On Sunday I overheard two women viciously arguing in the gym. No, it wasn’t over a spinning bike, but rather about being a good mother. The barbs and menacing tone almost escalated to martial arts! Karen, an attorney, defended her position as a working mother while Ailene kept lunging at her saying, “You’re just rationalizing! Your nanny is raising your children and instilling her personal values. Let’s hope she’s not a serial killer!” Karen countered, “Better a nanny with my children than a bitter, unfulfilled drudge like you!” At this point a personal trainer interceded and pulled them apart.
To work inside the home and raise your children or to work outside the home and raise your children – has fired up passionate responses from both camps in The Mommy Wars
. These two lifestyles choices have ostensibly escalated into a full fledged rift stemming from the competitive nature of most women who tend to compete with their girlfriends, driven by jealousy. Sometimes this kind of jealousy is beneficial because it inspires women to emulate what they see in their girlfriends and be the best that they can be. The darker side of jealousy and competition is that the motivation is based on personal insecurity and a lack of self-knowledge about signature strengths. In short, the mommy war is internally driven – the self against the self.
Why do we get so angry at the other side, unable to accept a different opinion? In order to be right does someone else have to be wrong? When we are insecure about a decision, we engage in self-justification, as though we are heavily invested in knowing the absolute truth. However, by comparing ourselves to others, we sabotage our own uniqueness and second guess ourselves. We have all resented at some point in our lives the one size fits all formula for beauty. Why compel all women into a one size fits all way of life?
Most women are overloaded, addicted to stress and good performance. Whether one is a CEO at home or a CEO in the office, a woman tries to prove her worth, how necessary she is for things to function smoothly because without her nothing works. As a result, she is not the best team player. Most often this comes at a great personal cost to her self-care and happiness. Is it possible that we could be our own worst enemy undermining a woman’s inalienable right to her authentic life and creative solutions?
The next time we are involved in a passionate disagreement we might consider a creative blending to get the best of both worlds. Every mommy has a right to her unique life and to cultivate her personal creative passion whether it be work, the hearth or a child. Learning about opposing viewpoints helps us to stretch ourselves and grow in ways that we never imagined.
The real power struggle in the mommy wars is within the self. The more we need to force the other side to comply with our way of thinking, the less power we wield in our own life. When we judge the other side, it is a surefire signal that we are afraid we have made the wrong choice. It is far easier to blame others than to accept responsibility for a mistake. In life we control very little, except for our own choices. If we are dissatisfied, either at work or at home, perhaps we have chosen to be last on the list. When we position ourselves at the top of our own list, we will make peace within the warring selves of our personality and so, in all our relationships.
To heal the rift:
- Become aware of the intensity of your reaction. Is it disproportionate to the situation? Get in touch with your feelings. Perhaps, you are judging yourself harshly. The need to criticize others is directly proportional to your own unhappiness.
- Let go the myth of perfection. Most women are over-achievers and need to ease up on themselves. You don’t have to climb to the top of the corporate ladder or become PTA president to be deemed successful. Find your personal work/life/children balance.
- The choice you made is not written in stone. You are not stuck, but can redefine your goals and relationships at any time.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com