The Mummy Wars: Fact, Fiction or Figment of Our Imagination

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.45.39 pm

Formula or breast. Stay-at-home or work. Permissive or disciplinarian. Free range or helicopter. Rebecca Bowyer from Seeing the Lighter Side and Amy Ahearn from Handbag Mafia are joining me on the frontline, to toss around some truth bombs and chat about the “Mummy Wars”. Is this shit for real, or not?

What are the Mummy Wars?

Rebecca: That’s where we lob grenades at each other’s washing lines, yes? In the hope that we destroy all the washing and never have to fold it?

Amy: It’s the umbrella term for the way that mums apparently compare each other, find each other lacking – and say so.

Hugzilla: “Mummy Wars” to me is the media shorthand for female competition in the parenting sphere.

Rebecca: Are they really wars, though, or is it just a bunch of people having differences of opinion – like they always have – but having a single forum for attack thanks to the internet? And then it gets called the Mummy Wars because, well, headlines.. interesting articles… endless content.

Hugzilla: It’s a construct. It’s not really a “thing”.

Amy: Do you feel like it’s also a way to minimise women’s issues? Like they can be dismissed with the roll of an eye, a shrug and “meh, Mummy Wars”.

Hugzilla: It’s like when you watch The Voice and the two female judges can’t have a simple difference of opinion without it being framed as a catfight, and played for maximum drama. But the male judges can agree to disagree as a matter of routine and it goes completely unremarked upon. A total non-issue.

Rebecca: Way back when, when we used to live in suburbs and the only real communication was television (3 channels), newspapers and magazines, do you think it was more coherent? Or is it just that now women are more outspoken about their opinions?

Hugzilla: I think it goes deeper than that. I think it has its roots in the patriarchal culture of pitting women against each other. Divide and conquer.

Amy: Absolutely Mel. And I think women are definitely more outspoken (thank god, or I’d be in shit).

Rebecca: Really? Pitting women against each other? Didn’t they just silence them?

Hugzilla: You can’t silence women any more.

Rebecca: Nup, I don’t think it is a thing. I think there are cohorts of mothers who agree with one point of view, and others who have a different opinion.

Amy: That’s what I was getting at- it’s a way to dismiss women’s concerns, issues etc – a way to minimise what we are saying and make it unimportant

Rebecca: That’s not a war, that’s a functioning democratic society.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.39.53 pm

Have you ever felt judged as a mother?

Rebecca: On a personal level, not really – as in, not to my face.

Amy: Last week I saw a mother’s group out for lunch. One was openly breastfeeding next to one openly bottle feeding while another had one of those breastfeeding apron thingies on. There were prams and carriers and no one gave a shit what anyone was doing. I actually said to Carl, “Look at that”. They literally give no fucks about who is doing what in which way. Mummy Wars, who made that shit up?

Hugzilla: I can honestly say that I’ve never felt judged for my parenting. I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. But I do know women who feel that they are being judged. Constantly. I think the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Rebecca: Differences of opinion, sure, a bit of an eyeroll when someone from a previous generation would say “That’s not how we used to do it.” But I’ve certainly never warred with other mummies!

Hugzilla: I’ve definitely seen it online but that tends to be symptomatic of the argumentative culture of “keyboard warriors” in general. In real life, I have overwhelmingly found that women go out of their way to support each other.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.43.11 pm

Rebecca: I do know of women who feel judged for their parenting – and to be honest, it’s usually by their own mothers! I think online is a different story – and I really think that’s what’s made the difference.

Amy: I have seen it too. I do think we all judge whether we intend to or not – it’s human nature – but something about parenting makes us sensitive to any criticism. Perceived or intended.

Hugzilla: The generational divide I definitely understand. I think that labelling differences of opinion as “The Mummy Wars” is a deliberate media distortion – a way of drumming up controversy for clicks. Mothers are not a hive mind and we aren’t all going to think and act the same way – but that doesn’t automatically infer judgement of other choices.

Amy: I probably felt the judgement more as a younger mum in my early twenties. Not so much now – or I just don’t notice it or care.

Hugzilla: Why can’t women just have differences of opinion without it being perceived as open warfare?

