometimes, as new mothers, we compare ourselves to others and as a result feel the need to justify our personal choices. Then it spirals from opinion into a mission to prove what’s best. I think we need to stop comparing ourselves to others to really diminish the necessity of this so called war.

    And, as far as maternity leave goes in this country, I know first hand how awful it is. I worked for a small company for 4 years and was given 2 weeks of unpaid maternity leave before eventually being let go. And the company can’t be totally blamed because production can’t cease for months at a mom & pop biz. It’s so much bigger…

    Reply
  • Lissa July 17, 2012, 9:54 am

    Beautifully said, Caitlin. I wrote a similar post about this …

    http://let-there-be-light.net/2012/05/31/judgy-judge-judge-stop-the-insanity/

    Reply
  • Shauna July 17, 2012, 9:54 am

    Beautifully written post. I am 27 weeks along and hearing this now is such good preparation. I plan to tag this post and put a note in my calendar to read it at certain intervals after the baby comes.

    As usual, you have addressed a serious issue with grace and integrity.

    Reply
  • Kelly July 17, 2012, 9:56 am

    Thank you for this post… I really needed to read something like this today. I’m on day 5 of probably the 5th nursing strike my 3 month old has gone on in the past month. I’ve tried everything to get her back to the breast with no luck. I can barely keep up with the pumping and my breasts are killing me. I’ve been thinking of switching to formula because I’m so tired of this, but GAH, the guilt!!! If I was a good mommy wouldn’t I stick this out and do ANYTHING to keep her on breast milk? Won’t other moms judge me if I choose to feed her formula?

    Anyway, thank you. I think we all need to give each other (and ourselves) a break.

    Reply
  • Anna D July 17, 2012, 9:57 am

    I don’t have kids, nor do I ever plan on having kids, so I don’t know much about experiencing “The Mommy Wars.” But I have been a teenage girl. This seems a bit like middle school and high school all over again–females attacking other females because of their choices. And I just find it upsetting, like, at what point does bullying stop, if ever?

    Reply
  • JenATX July 17, 2012, 9:57 am

    AMEN! Not only was this a very inspired and informative post, but it was also very well written. I hope it spreads around the blogosphere.

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  • Sara July 17, 2012, 9:59 am

    Great post. I’m hoping to get pregnant this winter and I’m really worried while out on FMLA, that I’ll only receive half of my salary. I’m not sure how we’ll swing that financially, but we’ll have to make it work somehow! Ha, ha. My boss is single and has no children. My supervisor doesn’t have children (but is married) and one day I had to talk to her about something and she said “Oh, gosh, you’re not pregnant are you?” So now I really dread telling them that I am pregnant! My boss had several women who went on maternity leave and never came back, so I understand his anxiety, but don’t make me feel bad for choosing to have a child! And believe me, I’ll be back. We can’t afford one income!

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  • Eleonora July 17, 2012, 10:01 am

    Italy here! I don’t have kids, so take this a as an “outsider” opinion.
    First of all, bear in mind that the weeks of paid leave are not always 100% of your salary: Italy has 22 weeks at 80% of your salary, while Germany has 14 weeks at 100%. Then you are allowed more weeks, paid less or unpaid. Typically it is up to one year, more or less.
    So, here there’s a discrimination at the very beginning, meaning that it’s harder for a woman to find a job (because you know, you may end up pregnant!). This is definitely a problem but I have never heard of judgement being passed between moms. The only similar case is the (proverbial) mother in law that usually wants to *suggest* the best way to do…anything, from cooking to cleaning to – obviously – raising kids!
    In general I feel pregnancy and parenthood are viewed as a very personal thing. Breastfeeding in public is something that doesn’t bother anyone. I’d even say people are happier if kids are eating instead of screaming! But also, going to the beach topless is perfectly acceptable. And an exposed boob is way more pleasant than a screaming child.
    The same goes with medicated delivery, cloth diapers etc. The general idea is just “that’s not my business”, although people obviously have opinions and may voice them when asked.

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  • Elle July 17, 2012, 10:01 am

    I don’t have children but many of my girl friends do, and from what I see, it seems to me that “Mommy Wars” tend to come up in certain social groups or environments – I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but I feel it is more of a “clusters” thing than a generalised issue.

    My sister is a nanny for upper-class families in our town, and apparently there is an unspoken challenge among mums to which one behaves best – eating the best, safest, healthiest, etc (did you wash your salads in bicarbonate or any disinfectant before eating??). Many of these are wealthy ladies who do not work, and their whole identity ends up being absorbed by their child…

    On the other side, many of my friends are stay-at-home mums, mostly because they couldn’t find a job after having their first child (more about this after), but they all seem happy and fulfilled. One in particular actually told me that she was happy even though she missed her job, because she was conscious that her worth, her sens of self wasn’t entirely dependent on her children.

    I think this is quite important both for the mother and the child; I grew up in an environment where my mum would neglect herself, intentionally missing a hairdresser appointment, dressing carelessly, losing contact with her friends, and saying “I sacrifice, I do this for you”. Ultimately, she became seriously depressed and and started blaming myself and my sister for this.

    On the “workers mothers issue”, a double-international perspective! I’m from Italy, but live in Ireland. In Italy, the biggest issue is that, if you get pregnant but are on a non-permanent contract (the majority of them), you are practically sure that you’re not getting your job back after the baby is born. In some not-so-extreme cases, some friends of mine were asked if they were planning to have children during the job interview itself.

    Here in Ireland, the situation for mothers is much better (and employers are far more serious); in particular, my friends tell me that you get State benefits for each child, from birth until they are of age, and this regardless of your income. So much easier to have a child here!

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  • Colleen July 17, 2012, 10:03 am

    Awesome post Caitlin! We need to stopping fighting each other and use our energy to fix our US system.

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  • Laura July 17, 2012, 10:04 am

    Great post! My parents just came back from spending two weeks in Sweden and they were telling me how different the families are over there. They said the children are all really well behaved-not running around/acting crazy/not being disciplined like you see in the US. And it really seemed like the place on emphasis on family/children over there. They also receive awesome paid maternity/paternity care benefits which I think attributes to happier kids.

    This may sound out there, but I’ve always felt it was backwards to lower taxes of those people with children. What if you were taxed more for having children? If you think about it, when you have children, your family unit is using more government resources-schooling, emergency services, etc. The additional taxed money would go towards better schools and high quality affordable day cares. Also, I think knowing you’d be taxed on having a child would discourage some people from irresponsibly having children they can’t take care of just for the tax write off as we know happens.

    One other observation my parents noticed in Sweden: they said there are no obese people over there-every single person was skinny, not even pudgy. They said it was a shock to come back to the US and see all the overweight people. I’m curious why our nation is so overwight when compared to other countries.

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  • Shayna July 17, 2012, 10:05 am

    Very well written post and I couldn’t agree more with everything you said.
    I live in Canada where I was able to take a year of paid maternity leave with each of my kids and know that my job was waiting for me when I came back. I think a lot more Canadian mothers are able to breastfeed successfully for a full year (if they choose to/can) because of this policy.
    I am continually amazed that the US has not caught up in this area.

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  • ellen July 17, 2012, 10:05 am

    This is a great post! My mom is from the Netherlands and all my cousins live there and I am very jealous of their leave time before and after having a baby! It is ridiculous that the USA is still so far behind….and I think it is a sad sad fact that one of the biggest stressors for new moms is how to pay for quality childcare!

    I also agree with you about the so called “mommy wars” I have two sister in laws and a cousin who are all giving birth this year ( I am due in 3 weeks)We all have differing opinions on labor and delivery, bfeeding, childcare, but we all try to suppport one another and I know I make a conscious effort not to critizice. One thing that has stayed with me though was when my Husband and I were getting married and had to go to pre-marital classes was the priest telling us that you need to remember your love for each other comes before any other love, because if you are not happy with each other then your children are not going to be happy. I will try so hard to make sure my husband and I keep that in the forefront when we welcome our son to our family. Thank you for this post and all you posts! I have really been enjoying reading your perspective on pregnancy and motherhood and has made me feel alittle more relaxed for my baby coming soon!!

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  • Dory July 17, 2012, 10:09 am

    Caitlin- thank you for this post. In the last few years I’ve come to realize that all of the judgements and bashing I do are reflections of my own insecurities. I think this is true for most people. When I started seeing the “Mommy Wars” in my group of friends I immediately recognized it as this. I love that you are bringing it to light and encouraging us as women to band together, stop it, and focus on what can help us all. In my opinion, the corporations/media/politics (things driven by big money) only fuels this war as a distraction from the real issues. If they can get us so worried about “x” (x=make up, shaven legs, who’s the better mom, ect)we wont have the time and energy to fight was is in our best interest and real issues.

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  • Morgan July 17, 2012, 10:10 am

    I love this post and completely agree with you. My sister is a social worker in the foster care system and this is an issue that makes her absolutely irate. She will always stop people as soon as they start down the mommy war path and tell them that she sees actual child abuse on a daily basis and refuses to berate people for making a parenting decision, even if it is a decision that she herself would not make. There is a HUGE difference between actually harming your child and making a choice that is best for your family. People need to remember there are actual neglected and abused children in this country, and formula vs breastfeeding etc is the least of their worries.

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  • Christa July 17, 2012, 10:11 am

    Caitlin, this is amazing! I am going to post this for all of my friends to read.

    It’s so conflicting because seeing statistics like that makes me want to pack up and move in the next 2-4 years before we have a baby, but the trade off is that you’re in another country with no family or close friends. So incredible that our nation hasn’t gotten with it. To see that Pakistan, which I feel is considered a very backwards country by many in the US, is on board really should say it all.

    Thanks again for this post — love your blog!

    Reply
  • Lindsay July 17, 2012, 10:12 am

    You hit the nail on the head! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. It is such a difficult time, wonderful, but difficult. I was pretty much in shock after I had my daughter and experienced first hand this new phase of life. I wanted to know why more discussion and not wars about these issues doesn’t happen. Thanks for being apart of changing the face of this transition. It’s ok to struggle, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed and someone needs to be willing to be open and honest with new mothers.
    One of the biggest encouragements during my first few months of being a mom was a friend who share about her struggles. We need to use our experiences to build each other up and not tear each other down.

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  • Kim July 17, 2012, 10:13 am

    “just want to take a freakin’ shower” cracked me up. When I went to visit my sister after the birth of my niece I wanted to help her in any way I could. When I asked her what I could do she just wanted me to hold Anna so she could take a long shower:)

    Reply
  • Nicole July 17, 2012, 10:14 am

    Excellent post, Caitlin! I work for a great company, they not only provide “mother rooms” attached to the womens bathrooms for pumping, but they do give paid parternity leaves for fathers. Granted it’s only two weeks, but I’m sure it’s very helpful to new moms!

