The internal mommy wars

Mommy wars has been a popular topic for several years. I think it’s a load of crap, personally, hyped up by the media for ratings. There’s the SAHM versus the WAHM versus the working mom. We’re all moms, so what’s the point in arguing over who has it tougher? It’s all tough, and I don’t think anyone has it any better than anyone else.

Then there’s the breast milk versus formula war, and the disposable versus cloth diaper war, and so on. I will not judge what you do. If it works for you, great! If you tell me it isn’t working for you and ask for a suggestion, I’d be glad to help. End of that story.

More awful by far for me is the internal mommy war. The one where I read that someone else has the poison control number memorized already, a birthday party planned 5 months in advance–down to the party favors, and has never EVER spanked their child–and never plans on it, uses time out to great effect and doesn’t EVER yell to get their point across. These are just examples, and not all the same person, of course. They also manage to join the PTA or help out with a recycling event in their neighborhood, go vegan and organic and take vacations with multiple kids and come back with great photos, and get to toddler time at the library every week.  Oh and they find time to exercise several times a week and have flat stomachs between babies.  I just wonder how they do it.  Am I just not fit to be a mother (like so many of my family told me before I was even ready to consider getting married, let alone have a baby?) or is it something else? Am I really a bad mom? Or am I just a ‘C’ student and everyone else does extra credit? This is the REAL mommy war.

Yesterday I saw my toddler tip over in a block bucket–which she is way too big to be climbing in, but I figured she has to learn somehow–and she thumped her head. I went over and ‘awwed’ her, but I wanted to laugh at her for doing something so silly/stupid. She wasn’t hurt, so I didn’t have any sympathy for her.  Maybe I am a bad mother, just like I was told I would be.

Then later on in the evening, I was trying to mow grass before it rained, and Keeley approached, so I killed the mower. Even though her daddy was home, and playing with her, she held out her little hand to me. I took it and asked what she wanted, and she said ‘mom’ and pulled my hand. I followed, heart swelling with love-eyes filling with tears, over to play ball for a few minutes. Maybe I’m not such a bad mom after all.

However, looking at what everyone else does, or at least says they do or did, I’d judge myself at getting a round D. That’s only because I don’t want to see myself as a complete failure.

-she gets yelled at
-she’s been spanked
-she watches tv at least 1 hour a day, and sometimes more
-she plays by herself while I do chores or goof on the internet
-I don’t already have her birthday party planned
-I don’t even have a WAY to call poison control, let alone have the number memorized
-no playdates
-no trips to the library
-potty training is definitely not going to happen by 22 months (which is when my mom had all of us trained)
-she doesn’t know her alphabet
-she definitely doesn’t use a fork properly, or brush her teeth right, or dress herself
-I haven’t done anything for anyone else, let alone any charitable organization that requires a commitment since college
-My idea of exercise is running around trying to keep things going smoothly here, and I can barely keep up.

Then I think, for the love of God, Jill, she’s only 20 months old. She’s not a 5 year old. Most of the people you are comparing her to aren’t under nearly as much stress as you are-they also all have older siblings for their kids to play with and learn from. So here is what Keeley knows:

-she knows one letter and is working on 2 more
-she really wants to use her utensils and brush her teeth, and she tries REALLY hard to help with her clothes, and my clothes, even if she can’t do it by herself
-sometimes she gets the color orange right and knows quite a few animals by name and sound or picture
-she has a high passive vocabulary and is starting to get an imagination
-scolding and yelling has taught her that some things are off limits and it keeps her out of trouble  for the most part

Considering that, maybe I should get a C instead of a D. I might have been pretty good in school, and I’m a nice person, but I’m just an average mom.


  1. Bena

    Your internal mommy war lives in all of us. My turn:

    -I yell at my kids. And I’ve spanked them before. Things get out of control sometimes in my house. It has gotten bad enough that my oldest is having to relearn how to deal with emotions, he knows scream and hit. Oops. But we are working on it.

    – Ma is 23 months. He is as smart as any other, but doesn’t speak much because we anticipate his needs, and I didn’t speak at him enough, I don’t sing songs with him very often, I don’t play with them nearly as much as I should. He does and doesn’t know a lot of things…*shrug* The other child has taught me that it doesn’t matter much. I’ll never actually *know* that I would have made his life better if I had done something else.

