My dad often says prudish people actually have the dirtiest minds.
You know the ones who say– “You really shouldn’t do/say that!” in regards to something you thought was pretty harmless? And when you ask, “WHY?” they explain, “Because THAT can mean THIS OTHER THING which implies THAT BAD THING, and if you wouldn’t do/say THAT near your grandma…
…then you definitely should think twice before doing/saying the supposedly-harmless thing ever, ever again!”
Do you know what I’m talking about?
The problem is, once you start looking for reasons to avoid a phrase or action, you’ll find problems with others…and then others. And, pretty soon, you’ll have the dirtiest mind in the room. Through constant focus on being unoffensive, you’ll discover things become offensive the more you over-think.
Furthermore, when you explain to other people everything that’s offensive, they start to lose their innocence, too. And though, at first, they won’t understand why you’re being so uptight, eventually you can teach them to see evil everywhere the same way you do…
You might say dirty minds are contagious.
And if you need an example, you should spend an evening with my family, after my brother-in-law starts up “that’s-what-she-said” references. (*giggles*) Truly, ANYTHING can be a euphemism, once the tone has been set…
And THIS phenomenon–when a group develops a “tone” of spotting offensive things–is largely responsible for the “Mommy Wars.”
For years, mothers have been coached about what they can/can’t say to each other (because it’s rude! Or competitive! Or insensitive!), and now we’re trained to see conflict everywhere we look.
I used to believe the Mommy Wars don’t exist at all. But I’m ready to admit that’s not totally true. Instead, I’ll say the Mommy Wars exist in the same way a banana is “dirty”… It totally depends on your frame of mind.
If you’re part of a culture that talks about “the Wars” (ad nauseum)–it slowly teaches you to see the negative connotation behind every mother’s testimony. Eventually you’re filtering every situation through the Mommy Wars lens, whether you realize you’re doing it or not.
It has gotten to the point where, unless a mother starts every personal story with a disclaimer (“This is just my family, and it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone…”) we feel like we’re being judged and discounted.
Even the most innocent stories or comments now “seem” or “sound” or “feel” like attacks, because we already believe we stand on a battlefield.
Recently, I asked my friend Stephanie for her definition of the Mommy Wars, and she gave one I think most women would support:
“When I think of Mommy Wars, I think of criticism and competition over ‘gray’ areas that are not black and white [or] right and wrong. Examples include breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, sleeping in a crib or co-sleeping, working parents or stay-at-home parents, etc., etc.”
Again, this definition represents most people’s opinion, so please don’t think I’m saying, “Look how ridiculous Stephanie is!” (She’s not.) Technically, I’m the strange one for disagreeing with the majority.
Nevertheless, I DO disagree that mothers are regularly criticizing each other over “gray areas.”
Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. Crib-sleeping vs. Co-sleeping. Cloth diapering vs. Disposable. Staying at home vs. Working. Organic vs. fast-and-cheap food.
I honestly have never seen what I would call a “battle” (let alone a war) waged over this stuff.
What I have seen are lots and lots of discussions about why one family found a particular choice to be better, usually followed by comments from other mothers, like: “Thanks! I think I’ll try your suggestion!”
“That won’t work for us because ________. But thanks anyway.”
“That worked for my firstborn–but my second one is totally different. Any ideas?”
Soooooo…I have to ask…what “war” are we talking about?
I mean, occasionally someone will get defensive and say, “You just think you have all the answers. But there’s NOTHING wrong with my choice to (blah blah blah), and you should butt out!”
But those are fairly rare… And, more importantly, I don’t believe those mothers are reacting to what was said. Is it possible they’re dealing with a deeper, internal issue of insecurity? (Or guilt? Or jealousy? Or…something?), and not an overarching “Mommy War?” Because, again, I’ve never heard anybody say, “You’re going to Hell for feeding your baby formula.”
Nor have I heard, “You should be jailed for using disposable diapers.”
I know, I know. “It’s not what they say, Amanda. It’s what they imply!”
But that’s why my message for today is: “Take your mind out of the gutter!” 🙂 It seems to me we’re seeing “wars” between the lines, just because our culture says they’re there.
Nine times out of ten, nobody means to “imply” anything negative about you personally, when they say/do a seemingly-harmless thing. (In other words, the seemingly-harmless thing actually is harmless.)
Most things that offend us are done completely unintentionally. But I don’t think you need convinced of that.
We already know other mothers aren’t trying to hurt our feelings, because we say so every time we begin lecturing about what they did wrong. “Well you had good intentions–BUT.”
There are hundreds of posts (like this website, featuring things you shouldn’t say to different categories of people) which seek to “educate” mothers about how to “properly” talk to each other–and all of them say the same thing: “You didn’t know you were hurting me….you meant well…BUT–”
“But” nothing, I say!
Hear this, Mommies. If another person doesn’t intend to wound, then that’s all that matters. God looks at the heart–and if another mother’s heart is in the right place, then it’s not an attack.
And if it’s not an attack, then again I ask, where are the Mommy Wars?
I humbly suggest that the real war happens within each woman, when her insecurities are revealed in light of another (less-insecure) mom. When one of us already feels uncomfortable with a choice we’ve made, it’s hard to hear about how well another mother’s plan is going…
When somebody asks questions about an issue we haven’t resolved completely ourselves, we feel uncertain and exposed…
Unfortunately, our culture gives us the chance to blame the whole thing on “Mommy Wars”–rather than fighting the battle of doubt in our own hearts/minds.
But we can’t keep expecting other people to avoid our hot buttons. And we can’t keep worrying that we’re accidentally, unintentionally fueling some type of war, because it actually encourages over-sensitivity.
As a culture, we’re becoming thin-skinned–that is, even more “dirty-minded”–because we keep banning certain thoughts/phrases from Mommy Conversation instead of figuring out why they bother us so much… Now that it’s “wrong” to tell somebody when you think they’re wrong, fewer and fewer people can tolerate scrutiny of any kind.
When I said mothers don’t criticize each other, I didn’t necessarily mean it was a good thing.
How can we improve, if we’re not allowed to compare results? How can I make better parenting decisions, if everybody is afraid to admit that “better” exists in the first place?
The biggest “war” that I see is one against dialog. It’s a war of political correctness that makes us water down our opinions (if not withhold our story altogether) because being too comfortable or too convicted or too passionate might intimidate someone else.
And, if you intimidate someone, you must be “judging.” You MUST be “implying” something negative about her choices, whether intended or not–even if your words/actions seem harmless at first glance.
“Trust us,” we say. “It’s time to stop the wars…and that will happen when we stop doing this, this, this, this, and this.”
No, I don’t believe it. That’s like saying we’ll cure dirty-mindedness by hiding all the bananas in the world.
I tend to believe my way of doing things is better, so let me share about the choices I make. (And yes, I think others should do this as well… *wink*)
#1. I remind myself that opinions aren’t bad. It’s not bad to strongly believe you’re right. In fact, it’s not even bad to write an article flat-out stating, for example, “I think anybody who is able should homeschool their kids”. It totally depends on the lens I’m wearing…
#2. I ask God to help me with my insecurities. And, when I notice I’ve become too easily offended, I ask Him to help me control my “dirty mind.”
I don’t want to be someone who walks through the produce department giggling. (“Bananas! Cucumbers! Melons! Oh my!”) And, usually I’m not, unless I’m still recovering from a holiday with the in-laws, I suppose… (*giggles again*)
In the same way, I just don’t see the same “conflict” and “judgment” and “competition” so many others notice, when they hear mothers talking with each other.
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