    Reply
  • J July 17, 2012, 10:15 am

    I know I have been judgmental against mommies and I am not even one yet! I think there is another war that is unseen as well for moms. You had mentioned above about a mom taking time for herself and how people think it is selfish but I have come across the complete opposite view. I know many woman who DON’T take that time for themselves and I think they are criticized too although mostly behind their backs. People are so critical about a mom being there and giving up her life, but they wont say anything to a mom’s face about being too involved and never taking time for themselves. I know that in my family, my sister in law NEVER takes time for herself and yet no one will say anything to her face, they just talk about her behind her back. But if she does something different (Cloth diapers) then everyone jumps all over her for doing that and being crazy and why doesn’t she just use disposable! Its like we can’t win! I try to just accept other peoples decisions and then make the best ones for me and my family. Its a tough world.

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  • Joy @ The Joy Vey July 17, 2012, 10:20 am

    This was hands-down one of the best, most intelligent, inspiring blog posts I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for sharing. One day, god willing, I’ll be a mom, and I can raise the banner with you.

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  • Angie All The Way July 17, 2012, 10:21 am

    Very well written post. When I had my son, I actually stopped putting myself out there on my blog and eventually stopped blogging, not because of mean commenters directed to me, but because of the comments I saw everywhere else. I wanted badly to solicit advice from other Mom readers on various things, but resisted for the most part. It’s bad enough when you’re second guessing what to do half the time than to add criticism to a well-intentioned Mom who is truly trying her very best. I was at a vulnerable place adjusting to the challenges of being a new Mom and I knew I was still too thin-skinned to have some a**hole on the internet take a stab at me. I realized that the reason for the Mommy Wars was simply because motherhood was something so VERY dear to a Mom that she couldn’t bear to believe that she wasn’t doing it “right” and wasn’t making the “best” choice so the need to put on a tough judgy exterior was created. I’m happy to say now that I’m 100% confident as a Mom and all of the choices that I have made and will continue to make and care far less (or care none) about what strangers on the internet think.

    Having said that, on a side note, sometimes I judge. Most recently, Big Brother started again and Janelle is back on as a coach and she had to leave behind her 6 mth old baby for the entire summer. I just could not imagine leaving my baby for such an extended period of time by choice. And I realize that lots of parents are obligated to do so when they are deployed etc., but I just can’t get passed it. Should I be supportive of a decision like that? Does it make me judgmental? I have a hard time with that one. Maybe it’s because it feels like a no-brainer for me to turn down the “possibility” of winning $100,000. I get that winning that kind of money is also providing for your family, but I dunno! Tell me I told you so when she wins I guess!

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  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats July 17, 2012, 10:23 am

    First of all, I cannot believe how behind the US is in giving paid leave!!! That’s crazy! And I cannot imagine any mother knows what they are doing, being a mom isn’t something you can learn in a book. It’s trial and error, it’s doing the best you can and just loving your child. I know when I have kids that no matter how much babysitting experience I’ve had or how many books I read I’m going to have NO IDEA what I’m really doing! I think moms should band together, not tear each other down!

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  • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 10:24 am

    I think you have very good points about this and appreciate your thoughtful approach to the topic. You always come across as an open minded person willing to think through something before forming an opinion, and I respect that.

    It happens with everything: politics, religion, life choices, Lady Gaga. Everyone has an opinion. And that’s ok, but where the problem lies is when someone thinks THEIR opinion is the right one and starts a debate, war, what have you, with people who see otherwise. It’s all so tiring.

    Reply
  • Katie July 17, 2012, 10:24 am

    Another wonderful post. I can’t tell you how spot on you are. I was unable to breast feed. Probably because I had had breast reduction surgery years before. I felt beyond awful when on day ten, after ten nights of screaming all night long, I gave my son his first bottle. I also had to drop out I a small mom’s group because I f the severe judgement I felt after admitting that. Do you know that my son never screamed again. Never cried through the night. He ate and slept and settles into being a joyful happy baby, and now big kid. I still get a lot of judgement when I talk about that experience and generally don’t share that story unless I feel that someone is not going to be harsh with me. I wish this post existed in my early weeks as a mom. So hard. And at times so lonely. And being judged on top was really painful. Bravo Caitlin.

    Reply
    • Meg July 17, 2012, 3:00 pm

      Similar thing happened to me. I felt like I had to qualify why I was formula feeding by saying I had a surgery that limited my supply…and I was always surprised at how often people asked if I was breastfeeding. I think I was sensitive to it since I then felt I needed an explanation, but still, it felt like a personal question. I’ll never forget the starving cries of my baby that first week before the pediatrician told us we needed to supplement because she was dehydrated and had lost too much weight. It broke my heart. But after we fed her, she turned in to a happy, HEALTHY baby and has been ever since!

      Reply
    • Sarah July 17, 2012, 3:53 pm

      I wasn’t able to breastfeed- I tried for 8 days- they felt like the longest 8 days of my life. I’m not sure if it was insufficient breast tissue, the fact that my son came a month early, or my c-section. Can’t imagine any of those factors helped. I, too, have been shocked by how many people ask if you nurse. I’m definitely a bit sensitive on that topic. Though I’ll try breastfeeding when we have our next baby, I want to do it for me, not because I think society says I should.

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  • Tara July 17, 2012, 10:26 am

    What a great post and a topic that does need to be addressed. I admit I was somewhat judgemental towards other moms before I had a child, then I got pregnant with my son and my whole perspective changed. I totally agree that unless a parent emotionally or physically abuses their child, other people just need to step back and realize their way is not necessarily the only way to raise a child. I had a lot of grand ideas about how I would raise my kids before I had them, then I realized that life with children is unpredictable and if I got down every time something changed or didn’t work out exactly the way I wanted it to I would lose my mind. Now I try to give all parents the benefit of the doubt and know that we all love our kids and want the best for them and that can look very different from one parent to the next. I am so thankful to the people that support my husband and I as we go along this journey and I tend to ignore those that think they know better than everyone else.

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  • Kendra @ My Full-Thyme Life July 17, 2012, 10:29 am

    Well said, Caitlin! I’ve always been so frustrated about Mommy Wars because they make topics debatable that really have no “right” or “wrong” tied to them in any way! I appreciate how much research and time you put into this post. Your words are honest and so many of us mothers get it. However, we are human and I’d be lying if I said I never pass judgment on another mother. So I will vow to work with you and ask myself the same question, “why am I doing this?”

    As parents we are presented with similar joys and triumphs, obstacles and dilemmas and although we may address them differently there still exists a commonality. I’m with you, let’s be kind to one another and although it is perfectly fine to disagree with the decisions of other people, be mindful of why it matters so much in the first place.

    You are quite the inspiration!

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  • Shady July 17, 2012, 10:30 am

    As a non-mom I don’t understand the mommy wars. I’ve seen it played out in the media and see the judgement mommy’s heap on each other. Regardless of my status as mommy or not, I couldn’t not more fully and completely agree with your statement “If we channeled all the energy we spend judging each other and focused it on issues that matter, I really think we could create positive change”. Couldn’t that be said about, well, everything in life?”.

    That being said, as an almost 30 year old women who has decided that parenthood is something that I have no desire to be a part of (yes I have a few years left during which I *may* change my mind but I don’t think it’s going to happen) I also think it’s pathetic how much judgement is heaped against those of us who are making a decision to be child free. I’ve been called selfish, immature, short-sighted, warned that I’m making the biggest mistake of my life and been told that I will never know what real love feels like and that if us white folks don’t reproduce the immigrants will take over (I wish I was kidding and I mean absolutely no offense by this. I don’t believe it at all).

    So while you may be especially sensitive to the mommy wars, I think we all need to show a little bit more respect for the decisions others make. You don’t need to understand or agree with them, but by virtue of the fact that you are a human being and member of society, you need to accept the choices others make for what they are.

    Reply
    • Kelley July 17, 2012, 10:40 am

      I agree 100%. I get told every day that I will “change my mind”…. But really, I won’t. It is so ridiculous. I DO NOT HATE CHILDREN, which everyone assumes. I like children very much but have no desire to raise one for 18+ years, it’s just not who I am. I am even a big Sister for BBBS and that few hours a week is really enough for me. I am not any less of a woman because of it.

      Reply
      • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 11:12 am

        I agree! I’m 44 and was never interested in having kids. Everyone told me I would change my mind. I didn’t. I love kids, I just didn’t want my own. I’m so happy with my decision. I never understood why people couldn’t just accept that the path I was on might be different than theirs. What does it matter if we don’t all do the same thing, you know?

        Reply
      • Sarah K. July 17, 2012, 12:46 pm

        I felt exactly like you for a long time and told everyone that my husband and I didn’t want children and was adamant about it. I always got seriously pissed when my in-law’s hounded us about having kids in the first couple of years after we were married. I’ve also been heavily involved in the dog show community which is mainly people who have chosen to not have children. But as we both got older, the biological clock that I’d never heard before, started ticking loudly, and not just for me but for my husband also. So, after lots of discussion over a couple of years, we decided that we do want a family. I’m 34 now and 17 weeks pregnant. I’m not saying you will change your mind and I don’t have a problem with that…each person has to decide what is right for them but I just wanted to say that there are people, like me, who changed their mind.

        Reply
    • ashlynn July 17, 2012, 10:50 am

      I totally agree with this. I think I may want children in the future, but people are so pushy right now asking when I’m going to start a family and are so judgemental when I say it’s not on the horizon. Then they bring up the ticking clock. I’m 27!

      And, it always makes me think back to a friend I had who tried for years to have kids and couldn’t and people were always asking her when she was going to have children. I wanted to punch them in the face. They didn’t know she was having fertility issues, but it’s not their business to ask about her reproductive plans in the first place.

      Reply
    • Allison July 17, 2012, 10:59 am

      I am 28 and have been married for 4 years. Neither my husband or I wants children. When my SIL found out, she told me I was “disgusting.”

      Yes, seriously.

      Reply
    • Kate July 17, 2012, 4:42 pm

      So true Shady!
      As a 34 year old women, who has been happily married for the past ten years, people just assume I will have a baby. When I tell them my husband and I have no plans to procreate, people stare at me like I have lost my mind. It is so offensive the comments that follow. No idea why it is always open season on the childfree folk. Seems like there are no political correct rules to follow when discussing someone’s choice to remain childfree.

      Reply
    • Natasha July 17, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Thank you so much for this comment! It’s nice to hear from other women who are child free and my age. One of the most difficult remarks my husband and I received from a friend who found out about our choice is that we’ll end up alone, neglected, and lonely when we’re old. I don’t see my/our future like that, but somehow that one really made me pause.

      I can’t agree with you more regarding the need for people to respect the decisions of others. We can all be happy and contribute to the world in our own ways! In addition to being hurtful, assumptions about being selfish, hating children, not being a “true” woman get pretty old after a while.

      Reply
      • Jess July 18, 2012, 5:27 am

        I am 23 and the fact that I don’t want to have children is confusing to people. They are so… angry at me for my choice! I am a teacher, I am around children all day long. My partner is a teacher, too. When I was told that I would probably have a lot of trouble having kids, I was relieved! I finally had an excuse; I (probably) can’t have kids! Then it started! I have to adopt, try IVF, so anything to reproduce. It makes me so mad that other people think they get a say in this decision.

