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moms supporting moms

“Oh, you’re using formula.”

“Where’s her father?”

“Would you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in the other room?”

“Are you two ever going to have kids?”

And on, and on, and ON goes the oversharing of opinions and judgement at every turn. The photos in this post are for No More Mommy Wars!: a photo project. It was inspired by a beautiful campaign launched by CT Working Moms in June 2013: Campaign for Judgement-Free Motherhood. It’s about moms supporting moms. It’s about respecting that although we make different choices we all love our children and we want the very best for them. We know first-hand how challenging this motherhood gig can be and we embrace the fact that our best chance is to SUPPORT one another rather than to try to tear one another down.

As parents we learn very quickly that a choice isn’t merely a choice when it comes to our kids, especially when talking to other parents. Dubbed the “Mommy Wars” everything from what kind of diaper to use to whether or not to work outside the home is potential fodder for battle. If the mom you are chatting with at play group went to a doctor while she was pregnant and you had a midwife, the following tension-filled moments are, confusingly, critical. Is this the kind of mom who will blow you off as irresponsible for going against the mainstream?  Is she going to assume you have only disdain for everything medical, and by extension, her? Suddenly you find yourself in loaded territory, when really you just wanted to commiserate over harmless poop and teething-talk (except we all know poop and teething aren’t landmine free topics either (pun intended)).

When my daughter, Naomi, was a couple of months old I was gabbing with a friend in the grocery store and innocently mentioned that she slept tucked under my arm with me in bed at night. Call me lazy, but making the semi-conscious pilgrimage to her room 18 thousand times a night was just not something I could get excited about. One minute I was sharing sleep strategies with a fellow parent by the bulk bins and the next I was fielding directives from a complete stranger weilding a shopping cart, “Okay, whoa! You had better get her OUT of your bed NOW or you will NEVER get her out.” Insert knowing, condescending, confidence-shattering nod here.

Le sigh.

The reality is, we are all trying to do the very best we can. The other side of that, however, is that we don’t actually know what the heck we are doing. None of us do. Intended or not, the raised eyebrow, the pursed lips, the terse “hmmm” thrown in our scattered and unsure direction all weightily pile on top of each other and add up to a very clear and destructive message:

Hey, you there! I see what you’re doing and YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG! How could you? You’re probably going to mess up your kid! You’re a TERRIBLE MOTHER!!!

Ugh.

When this message comes from other moms it can be especially withering. Often we are pitted against each other as though we have no choice but to mother our children from opposing camps: Stay-at-Home Moms vs. Career Moms, 20-Something Moms vs. 30-Something Moms, Good Moms vs. Bad Moms…

Fortunately I know a whole bunch of moms who are nothing like that.

No More Mommy Wars

The 32 women in these photos are all part of a Facebook group dedicated to supportive motherhood. We range in age, ethnicity and favourite ice cream flavour. We are first time moms, moms with multiple kids and moms with multiples. We’re into AP, or we’re not. Our kids go to daycare or they don’t. We stand together in these photos representing different choices and different experiences but the crucial message here is that we STAND TOGETHER.

We are committed to not participating in the crazy, pointless mommy wars.

It can be tough sometimes, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes it can be hard not to judge Different.

We do our best to remember that we have no way of knowing the various criteria the mom standing across from us is using to make her decisions. We may not always agree with each other, but we can try to understand each other and stand together in motherhood.

midwife finding out sex of baby

infertility

home water birth adoption

birth age

postpartum depression

mommy wars stroller vs carrier

babys last name

speak cree

bed sharing

sleep training

soother

cloth diapers

career mom

feed with love

breastfeeding in public

parenting

you're a good mom

you're a great mom

We hope you enjoyed the photos!

My hope is that this project will help a mom who is feeling judged feel a little less judged. Know that there is a group of moms over on the westcoast of Canada who has your back. Mommy on!

 

And now the thank you, thank you, thank yous

Many thank yous go out to many very supportive people and companies:

The Moms with Moxie

First and foremost, thank you so much to the wonderful women who discussed and discussed and discussed and eventually modeled for this project. Thank you to: Ali, Anna, Brianna, Diane, Elle, Emma, Ericka, Erin, Hilary, Jamie, Jennie, Julie, Karly, Kate, Kirsten, Lina, Lindsay, Maggie, Megan, Melissa, Michelle, Mindy, Miranda, Penelope, Petra, Regan, Rozee, Samantha, Sarah, Sarah-Jane, Sonja and Suzanne. In addition to your insight and hilarity you are beautiful and. brave. You are also wonderful, wonderful mothers.

The Inspiration

CT Working MomsA great big thank you to CT Working Moms and the Campaign for Judgement-Free Motherhood for your inspiration and support for this incredible project!

Michelle Noehren, founder of CT Working Mom, and her fellow bloggers launched their Campaign for Judgement-Free Motherhood in June 2013. Their photo project was profiled in The HuffingtonPost, The Daily Mail and Yahoo.com, and in addition to inspiring our group here in Victoria, BC, Canada they continue to encourage moms everywhere. Thank you so very much!

