4 reasons the 'mommy wars' are good for parenting in America

The “mommy wars”– the so-called conflict between moms (or parenting philosophies) over topics related to motherhood – are a constant cultural undercurrent. But occasionally some development blasts them into the public domain, such as the recent Time Magazine cover story on attachment parenting or Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen’s comment about Ann Romney never working a day in her life.

When this happens, media outlets declare that the “mommy wars” are sowing dissent among women across America. American moms then make the requisite call for a ceasefire. The common refrain on Facebook and Twitter feeds goes something like this: Motherhood is hard enough, so why can’t we just stop the hostility and agree to get along?

But a ceasefire is not the answer. The “mommy wars” are good for America. They are actually a social, political, and cultural dialogue, rooted in the open exchange of ideas, a principle enshrined in the freedom of speech. Moms should not be afraid to jump into the trenches. Here are four reasons why:

1. Important issues merit ongoing discussion

Elaine Thompson/AP
Camie Goldhammer, chair of the Native American Breastfeeding Coalition, holds her daughter after testifying before the Seattle City Council April 9. The council later passed a proposed law that adds a mother's right to breastfeed her child to other protected civil rights. Op-ed contributor Jill Abraham Hummer calls breastfeeding the 'A-bomb of the mommy wars.' She cautions: 'If the mommy wars are avoided, then so is discussion of these public issues.'

The “mommy wars” are waged over what are actually quite important societal and personal issues, which merit ongoing discussion and debate.

Take breastfeeding, for example, the A-bomb of the “mommy wars.” Whether to breastfeed, where, and for how long are not merely personal issues. Breastfeeding has implications for children’s health, women’s health, tax policy, city laws, and workplace policy, not to mention fundamental rights and freedoms.

Consider also Pinterest, a new front in the “mommy wars.” Pinterest is the latest form of social media, where users can create virtual pinboards on topics ranging from kids’ birthday party ideas to recipes to home décor inspirations. Pinterest links people through shared tastes, but it can also raise inner doubts about maternal adequacy.

The debate isn’t simply about “screen time” that’s diverted from hands-on parenting, or how distracted mothers should be with their kids. Decisions about whether to use Pinterest, or any social media for that matter, for how long, and for what purposes determine how mothers – and all of us – use our most precious resources: time and money. Spending time on Pinterest in particular also shapes our desires and wants and can influence the expectations of our children.

If the mommy wars are avoided, then so is discussion of these public issues.

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