        Oh, my favourite: Don’t your parents was grandkids? Yes, they do. So what? They aren’t gonna raise them, so I’m not having kids just to make 4 people happy.

        Reply
  • Amanda July 17, 2012, 10:34 am

    Caitlin, thank you. I’m a relatively new reader to HTP, and I don’t always agree with everything you write about, but I just want to tell you how REFRESHING your blog is. In a world of bloggers phoning-it-in or writing tiny amounts of text with mediocre food pictures, you actually touch on important topics and encourage open dialogue.

    As a non-mother but one that plans on being in graduate school and working in the male dominated world of higher education during the pregnancy and early childhood years, I so appreciate this information. It is really challenging to apply for and to keep tenure track jobs without decent maternity coverage, and it’s an important issue for all women. Similarly, I already feel some pressure from friends (even before we have children) not to do day-care for our children when they are a little older even that is the only option give my husband’s and my career choices… when we know that having a career will help us be better (and more sane!) parents.

    So, thanks. For keeping the dialogue open and for helping others to realize that they are making the right, thoughtful choices, even if they’re not the same as everyone else’s choices.

    Reply
  • Nicolette July 17, 2012, 10:40 am

    Caitlin, I really appreciate the confidence you bring forward when you address difficult or potentially contentious issues such as this. I am not a new mom, nor will I likely be in the foreseeable future, so content-wise this was not a post I would connect with. However, I feel like how you stood your ground in your opinion with a diplomatic sense of self-assurance, how you presented your arguments rationally, and how did not back down and give excuses for yourself is what I connected with. And, it’s not like this is the first time you have addressed an issue in this way.

    So maybe I don’t read all of your posts thinking “Oh my goodness, I feel like, EXACTLY the same way!”, and that’s totally ok. It is the way in which you present your opinions that keeps bringing me back to your blog.

    You have a good thing going on here, and I thank you for staying true to yourself. Your readers appreciate it!

    Reply
  • ashlynn July 17, 2012, 10:42 am

    I think that the mommy wars is just an extention of our society. We feel like we have to make our opinions known and we have to know every detail about other people’s lives (i.e. celebrities, facebook, twitter, etc.) I think that raising children should be a private matter and opinions should be shared upon request. But, that’s not how we work. We have to tell someone they are doing something wrong either to make ourselves feel superior and knowledgeable, to be hurtful, or just to make ourselves heard.

    And, women are especially hard on each other from middle school (maybe even elementary school?) on, the criticism doesn’t end. My mom has girls in her 3 yo preschool class that call each other ugly…why does this happen? You don’t know what another woman or mother or girl is going through, so why make it even harder on her by heaping your criticism and unwanted advice on top?

    Reply
  • Tamara July 17, 2012, 10:44 am

    Thank you for writing this. It needs to be said,talked about, often. We moms are doing the best we can. Let’s lift each other up, especially while doing the hardest job I’ve ever known.

    Reply
  • Kim @ My Health Nest July 17, 2012, 10:48 am

    Very very very well said, Caitlin!!! It’s all so ridiculous and yet we can’t seem to stop! And you’re so right about it being an insecurity thing. It’s also hard not to feel defensive about everything…when someone asks if my kid is rolling over yet, I’m all “no he’s not AND SO WHAT, LEAVE HIM ALONE” when they’re really probably just making conversation. :)

    Reply
  • Katie July 17, 2012, 10:50 am

    perfect post! so many people forget that being a parent is about love, not judgement. you are so right that the judgment stems from insecurity. just wanted you to know i love this post…in my world it’s all about your personal family needs, wants, and values!

    Reply
  • Tammy Root July 17, 2012, 10:51 am

    Wow. What an amazing post. This should be published in the NYT or another news-worthy publication.

    Reply
  • Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 17, 2012, 10:51 am

    great post! those photos are so beautiful! i love the yawning pic — so precious! :)

    Reply
  • duffy July 17, 2012, 10:51 am

    I was in a yoga training over the weekend, and we were discussing prenatal yoga. The instructor brought up the fact that women’s abdomens may spread, so you shouldn’t ask them to perform backbends or ab work. Well, I’m 9 months pregnant, my abs are in good shape, so I do SOME backbends. Another mother in the group brought this up and challenged the instructor, saying “I’ve NEVER spoken to a woman and had her say she suffered from that condition. It’s very, very rare.” Well, she didn’t know that sitting next to me was a pregnant woman who at that very moment was freaking out because her abs had separated. She had diastasis and was in all sorts of pain, both mental and physical. I felt awful for her.

    As women, we’re very hard on ourselves to be perfect. We need to be more compassionate to ourselves, and then we’ll start to be more compassionate to others.

    Reply
  • Stefanie July 17, 2012, 10:55 am

    Very well said….I look forward to reading all your posts….and this was very well written!!!

    Reply
  • Katie @ Soulshine and Sassafras July 17, 2012, 10:57 am

    Such a phenomenal post, Caitlin. As usual, you have an intelligent, fair, point of view that respectfully examines all sides of an argument and humbly provides possible solutions. I’m not planning on being a mommy for at least five years, but I already have crazy baby fever :) Yours is my favorite new mom blog to read, because you talk about issues that I’m already so fascinated by. And I’ve really liked reading the international comments about how motherhood is viewed in other countries! I especially wish our country could calm the f down about breast-feeding. I get why it makes people feel uncomfortable – I think it’s because society has raised us to feel that it’s indecent. I really think more people should talk about it, and find ways for it to be brought more out in the open. I don’t think shoving it down peoples’ throats is a good way, or reacting to those who are uncomfortable with it with hostility. I think really trying to show that it is natural and often necessary, and finding the balance of discretion without feeling like you have to be locked away in a dirty bathroom is key.

    Reply
  • Jessica July 17, 2012, 10:59 am

    I’m glad you brought attention to the sad state of affairs here in the U.S. for parents and families – and how hypocritical politicians that tout “family values” actually legislate to make things as hard as possible for families to raise their kids. I felt “lucky” that I got 12 weeks at home, unpaid, to be with my daughter before going back to work. And I work for a big, “processive” non-profit!
    I think the “mommy wars” thing can go both ways, though. I think a lot of new moms (and myself included!)can be way too defensive, and it’s sad because asking questions and learning new things from my fellow parent friends, my own parents and other relatives about parenting has been invaluable in my journey through motherhood so far. The other day I was at the grocery store, and another mom came up (very apologetically) and told me that it’s actually unsafe to put the car seat up on the top of the grocery cart (where little kids usually sit). I bristled at the time and felt angry, but when I got home I Googled it and found out that babies have actually died when carts have tipped over (even while fully strapped in their carseats!). I think it was worth it for me to feel bad for a few minutes when the woman talked to me, rather than to continue an unsafe practice I had no idea about. Obviously this is very different than the whole “breastfeeding vs. formula” type of debate, but to say that anything that falls short of emotional or physical abuse is okay I think might take it a little too far? I know that most women are absolutely trying their best, but as a new mom I know that I don’t know everything, far from it, and I have found advice from other moms and even people on the Internet really helpful. I think we’re wasting huge resources to not reach out and be receptive to ideas and advice at all. My best friend is also a new mom, and we have very different babies and different scenarios (she’s a stay-at-home mom who formula feeds and does cry-it-out, etc., and I’m a working mom who breastfeeds exclusively and co-sleeps, etc.) but by setting aside our egos, being respectful and talking things out we’ve learned so much from each other about parenting, and I think we’re both much better mothers for it.

    Reply
    • Caitlin July 17, 2012, 11:20 am

      Great point!!!

      Reply
  • Maria July 17, 2012, 11:04 am

    AMEN!!! You could not have said this any better. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Reply
  • Caitlin July 17, 2012, 11:09 am

    It is sad that even puppies are required to stay with their moms for at least 8 weeks but there is nothing that requires the same for human babies in the US.

    Reply
    • Nicole M. July 17, 2012, 3:55 pm

      What an excellent point. :)

      Reply
  • Jazz July 17, 2012, 11:09 am

    Yay Go Canada!!
    So glad I live in a Country where we get 50 weeks, I always assumed every mother got a year off, but feel extra lucky now!

    Reply
    • Shady July 17, 2012, 11:20 am

      I’m in Canada too and I think this needs clarification. You are entitled to have your job (or a job with equal or greater pay) protected for 50 weeks but you won’t be entitled to your full income from employment insurance. Many companies will ‘top up” the amount you get from the government.

      And as Canadians we aren’t immune to the other issues mentioned by Caitlin such as the discrepancy between pay for males and females and lack of promotion opportunities for parents (I use the term parents because I imagine same sex couples face the same problems). I think we also have to talk about the discrepancy between the benefits given to biological mothers and those who adopt.

      Yes we are ahead of the states, but we still have a ways to go.

      Reply
      • Jazz July 17, 2012, 7:55 pm

        Right, I still get 50 weeks off and do get money for it.. which is enough for me.

        Reply
        • MelanieF July 17, 2012, 9:44 pm

          You are not entitled to a full pay maternity leave, but you are entitled to a paid maternity leave to up to 50 weeks, which most women do take benefit of. For 18 weeks, you have a paid maternity leave of 70% of your income. Than you get 32 weeks at 55% of your income. 7 weeks of those 32 can be use by the father at 55% of his income.

          We are not immune to what the US is currently not having, but we sure do have a good parental plan.

          Reply
          • MelanieF July 17, 2012, 9:50 pm

            I’m in Quebec, I don’t know if it’s different in other provinces.

          • Shady July 18, 2012, 11:31 am

            I’ve never been a mom so I didn’t know the details, thanks for taking the time to expand on what I said. And I would imagine it’s the same across Canada as EI is a federally run program.

  • Jen July 17, 2012, 11:16 am

    Caitlyn, I love reading your blog. I have a 7 month old and I’m a marathon runner. Congrats on your little bundle of goodness! While you were pregnant I could sense that there might have been a bit of the unsolicited advice happening and I secretly couldn’t wait for you to have that baby so you could start weighing in on this topic. You have hit the nail on the head with this post and I would love to read a book by you about this stuff. Actually, would love to collaborate or offer my experiences as a pregnant runner ( I ran until 33 weeks) and a marathon momma ( I started running at 4 weeks post and was up to 10 miles by 7 weeks post – I worked my butt off) I ran a half when my son was 4 months, did a full when he was 5 months and am doing another one in two weeks. I don’t think any of us new moms really KNEW what it was going to be like until we were experiencing pregnancy, then childbirth and then finally parenting our new children on the outside. I have learned a LOT of things, but the one I always stress is that this is very personal and every family is different. Congratulations again to you and your husband. Isn’t it fun and crazy? Like, the coolest thing you’ve ever done? Cheers -

    Reply
  • Neen July 17, 2012, 11:16 am

    Highly recommend reading this article, which speaks to a few of the points you mentioned:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/

    Reply
  • Carol July 17, 2012, 11:21 am

    BRAVO MY FRIEND – BRAVO !

    Reply
  • Maggie July 17, 2012, 11:26 am

    Great post !