Rebecca: Think about it – in face-to-face interactions, we tend to mix with people who have the same values as us, so we’re bound to agree with them. Online you can end up stumbling across a community who are diehard *insert issue here (breastfeeding, early toilet training, cry it out)* supporters. If you try to go against their worldview you’ll get slammed. It’s so less likely to happen face to face.

Hugzilla: Totally Bec. But again, why are women expected to think and act with a singular hive mind? Why is any difference of approach framed in the terms of Mummy Wars?

Rebecca: Because we still have the ideal of the ‘perfect mother’. You know, the one in the bench spray commercial who smiles while cleaning up after her offspring and wearing corporate gear because she just popped home from her high-powered job to bake some cookies, with perfect hair, make-up and teeth.

Hugzilla: I think we need to stop buying into these bullshit myths, and just be the best mothers we can.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.40.57 pm

Is there a male equivalent: the Daddy Wars?

Amy: There is no Daddy Wars because dads are presented – for the most part – as hapless idiots who babysit every now and then.

Rebecca: Yes Amy, and that presents its own problems.

Hugzilla: Do you think there is Daddy competition? How does it manifest?

Rebecca: I think men compete very differently to women. It’s not going to be verbal so it won’t be picked up in the same way. But they definitely compete! I think there’s a real struggle for dads who want to be involved to actually be taken seriously though.

Amy: I have honestly never heard or seen dads competing over dadliness.

Hugzilla: Neither have I.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.44.44 pm

Why are women so invested in motherhood?

Hugzilla: So why are women waging online wars about motherhood? Why do formula feeding vs breastfeeding discussions go ballistic? Working mums vs stay at home mums? And why the fuck do they care?

Rebecca: Same reason anyone wages war about a strongly held belief – because they believe they’re right and want to convince others to do the same because they believe it will benefit other children. Pre-internet parenting was much more invisible – it happened behind closed doors and people talked about it a lot less. There was less opportunity to comment or convert.

Amy: I don’t know if they are waging war exactly – there are a lot of mothers who are passionate about it; or at least about certain aspects. I actually care when it comes to breast vs bottle, but not because I want to win a war, but because it pisses me off that women aren’t better supported or educated to breastfeed.

Hugzilla: Sorry, I should have put quotation marks around “war”. I was using it ironically.

Rebecca: I think mother guilt plays a huge role. The stakes are so very high. We all want the best for our children and we are led to believe that every tiny thing we do will change the course of their future.

Amy: I think it gets combative because we project our own guilt. I know I have done it in the past.

Rebecca: If we fail we destroy the lives of our children – we’ve been made to feel so incredibly responsible… And they wonder why parents started doing the helicopter thing.

Hugzilla: But really Bec? Are our children really not that resilient? Short of death, neglect or serious injury, none of our parenting decisions are innately harmful.

Rebecca: Oh, I don’t believe any of it for a second. But that’s what the messaging is. I took a deliberately more hands-off approach to parenting a few months ago and I think my kids – and my stress levels – have benefited. Also there seems to be a new study coming out every 5 seconds, so if you’re wanting to keep up with ‘best practice parenting’ you’d go insane. For every study that says A there’s one that says B.

Amy: It gets confusing – there is so much advice out there so how do you know? You don’t, so you just pick a method and no matter what, someone will tell you it’s wrong.

Rebecca: Pretty much.

Hugzilla: And that’s why I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 3.45.49 pm


70 thoughts on “The Mummy Wars: Fact, Fiction or Figment of Our Imagination

  1. Another awesome post ladies, setting the world to rights! So, I have experienced being criticised to my face over bottle feeding, but that’s an incident where 2 people’s personalities clashed: not war. I agree with all your comments about media beat ups that belittle proper debate about parenting issues. There’s also a mammoth commercial interest in the parenting ‘industry’ which doesn’t help. Great post x

    • That’s a bloody good point too. There is a massive industry behind this push for perfect, photoshop parenting. So many of the messages we are getting are commercial in nature, and it’s relentless.

