Similac’s The Mother ‘Hood lampoons the Mommy Wars, those cute arguments moms get into on the internet while they should be watching their kids. That’s the toxic undercurrent of a video that went viral by manipulating women who feel marginalized by their parenting choices.
This is familiar territory. Women with strong parenting opinions are shamed for perpetuating mommy wars. The cutesy term dismisses women the moment they have an opinion. A moms wants to avoid exposing her baby to plastic bottles? That’s not a decision rooted in research and deep consideration of a child’s best interests. It’s precious and might cause a kerfluffle at mommy group. It’s adorable.
The Mother ‘Hood takes the classic Mommy Wars trope a step further. Just as the absurd gangs of parents gather for a brawl, a forgotten stroller rolls down a hill. Yes, the narrative goes there. A baby’s life is put danger of dying because mommies (and some daddies) were arguing and not parenting.
Of course, the parents drop their differences and rush to save the baby’s life. Because that’s what all parents should want in the end. Happy, healthy babies. It’s the same poisonous attitude that shames women for attempting to have choices in childbirth.
Shouldn’t you just want a healthy, living baby? Why are your opinions so important?
At the end of the heartwarming formula commercial, all the cartoonish parents who were hurling insults at each other warmly gather. It’s OK now. The arguing is over. Welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood.
Isn’t it lovely to put aside our differences?
Shouldn’t women get along?
Shouldn’t mothers be paying attention to their babies instead of having strong opinions?
The Mommy Wars narrative is a tool to silence women. In this case, it’s convenient to a corporation eager to remind breastfeeding mothers that they should be keeping their eyeballs on their babies instead of pushing their extreme “breast is best” agendas on potential formula customers.
In every case, it’s a sexism at its most subversive. Quiet down, ladies. Pay attention to your babies or they might die.
Women argue about parenting choices. This isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t catty. It isn’t inconsequential. It doesn’t take away from an adult’s ability to supervise a child.
Women argue about how they raise their kids because childrearing decisions are incredibly important. Children’s lives are important, and no one recognizes this as keenly as the parents who are deep in the trenches.
Sisterhood doesn’t mean agreeing on every issue. It doesn’t mean being owned by fear that something awful might happen to a child. The true sisterhood of motherhood is acknowledging that every mother has a unique path to follow.
That mom posting to Facebook about cloth diapers isn’t trying to push a radical agenda or start a fight. She’s talking about something that’s currently using up a lot of her bandwidth. (Have you ever washed and stuffed cloth diapers? It’s all-consuming.)
Women discuss their parenting choices and seek like-minded parents because that’s a healthy, normal part of building a community. Some moms work outside the home because they want to or need to. They’ll fight for better maternity leave policies and they’ll struggle to maintain a sense of balance. They’ll discuss it not to shame moms who stay home, but because they have every right to discuss it.
Moms aren’t caricatures. Every mom wants to nurture a healthy child into adulthood, but that isn’t a well-marked path despite how many women have walked it. It’s irresponsible to tell mothers that they have to get along, just as it’s irresponsible to tell women that they have to agree for the sake of feminism and sisterhood.
Moms are going to argue. They’re going to have strong opinions. They’ll research all night and fight on forums and order parenting books at 2 in the morning and they’ll exchange knowing glances with those who fit into their tribes.
Characterizing parenting disagreements as cattiness and pettiness does every woman a great disservice. Moms are not at war. They’re desperately seeking sisterhood in like-minded parents, and they have every right to cast a side eye at the playground. Being opinionated isn’t an act of war, it’s a part of life we should be celebrating, not shaming.