    Reply
  • Ali July 17, 2012, 11:27 am

    I’m so fortunate to live in Canada because I know (in the veeeeeeery far future) when I have kids, I’ll be able to take paid, job-safe, time off work, as will my husband. That said, Canada still has a lot of issues to overcome that the United States does, like affordable, high-quality day care. I know a lot of the parents I babysit for who have more then two children have elected for one of them to be at home, or for both to work part time so they can spend more time at home with their kids (obviously because they love them) but also because, depending on your salary, daycare stops making fiscal sense when you have more then two children attending. This was an awesome post; very enlightening and (I think) one of the best you’ve ever written!

    Reply
  • Sarah @ Celiac in the City July 17, 2012, 11:28 am

    Wow, the numbers are shocking.

    I knew there would be a lot of comments on this one — let’s just hope that people are remembering the point of the post and not getting defensive and/or offending. (missing the point of the post)

    Like others have said, I love that you tell us like it is. In real life. It’s hard. Sometimes you won’t know what you are doing. And that’s okay. It makes me hopeful that when I am a mama someday soon that I can be okay with it all too, and for that I thank you.

    A dear friend went back to work yesterday after maternity leave (unpaid of course) and was struggling. Feeling like a bad mom, all of it. Sent her this article — it sums it up, your kiddos just want/need YOU. That’s it. Whoever you are as a mama.
    http://powerofmoms.com/2012/04/your-children-want-you/

    Reply
  • Eileen July 17, 2012, 11:28 am

    I am two weeks away from my due date and still working full time so I can get every day possible with my baby after he is born. Working right now is less than enjoyable but a sacrifice I feel I have to make in order to at least get the most out of the lackluster FMLA benefits. I get 12 weeks of job security. Any money I receive is money I have earned via my vacation and sick leave or money I have invested in short-term disability. To say this is a stressor is a huge under statement. I hate to even think about leaving my 3-month old infant in day care (that will be around $1,000 a month to add insult to injury) and can imagine how hard it is going to be to maintain milk supply, pump, and be a good mommy while working full time. This whole thing just really sucks! Thank you for this article and the eye-opening statistics. Its frustrating but nice to be able to vent for a moment.

    Reply
    • Jessica July 17, 2012, 11:49 am

      Eileen, I felt the same way before I had my girl. I won’t lie, it is hard to leave your baby at 12 weeks. But, I’ve found that pumping isn’t as hard as I expected (make sure to invest in a good dual pump like the Pump in Style and get a good hands-free bra, and really push for your rights when it comes to pumping at work – I force myself to not feel guilty about pumping during work time, since it’s my legal right!), and my supply has been fine.
      And one unexpected benefit of being away from my baby is that old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” – every weekday, I drop everything the second I get home from work and just relish every second I have playing with my girl before her bedtime. The same thing with the mornings and weekends – I save my chores for after she’s in bed, I check my email only at work, etc. When I’m with her, I’m just with her (and my husband, too, I don’t want to leave him out, ha!) and I focus on nothing else. I never feel annoyed with her or jaded about being with her, since our time is so precious. That was one unexpected benefit of working full time. It’s tough, but you can definitely be a GREAT mom and work full time!

      Reply
      • Hotpotatokate July 17, 2012, 8:27 pm

        My experience has been similar to Jessica’s. Not in terms of pumping- it’s time consuming and difficult for me- but in terms of quality time. I still want to take more time off next time, but there is something nice about savouring every precious moment with my boy (including the ones at 3am) instead of breathing a huge sigh of relief when my husband got home at 6pm.

        Reply
  • Nikki July 17, 2012, 11:31 am

    Wonderful post! I am not a mom yet, but it was very thought provoking!!

    Reply
  • Jen July 17, 2012, 11:34 am

    Great post Caitlin! I have gone against the norm in a lot of my parenting and work choices, and the judgment from others is astounding, especially my own extended family. If all moms would just be supportive of each other and try and help, instead of judge, it would be so much easier on everyone. We need to focus our energy on fighting for what’s important (maternity leave, education, etc.) and not try and bring each other down. Thanks for writing about the important issues and for your openness and honesty.

    Reply
  • jo July 17, 2012, 11:38 am

    You called for international readers to weigh in – the answer is yes, there is a significantly lower pressure to give up your life. In Europe there is a pretty cool ‘just bring the kid along’ attitude that makes it less isolating for new moms to care for them, for one. But I think the most important thing is, at least it was in my community, that the saying “it takes a village” is basically common sense. The grandparents CAN’T WAIT to babysit as much as they will be allowed,and there is always a helping hand besides them – from other distant family to neighbors. It doesn’t hurt that a country with a pretty rough situation like Romania offers the mother a choice between 1 or 2 years paid maternity leave, 1 with something like almost her entire salary, 2 with less.

    As for my adopted land, Belgium, I think it has a shorter leave period, but mothers are expected to give up their lives to an even lesser degree.

    Mommy wars and this kind of disputes I’ve been seeing online are almost entirely unravelled in the US – which is sad because the world tends to follow a lot of what goes on there.

    Reply
  • Ashley July 17, 2012, 11:42 am

    A-freaking-men. People are so quick to judge Mothers – ‘she can’t breastfeed? She is a terrible mom.’ Meanwhile, the poor girl is physically unable to.

    Every time I see this chart about PTO for the different countries, my heart completely aches for US women. It is such an unfair scenario, there is absolutely no reason for the US to be so far behind in paid time off for mothers.

    Reply
  • Whitney July 17, 2012, 11:47 am

    Just the most recent example of why I love your site. Rock on, Caitlin!

    Reply
  • Chelsea July 17, 2012, 11:51 am

    The way you post and talk about things are so inspiring. I would follow you in a revolution haha ;D

    Reply
  • Shanna, like Banana July 17, 2012, 11:51 am

    This really is a fabulous post. I agree with your reasoning as to why Moms become so opinionated and in a way it’s somewhat of a good thing. That is to feel so confident that what we are doing is right for our babies means we are (hopefully) very in tune with their needs. The thing we forget is that every baby is different as is every family relationship. What works for one family may not work for the next.

    As an example, I stopped bf-ing at 4 months because it was so difficult to do at work and also because I started feeling a little trapped and depressed. An unhappy Mom does nothing for my baby so I made the decision that was best for my family and my baby is absolutely thriving!

    Great discussion!

    Reply
  • Alexandra July 17, 2012, 12:03 pm

    I dont usually comment on blogs but this piece truly deserves a round of applause! I am not a mom myself (although hope to be very soon!) and yet, I recognize this as a HUGE issue in todays world! THANK YOU for bringing awaareness to this and for your honest and frank approach! If people would only stop judging and worry about themselves and their own parenting skills more then I tihnk we would have more fabulous mommies all over the world! You are truly an amazing person, writer, and MOM! Love love you your blog!

    Reply
  • Morgan July 17, 2012, 12:06 pm

    I think once you become a mother you just do what you can to survive in the first year.

    I wanted to breast feed for a year. It only worked out for us for 3 months. I said I’d never let baby in our bed, and she’s there every night. She’s still up 7 times a night at 8 months old. You do what you can to get by.

    Before I was a mother I might have judged others parenting tactics. But now, I don’t judge ANYONE. It’s a matter of survival for the first year. Every mother should just do what she can to get through it happy and healthy!

    Reply
  • ALLISON July 17, 2012, 12:14 pm

    Love your post, and I totally agree. I have a 19 year old and have experienced many variations of the mommy wars over the years. One thing I can say for sure, if you find yourself commenting out loud or even thinking about someone elses parenting decision, you better watch your words. It’s like Mommy Karma it will come back and bite you and although you thought when your daughter was 10 that you would never let your teenager daughter talk to you like that teenager just did to her Mom, just wait…because you judged someone else for it, it will happen to you and maybe even worse. I live in Canada and I cherise our parental benefits, my husband and I both split the year we had off and it was one the best experiences we have ever had. The time spent with our son who is now four was oustanding and reaps benefits for years to come!

    Reply
  • Erin July 17, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Amen! Well said!!! Thank you for this post.

    Reply
  • wendy July 17, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Great post and beautiful pictures!

    Reply
  • Haley July 17, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Great post, Caitlin!

    Reply
  • Erin D. July 17, 2012, 12:22 pm

    So glad you mentioned Mom’s Rising on your blog. They are a fabulous organization doing really great work. Awesome post and I couldn’t agree more. You should check out the book, The Bitch in the House. Really honest discussion of marriage, motherhood, and work from a feminist perspective. I think you would really enjoy it.

    Reply
  • sharon July 17, 2012, 12:24 pm

    I just want to comment on your link that women are earning less than men. The data is not always accurate and portrays women as earning less. The truth is, we have to take into affect, what jobs women chose. Generally, we chose less dangerous jobs (think teacher or nurse over oil field worker, coal mine worker, etc.) It is also proven that young women in their 20′s with out children are earning MORE then men in the same age range.
    A lot of woman also chose to work less hours than men due to our choice. While some men may work 50 hours, women may only work 35 or 40 because we chose to do so if we have a family.
    I am a working mother, and I feel that my pay is more than fair.

    Reply
    • Caitlin July 17, 2012, 2:02 pm

      I am SOOO glad you feel that you are paid fairly :)

      Reply
    • Allison July 17, 2012, 5:27 pm

      I don’t know about the data Caitlin used, but I know in my field (law), accounting for more women choosing less high paying areas of work and part-time work, women are STILL paid considerably less then men.

      Reply
  • Charitydawn July 17, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Fantastic post! There is so many women attacking other women for their choices. Everything you decide in your life is a personal choice. It’s funny that women will attack each other over being a mother in a heart beat but they do not attack for other personal choices. I never get judged for the food I eat or the people I choose to hang around with, but the fact that I’m walking into the hosptial asking for medication as soon as I go into labor well I’m the worst person in the world?!
    It’s my choice, my body I can do with it what I want!
    That being said I HATE the term’s natural vs medicated birth.. Really the baby comes out the same area so what if I want something to stop the pain. It does not make me any less of a woman then someone who doesn’t. I prefer the terms vaginal birth VS csection. It makes women feel bad about themselves if they try a “natural” birth and end up requiring a csection for the safety of the baby. Really at the end of the day all that matters is mom and baby are both safe and healthy. What does it matter how the baby gets out?!

    Reply
  • Kelly July 17, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Ah, I just adore you Caitlin!!!

    Reply
  • DeLacy July 17, 2012, 12:44 pm

    I never comment on blogs but this post deserves a standing ovation.

    Reply
  • Heidi July 17, 2012, 12:46 pm

    Great post! I have 2 children-both were medically neccessitated c-sections. I breast fed one for a few weeks and stopped when I got shingles and the other I didn’t breastfeed at all. I felt a lot of guilt over this and cried when I made them that first bottle of formula. I wish someone then had told me it was ok. My girls are 4 and 2 now and are happy and healthy. I love your attitude towards the mommy wars. I’ve read some blogs lately (Well, one in particular.) that have been pretty preachy about natural childbirth and breastfeeding. It’s refreshing to read a post that acknowledges that moms need to do what’s best for their own family and what’s best for one person may not be best for another. Henry is lucky to have you!!!

