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Family 411: Victoria mother calls for truce in ‘Mommy Wars’

Shauna Stewart Douglas remembers coming under fire in the so-called Mommy Wars even before the birth of her daughter Naomi.
Shauna Stewart Douglas — with daughter Naomi, 18 months — organized the event No More Mommy Wars at the Mothering Touch next Saturday.

Shauna Stewart Douglas remembers coming under fire in the so-called Mommy Wars even before the birth of her daughter Naomi.

The Victoria woman and her husband opted to have Naomi, now 18 months, born at home in a water birth, delivering the child in a warm pool.

“There was lots of eyebrow-raising, lots of comments,” Stewart Douglas, 35, said in an interview.

“People insinuated I was making a mistake and putting the safety of our child at risk. A lot of it was pretty hurtful and none of it was helpful.”

It was part of the first salvo she received in what she calls “the Mommy Wars” — the social conflict characterized by endless criticism, second-guessing, competition and sometimes outright meanness that seems to characterize parenthood, especially between mothers.

To call a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, Stewart Douglas has arranged an evening called No More Mommy Wars. It’s a photo exhibit, a gathering and chance to talk and meet next Saturday at the Mothering Touch, 975 Fort St.

It was inspired by a similar effort that sprung in the U.S. from a group called Connecticut Working Moms called the Campaign for Judgment-Free Motherhood.

To follow along with a Canadian effort, Stewart Douglas enlisted the help of photographer and mother Vivian Kereki. She also signed up sponsors such as Island Blue Print, Aria Health and Wellness Clinic and the Mothering Touch.

Stewart Douglas said the Mommy Wars make for endless tension.

At dinner parties, child-rearing has joined politics and religion as an inappropriate topic. At the playground, mothers will engage in constant one-upmanship over things like bottle feeding and or diaper brands.

Stewart Douglas said strangers have approached her on the street or in stores to question her about wearing Naomi in a carrier. “People would come up and say things like: ‘I don’t think she’s comfortable,’ or “Why are you doing that?, and even ‘She is never going to develop any independence.’

“I mean, really, she was three months old and I was supposed to be working on independence,” she said.

Eva Bild, owner and director of the Mothering Touch, a supportive education centre for new and expectant parents, said competition among mothers has been around for generations.

She compares it to homemakers in the 1950s and ’60s who might jockey to see who could make the best pies or have the neatest or cleanest house.

Bild, a mother of three grown children, said that new mothers also now contend with changes to the nuclear family that have occurred over the past two generations.

New parents are more isolated and have less family support and fewer family resources to rely upon than before.

“So we need our friends now more than we have ever needed them,” Bild said. “So we shouldn’t be wasting time trying to be mean to each other.”

Bild said what’s driving the criticism and competition is anxiety and defensiveness.

Young mothers hear somebody is going back to work later than they could afford. And they feel guilty and defensive about their parenting.

Or they hear about someone breastfeeding longer than they did, so they wonder if their child suffered.

Even older women will hear about a young mother doing something different and feel they are somehow being criticized.

And often making everyone even more anxious are the “experts.” They can disagree with previous experts and sometimes even differ with each other now.

“People are very scared and mothers are very anxious now,” Bild said. “The stakes are very, very high and we all want to be sure we are doing the best we can.”

But she said with smaller families, parents are also losing a comforting perspective that allows them to know all babies are different. What works well for one child might not work well for another.

And with increased isolation, parents are forgetting it’s impossible to ever really get it and set it permanently right, Bild said.

“That’s because being a parent is never about any one thing,” she said. “It’s a long process, and the only thing we can do sometimes is have a good laugh.

“And if you don’t have any friends to laugh with or share the troubles with, life can be pretty sad.”

Stewart Douglas said she has found herself at times being judgmental of other moms. But now she stops.

She reminds herself everybody has their own troubles, approaches and opinions, and everyone does their best and wants what is best for their children.

“We need to support each other instead of worrying and being judgmental,” Stewart Douglas said. “We need to raise our children, whether we like it or not, in communities.”

No More Mommy Wars is Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Mothering Touch, 975 Fort St. Children are welcome. Refreshments and door prizes will be offered.

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