Kasey Edwards: "On the days I feel like I am drowning in the abyss of motherhood, it is other mothers who pull me out. "
Last year US baby formula company Similac gave mothers a patronising lesson about playing nice.
Its "Mother 'Hood" video depicted the worst and most divisive stereotypes of mothers — and then scolded us all for not behaving as sisters.
The video went viral with over eight million views and even made it to Australian mass and social media.
But while it did absolutely nothing to reduce mother judgement, it must have moved a lot of product because now Similac is back with another faux Public Service Announcement to tell mothers to stop being a bunch of bitches.
The #EndMommyWars video, made by Academy Award winning director Cynthia Wade, has just as much heightened drama — and almost as many tears — as a Biggest Loser episode.
Like any great fable/ reality TV show, it takes viewers on a journey from misguided and bad (read: judgemental) mothers, to revelation of regret (every mother is doing to the best she can) and concludes with tearful life lessons earned and learned (mothers are wrong for judging each other).
"I feel ashamed for judging you, especially hearing your pregnancy loss story. Because even though I can't understand about the formula I understand what it's like to lose a baby," sobbed one contrite mother.
"We can be a sisterhood, and we can support one another. It's possible," says another mother.
And it may well be possible. But it's not going to come from an #EndMommyWars hashtag to push formula.
For starters, can we lose the patronising label?
Not only is "mommy"/mummy" diminutive, it also devalues and trivialises the concerns of women. "Mummy blogger", "Mummy track", "Mummy jeans", "Mummy time": "Mummy" has become the universal prefix to mean petty, inferior and not as important as the male or childless equivalent.
Unless you happen to be under the age of 10, or speaking to someone aged 10 or under, you have no business using the word "Mummy".
Labelling the judgement and criticism that mothers face on a daily basis as a "mommy war" reduces a complex social and economic problem to a simple matter of women not knowing how to behave themselves.
It reinforces a female stereotype that has been used to control and oppress women for generations: that we are irrational and no better than children.
It's as if we need some sort of male authority figure — in the form of a corporation that makes formula — to come along and tell us all how to act.
The instructions to mothers on Similac's website is pretty much what you'd expect to see on the wall of your local kindergarten:
"Let's support each other to stop the judgment once and for all.
• Think before you speak. Better yet, say nothing.
• Check your eye roll. And the raised eyebrow."
The #EndMommyWars video also overlooks one important point. It's not just mothers who judge mothers: EVERYONE judges mothers.
An example of this can even be found in the #EndMommyWars video itself.
"My OBGYN asked what the situation would be like after the baby's born," says one mother in the video. "And I told him, with our lifestyle we'll need to put him in daycare when he's two months… He told me, 'If you were my wife I'd much rather for you stay home and not miss any bonding moments with the little kids'."
Who's doing the judging here? A man.
This man will most likely never even contemplate the decision between perusing his career and raising his kids. He will never have to face the judgement, guilt or shame of that choice.
But yet, it doesn't stop him from judging mothers. Where is his "play nice" video lesson?
And where are fathers in this conversation? While everyone's focusing on how terrible mothers are, fathers seem to be getting by without any scrutiny from our corporate father figures.
In my experience, mothers are no more judgemental than anybody else. Everyone from colleagues, grandparents, friends, bosses, the medical profession and even governments have plenty of things to say about what mothers are doing wrong.
But unlike these other groups, other mothers are our greatest sources of support. Mothers understand first-hand what it's like to want to do the very best you can but to always feel as though you are failing.
On the days I feel like I am drowning in the abyss of motherhood, it is other mothers who pull me out. It's their reassurance that I'm doing a good job, that I made the right decision, or whatever happened was an accident that could have happened to anybody, that saves me.
We don't need Similac's insulting hashtags to manage our relationships with each other. We're doing just fine on our own, thanks.
Rather than helping, Similac's #EndMommyWars campaign has just added to the burden of mothers. On top of everything else we have to deal with, now Similac is leading a campaign that judges mothers for judging mothers.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of Thirty-Something And Over It. www.kaseyedwards.com