    Reply
  • Breanne July 17, 2012, 12:47 pm

    I’m not a mommy (at least not yet), but this was superb. I’m with the above commenter about the standing ovation… reading this was a breath of fresh air and reflects so many of my own (non-mommy perspective) thoughts on it all.

    Reply
  • Marissa@ohhhsolovely July 17, 2012, 12:50 pm

    love your honesty here & your views on this! i especially love the part about our maternity benefits, or, lack thereof, for that matter. i’m hoping to get pregnant sooner rather than later & i can’t bear the thought of having to go back to work before about 3mos. i think it is going against nature to take a mom away from her baby earlier than when they are both ready.

    Reply
  • whitney July 17, 2012, 12:51 pm

    What a great, great post. I am planning on starting a family later this year and am already worried about what people are going to think about my choices (placenta encapsulation, not breast feeding, not cloth diapering). What i find refreshing is what you said NEEDS to be said over and over but is never said in so many words. Thank you for putting it out there. Thank you for speaking logically. Thank you for being honest.

    Reply
  • Sarah K. July 17, 2012, 12:54 pm

    This is just one example of why I can’t get enough HTP :) I come back multiple times a day just to see if you’ve posted something new!

    Reply
  • Janelle July 17, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Amen. One of the best blog posts ever.

    Reply
  • Christina July 17, 2012, 12:56 pm

    Another amazing post! I wish I would have found blog posts about being a new mom just like this when I first had my son. I was so unsure and felt a lot of judgement coming my way. Add to that a baby who was breastfeeding every hour and a half round the clock for the first 2-3 months and I was an emotional wreak! Keep up the great work mama!

    Reply
  • Annette@FitnessPerks July 17, 2012, 1:03 pm

    GREAT post. Amen and AMEN.

    Reply
  • Lauren July 17, 2012, 1:09 pm

    LOVE IT!!!

    Reply
  • Kattrina July 17, 2012, 1:09 pm

    I agree – all the decisions and judgments and criticisms are overwhelming and stressful. I haven’t even given birth yet and I’m worried about ruining my child’s life because I didn’t hold them enough or I didn’t stimulate their senses or I drank green tea twice during pregnancy. It makes having a baby even more stressful than just figuring out daycare and maternity leave!

    Reply
  • Abby July 17, 2012, 1:10 pm

    I’m totally with you. Before becoming a mommy, I didn’t GET IT when people talked about the Mommy Wars. But now, it’s become all too clear. I agree that many moms have strong opinions to cover up the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing, or even just to align themselves with a group of likeminded individuals so they don’t feel so alone… And then speaking from my own experience, I always swore that I wouldn’t be one of those moms who gave unsolicited advice. But then once I became a mom, I realized that mothering is HARD — and when I found something that worked for me, I wanted to share with all mothers, all parents, the world over, in hopes that maybe it would help make their job a little bit easier. I try to keep that in mind when other moms start sharing their opinions with me.

    Reply
  • Emily July 17, 2012, 1:11 pm

    Caitlin, I LOVE this post. I’m expecting my first in January, and the past 3 months of pregnancy have been startling for a career-oriented woman such as myself. My office does not have paid maternity leave. I’m generally not for government regulation, but FMLA is a joke. Considering the percentage of pregnancies that are unplanned, I have a hard time believing women can easily save the 3 months of salary they will need to take leave. And that doesn’t even take into account health care premiums–you have to pay your and your employer’s shares of health insurance premiums to maintain your insurance during an unpaid leave.

    Some women are blessed with short-term disability coverage, which will pay typically about 60% of your salary for 4-6 weeks. I, unfortunately, am not, as I wasn’t eligible for short-term disability at my firm until this month, and my pregnancy is a pre-existing condition that will not be covered.

    So let’s get this straight–the expectation is that you are comfortable enough to afford no income while you’re on leave, or you figure out a way to pop out a baby over the weekend and get back to work on Monday? Unreal.

    Reply
  • Dynamics July 17, 2012, 1:20 pm

    I did not read all the comments but I collected State Disability when I was pregnant. Also, the dads get job security as do others with the Family Medical Leave Act. I know the Family Medical Leave Act is still in place but did they get rid of State Disability??????

    Reply
  • Rebekah July 17, 2012, 1:24 pm

    Hear hear!

    Reply
  • Sarah July 17, 2012, 1:25 pm

    I don’t see a lot of opposing opinions here so I’m going to play devil’s advocate.

    A federal mandate for companies to provide a substantial amount of paid maternity leave would greatly impact the small businesses of this country. Since the majority of businesses here are considered small, the effect would be dramatic.

    I like working for a small firm and it’s got a nice family, team atmosphere. I just cannot see how extended, paid maternity leave is something they could financially manage.

    That being said, I think the government’s role is to focus on 3 things only: public safety (including the military), public health, and education. Maybe if they would get out of everything else they’d have the budget to assist small businesses in providing more family-friendly policies.

    Reply
    • Lisa July 17, 2012, 1:48 pm

      Sarah, a mandate or a tax? :-)

      Please count me as a dissenter who does not bemoan our lack of paid time off for working parents. It’s not an unfair scenario–other countries mandate much higher taxes to have these social safety nets. The debt these countries are incurring will ultimately lead to the end of these structures. I’d much rather have lower taxes, enabling women to keep a higher % of their income as opposed to surrendering it to the government. If you don’t like how tax dollars are spent in this country, then propose what you would cut.

      As for those statistics about working moms/single moms earning less, you need to control for factors such as industry, education level, years of experience, etc.

      In a “perfect” world, maybe there would be increased PTO for working parents. Companies that value these incentives might ultimately be the most competitive and successful because of the talent they attract. It is all part of a free market.

      Reply
      • Sarah July 17, 2012, 4:28 pm

        Good question Lisa! Haha. I doubt a straight-up mandate would be functional or accepted for a number of reasons.

        I totally prefer your idea of a perfect world where businesses would have the choice to add paid maternity leave as a competitive addition to their hiring package. Let’s do that!

        Reply
    • Allison July 17, 2012, 1:52 pm

      Small businesses (under 50 employees, generally) are almost always exempt from these kinds of regulations, so your point is kind of moot.

      Reply
      • Sarah July 17, 2012, 4:11 pm

        Considering this whole discussion has many possible solutions, only one of them being a federal mandate that is not backed by federal funds, I think your point is moot Allison.

        I doubt very much any system put in place would exempt a large percentage of workers, those being in the small business sector.

        Reply
        • Allison July 17, 2012, 4:43 pm

          Why do you say that? The ACA, which you both seem to be referencing above, is a much bigger system than anything to do with maternity leave and it exempts small businesses.

          And Lisa, I would please like to see a citation for your claim that “[t]he debt these countries are incurring will ultimately lead to the end of these structures.”

          Reply
          • Ashley July 17, 2012, 7:51 pm

            Greece. That is all.

          • Maria July 18, 2012, 4:42 am

            For some reason I can’t reply to Ashley’s post, so I will do so here instead :). Greece is in trouble because people did not pay their taxes while claiming insane benefits (like state funded fully paid pensions at age 50 for some employees in the public sector). In Denmark, our economy is doing okay because our government has been responsible and we pay our taxes.

          • Allison July 18, 2012, 9:25 am

            Exactly, Maria. Thank you. Read any Paul Krugman article and it will tell you the exact same thing.

          • Ashley July 18, 2012, 9:18 pm

            The US is currently approaching a $16 trillion deficit. I don’t call that responsible.

  • Rachel July 17, 2012, 1:27 pm

    I have my judgmental moments; I try to keep them in check. Others… not so much.

    I find it upsetting that this is a line that starts out a post about not being judgmental. I try…others don’t…

    Reply
  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles July 17, 2012, 1:35 pm

    Great post Caitlyn! I’m Canadian, so it’s interesting to me to read about how benefits work in the US.

    from what I understand in Canada, mother’s can get a mixmum of 15 weeks maternity leave at 55% (or maximum of $485 per week). In addition, mothers can take up to 17 weeks unpaid pregnancy leave, and parents (so either the mother, father, or both) can take 35 weeks unpaid parental leave.

    It’s not the best policy in the world, but it’s a step up from what I can see in other countries (honestly, including yours). While I would love to see Canada step up the benefits we give to parents, I think the US needs to at least do something to help mothers/parents out.

    Reply
  • Dara July 17, 2012, 1:54 pm

    Great post, Caitlin. As a mom who desperately wanted to breastfeed both children so badly — and failed — your post reminded me that it’s OKAY. We are all trying to do the best for our babies.

    I’m sure there are other mothers out there that see me shake up a bottle for my son and judge me. They do not know how hard I tried to make it work, how much I beat myself up over it. We all need to stop and realize that all of us are doing the best we can.

    And, commenter Kelley’s view on pumping in the workplace is disappointing.

    Reply
  • Maura July 17, 2012, 1:55 pm

    One of, if not your best post to date. And I ain’t even a Mommy ;)

    Reply
  • Amber K July 17, 2012, 2:11 pm

    Really, really well written post. I wish we as women didn’t judge each other so harshly about every little thing.

    Reply
  • Kim L. July 17, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Fantastic post!!!! You said many things I have thought to myself over the years, but could not express as eloquently as you did. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Christina July 17, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Mommy Wars? Is that a real thing? I’ve been a mom for almost four years now, and I know lots of moms who parent in different ways. Never have I encountered anything like what you’re describing. Are Mommy Wars just an internet phenomenon? Since we’re tossing theories around, my theory is that people who spend too much time on the internet are people who have time to engage in Mommy Wars.

    Reply
    • hush June 29, 2013, 12:35 pm

      “Are Mommy Wars just an internet phenomenon? Since we’re tossing theories around, my theory is that people who spend too much time on the internet are people who have time to engage in Mommy Wars.”

      YES! AMEN!! The only time I have ever been a casualty of the so-called “Mommy Wars” was at the hands of a blogger (who hypocritically judged women like me who hire nannies). Never in my real life has anyone said boo to me. So I stopped reading that blog. Problem solved! :)

      Reply
  • Andrea July 17, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I love this post! Thank you!

    Reply
  • Jenna July 17, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I’ve never commented before.. heck, I don’t even have kids. But this was a great post, very eye opening. I will definitely need to remember all this when I have children some day.

    Reply
  • Susanna July 17, 2012, 2:23 pm

    Yes, indeed! We need to make this country more family-friendly. You may have read this book already, but if not, check it out:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-War-Moms-Family-Unfriendly-Nation/dp/0470177098

    Reply
  • Sumo July 17, 2012, 2:28 pm

    I wish I could read more about what triggered this post for you, Caitlin. I don’t have children so I can only imagine. What you’ve written all sounds great, but I wish you would share more about when you are hurt or struggling as opposed to focusing mainly on how you’ve come out of it or how you’re at a better place now.

    It seems like there was one post within the first week of your baby’s birth where you spoke more about your own personal difficulties, but otherwise everything else is spun so nicely.

