What can we do to end the 'mummy wars'?


Perhaps the most enduring wars are fought by women. On Facebook and in Mother’s groups. At the gate at school drop off and over coffee in the morning. At the watercooler in the office and outside of boardrooms across the city.

It’s the war that pits mother against mother by comparing and belittling choices that we don’t agree with.

Mothers who work for a salary versus mothers who don’t get paid for the very real work of raising their children.

Battlefronts flare up regularly. Over breastfeeding vs bottle. Over vaginal vs c-section births. Over childcare. Over work choices.

According to an article in the Herald Sun today:

Nasty mummy wars erupting in cyberspace are leaving women doubting themselves, racked with guilt and feeling depressed.

Feisty mums are hijacking forums, websites and blogs intended to support mothers and turning them into battlegrounds on divisive issues, particularly the stay-at-home versus working mum debate.

Mia Freedman, editor/publisher of women’s website, said posts about motherhood often attracted the most inflammatory comments.

She believed much of the battle stemmed from insecurity about parenting decisions.

“Being responsible for another human life can be very very daunting … and they are secretly terrified of getting it wrong.”

Freedman said those who posted on her site were encouraged to use “dinner party” etiquette and engage in healthy discussion.

Read the full article here.

And last week, another Mummy Wars battle erupted in the US after a Democratic talking head and former lobbyist, Hilary Rosen, said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife was unable to advise her husband on economic issues because she’d “never worked a day in her life”.

Journalist Jessica Irvine writes:

Ann Romney and husband Mitt

Ann Romney opened a Twitter account to complain: ”I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

And so the old catfight was out of the bag again, attracting a stream of online commentary, a prompt intervention by Barack Obama saying the work choices of candidate spouses were irrelevant and an apology from Rosen.

The mummy wars are obviously a simplification. And not just because the concept ignores the bulk of mothers who contort themselves on a daily basis to juggle family and work. It also assumes that women alone are responsible for their decisions and that they do so based on their innate preference for work or child rearing.

In reality, for many mothers, the decision whether to work is purely a financial one. And it is not a decision they make alone – excluding single mothers – but a negotiated outcome between partners in a relationship.

We need to think about families not as a homogenous unit but as a collection of individuals, who can be deployed in various ways to maximise the wellbeing of the family.

…For their generation, the Romneys probably made the best economic decision they could – with Ann looking after the children while Mitt sold his labour as a management consultant, eventually co-founding a private equity investment company, Bain Capital, which remains a source of wealth for the couple.

But for couples making the decision today about who should bear primary responsibility for domestic duties, the landscape has changed dramatically.

…The perception of mummy wars only plays into the stereotype of women as emotion-driven creatures who are out to get one another. This perception perpetuates one of the most dangerous stereotypes for all mothers – that they are forever transformed by childbirth into hormonally unbalanced basket cases.Decisions about work and family life should be respected for what they are – largely financial decisions about what distribution of labour will maximise a family’s income and wellbeing. It’s time to call a halt to the war.

You can read Jessica’s full column here….

It’s an interesting idea – that we should look at the choices women make about work and family as purely economic ones. But is it realistic? In actual fact there are torrents of emotion behind the decisions we make as women regarding our work and our families.

So is it a secret, niggling fear that we’ve made the ‘wrong’ decision that drives some women to attack the choices of other women so readily?

It’s not an issue that’s going away and it’s one that can only benefit from being aired and raked over – albeit in a civilised, intelligent way.


So – we want to try and take a more positive spin on the so-called “Mummy Wars”. How women can support each other ? What can we do to bridge the gap between the mothers?