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The Mommy Wars Tear Us Apart When We Should Band Together

03/16/2015 11:34 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
Alexandra Grablewski via Getty Images

As I sit with her explaining the signs and symptoms of Postpartum Depression, the new mother tells me that it won't happen to her; she'll be fine. She assures me as well that she will not experience this because she's very informed about child rearing, and also, her sister/friend/boss's wife got Postpartum Depression, but that was because they over did it with the "What to Expect When You're Expecting" books.

She's going to be more relaxed. I've also heard the opposite of this: that new mommy was going to be fine because she has always had a schedule with her children, and she never had Postpartum Depression before. However, her sister/friend/boss's wife had been so laid back that Postpartum Depression had been unavoidable -- no discipline, no rigidity. She's got this covered.

PPD is not a competition between mothers, and yet, I have a difficult time convincing them of this. Even though we are sympathetic to those struggling with the metal clutches of a mental illness which affects 8-12 per cent of women according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, Postpartum Depression's stigma is one that has women believing that having this illness is akin to being a crappy mother. This is simply not true.

But still, the fallacy hangs there like frozen laundry on an icy clothesline, and like so many women who cling to the reality of their situation, and by doing so substantiate their beliefs as being the right ones, anything other than those are subject to criticism and disapproval. These fallacies include the one that mothers who stay at home with their children versus those who return to work are better and have healthier children. Of course, mothers who return to work also have their own ideas on this popularly debated topic. Other great debates include the one that women who are homeschooling have children who are under-socialized, while women who send their children to school may be considered lazy for not putting the necessary effort towards their children. And then of course there is the highly explosive topic of breast versus bottle feeding.

I have written about my own experience with breastfeeding and how I wish I had persevered longer, and the discussion was so very personal for so many who clearly felt as though my decision and my thoughts and wishes were a direct reflection on their previous, current, or future actions. This is of no surprise, however, because the Mommy Wars, as they have come to be known, are still alive and kicking despite the repeated ideology that we are all entitled to our own beliefs, and more importantly, that none of our beliefs have been proven right or wrong.

For every piece of documentation stating that stay-at-home-mothers have the monopoly on well-adjusted kids, there is documentation showing that mothers who work outside of the home have the stable and happy children.

These Mommy Wars have been raging for years despite an exorbitant amount of proof presenting the pros and cons of every debate which places mothers at odds with each other over topics which cannot ever be represented adequately due to a set of circumstances much too vast and personal. These Mommy Wars, which have for their purpose to conquer and divide women, rather than unify us in our quest for familial happiness, could instead be a stepping point for women to finally empower each other despite and as a result of great ideological differences.

This is not new -- this topic of women empowering women, along with its counterpart, the Mommy Wars. It has been around for decades, and yet, we still seem unable to fathom that every situation deserves its own series of decisions. How often do we hear it repeated, "I don't care if she's bottlefeeding. It's not my baby," and yet, such an innocent sentence can and will spark a heated debate where statistics are produced; anatomical and physiological information is accurately detailed; breast milk, formula, cow's milk, and even goat's milk are impressively broken down into molecular values to prove or disprove theories.

So once and for all, not because we do not know this, but rather because we do: Postpartum Depression does not occur because we are bad mothers; staying at home with children is not better or worse than leaving the home to work; breast feeding does not make one a better parent than one who bottle-feeds; sending children to school does not breed kids who are happier than ones who are homeschooled. Every situation has its story, and to assume knowledge of the entire story if it is not our own is simplistic. And in this age when sensitivity is a trademark of our society -- and should be -- to label demonstrates our inability to grow as people, and more importantly, to evolve as mothers.

These debates will never end because insecurity is part of human nature, and as such, even the most innocent of sentences can create doubt in one's capacity as a mother, leading to a defence mechanism which, sadly, often breeds distrust and contempt in discussion, rather than 'Kumbaya' warm fuzzies.

Of course this one post will not unify women, but in a show of solidarity I have signed a petition an olive branch of sorts, to all those women I've offended either knowingly or unknowingly with a comment that was supposed to ease my own anxieties as a mother. Of course this won't be enough to break down the cement walls that have kept women caged and apart from one another, but perhaps the cement slabs from these wall can be used to make a bridge, which will require us to stand side by side, and raise our hands in order to hold it up.

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