    Clearly, you’re a pretty positive person who copes well. Nevertheless, it can be normalizing to hear more about when you’re struggling before you’ve figured out how to cope and have wrapped it up nicely in an uplifting post. Though I’m not sure you really want to share all that with the world….

    Reply
    • Caitlin July 17, 2012, 2:42 pm

      I’ve been working on this post for about three weeks so it really did come from that first post that you’re mentioning. I have to say the things of been going really well for me and Henry minus some nursing struggles I’m very happy in my new role as a mom and haven’t been struggling as I was the first week. I think the reason why I stopped struggling was in part because of all the wonderful responses I received. The responses from readers may need to realize that it was completely normal to feel the way I did! I’ll be sure to write about any other issues in the future though. <3

      Reply
      • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 4:25 pm

        Hi Sumo (and Caitlin), I like what you have to say about writing about what created those feelings as opposed to just arriving at the solution. I’m glad you’re adjusting well and finding ways to keep in the positive mind set Caitin. I’m not! I’ve been doing the opposite of you and documenting the transition process on my blog (albeit, I’m not a mother). The bad thing about this Sumo is that people LOVE to leave negative anonymous comments!

        Reply
  • Brandy July 17, 2012, 2:28 pm

    Very nice post – thanks for writing it.

    Reply
  • Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy July 17, 2012, 2:42 pm

    Great post! I am not a mother myself, yet, but this made for very interesting reading :)

    Reply
  • Karla July 17, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Love your blot. This is your best post ever!

    Reply
  • Brigid July 17, 2012, 2:51 pm

    LOVE this post, seriously. Great work.

    Reply
  • Jean July 17, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Caitlin-I read tons of blogs (including yours, obviously) and almost never comment. This was an incisive, beautifully written, and genuinely important post. Thank you for addressing these issues in such a kind yet passionate way!

    Reply
  • deb July 17, 2012, 3:02 pm

    I’m one of the lucky ones in the US, my company gave me a whopping 6 weeks paid. Definitely nowhere close to enough but I’m thankful to have been given any paid time.

    As far as the mommy wars go, I try not to judge people for their mommying habits, but sometimes it’s inevitable unfortunately!

    Reply
  • Bojana July 17, 2012, 3:03 pm

    I am just sounding off here because I very strongly agree with you. I am from Europe and i don’t have children myself. Where I live it’s just getting to the point where a kind of “babycentric” ideology is enveloping many young mothers. And I feel it must drive a new mother insane, that she should be expected to give up her life and identity after she brings a new person in this world. I mean, you all know the kind of children this obsessive upbringing creates. Moms that focus solely on her children’s needs lose their sense of self and guess what, their children lose respect for them because of this. I know this sounds harsh, but that is just the case. If you want to really be a role model for your children, you have to stand up for yourselves. Moms are people too, right? :)

    Reply
  • Lara July 17, 2012, 3:07 pm

    I can’t find a button to “like” this post on Facebook, but I want to!

    If we can’t get our baby to turn, we are going with a c-section because our options for a vaginal breech birth are basically non-existent in this state. Already I feel so judged because our c-section would technically be “elective.” I’m beating myself up enough, I don’t need the judgement from others!

    Thanks for bringing attention to the issues that are REALLY important.

    Reply
  • Jessica @ New Girl, New City July 17, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I completely agree. While I’m not a mother myself, it seems to me that if you aren’t a “perfect” mother, society and other women judge you. I think it all comes down to the fact that in some people’s eyes, you can never do enough or give up enough for your child. You have to do what’s right for you and your child and at the end of the day, be happy with it.

    Reply
  • Kristine July 17, 2012, 3:12 pm

    Caitlin,
    THANK YOU!!!!! The unspoken expectation that our identities become completely wrapped up in our children is the major factor that has given me pause about having children in the first place. I used to say I was “too selfish” to have kids. But what if it was really that I was afraid of losing myself in the process? If that’s selfish, I don’t want to be un-selfish.

    My husband and I really want kids. And I hope we have them someday. But these Mommy Wars and all of the sociopolitical crap that surrounds motherhood just makes me want to run and hide.

    Thank you for raising awareness about the real battles we should be fighting, rather than going after each other!

    Reply
  • lauren July 17, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I knew the US was behind, but eeeks. That’s terrible. In RI, I know moms/parents can get 13 weeks of Family leave guaranteed, and we have TDI (Temporary Disability Insurance) that is 66% of your weekly income for 6 weeks. That’s something – but it still isn’t enough.
    This info is so hard to find too. It’s like we all struggle in secrecy, when in reality everyone is going through the same thing. These issues need to be talked out. It’s ok to be different, the same things don’t work for everyone – but we’re all hardly willing to even put ourselves out there and have the conversation. Fear just causes people to put up their defenses.

    Reply
  • HEAB July 17, 2012, 3:30 pm

    Great post Caitlin. I was guilty of judging other moms for their choices sometimes, and then I became a mom myself. I get it now. Every mom is different, and I think all the labels we put on motherhood are just kind of silly. Mother of x # of kids, exclusive breast feeder, cosleeper,etc. Honestly, I’d rather just be labeled as “Heather, that girl who truly loves her kids.” :)

    Reply
  • Becca Barnes July 17, 2012, 3:31 pm

    Thank you for your courage to speak so openly! As a first time mom your awareness amazes me. In the weeks following my first child I didn’t fully grasp what was going on around me. I just felt raw and self conscious. Most moms are genuinely trying to do their best and love and support from other moms could make all the difference.

    Reply
  • Su July 17, 2012, 3:32 pm

    Caitlin, this is an awesome post.

    In Venezuela the government has approved a new law (not official yet) for the working mom/dad.

    For moms: they’ll have 6 weeks before the birth and 20 weeks after the birth (paid). Job security since the moment they get pregnant until 2 years after they give birth. Also, there will be two half-hour daily breaks for feeding a child if the workplace has an educational center. If the EC does not exist, will be 1 and half hours.

    For dads: 14 days since the birth of the child (paid). Also, job security for 2 years.

    Reply
    • Lisa July 17, 2012, 4:21 pm

      I am not so sure you want to be holding up Venezuela as a model government. Its human rights abuses, repression of dissent, and cooperation with countries like Iran and Syria trump whatever rights it may or not give mothers. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18867310.

      Reply
      • Allison July 17, 2012, 4:50 pm

        Many people in Venezuela and countless other countries where we’ve drone-bombed schools might not view the United States as a place free from human rights abuses, either. Probably best to stick to the subject at hand in that regard and say yay Venezuela for their progress in the way they treat parents and children.

        Reply
        • Ashley July 17, 2012, 7:48 pm

          Yeah…no. I feel like you missed the point. Lisa put it in perspective. Not to speak for Lisa, but I’d rather live in the US with no paid maternity leave than Venezuela with all the paid maternity leave I could stand.

          Reply
          • Kelsie July 18, 2012, 2:07 am

            Actually I feel like Lisa and you, Ashley, missed the point. Not everyone is ‘blessed’ to live in the US. I’m not sure if Su is from Venezuela or not, but to come on to a thread and where she has spoken in relative terms to the post and try and discredit her statement seems very point-missing to me.

          • Sarah M July 18, 2012, 10:57 am

            @Kelsie, totally agree. The US has the highest child poverty rate of civilized nations and discriminates against marriage, that seems like human rights abuse to me. Its easy to judge from the outside.

  • Erin @ Big Girl Feats July 17, 2012, 3:43 pm

    I just kept nodding my head and saying “YES!!” throughout this whole post. I’m not a mom (yet) but I worked in an office where 75% of the women were pregnant, trying to get pregnant or had kids – and it was SUCH a good lesson in humility, compassion, respect and difference of opinions for ME. I saw co-workers be moms in completely different ways (breast feeding/vaginal birth/returned to work full time after 12 weeks and formula/c-section/left our office to stay at home after returning to work for a short time) but ALL of them had some form of guilt or judgement they were faced with, either from themselves, others, families, friends or society.

    I also realized that I had definite preconceived notions about motherhood and found myself judging them for various things (never to them though!). I realized after observing them and listening to them and asking them questions about things that everyone woman or parent truly has to figure out what is best for themselves and their child. I’m sure, god willing, when I’m a mom that I will think back to my younger self and laugh at how “dumb” I was!

    Also – super interesting article in a reprint from NPR regarding female doctors being paid less than male doctors. While it’s definitely a choice that women make regarding their careers, there are absolutely institutional factors (gender discrimination) that play a part in why women earning less than men.
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/03/133466384/women-docs-fall-further-behind-on-pay

    Reply
  • Rachel July 17, 2012, 4:10 pm

    Caitlin you need to submit this as an editorial to a women’s/parent’s publication or to HuffPost Parents, SOMETHING! It needs to be said and you said it very well.

    The ‘family values’ business always kills me and you hit the nail on the head with bringing attention to the fact that ‘family values’ are not truly supported in this country in terms of working mothers.

    Good on ya!

    Reply
  • Jennifer @ Eat With Knowledge July 17, 2012, 4:30 pm

    I loved this post, thank you for writing it. Someone said you need to be in the NY Times and I def agree. We need THIS kind of response in the media, not a war. I’m not a mom yet but I can’t wait… especially after reading about Henry!!!

    Reply
  • Brittany July 17, 2012, 4:45 pm

    I’m so thankful you wrote this. My husband and I have been talking about starting a family and I’ve been so stressed out about all the decisions that need to be made and you’ve really put some light on a big source of my stress. You DEFINITELY need to submit this to some kind of editorial. Thank you for thinking with an open mind.

    Reply
  • Lisa July 17, 2012, 4:45 pm

    This is a really great post! Thank you for writing it!

    Reply
  • marathon beauty July 17, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Fathers DO have job protection.

    FMLA covers fathers equally. Unfortunately though, many fathers do not take the full 12 weeks they are entitled to due to needing a source of income for the family.

    Reply
    • CLee July 19, 2012, 12:42 pm

      Yes, just wanted to second this comment that Fathers can take FMLA leave just like mothers can. They also have legal protection to take a leave from their job. My husband is planning on using it to take 8+ weeks off. The difference is he feels that his colleagues and boss’ are much less supportive of fathers taking leave and getting flexibility in their schedules for parenting (e.g. picking up kids from school etc.). Employers seems to expect this more from moms than dads.

      Really another issue is the inquality of benefits. Many people who work at larger companies do get generous paid maternal leave. But not everywhere, esp. lower-paid hourly jobs. I’m fortunate to get 6 weeks paid time-off, in addition to being able to use sick/vacation time to be on leave for 12 weeks. The state of CA goes further in offering state maternity paid benefits.

      Reply
  • Jennifer July 17, 2012, 5:06 pm

    I agree with all of your posts, but also think this is just a sub-category in the war women have on each other. The pressure to be thin, have the perfect marriage, perfect children, “do it all”. Ick. If I hear one more of my beautiful, successful friends talk about how pathetic they are because they ate something “bad” I will scream!!! I, however, am for more flexibility for EVERYONE in the workplace. I don’t have children, so I haven’t taken maternity leave, stayed home with a sick kid, etc, etc. I should be able to take time to tend what I consider my “family”, which is no less important than someone else’s. Maybe I should be able to use my time to visit or take care of a sick friend, be able to go the the funeral of a friend, etc, etc. I think we all have the right to define who our “family” is.