  2. I can tell you right now I would have been a much better mother if I hadn’t been so focussed on being perfect. If I’d just been myself… I regret so much about the way i brought up my kids. But you know what? I think everyone, every mother has always regretted things they did. We are human. That’s the bottom line. We learn from our own parents (who were far from perfect). All of us survived as will our kids. The fact that we question ourselves proves how much we cared and that’s the most important thing.

    • And that’s what surprises me about this whole mother guilt thing. The mothers I know who feel guilty are clearly NOT bad monthers. Bad mothers don’t feel any guilt at all, because bad mothers don’t give a shit. Guilt is a sign that you want to do better and be better. I still think it’s a massive waste of mental energy, but at least it points to good intentions.

  3. Not sure it’s just a parenting thing. I’ve talked before about life envy as a result of social media. Everyone else seems to have nicer houses, husbands or partners, kids, can drink nice champagne, is / are thin and can wear nice clothes. Except me. Hmph!

  4. I’ve felt judged before. But it was by someone I consider a bit of a psycho so I didn’t take it too personally… The only thing I really worry about is the pressure to present a perfect image of yourself online. I think that’s more dangerous than this mythical mummy war. I think women are too afraid to say what their life is really like because they feel like they need to present an image of perfection for Instagram and Facebook . That makes me sad.

    • And that’s the really bizarre thing. Women are trying to live up to this ideal, and yet we know it’s completely fake and unachievable. Why are we happily setting ourselves up for failure? I started this space in large part because I am fucking sick of the myths and the fear that women have of talking about the gritty realities of parenting. And that’s part of the reason why I’ve resisted jumping into Insta as well – I don’t need more pretty pictures to try and live up to.

  5. Hooray for anther blogcast – love these things. With the likes of the media and Instagram presenting so many images of perfect mums pushing strollers in heels with flawless make up, well behaved children in clean white clothes with no mud, snot or yoghurt on them and picture perfect bento lunchbox meals – no wonder mums feel pressure. It’s just not real but it’s being lapped up. You nailed it Zilla when you said we should stop buying into these bullshit myths, and just be the best mothers we can. And I think I like the sound of Bec’s idea of mummy wars best. Need to find myself some grenades…

    • I always feel a sense of arrogance when talking about this topic, but it seems so simple to me. I don’t feel mother guilt. Ever. All I can do is be the very best mother I can, given the knowledge, support and resources I have at any one time. Sometimes that means the kids get chicken nuggets for dinner. Sometimes they watch a DVD instead of being read to. I know that – historically speaking – my kids are growing up at the very best time ever to be a child. They have two loving parents who make decisions that are in their best interests. They have education and healthcare. They have material wealth, food and shelter. My kids have a wonderful life. Why the fuck would I feel guilty about that?

  6. I think it is a ‘thing’ but only in the sense we’re fed it in the media and we jump on board – we need to stop clicking and commenting and cut people slack. I had a huge fight with the lactation consultant in the hospital (cos she was endangering my child) and after the public, hysterical yelling match, all the bottle feeders came up to me and thanked me, because (as one woman said) “She made me feel like I was poisoning my child”. So all the first time mums were apparently giving attitude to other first time mums (like day 3 you have any clue what you’re doing???) lead by the midwives (I had the paediatrician on my side, so I go with the medical degree every time!). So while I was breast feeding, I became the champion of the bottle feeders…and there was this crazy divide…(I was also left alone after that and hung out with the nursery staff who were nice, so it was the weirdest hospital stay ever)
    Why would anyone care how someone else fed their baby, when their own new arrival only turned up the day before??

    • And this is where it all becomes a problem – when things spill over and become a form of fanaticism. No mother should ever be made to feel like she is poisoning her child, and it is this puritanical urge to perfectionism that harms women and can send them spiralling into PND. We need to reserve our scorn and our outrage for parenting practices that actually harm children – and not direct them at loving mothers who are doing the best they can to raise their children with safety and concern.

  7. Another awesome blogcast, guys. I have to say I like Bec’s definition of mummy wars the best. I’ve never felt judged as a mum, but I do place a lot of pressure on myself to be ‘perfect’ and often feel guilty. I’m not striving for perfection to impress anyone or to compete with anyone, it’s just the way I am. Ps. That really aggravated me on the voice when they made a big hoo haa about Delta and Jessie J having a few words. Pleassssee.

