A blog piece on Babble last week caught my attention. Actually, it really irked me. In The Hippie Mom Superiority Complex, Cassandra Barry writes that hippie moms are the most vocal about touting their superior way of parenting. Ms. Barry says she likes some hippies and has been called one by her husband because she used cloth diapers and made her own baby food. Still, that doesn’t stop her from skewering hippie moms in the very next sentence for their annoying, judgmental attitudes.
I dislike any attack on an entire group of moms. This is exactly the sentiment that fuels the “mommy wars”, setting up an insane, unwinnable contest between working moms and stay-at-home-moms, organic-eating families vs. non-organic families and “perfect” moms vs. just-barely-hanging-on-moms.
I know firsthand what it’s like to come under attack from hippie moms. The Holistic Moms Network disliked a blog piece I wrote last year and left me the nastiest comments I’ve ever received, many of which were unpublishable. Do I blame all hippie moms for one hippie mom group’s anger and rage, irony aside? Absolutely not.
If you’ve ever spent time around a conservative homeschooling mom –or gotten tangled in a blog spat with one– you know that hippie moms aren’t the only ones who have strong opinions about their parenting philosophies. For the record, I was home schooled. I was raised in Topanga by hippie parents in a vegan, eco-minded, no sugar, TV-prohibited household. I understand the forcefulness of the belief system that accompanies this kind of parenting because I’ve lived it. As you might have guessed, I don’t parent this way.
The constant pitting of one group of moms against another is toxic and harmful to all of us. Dueling ideas about the “best” parenting practices are prevalent in our super-competitive culture. In affluent areas, rich hippies have the luxury of all things organic, natural and pure for their kids. Moms in working class neighborhoods also want the best for their kids, but the “best” might not be an organic apple. It might just be a hot meal with any apple. At some of the L.A. private elementary schools I write about, rich hippie moms inhabit a rarified world. They are instantly recognizable, carrying hip, eco-conscious Stella McCartney handbags, wearing $250 jeans, their messy hair– carefully highlighted by posh salons– is long and stringy. They drive hybrid cars and smoke pot, garnered with a medical marijuana card for “stress” aliments. Yet, I’ve found these moms to be friendly and uninterested in critiquing my parenting.
It might make a mom feel better temporarily to find fault with another mom’s parenting style. Verbal attacks on another mom quell her deep-seated insecurity that she’s not doing everything perfectly for her own child. However, it’s especially harmful when moms point out other moms parenting “mistakes” in front of each other. Trying to embarrass someone is never the answer.
Sure, some moms think they know best. Especially those with babies. If you’re not parenting their way, you probably shouldn’t be parenting at all is the harsh, not too subtle message. Certain topics are hot-button issues: breast vs. bottle feeding, co-sleeping, vaccines, cloth diapers, homemade baby food vs. store bought, eco-friendly vs. chemical treated baby stuff, progressive vs. traditional schools, helicopter parenting vs. free range parenting and on and on.
Whether we subscribe stringently to a single parenting philosophy or try to adhere to a blend of ideas that work for us, aren’t we all just moms trying to raise our kids in a hectic, expensive, competitive world? Most of us want certainty that our kids will grow up to be great human beings, kind and charitable, well-educated and successful individuals who will carry on our family traditions (or chart their own new course in life).
If its safe to assume we all want essentially the same things for our kids, can’t we also understand that there are many roads that can take us there? Hippie moms aren’t the problem any more than conservative homeschooling moms. We are all potentially part of the problem if we verbally attack each other and must, therefore, all be part of the solution to stop the “competitive mommy” syndrome before it makes one more mom feel bad about her parenting choices.
Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She writes about L.A. private school admissions at www.beyondthebrochurela.com