    Reply
    • Natasha July 17, 2012, 5:45 pm

      I agree with you 100%! There should definitely be more flexibility for those who do not have children, but are still a part of a “family” unit.

      Reply
  • Kath July 17, 2012, 5:06 pm

    I think a huge part of it is that you can’t express your opinion on what works (or you hope will work) for YOU without offending all of the moms who did something different. Natural birth advocates are a perfect example. Moms want to share information, but the second they don’t agree, it becomes offensive. I think just as we must focus on ourselves when we’re giving information, we should do so when we’re receiving it as well. And like so many other womanly things, we just need to stop comparing ourselves to others!

    Reply
  • Claire July 17, 2012, 5:19 pm

    Awesome, well said. Re Mummy wars – I too find it so boring and frustrating that people go on about all of these things. And how the media just love to fuel the fire. How many times to we read a story about the latest research about breast vs formula, or work vs SAH only to find the study was inconclusive. These studies are inconclusive because either option is fine.

    Re maternity benefits, Australia has recently introduced paid maternity leave which is great. I think there is a bigger issue than maternity leave though. In Australia it is becoming more and more common for both parents to need to work full time in order to manage costs of living. I think there should be policies in place to ensure that families are able to share working and caring for children by one being able to stay home, or both being able to work part time. I think the role within a family of having a person facilitating the daily needs of the family, and being available to do things like helping at the childrens school, caring for elderly relatives or volunteering is wildly undervalued.

    Reply
  • Allison July 17, 2012, 5:35 pm

    I think this is a super well written post (the best one I have read on this blog), and I really appreciate you writing it. But I will also say that I don’t feel particularly judged for my choices as a mother. I honestly feel like this “war” is more in the media than between mothers I know who are actually spending time together. While most of us have strong opinions about what works for our family (formula/breastmilk, working/staying home, co-sleeping/CIO), I believe these will prove to be some of the easy parenting choices. Many of the harder decisions will come as the children grow up and we have to help them understand a complicated world and handle the pressures of school, work, and relationships.

    Reply
  • Jill Will Run July 17, 2012, 5:40 pm

    Maternity benefits really bother me. My job doesn’t technically offer “maternity leave” but we can use FMLA. I have worked in this job for 11.5 years now… I have a TON of sick leave and vacation leave accumulated. However, when it came time to fill out the paperwork my HR office told me, “On the sheet the doctor fills out, have your doctor put that you need 6 weeks off after giving birth to recovery.” I kind of blinked and said, “Isn’t that her decision how long I need? Plus, I have a ton of leave accumulated, I was kind of thinking I would try to use the full 12 weeks given in FMLA.” My HR office said, “Oh no… 6 weeks is all people need to recover and get back to work. If you have extenuating circumstances that require more time off, we can fill this paperwork out for another go around.”

    SERIOUSLY?!

    The fact that my husband gets 3 weeks of designated “paternity leave” off and can use additional sick or vacation leave for me having to give birth is frustrating too. I’m glad he gets that, but it’s also irritating!

    My post about maternity leave issues from April: http://jillwillrun.com/2012/04/27/maternity-leave-issues/

    Reply
  • jean July 17, 2012, 5:49 pm

    As a mom of 3 grown boys and now seeing them (and my daughters in law) raise their children, your words hit the mark!! I see them struggle to do the “right” thing. Beautifully written! I wish I could express this to them. Hard for the mother in law to do :)

    Reply
  • kt July 17, 2012, 6:14 pm

    The last thing I would want is this comment to come across as naive or overly optimistic (because believe me, I am NOT like that haha), but I am generally in disagreement that women are competitive and judgmental against each other. I think it’s a misconception about women that is very dangerous… I think people, especially certain people (I am one of them) are generally competitive. And I think sometimes we talk about each other’s choices, but that doesn’t necessarily result in negative “judgment”. Statistically speaking, women have larger social circles and are more likely to help others than men, so why do we allow this fallacy of the average women being “bitchy” or “catty” continue? As far as mommy wars go, it seems to me that mothers I know lean on each other for support and most people are impressed by women who have gone through pregnancy and/or are raising a child regardless of the specific methods they choose.

    Reply
  • Alicia July 17, 2012, 6:15 pm

    i find it hilarious that people actually concern themselves with such things. my level of interest in how other people raise their children is absolutely zero, unless i’m specifically asking for advice. love your take on maternity benefits, etc. isn’t arguing about breastfeeding for 3 months vs. breastfeeding for 5 years such a wonderful way to distract us from the REAL issues, the discussions about which we should be demanding from our government!!

    Reply
  • Rachel July 17, 2012, 7:31 pm

    Great post!
    I also think the ‘mommy wars’ is sometimes perpetuated by men (male doctors, etc.) who try and tell woman how to be a good mom. There was recently a male psychologist/doctor/professor (I’m not sure his exact title) who promoted a certain type of mothering, and it seemed weird that a man could be an expert at ‘mothering’. It is kind of like taking piano lessons from someone who has never played the piano but studied books on how play. There is still a disconnect. I don’t understand why men have so much say in women’s issues. They deserve some input but women should have just as much (or more) input!…and clearly I took this beyond just mothering to other women’s issues that are in the news a lot.

    Reply
  • Mary Nell July 17, 2012, 7:47 pm

    This post reminded me of what I recently read: too many people take what is personal preference and make it an attack. For example, if I say that I loved my epidural and was so thankful I didn’t have to have a C-section, it is considered an attack by someone who chose to have a planned C-section or who didn’t want drugs…rather than just being a personal matter of taste and not intended to judge anyone. We have to realize that someone’s personal choice is not a judgement of our own choice; I think that because of our own insecurities, it is sometimes difficult to do that. Don’t get me wrong; I know some people out there are deliberately being judgmental, but I don’t think it is the majority.

    Reply
  • Julie July 17, 2012, 7:59 pm

    I don’t have kids, but I really really enjoyed this post. Very well written and I agree 100%.

    Reply
  • Ellen July 17, 2012, 8:39 pm

    I don’t know of this has been addressed in the comments already, but the FMLA does offer paternity leave albeit unpaid.
    I am with you until the vax versus no vax, because that decision effects my child (herd immunity) unlike the other decisions which just effect directly the parent or child or family directly involved.

    Reply
  • m July 17, 2012, 8:43 pm

    This is a great post and I couldn’t agree more about the Mommy Wars being a reflection of our own insecurity.

    I do want to offer a slightly “devil’s advocate” argument though to the entire maternity leave debate (and yes, I’m bracing for the criticism). First off, I 100% agree that there needs to be more affordable daycare and also daycare that extends past the hours of 7am-6pm for those that work jobs that aren’t classic 9-5. I think this would hugely ease the fear of paying for childcare…

    However, as someone who only gets 6 weeks of maternity leave, I do understand why this is the case and always accepted it before I got pregnant. As a resident (medical field), when I am out on my maternity leave, the work load doesn’t decrease. Now patients that traditionally had 5 people to cover for them throughout the week will only have 4 people to do the same amount of work. You cannot simply hire a new resident and I am not naive to the increased load my coworkers face as a result of my absence. Similarly, my husband was commenting recently that at his company (which is less than 50 people but still offers maternity leave), his CFO took 3 months leave twice for the birth of her two children in less than 2 years. As a father, I think he completely understands why she took this time, but its difficult because they had to hire an entirely new person to the team to pick up for where she left off and yet its not as though they can simply fire that person upon her arrival back… it leaves them in an extremely awkward human resources dance. I realize its important to be home with your family, but unfortunately, maternity leave puts a huge strain on a company depending on your role there.

    Finally, there is something to be said about the fairness of offering such benefits to parents only. My own mother stated that caring for an elderly parent with
    Alzheimer’s was much more time consuming than being a new mom ever was (just for perspective given she’s dealt with both). Yet its not as if our work force offers flexibility or protection for non-parents going through other difficult life transitions such as a spouse or parent ending up with a potentially terminal illness. Why do I deserve 3 months for my baby but a coworker has to continue to work despite her husband struggling with cancer? It doesn’t seem entirely “fair” to me that protection should be limited to those of us who choose a certain life path (that being motherhood).

    I don’t have the answers so I’m not going to finish this (excessively long) post with “we should all get X months paid” or “no benefits ever”… I think if anyone knew the perfect solution they should probably run for office… but in reality the issue is so much more complex than a few statistics.

    Again, I really enjoyed this post because I feel the mommy wars is such a critical topic to address, but I did want to share a slightly different opinion about the maternity leave question.

    Reply
    • ashlynn July 18, 2012, 8:16 am

      I hear you on caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. My father has it, and I’ve been a babysitter and have young nephews and nieces so taking care of babies is fresh in my mind. But, I’ll say that caring for my father is far more exhausting. It’s hard for my mom, 50, to still work a job that is flexible enough so she can also take care of my dad, 60. So, she just doesn’t work even though she could use some time away from him every now and then.

      Reply
      • Jordan July 18, 2012, 9:46 am

        FMLA covers more than women having babies.

        Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
        the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
        - the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
        - to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
        - a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
        any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;”

        or

        Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

        http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

        Reply
  • Lauren July 17, 2012, 9:12 pm

    Your a woman after my own heart! I agree that what is good for me and my family is not always right for another family, and vise versa. Let’s stop the “in fighting” amongst moms and fight for what’s really important! :)

    Reply
  • Sara July 17, 2012, 9:16 pm

    Great post! At a leadership convention this summer, we had a luncheon discussion about “mean girl behavior” – both on college campuses (for the collegians at the seminar) and in the “adult” world. Although I’m not a mother so I don’t know first-hand, the ‘mommy wars’ strike me as very similar to mean girl / queen bee behavior. It definitely seems like when women feel insecure or unsure of themselves, many women have the tendency to tear down others in order to feel better, rather than to focus on improving themselves. I’m not sure where the competitive nature comes from (other than just general insecurity) – why can’t cloth diapers and disposable diapers both be right, and why do women tear each other down? Thought provoking post! And a sad that we see the same phenomenon of queen bee behavior play out in adult women, who probably (unfortunately) just model that behavior for their daughters and continue the queen bee attitudes.

    Reply
  • Annie@stronghealthyfit July 17, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Funny that you posted this today, as the news broke about Marissa Mayer becoming CEO of Yahoo and being pregnant. You’ve probably heard about it by now, but there are all kinds of opinions floating around about that story!

    Reply
  • J-dog July 17, 2012, 9:30 pm

    Exactly my sentiment. Mothers need to support each other, not bring each other down. The world is harsh enough. We need to be kind to other mothers, and, just as importantly, be kind to ourselves.

    Reply
  • Emily July 17, 2012, 9:40 pm

    I’m from AUS and have no children though I do want them in future. Over here we have 16 weeks maternity leave. My line manager gave birth last December and was off till June though, but she uses formula because she couldn’t give up smoking.

