If you watch the trends of media, whether it be print, internet, or TV, you've probably noticed that every couple of months there is a new version of the "mommy wars" being played out. Last month's battle du jour was surrounding moms who work vs. moms who stay at home. Now, a firestorm has ignited over a provocative photo and article in TIME magazine about extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting. These manufactured mommy wars are predictable because they tend to provoke strong reactions from mothers who feel judged, as well as mothers who want to feel superior for their choices. A litany of analysis, outrage and defensiveness usually follows. Women tear each other down, while the entity responsible for initiating the battle reaps the benefit (whether it be a hot debate on a talk show or a political playing card). The insecurities of women surrounding their parenting choices are frequently pawns in the ratings game, and I think the most recent TIME magazine article and photo of a preschooler breastfeeding are intended to incite such a reaction.
I don't much care if you breastfed your kid until they started kindergarten or if you fed them formula from day one. I don't really care if you turned your infant car seat forward-facing prior to age 2, or if you homeschool, or if you send your kids to daycare while you go to work. Do you cosleep? Did you circumcise your son? I DON'T CARE. Do you "babywear"? Push your kid around in a stroller? Use a leash for your kid at Disneyland? Whatever. Good for you.
When it comes to issues of motherhood, there is one issue I care about: some kids don't have one. All of these petty wars about the choices of capable, loving mothers is just a lot of white noise to me, Quite honestly, I'm often astonished at the non-essential parenting issues I see moms getting upset about. Particularly when there are so many kids in this world not being parented at all.
This is the only mommy war I'll wage. I'm confident that most mothers are doing the best that they can for their kids, even if their choices are different than mine. I think it's ridiculous that so much energy is spent on debating largely inconsequential parenting decisions when so very little attention is given to the children who DON'T HAVE PARENTS. Why isn't this causing outrage? Making magazine covers? Inciting ranty twitter posts?
This is the war I'll be involved in: We, as a society, are not doing enough to protect at-risk and motherless children, both in our country and globally.
(Because apparently we're too busy worrying about that kid whose mom gave him formula.)
The kind of war I'll get behind will advocate for kids with bigger issues than a mom who goes to work. Or doesn't.
I'll get upset about the fact that LA County's family court system is so atrocious that they recently allowed press into court hearings for minors, in the hopes that this might finally provide some accountability for social workers who aren't doing their job. Let me repeat that: social workers are so understaffed and/or screwing up so badly that reporters are allowed into confidential court proceedings in the hopes that it will shape them up.
I'll be disturbed by the 18-year-olds I regularly see on adoption photolistings who, despite being old enough to live independently, place themselves on national photolistings because they desperately want a mom and a dad in their adult life. Because, in one teen's words, he "wants to become a member of a permanent family".
I'll whine about how, when we called our Christian agency about a healthy African-American boy from LA county who was in need of a home, we were told that they had no prospective adoptive parents willing to accept a placement of a black child. NOT ONE.
I'll get upset about a system that requires foster children to be placed in an adoptive home for 6 months before terminating parental rights, regardless of an absence of reunification efforts by the birth parents. I'll be angry about how this scares away prospective adoptive parents, and hurts children by leaving them in a limbo even after years of no contact or even abandonment by their birth family. I'll rant about how children whose parents have failed them should be made legally freed for adoption AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, so that more people would be willing to step forward and adopt.
I'll get behind complaining about how the government renames orphans and calls them "wards of the state" and renames orphanages and calls them "group homes", and how we collectively turn a blind eye to the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of children waiting for families in the US.
I'll be appalled over how many children around the world will age out of orphanages due to lack of paperwork or other factors that make them ineligible for adoption. I'll continue posting about the deplorable conditions of third world orphanages and the developmental challenges that neglected children will face.
I'll fight for the moms who don't have access to prenatal care, or for the moms who have to abandon their children because of poverty. I'll be mad that such inequities exist, and I'll support organizations that help change it.
The only mommy war I support involves moms banding together to talk about the number of children in our world who are missing out on basic human needs. Security. Love. Affection. Let's wage a war about that. Not everyone can adopt, but we can all do something. Even if it's just using our voices for something more productive than personal parenting choices.
Let's stop quibbling about what competent mothers are choosing for their kids, and step it up for the kids that don't have one.