    – Mi is 5 and is needing Mom to adapt to his changing needs. I am finding myself inadequate in this new role, and am floundering.

    There’s more, but I would be too embarrassed to go on.

    So, here’s my rebuttals:

    -22 months is too early to potty-train is almost every case. Mi was right before he turned 4. That’s right- 4. Which hasn’t made my life or his any easier or harder than any others. Maybe easier just because I didn’t stress about it as much as many of my friends did.

    -playdates suck. You get a bunch of ‘helicopter moms’ watching their kids every move to make sure that their Billy doesn’t hit Jenny’s Greg and embarrass them. More than two parents and the kids don’t really get anything out of it, they aren’t given the chance to work it out between themselves. You’d think that the moms would be all supportive and it would be adult chatter (and probably somewhere it is) but it’s very rarely like that. It’s a lot more like a passive-aggressive competition and boring niceties. Maybe I just don’t fit in well enough….

    Most of your worries about what she doesn’t know are developmental. It wouldn’t matter what you did, she just isn’t able to work a fork yet. It doesn’t matter how many times you sing the alphabet, she won’t be able to know it.

    Being an average mom is all that all of us are. Some just pretend and lie about it more than others. Which makes me sadder than if they’d just admit that we all suck sometimes. I’m saying all of this because I’ve been there. I obsessed with doing everything right with Mi at first. And I still take raising my kids pretty damn seriously. I often am very angry at being the mother I don’t want to be, but it isn’t static, I change, my life moves fluidly, even though my children won’t understand that until they are much, much older.

  2. Those internal mommy wars are the worst! If you can believe, my oldest is 24 and I still wonder if I did the right thing here or there, the wars never ever end once you’re a mom. I think it’s wonderful that you took the time to stop mowing and play with your little girl. 🙂

  3. I’m laughing here… not AT you, but because if you’re a C-D mommy, I must be an F or whatever falls below that. My husband is a better mommy than me (says my internal agitator). My son has had his mouth washed out with soap. He’s been yelled at, cursed at (he knows he’s in BIG trouble if Mom’s cussing), and when he didn’t listen, he got his hand smacked or he got dope-smacked – not hard, just enough to get his attention. We do save spanking for very serious infractions and it’s only happened twice. He plays alone a lot. He spends hours on the computer and sometimes playing video games. And yet, at age 11, he reads up a storm (high school level), is incredibly creative, is very social in one-on-one situations (still a little shy in big groups), is very affectionate and tells the people who matter to him how much he loves them often. His manners are wonderful and he’s a generally obedient and happy child. Oh, and he was potty trained before he went to school, but wet the bed until he was nearly 8. I consider him a success – and in spite of his rather un-ideal raising on my part, I think I’m a pretty good mom too.

  4. Stacy Wolfmeyer

    Good heavens, stop comparing yourself to those high standards right now! This is real life, and you’re doing fine. I do get irritated by all those other moms who seem to have it all together, supermoms at everything they try, and it’s always a ton that they do. I get jealous and don’t like those people because of it.

    But then other people look at me and think I’m the supermom- they are so wrong! It’s all about perspective at that exact moment in time.

    I hear myself yelling at my kids, nagging at them, saying things I said I’d NEVER say. And I know while it’s happening that it isn’t how I want to be, but you know what? I have feelings too, and I get frustrated and fed up and I’m allowed to make mistakes. And I do. Everyone does. I have my moments where I cry and wonder how I could be such a horrible parent. But when I think about it later – after my emotions are back in check – I’m not so bad. Not all moments are shining ones, but hey, I’m learning!

    Keeley obviously feels loved. Her needs are taken care of, and she obviously has parents who adore her. Not every moment, mind you, but they just AREN’T adorable every moment! It’s hard being a parent, sometimes it’s hard being a kid, and you’re both going to work through it together.

  5. No one is harder on us than we are on ourselves.

    If being a good mom is defined by external stuff, then I suspect none of us will ever measure up to perfection.
    I’m okay with that.

    Not trying for perfect. Just trying to do better for my kids than what was done for me.

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