Sponsors

Vivian Kereki PhotographyThe beautiful photos in this project were taken by the über talented Vivian Kereki Photography (Vivian also happens to be a mom, by the way!). Vivian is a dream to work with- her calm, positive and encouraging demeanour shines through in her work and her collaborative nature is hugely appreciated. Thank you for all your time and talent!

 

 

Mothering TouchThe team at Mothering Touch has been and is fantastic! From heaps of encouragement for the project to printing flyers to hosting our launch party and everything in between, their support has been incredibly valuable! Thank you!

Mothering Touch is the go-to place for new and expectant parents. I have logged MANY MANY hours there; I enjoyed their Pregnancy Happy Hour before my daughter was born, my husband and I had our prenatal classes with them, my daughter and I went to weeks and weeks (and months) of moms & babe groups, and I have purchased all kinds of helpful gadgets in their retail store.

 

Island Blue PrintThe crew at Blue sponsored the printing of the brilliant signs we held in the photos. Island Blue Print is a “technologically advanced digital reprographics centre, providing a wide variety of black & white and full colour printing and finishing services.” Thank you, all!

 

arialogo_200The wonderful people at Aria Health and Wellness sponsored the printing of the photos for our event launch at Mothering Touch. Aria’s team of chiropractors and massage therapists are magic. I may be biased since Aria is my husband’s clinic, but I AM SERIOUS ABOUT THE MAGIC. They also happen to specialize in working with pregnant moms and babies (massage and chiropractic). Thank you so very much!

And some more: Christopher Leduc (design stuff), Randy Wachtin (print stuff), Julia (legal stuff), Lindsey & Sarah-Jane (flyer distribution), Penelope’s whole family (location, location, location!), Sarah (language expertise), Sarah-Jane (mad videography skillz), Sonja (pro grammar police input), and most of all, John and Naomi for all their patience and support while mom went upstairs to do No More Mommy Wars stuff again.

PLEASE NOTE: Reproduction or redistribution of site content or any portion of the site content (including images) is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of the momsunitingmoms.com. To request images and/or permission to publish or quote from momsunitingmoms.com, please contact Shauna.

~ Read more posts on choosing to be curious, not judgmental. ~

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  1. Vivian says:

    Shauna, great article! I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you so much for seeing this project to fruition! Again, I’m so glad I could contribute and be a part of it. Your grocery store experience triggered one of my own- I was blazing through the produce section with a cranky and very screechy six-month-old….shortly after I tried to amuse him with a bag filled with parsley a woman leaned over the carseat and asked my son, “Your mom let’s you play with plastic bags???”….I let her know that, “Yes, we like to live on the edge.” 😉

    • Shauna says:

      Thank YOU for your beautiful photography! It has been so wonderful working with you- I have really enjoyed getting to know you better over the last couple months :)

      I love your response- humour is *such* an important part of parenting, even (sometimes especially) when it comes to mommy war-esque judgements!

  2. Hugz says:

    I love this. There is so much judgement and animosity between mums and it’s completely unnecessary! I have 2 kids and have made different choices at different times for my kids. I had a natural birthcentre birth drug-free and a epidural hospital birth. I formula-fed my eldest, breastfed my youngest, stroller/baby-wore, stayed at home/worked from home/worked part time/studied partime/worked full time while my husband was a stay at home dad and worked FT with hubby working PT. We’ve had kids at home with a parent, at home with extended family and in daycare. Cot and coslept. Sleep-trained one, didn’t the other. I’ve become the “go-to” gal amongst my friends with regard parenting choices as I DON’T judge. I’ve done most of the options out there, or at least tried them or researched a bunch, so I can give you a fair run down on what worked FOR US and what didn’t, and why. But in the end, each family is different, each kid is different and what you basically just have to do whatever you can to make the best choices you can with the information and resources at your disposal. And some days… oh, some days… the best you can do is get through the day with most of your sanity and the kids are still alive. And that is ok too.

  3. Erin M says:

    How adorbs are you guys? I love this. I have to admit sometimes I have a hard time being non-judgmental about certain things, issues that are SO important to me. It is nice to have the reminder that we do all love our children and we are all so different, why judge? It really doesn’t hurt anyone but me in the long run. You ladies are just precious. :)

  4. Andie says:

    This is brilliant!!! I have been on both ends of mommy judgment. I am trying soo hard now to try and realize that there is always an untold side to the side we see and that we need to realize we are all rockstars.

    • Shauna says:

      Hey Anonymous :)

      We discussed it, but re: circumcision that is info personal to the little boy that he may not want swirling around the internet for ever and ever and ever. Re: vaccines- It’s a contentious issue and I didn’t want any of our moms to get nailed to the wall about this subject. This project is about support and positivity and we agreed that we didn’t want the whole project to get bogged down by the possibiltiy of people weighing in on this one issue.

  5. Ruth says:

    Fabulous togetherness, mamas! And you’re all Fabulous Mamas!
    I think it would be super to see photos of all of the little ones as well. You know how much I love little ones! :0)
    We all have so much to learn from one another.
    Cheers from Ruth McAllister

  6. marina says:

    well said! I am not a parent but enough of my friends are and to see them being judged and made to feel bad for their parenting choices have always annoyed me. I hope this makes people think before talking down to some one about their choices or experiences.