    • ZOMG don’t even start me about that stupid media beat up. TWO WOMEN DISAGREE ABOUT SOMETHING – HOLD THE FRONT PAGE!! Urgh. Funnily enough, women can be independent, assertive and hold their own opinions without devaluing the opinions of others. It’s so condescending to frame them as catfights.

  8. This:
    Amy: “I think it gets combative because we project our own guilt. I know I have done it in the past.”
    Guilt and insecurity manifest themselves when we start comparing ourselves. Great point, Amy.
    I was just talking to Melissa this week about being judged by another mum for “first-time parenting.”
    So like this response:
    Hugzilla: “And that’s why I don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks.”

  9. I love this… its like I pulled up a chair and had a cuppa with you ladies. 🙂
    I’ve never been judged as a mum thank goodness… not that I know of anyway. But I know plenty of mums who have. Xx

  10. I’m digging these blogcasts ladies! Seriously, the only war there should be amongst Mums is are we drinking red or white when the kids are in bed? Because it’s all a fucking schemozzle, no matter what you try, what camp you’re in- shit goes balls up on a daily basis. And wine is there to soothe the ails. Sometimes though I think we’re our own worst enemies, by reading shit, getting caught up in it, comparing ourselves, looking at the ‘greener’ grass over the fence (never mind that the shit is spray painted to make us think it’s perfect when it’s totally not). It’s why I’ve hidden my fucking tattoos all year during school drop offs to avoid being judged, and to avoid my cherub being judged on my behalf. So in essence I’m just as much of a dick for succumbing to it. x

    • BAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHA! I am so in the trenches with my bottle of sem sav. Very interesting that you’d cover the tatts, as I would have thought most people would be OK with them by now. I guess there will always be small minded dickheads looking for something to judge. Fuck them. And drink wine.

  11. I’ve felt judged before about bottle feeding because I’ve had other mums in parent rooms quite obviously glare at me or eye roll me while I was doing it. They had no idea she had allergies and I had to go to prescription formula to feed her for her own health. Didn’t stop me wanting to smack them in the face and call them bitches though lol {which I didn’t by the way, or you would’ve probably seen me on the news}.

    • BAHAHAHAHAHHA! The breast/bottle thing is SO stupid, and it pisses me off that any woman would be judged for doing either. FFS people, we are so blind to our privilege. Our children are being raised in safe, loving environments where they can thrive. What the fuck is there to be negative about?

    • Yeah, I tend to think that people maybe did less navel-gazing and just got on with it but that is possibly a very romanticised view of the past. The internet definitely opens up a massive can of worms though…

  12. Why can’t we all just be kind? As stupidly simple as that sounds, why can’t it be so simple? I can speak about a time not so long ago that I watch some Daddy’s being a little competitive about their families and in this case it was about the amount of time each of these dads got to spend with their kids. It was an interesting discussion, and finished positively, but I do think a couple of the dads felt a little judged.

  13. Great post girls. I personally have never felt judged as a parent, and if I was, I could not give a shit! Mummy Wars are something I read about, but have never witnessed in real life.

  14. I think so much of a woman’s identity is wrapped in the word mum. Most women stop work for a little while, and forever long that is, ‘mum’ is what they are so they want to excel at it and be the best. Then there’s all that guilty because no one is perfect, and people cope with that by justifying how at least they are better than that person. So the mum who cooks all organic meals decides she’s superior to the mum who uses tinned food, because she feels bad that she is not a crafty mum.

    • Yes, Karin made that point too and I hadn’t actually thought of it that way. I think that’s a very astute observation, particularly given that women are having children later in life, and tend to spend more time in the workforce prior to that. It makes sense that we need to shift our self-perception accordingly.

  15. Because you said I could:

    I think that the mummy wars exist if you want them to, and don’t if you don’t. But it’s easy to say that now. In the early days of parenting when you’re already second-guessing every decision you’re making before anyone else weighs in, it’s easy to feel like the whole world’s ganging up on you. Some people react by ganging up on others to feel more secure.

