I just can’t get this blog out right. There is so much stuff behind it. I have been wanting for a while to write a post about how I wish all parenting articles would die a slow, fiery death. I started writing it today and it became clear to me that my issue was not necessarily with the articles themselves, but with the energy behind some of the people who post them to social media. I tried writing about it, about how I feel like I’m back in high school, trying to prove that another girl is being mean while she just bats her eyes at me like a sociopath and asks, “in what way am I being mean?” in a voice dripping with sugar and ‘just try proving it’ smugness. I am beginning to believe women attacking (however subtly and artfully doesn’t matter) other women for parenting choices are the “mean girls” of adulthood.
So this was my mindset today when I was watching my daughter. She was talking to me and I let go of my thoughts and was just taking in her sweet eyes and her authentic smile and the general happy vibe surrounding her. I became a little mesmerized with her and then all of a sudden I had a physical pang of pain as I thought to myself, someday this perfect little girl is going to go to school. And someday, she is going to come home with tears in her eyes. I had a vision of her being left out. Of other girls whispering and giggling behind her. Of her sweet little eyes welling up with tears as she looked around for a friend and realized she didn’t have one. I could feel the feeling she would have in her gut of oh no. What did I do wrong? Why are they being mean to me? What is wrong with me?
This vision about brought me to my knees. It was a physical hurt that I felt deep in my gut.
Ask any girl over the age of 13 (hell, maybe over the age of 4) who the mean girls are in their class/life. I will bet they don’t skip a beat. I doubt that I have to explain to you what a mean girl is or how they work their magic or how terrible it can feel to be on the outs with a mean girl. I don’t feel like I have to spend any time doing that. I think you guys know. I think you guys have been there too.
My experiences are probably the same as yours. I have mean girl scars that sometimes still don’t feel healed. Mean girls turned my world upside down at certain times in my life. For years I used to call myself a guys’ girl because I was so bitter from being around mean girls all the time. As I’ve grown up, things have definitely gotten easier as I have grown more confident and content and incredibly thankful for amazing women in my life. However, there are still times I begin feeling that familiar sting from the subtly hurled barb of a mean girl, and most recently I have been feeling it in the online world of carefully crafted, at times passive-aggressive articles and posts geared towards mothers. In these articles, it appears there is one right way to be a mom. And the author knows the secret. She posts the articles and her “tribe” crowds around her, telling her how right she is and how everyone else is so misguided, or uneducated, or wouldn’t it be great if everyone could understand that this is the best, rightest way?
What are our motivations for writing or sharing these types of articles and posts? Why do we feel we need to save the rest of the mothers of the world from doing things the “wrong way”? This implies that we are the knowers of the ‘right way’. Which is actually a bunch of complete crap. Are we expecting the snarky, judgmental, and sometimes downright hostile articles we post to social media to change the minds of any of our “friends” reading? Or are we just eager to share to the world that we are doing things the “right way” and give ourselves a public pat on the back?
And by the way, I AM NOT INNOCENT. I guarantee you will find something regarding parenting that someone will find offensive on my own Facebook wall. Almost always posted in reaction to a situation where I was made to feel ‘less than’ about. So why in the world so I participate in something that drives me freaking crazy??
It gets under my skin so much because I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING. When you sit there at your computer and announce to the world that this is THE way, it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It scares me. Because I flat out disagree that there is a correct parenting strategy for everyone. And I cannot fathom how you have a grasp on parenting so perfectly while I am second guessing every choice I make because some freaking article you posted said XYZ is terrible for emotional/physical/social/moral/mental development. YOU GUYS. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your way is the right way – BRAVO. You are either God or incredibly short sighted or a very gifted mama. All three are equally possible.
My spiritual guide (and I say that more in truth than in cute comparison), Glennon Melton has written on the topic of “mommy wars.” I hate that term by the way. In one of my favorite pieces from her, she writes that if you need mommy-wars to disappear, stop believing in them. She goes on to say “And if you have a friend who makes you feel competitive or less than- just remember that it’s likely not because she’s bad or you’re bad – it might just be that she still believes, so she’s living in a different world than you are. But you don’t have to enter every world into which you’re invited.”
Ahhh Glennon. But I want to be mad! I want to fight back! I feel defensive, I feel like I am personally being attacked. I feel the ‘fight or flight’ instinct to either fight back with MY OWN article or post or “scientific research” or completely disengage from the subject. I feel like posting something equally passive aggressive and snarky. Just stop believing in the competition that I never wanted to believe in in the first place? Stop adding fuel to the fire by firing back? Just stop participating??
Which is brilliant, really, and is what brings me full circle to thinking about my daughter. Do I want my daughter growing up in a culture of mean girls? HELL NO. I received a comment from a male reader a while back who wrote to me that “it scares me as a man that women are possibly gathering together groups of bitterness marching out without solutions and without regards to the other gender.” And after I got over my initial reaction of “you have got to be kidding me with this”, I suddenly realized, maybe that’s it. Maybe our culture is terrified of women banding together. Of us being each other’s greatest allies, greatest supporters, greatest encouragers. Maybe that’s why we create “mean girls”. Why we just accept that mean is a natural part of girls’ personalities. Why we say things like “good luck with the teenage years with your daughter!” And insist that ‘boys love their mamas’ but that girls will butt heads with theirs. Why we prepare them for the worst, so they are expecting other women to be their competition and not their strength. And it becomes a brutal, self-fulfilling prophecy.
In my favorite birth article in the history of time, Carrie Murphy wrote “The bizarre, bitter tendency to criticize individual women for their individual choices is part of a greater cultural misogyny, where we’re taught to direct our rage at each other, rather than at the limiting messages and systems that control our lives as women.” And it was like the stars fell out of the sky into my lap formed into the glittery words ‘THIS IS IT.’ Because really, I feel that it is.
What if every mother of a little girl decided she was going to tell her daughter a different story? That women are indeed gifts to one another. That women want the best for each other. That girls that seem mean actually are hurting on the inside and need a little extra love. I can tell you this – when I was confronted with mean girls as a teenager, I didn’t turn the other cheek and try to love them harder. I tried to take them down at their own game. Now I understand that maybe these girls that seem mean were taught there isn’t enough love/attention/respect to go around and it is our job to realize that that story ISN’T TRUE. What if we all took our daughters, looked them in their eyes and said, “sometimes the world would like us to believe other women are our competition. Sometimes other people will try and convince you that women, or even people in general, are basically mean or bad, but that’s not the truth.” What if we all taught our children that different does not equal bad and in matters of parenting, feelings, strengths, and relationships, there is no such thing as THE BEST WAY for everyone. What if we valued teaching empathy as much as we value high IQs and beauty? What if we taught that the enemy is never each other, but the neat, perfect boxes we are taught we must fit into?
Maybe this is Pollyanna-ish of me. But I think if we all did this, our girls would help create a world greater than we can possibly imagine. I have a fighting spirit when it comes to encouraging empathy and honesty and letting everyone know they are alright. Meaning, I’m not going to just sit quietly and wish that things would be different. These are things I am willing to do something about. So I guess its ok that I am all worked up about this issue. Maybe this article doesn’t fit in a neat, perfect box. Screw the box, screw the belief that someone out there has all the right answers. Because in the words of Glennon Melton, “Anybody who doesn’t know that we are most certainly all wrong is a little scary to me.”