Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dealing with the Mommy Drive-By

A recent comment on my post at Yahoo about Mama Drama and an even more-recent experience with a really judgemental person made me think about the Mommy Drive-By and wonder why moms still do this to one another:
We’ve all experienced it at one time or another: The Mommy Drive-By. When a someone — a relative, another mom, a total stranger — takes it upon herself to question your judgment or criticize your parenting.

Single moms get flak about their social lives. Step moms are looked down upon for not being “a real parent.” Breast-feeding mamas get hit when they nurse their child in public; formula-feeding mothers get the evil eye when they whip out a bottle instead of a breast. Mothers from all walks of life are questioned for decisions large and small. And working mothers, well, they get a little bit of “all of the above.”

I’m positive that I thought I knew more about parenting before I became a parent, so I can kind of see why non-parents feel compelled to tell parents what they should do differently, whether are qualified to say anything or not. But when the drive-by comes from another mom, I’m baffled… why do we do this to one another?

One mom told me that I’m much too lenient with my kids, but “you can’t help it, you don’t get to see them much because you’re always working.” Another once told our older kids that she loved her kids enough to stay home, leaving my big kids to question my commitment to them. When my husband and I worked different shifts to cover childcare, I was criticized for “tag-team parenting” and being “too busy to be a good mother.”

Drive-byes don’t always happen in person, either. I got hit by a drive-by online last week by someone who has never met me before. My post about my preschooler and how her “Mama Drama” slays me sparked this lovely comment: “Wouldn’t it be easier to stay with your toddler and give her compassion and love from her mom, rather than drop her off with a stranger? Try being a Stay at Home Mom.”

The daycare question always triggers interesting drive-byes, with plenty of shrapnel to tweeze out of your flesh days and even weeks later. Yesterday, I was taken to task for saying that my youngest two kids go to preschool instead of just calling it daycare.

Never mind that my preschooler is actually in, well, preschool, and my toddler is in the daycare portion of that same facility. This person told me that she thinks I call it a school because it makes me feel and look better about what I’m “doing to” my kids.

I thought I’d be furious, but I wasn’t. I was surprised by the source of the drive-by, but mostly I was just tired. I pointed out that different solutions work for different people and suggested that, until she was faced with having to make the decision herself, it would make sense for her to stop criticizing me for mine. Then I changed the subject.

These drive-byes don’t make my question my judgment. But I sure am tired of being asked to defend it.

Have you been hit by a mommy drive-by? How did you handle it?


Katie Jones said...

I think it comes from a place of insecurity. It makes the mom doing the drive-by feel a little less unsure if she points out the flaws of others and the righteousness of her own choices. It really doesn't make anyone feel better in the end, though.

I really, really try not to do this (and I would NOT post it on someone's blog where they are talking about their mama drama), but I've been guilty of a drive-by or two. I think we all have at some point. It usually just happens when it comes to discipline/behavior, because I am most nervous about my daughter having a meltdown in public! It is like a "preemptive strike" to be snarky about someone else's kid's behavior so that, when my kid is wild, it doesn't look so bad. Terrible, but true.

I can usually just ignore the drive-by and chalk it up to jealousy or a personal problem with her, but it does hurt if it comes from another mom that I admire. In the case of your "Mama Drama" comment, I wouldn't have been as nice as you in my response.

BTW, love your blog!

LMAlphonse said...

Thank you so much, Katie! Good point about the "preemptive strike," too -- I think you're right, we've all done it, to some degree or another, at some point.

Thanks for commenting!

Kelly said...

My pet peeve? Non-working mothers who get to fly off for a two-week "vacation" when I haven't been able to afford one in 8 years. But, of course, they have husbands who make a wad of money. And then they brag about the financial sacrifices they make in order to stay home. What are they cutting back on? Their 5th salon visit this week?

People who criticize working moms are elitist. The fact is that the vast majority of working mothers HAVE TO work to support the family; most of them are working class. Working class women have ALWAYS worked outside the home. And now, the middle class is feeling the pinch. One middle class income is no longer enough to support a family, so women who don't necessarily want to work find themselves in the workplace.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing. Working mothers provide a good example to their children and are generally more interesting people. But I would have liked to stay home when my son was little. A rich or ambitious husband would have helped. But my husband never wanted a stressful job. So he works as a wage slave at a basic level of employment. And who says the husband should carry all that burden anyway?

And to those of you who say I don't know how to budget -- his health insurance alone costs over half his take-home pay. Could we live on the rest? No. The mortgage on our modest, run-down house takes almost all the rest.

I absolutely do not have a choice to work. Even just cutting back to part time (when my son was young) caused considerable financial difficulty.

So back off, "stay at home moms". You are NOT stay at home "by choice". You are stay at home by sheer luck and good marriage planning.

Anonymous said...

I don't judge mom's who choose/have to work. I don't assume ANYTHING about why they are working. I also don't assume I know ANYTHING about their budgets and get a little irked when working mom's do the same thing to me! I'm a stay at home mom, we're middle class, and haven't had a vacation since before we had our daughter. It is a sacrifice for us for me to stay home. Right now, with our daughter being so young, it's worth it. You're assuming that all stay at home mom's are rich. They're not.

I'm also setting a good example for my daughter. It might be different than yours or any other mom who works, but you're trying to imply that I'm not setting a good example by staying home. I also don't find myself to be "boring person". I'm educated, read lots of books, have a good social life, and am active in my church.

I just find it interesting that you're calling out SAHM's for judging you, yet that's what you're doing to mom's who CHOOSE to stay home. Because it's a choice, one that is carefully considered. Yes, there is planning involved (how dare I plan to have my children at a time where I can stay at home). Yes, I am lucky that my husband can support my family, but I do make sacrifices to stay home. STOP the judging on both sides. Isn't that the all point of this article?

LMAlphonse said...

Anonymous, I don't see anything in this post about my judging people who choose to stay home. I've written before, here and elsewhere that I believe staying home with ones kids is a career choice, not a moral imperative, and people shouldn't judge those to stay at home. Here's a link to one of those posts:

LMAlphonse said...

Kelly, I think the marriage and careful planning can be part of the choice to stay home for some people, actually, in the same way that internships and networking can be part of planning a career path. But in other families, it simply costs less to have one person stay home, especially if childcare fees are higher in that area than one's potential salary (a reality for many people).

It's too bad that so many people see working/staying home as a moral choice rather than a financial one, though. The drive-bys I've gotten (and continue to get) always involve the morality of it, not money.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm sorry! You're right, there wasn't anything in your post Lylah. I enjoyed reading it and didn't find anything wrong with it. I thought I directed my comment specifically @ Kelly. It looks like I didn't. It was directed @ Kelly.

I agree with you about the career choice, because it is. While I think the choice to stay home or work has implications for our family's that don't aren't career oriented, it remains a career choice. Staying at home doesn't make you a better mother. Working doesn't make you a bad mom. It's how we raise our children, treat our children, discipline our children when we are with them that determines what kind of mother we are.

In regards to the drive by issue, I try really hard not to do this. I've been guilty of it, I know I have, but I don't want to be judged in my parenting, so therefore I don't judge other people. Why other people think it's completely okay is beyond me.