Today we welcome Amber Rhea, a PPD Survivor Mama and a regular guest blogger at Beyond Postpartum, to ETMW. Since we created this community, I have been anxiously awaiting a post from Amber simply because I love the perspective that she brings as someone who truly exemplifies intentional and unique parenting. Amber brings diversity to every crowd, thanks to her interest in natural and eco-friendly living, paired with her realistic and honest mothering choices, which to some might be seemingly ill-fitting. I LOVE Amber for her strength, resilience, and proactive nature (and I’m blessed to know her IRL, so I can say that with some authority.). 😉 As expected, she wrote what I think is an awesome piece. Can’t wait to hear from you in response!
I have seen and experienced the Mommy Wars from many different angles; for this reason, I can say with certainty that yes, folks, the Mommy Wars are real! We all know that in almost every parenting community, there are some who deny that judgment of moms really takes place, and instead accuse moms of being “too sensitive” – as if that isn’t a judgment itself. But I digress.
Recently, in the course of an interview surrounding parenting, I was asked, “So, what kind of mom are you? Are you an AP mom? How would you label yourself?”
Where to begin?! Well, if I have to have a label… I’m a home birthing, placenta encapsulating, formula-feeding, exclusive-pumping, donor-milk-using, fully-vaccinating, non-circumcising, non-cosleeping, sleep training, cloth diapering, elimination communication practicing, stroller using, rarely babywearing, traditional car seat using (opposite of extended rear facing?) full time student/part time working mom with a now 2-year-old in preschool. Whew! Doesn’t make for much of an online message board signature, does it? But I have experienced judgment for each and every one of those things – often being criticized or judged for one choice while among peers whose company I sought for support in another choice! In my prenatal water aerobics class, it was the instructor telling me I was putting my baby in danger by planning a home birth, and the other students launching into descriptions of how excited they are about their impending epidurals. At a home birth group, it was accusations that I was negating the benefits of giving birth at home if I exposed my baby to the chemicals in vaccines. At my son’s first daycare, it was being told cloth diapers weren’t sanitary and the staff simply couldn’t allow such a thing around the other children. And of course there was the confusion of being simultaneously scolded for not breastfeeding but applauded for seeking donor milk, and then scolded again for using formula. Or, depending on the day, being told that I was putting my baby at risk by using donor milk.
Therefore, throughout the past two years of being a mom, I have often felt that I don’t really “fit” anywhere. At first, I experienced this realization as a profound sense of loneliness and isolation (and struggling with severe postpartum depression and anxiety didn’t help my feelings). But as time went on, my perspective began to shift, and I saw that not fitting a mold was actually a good thing. Instead of interacting only with other moms who parent exactly like me, and seeking out friendships based on those surface details, I instead had to connect with moms individually, on a deeper level, as whole people. Without the pretense of being “attachment parents” or “babywearers” or “Babywise moms” or whatever else, my friends and I were free to truly enjoy each other’s company, learn about each other, talk and share experiences (about parenting and more), and form connections that we otherwise might have missed out on. Yes, there were some not-so-nice experiences, too; the friend who dropped me like a bad habit after she learned I wasn’t breastfeeding, for example. But that was also an important lesson and an opportunity for me to grow and reflect.
At the end of the day, the best thing moms can do for each other is to be there. Really be there. With real support, an open mind and open ears, and a welcoming heart. I have formed lifelong friendships with mothers who I wouldn’t have necessarily sought out based on some kind of checklist of parenting styles. I have benefited immensely from these diverse friendships, and I hope they have, too. Together, if we stop labeling ourselves and start really connecting, maybe we can finally end the Mommy Wars.
Amber Rhea wears many hats: full-time grad student, working part-time and proudly mothering an energetic little boy who was born in May 2011. She is a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety and feels strongly about raising awareness of these conditions and increasing support for moms in the Atlanta area.