    Breastfeeding is something I would love to commit when I have children however I’m yet to find medication for my Bipolar Disorder that isn’t excreted in breastmilk so hopefully my illness won’t be so severe when I procreate.

    This is an awesome post, Caitlin:)

    Reply
  • jen July 17, 2012, 9:42 pm

    I’m not a mom, but I like this. So. Hard. Thank you Caitlin!

    Reply
  • Stephanie July 17, 2012, 9:42 pm

    Great post! I second J-dog’s comment! :)

    Reply
  • Jen July 17, 2012, 10:02 pm

    That’s it, I’m moving to Canada! Seriously though, we have friends in Toronto, and they could not believe we get no paid leave, while they get a FULL YEAR! Craziness.
    Well-written post!

    Reply
  • Hannah July 17, 2012, 10:15 pm

    I have always been a “mamas girl”. We lost my dad when I was 14 months old,and the result of this made our relationship strong. I’m 18 years old and I still struggle with the fact that my mom is more than just my mom. She’s a wife, friend, sister, daughter, and I often fail to see this. Reading this post shows me that society has also impacted the way I see my mom. This has deffinately opened my eyes even more to what I need to work on to improve myself. Thanks for the post Caitlin!!

    Reply
  • Tahlia July 17, 2012, 10:18 pm

    I’m an Australian and work at a very mum and bub friendly venue. We get everything from pregnant mammas, newborns and anything upwards. Its interesting to see the different ways that the mothers look after their children, and while I don’t see the whole scope of parenting, it makes me think more about how I’d like to raise my children.
    And this is next comment is based off my own opinion, but I believe the mummy wars continue because each mother truly believes her way is the right way, and I know that as a woman I don’t like another person telling me that I’m not doing it the ‘right’ way. But maybe I’m just incredibly stubborn :-p
    I’m not entirely sure about this, but I know that Australia has only just given mums entitlement to paid maternity leave, and I believe that’s via our government and not every employer offers paid maternity leave (someone correct me if i’m wrong).

    Reply
    • Claire July 17, 2012, 10:34 pm

      This is right – only in the last couple of years in Australia a universal paid maternity leave scheme has been implemented, it is paid for by the federal government through taxes, and I understand it is round about minimum wage. Employers can then top it up. I was sooooo lucky working for state government that I got 14 weeks maternity leave on full pay – I chose to take it at half pay for twice as long, and added on some long service leave, so got half pay for over a year after my first was born. Also in Australia you get 1 year of unpaid leave. Also employees are legally allowed to request part time work on their return – although employers don’t have to agree if it doesn’t suit the workplace. Again I’m super fortunate that my state government job allows me to take unpaid leave until 7 years after the birth of my youngest child, and I’m then able to return part time. So I stopped working almost 7 years ago when my eldest was born, and I’m not due back for another 4 years as my youngest is almost 3. I know I am incredibly fortunate that I will have a job waiting for me after all that time, and I am very thankful for that. I find it interesting following the debate about social policies in the US how hard line people seem to be about taxes being used for things like universal healthcare – it astounds me that a lot of people don’t see this as good use of public money. A society is judged on the way it cares for its most vulnerable, in my opinion.

      Reply
  • HR person July 17, 2012, 10:34 pm

    If your company offers FMLA, they can’t dictate how much leave you take as long as it is not more than 12 weeks. Also, if your company offers Short Term Disability, it will normally pay you for 6 weeks for a regular birth and 8 weeks for a C section (to run concurrent with FMLA). If you are in California, you get Paid Family Leave, aside from FMLA, even if you are the dad. California has the best laws for employees!

    Reply
  • Luna July 18, 2012, 7:22 am

    ahem, hey there Caitlin :) you know why Italy has so many days of paid leave? Because they make you sign “blank contracts” to resign when/if you get pregnant (totally against the law, btw); or, the first question you get asked at a job interview if you are a woman is :do you have children/are you planning to have children. Maybe I’d prefer to find a job now, and worry about “what to do” when baby comes, after. Instead, being 32 years old female sans-children “for now”, I am really having a hard time finding a job…

    Reply
  • Hope July 18, 2012, 8:42 am

    Just wanted to say I read you every day and rarely comment, have no children, and yet still want to high five you on this post. In so many instances in this world, I think one of the most important thing we can ever do is remember and focus on what we have in common and not on what we dont. Mothers need to connect with one another on their common ground, and unite to change the world for women and mothers and their daughters, not “war” with one another. This post rocks and so do you. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 18, 2012, 11:52 am

    So interesting! I’m not a mom (not even close), but it’s really interesting to hear how this may affect me as I get older.

    Reply
  • Kerry July 18, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Amazing post Caitlin! Completely agree that the urge to tear other mums down comes from insecurity. And the state of maternity benefits in the US is appalling!

    Reply
  • Dukebdc July 18, 2012, 1:29 pm

    The women I really feel for are the moms who do not work in a sedentary office environment. Working in an office, you can lock a door, pump, and continue to work. Cashiers at the grocery store, gas station clerks, fast food workers, nurses, teachers–few of them are allowed to take those kinds of breaks, regardless of what the employer is legally required to offer. I would happily endure the unpaid FMLA and lack of breastfeeding rooms in my office environment, if the women who have the most need for the job, and the least leeway in asking for what they need, could get a stronger voice in the conversation. I have a masters degree and my husband has a well-paying job so I could work or stay home and be fine either way. My high school friend who is raising 4 kids on minimum wage jobs is the one who really needs more options, not me.

    Reply
  • Danielle July 18, 2012, 4:25 pm

    What a great post… Thank you for bringing women together, instead of pitting them against each other!!

    The parenting anxieties evidenced in the ‘Mommy Wars’, which also relate to larger anxiety issues within society, remind me of a book I read called “To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First.” The book goes into the idea that kids pick up on anxiety and absorb it like sponges, so one of the best thing that parents can do for their kids is to find ways to manage their own anxieties. Anyway, I have no professional affiliations with that book, but it’s a great read, and I would recommend it to anybody who has kids or who is considering having kids.

    Reply
  • Jaclyn July 19, 2012, 6:30 am

    Such interesting (and frustrating) statistics you’ve offered. The lack of paid parental leave in the US is shameful. I’m currently pregnant with my first (due in October!) and I’m lucky to have an employer that generously gives me three months at full pay, but my husband gets nothing (he is using two weeks of PTO, but that’s all he can do).

    As a management-side employment attorney, I am always trying to help my clients think of ways to improve the productivity and satisfaction of their workforce. (More revenue, less litigation!) The evidence is pretty clear that those “perks” like a generous parental leave policy, breastfeeding support (which some states do mandate or at least encourage in their state laws – but not enough!) and help with daycare are directly correlated with better productivity on the job. People don’t just care about money – they want to work for humane, family-friendly employers. The companies that recognize this are the companies that are going to succeed in the future. Being family-friendly benefits EVERYBODY. I wish more managers realized that!

    Reply
  • Csilla July 19, 2012, 10:14 am

    MAMAS UNITE!!

    Thank you for this amazing post! We forget what the real issues are! We live in a country with amazing opportunities that we wouldn’t have in other parts of the world, so why are we so behind in maternity leave and equal pay?!?

    I’m early in my academic career and we are planning to have kids soon. It already stresses me out trying to figure out how to make it work!

    Reply
  • Laura WL July 19, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I do wonder how much of this is self talk. I am a pretty oblivious person but I do wonder how much people actually verbally say, “you should such-and-such” and how much it is women reading into something someone else says and than internalizing it. I do find with my sister in laws that they are very sensitive to anything that could be taken as criticism. For instance, asking if she’s going to breast feed isn’t an indictment of her choice but genuinely just a way to make conversation. Sometimes I think we as women make assumptions about each others’ motives based on our own fears. I do appreciate you writing about this Caitlin. It gives me a lot of food for thought as my husband and I prepare to start trying. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, both as a caregiver and as an intelligent adult, but hearing you talk is good preparation for any doubts/mommy blues that might come my way. So thank you!

    Reply
  • AmandaRunsNY July 19, 2012, 10:57 pm

    First of all, I love your blog and I love the way that you write about controversial topics in a non-judgemental way.

    But one thing really struck me about this post. The line, “Again – these are just my theories.” I understand why you wrote this, but it reminds me of something that I’m struggling with as I progress in my career. Anytime, I make a strong, definitive statement or try to tell people what to do (and these days, it’s often people older than me so I feel awkward giving direction), I want to qualify my strong opinions and directions with a statement like, “it’s just my opion”, or “i’m not sure, but I think that’s what it is.” Despite the fact, that I may know the very law or rule that supports my opinion verbatim.

    I’m not trying to discredit or criticise your interpretation on the mommy wars, all I’m saying is that when you qualify your opionins with this, it weakens them. And it sends a broader message about the importance of your ideas and statements.

    In all honesty, that statement makes sense within the framework of the post and topic at hand, but it just so strongly reminds me of the way that women express their opinions and authority, that the line has stuck with me over the past few days. We ladies shouldn’t be sorry to have a strong opinion, argue, criticize, give direction or basically just ruffle feathers, so to speak. We should own our thoughts, decisions, theories and analysis.

    When I think back on why I wanted to comment on this, it’s because I see this going on way too much with the women around me and because I personally struggle with this very issue.

    Reply
  • Charise July 20, 2012, 9:02 am

    Caitlin, this is one mof favorite post of yours ever. I am not a mom (yet), but these are issues I care a LOT about, as someone who strongly believes in good work-life balance; equality for men and women (i.e., there should be paid maternity AND paternity leave); and kindness, acceptance, and respect toward others in general, a lack of which is defintely something that contributes to the “mommy wars”.

    And you hit the nail on the head that so much lashing out/judging comes from one’s own insecurities and is done to make the judger feel better about their own choices – isn’t that true in all areas of our lives?

    Reply
  • Amber July 22, 2012, 2:42 pm

    I am not a mom yet so have no real input on the mommy war’s other than I agree they are kind of ridiculous and a waste of energy. But I will say that Canada does not treat young families as well as everyone thinks they do. You can find way more information about the Generation Squeeze and the percentage of income our government invests in young families and children vs. other things here: http://blogs.ubc.ca/newdealforfamilies/

    Also, from what I’ve seen and heard people in Canada pay a lot more in taxes than those in the US. Maybe if US citizens wanted more of these kinds of benefits like healthcare and maternity they should also be more open to higher taxes? I am no expert in this issue, but I think federal benefits like that go hand-in-hand with higher taxes.

    Great post as always, Caitlin!

    Reply
  • Sarah August 1, 2012, 3:45 pm

    Thank you!

    After all your eloquent and intelligent words, women are still attacking each other in the comments. Unbelievable!

    Reply
  • Christina W. August 8, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Caitlin, you may want to check out Tina Fey’s book Bossypants. She has several chapters about being a mom that are relevant to your post about the mommy wars, one in particular where she discusses breastfeeding vs. formula. There are others re: balancing work and motherhood and prayers for her daughter. They are well done and hilarious.

    Reply

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