Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. I can’t remember when I first knew this childhood chant was the most ridiculously wrong statement ever spoken, but I can tell you this—I did fully realize the words of others had the power to destroy like no stick or stone ever could. As moms, I know we work diligently to teach our children the power of words, the importance of being kind to one another, and above all, the value of compassion. But lately, I have to wonder if we are following our own advice.
I silently cringe when I watch an innocent momma post something on Facebook that unknowingly opens a can of worms. The mud begins to fly. We end up deeply divided and harshly critical of each other. We separate ourselves into the we’s and the they’s. Think about it. As moms, there are hot-button topics we align ourselves with, yet we fail to ever consider the reasons behind the other-side’s choices. Breastfeeding vs. Formula. Let-Them-Cry-it-Out vs. Rock-Them-Until-They’re 20. Working Moms vs. Stay-at-Home Moms. Homeschool vs. Public School vs. Private School. These are just a few wars we jump into as moms. And these wars can get dirty.
Embarrassingly, I too have been guilty of flinging some dirt. But it seems as if God has designed my deepest struggles as a mother in order to give me a unique perspective on the mommy wars. You see, my daughter breastfed, my son would not despite ten torturous weeks of hard work. My daughter wouldn’t allow me to rock her to sleep. My two and a half year-old son still cradles in my arms at night. I was a stay-at-home mom for three years with my daughter. I have had to work full-time since my son was five-months old. My daughter was in a private preschool with plans to transition into a private elementary school. Plans changed. She is now thriving in a local public school.
I now look back and realize I have had the privilege, and I really mean privilege, of sitting on both sides of many issues that we as moms find ourselves at war over. This is what I have realized: We often assume women make their choices with blinders on or that women have any choice at all. You see, I would have chosen to breastfeed my son. I would have chosen to still be a stay-at-home mom. I would have chosen a different educational path for my daughter. But I am proof that God sometimes directs our paths differently. The hurt comes when others wield their swords of condemnation without ever considering what the fellow mom may be up against.
We bare the deep wounds of judgment. Judgment carried out by those we need the most—other moms. Judgment often offered up under the disguise of advice. We may deeply disagree with one another and we always have a right to our opinions. Our mistake is offering up those opinions without ever extending a measure of compassion or grace to our sisters. We spout off all the reasons our choices were best, failing to consider the pain another mom may be going through. We are wounding each other in our greatest time of need, when instead, Christ has called us to a life of encouragement.
All too often we forget we have common ground. Motherhood is the most difficult job on this planet. We must realize that we are in this thing called motherhood together. Only together can we really survive. We are mothers who deeply, fiercely, passionately love our children. Mothers who want only the best for our children. Mothers who will rise up against those who would do harm to our children. Mothers who bare scars for the sake of our children.
The next time you have a friend experiencing difficult moments in motherhood, don’t offer up an opinion unless requested. Instead ask her if she’s surviving. And then tell her she’s doing an incredible job. And then remind her that little Sally will not be in therapy because the diaper wasn’t changed immediately. And then tell her you love her. Tell her she is beautiful. Tell her she will mess up and then tell her that’s okay too. Tell her she is part of the noble sisterhood of mothers. And the next time you find another mom caught in the middle of the mommy wars, take the right side. Take the side of motherhood.
God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, MSG, emphasis mine)