    I think judgement and condescension and self-validation is out there, yes. Is it a full-blown war? Probably not. Love your work, ladies. x

    • LOL! I also agree that they are there as much as you want them to be. I can imagine the people who are uncertain or insecure about their parenting are more likely to be sensitive to judgement and criticism. I tend to err on the side of arrogance, and could care less what other people think because I feel confident in my choices. Maybe that is in part because I studied sociology (LOL) and a large part of that was being taught to dissect messages and think critically about them. Maybe it was actually good for something after all!! Must call my parents…

  16. I’ve been criticized to my face about my parenting but I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is a mummy war. I think it’s something created to sensationalise disagreements by the media. Most parenting articles on major parenting websites seem to be about shaming parents for something they are doing or not doing.

    Also on the breast vs bottle, I have no issues with debate but when women join fb groups that have been set up for support those who are formula feeding just to post images of themselves breastfeeding I have an issue. Especially when they then caption these images with ‘I refuse to feed my baby poison’.

    • YES! That is bullshit behaviour, and totally inexcusable. Some women get so sanctimonious and fanatical about breastfeeding, to the point where they deliberately make other women feel like shit. I am all for passionate advocacy, but not when it targets individuals in a mean-spirited way.

  17. I go with the flow when it comes to being a mum and I don’t believe I’ve been judged or felt judged, although sometimes I wonder if I could be doing it better? Sometimes the war is actually within myself.

    • URGH! I’ve seen that happen online too. Not sure why people need to presume to know what is happening in other people’s lives. I bet they’ve never criticised a man for working full time.

  18. Gee, I think if the kids are alive and happy and healthy, then you’re doing a bang up job! High five to all the mums out there! Love these blogcasty thingys – can’t we do it in real life WITH WINE? Sorry for shouting, I just got a bit excited!

  19. The only mummy I am at war with is my own! And that’s because my kids aren’t perfectly behaved. But, I don’t give a fuck.

  20. I think women are more invested in motherhood because some of us feel we have to be. I found the change from work and career to motherhood first time around ridiculously hard. Motherhood was my new career so best give it a crack! That was when I fell down on my own harsh critique, not anyone else’s.

    • Yes – that is a REALLY excellent point, and one I hadn’t thought of. Motherhood becomes the benchmark by which we review our own performance because the career stuff gets pushed aside out of necessity. That is so very true.

  21. Love this blogcast ladies. I think the “Mummy Wars” are a bit of a media beat up and have been fortunate not to have felt judged however I am my own worst critic so the “guilt” comes from within. We are all learning as we go along and I hope that we can be kind to each other and help out rather than compete.

    • And the weird thing is that in real life I have honestly only found that women are totally supportive of each other. I think it’s because we truly understand how other mums feel, and how hard this can be.

  22. Great discussion ladies. I love your last line Hugzilla – and I’m with you. I reckon the Mummy Wars are a media/social media construct and personally I know that just about regardless of what any other mother ever thought or said about me, I would still be my own worst enemy.

    • Absolutely – and I also know that even without realising it, all those subconscious messages from the media are forming the benchmark by which we measure ourselves and found ourselves lacking.

  23. Smart ladies!
    I think the mummy wars are entirely invented, though perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy? I have seen at least some isolated skirmishes in online groups, but for the most part, I’ve seen mums being kind and supportive to each other. But, you know, kind and supportive is just so BORING compared to a war!

  24. I love these posts. I think that the people that I get the most judgement from in my life, towards me – my parenting, my home, my children – are my inlaws and I am seriously working on not getting worked up about it. I’d love to be able to no give a fuck, but I think I need to toughen my skin a little more. Maybe destroying all the washing will help?

    • Oh yes, that must be difficult and I know you are not alone there. I hope that one day they will look back and realise they were being tough on you – and start to appreciate your efforts a lot more x

  25. I think the media likes to make molehills into mountains to get a story in some instances.

    I have TOTALLY been judged for things by people who have no idea about my life and the thing they are judging (why I had an induced birth for example) , but usually its only on the internet. I find other mums pretty supportive and friendly IRL.

    And sometimes we just have to make an effort not to take offence.

    I really enjoy your blog by the way 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s