  7. REC'd says:

    I love your website and think it’s fantastic you are all supporting each other no matter were your choices lie. I am currently a nursing student working on a maternity floor and am hoping you can give me some insight on how to make sure my patients are making truly informed decisions a) without pressuring them into doing something they do not want to do and b)while still providing support for their personal decisions.

    Not sure if this is something you would like to help me out with.

    Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to supporting mom’s!

    Cheers,
    REC’d

  8. Linnaea says:

    I absolutely love this – your pictures convey a thousand words. Its so difficult to be a mom juggling everything we expect of ourselves and the world expects of us. Most moms I no struggle over choices and really think them through, but even then an offhand comment can be really crushing. Thank you thank you thank you for this!

  9. Carol Ann Carter says:

    I am so impressed and
    inspired by what you are doing here for moms and each other.As a caregiver I totally understand what you are saying. All our mum’s are individuals,and they all need the support and non-judgement that we give everyday.

  10. susan says:

    Love this! In Scotland the biggest issuers of judgement seem to be a large proportion of our ‘support network’ midwives… don’t get me wrong there are a fabulous bunch out there (my own current midwife is awesome) but the judgement u face from many of them on deciding not to breastfeed is archaic and I’ve found myself even swapping midwifes before, following a condescending comment about my choosing to feed my baby “poison”. I know many mums in Britain who have been guilted into perseverance with breastfeeding when it just wasn’t working for them… I wish these health professionals could take a leaf out of your fabulous book and realise that breast or not, whatever works for you and baby is best!

  11. Cami says:

    This is such a great thought and article. Just one question I noticed it seemed everyone was in the breast feeding in public image. We’re there any ladies who didn’t like to or couldn’t, like perhaps the ones who adopted? Maybe I’d be in my own little lonely group not being able to lol. Just wondered why maybe that was the only thing shown.

  12. Cami says:

    Oh! I missed the image above it sorry! Were there any ladies who don’t like to breast feed in public? Thanks again for the awesome article!

    • Shauna says:

      No problem! Glad you saw the photo! In total we had 32 moms who were part of this photo shoot- the whole photo shoot was over 4 hours so only some were able to make it to the group shots. You are definitely not alone in not being able to breastfeed! There were definitely moms not comfortable with breastfeeding in public as well- some moms feel comfortable with a cover, some without, some prefer to breastfeed in a quiet room alone with their babe, and others, as you saw in the photo, formula feed. We all just do what we need to do :)

  13. samantha says:

    Amazing! Thanks again for getting this organized and having the vision to do this great and well needed project

  14. Sherri says:

    I totally respect every individual’s right to be an individual and for me that naturally extends to choices about pregnancy & parenthood.
    But it’s really weird to me that this is a separate issue – as if we don’t already get judged for everything we say, wear, do, drive (or not), eat, throw away (or recycle), where we live, how we date (or not) our marriage partners, our manner of speaking, our decor sense, our manicures (or not), how we support ourselves financially, whether or not we exercise and what we wear there and where we go and what activities we choose – we are judged by our parents, friends, acquaintances, bosses, peers, children, grandparents, neighbours, bus drivers, bank tellers, grocery store clerks, doctors, etc etc etc etc

    I could almost go on forever just making this list!

    My point is that we can’t just call ‘Truce!’ and expect the judgments to end. It’s not realistic. What will happen (maybe) is that these judgments will become internalized or whispered instead of the way they come out now which is through frankness and openness. Coming from a family where the theory that it’s better to not say anything at all than to risk hurting someone I can tell you for sure that in my experience that philosophy only leads to estrangement and suspicion.

    Judge each other! judge yourselves! EXPECT to be judged and have the confidence in yourself to hear out the other side or to carry on without batting an eye.

    Raising kids is much different today than it was when I was a young mom (and my daughter is only 20 for goodness sake!) – There really does seem to be a whole competitive and stressful culture built up around it nowadays .. and SO much GEAR! ha ha! But one thing remains the same: kids need love and everything else, truly, is secondary. Be a loving mom who accepts advice instead of getting stressed about hearing someone else’s viewpoint. After all, there are a few of us out here that really have been there, done that and we can be really helpful if you’ll let us.

    cheers ladies! much peace to you all.

    • Shauna says:

      Thank you for your considered response!

      I agree that discussion and discourse are GOOD things. We need to talk, we need to debate, we need to share good information and ask questions.

      There are a couple issues I see going on right now:

      One thing I think is going on now & has always gone on: I don’t see an issue with being frank and open. If people were simply being open and clear and their intentions were to help, there wouldn’t be a problem. The issue is with snap judgments and “us vs them” attitudes. When a pregnant woman is met with an eye roll when she mentions she is planning a home birth, or a woman who struggled to breastfeed but couldn’t and is given a “breast is best” lecture in her baby group it serves to undermine her confidence- it breaks community down (there is no problem with breast is best information- but sometimes that info is delivered kindly, sometimes not). Some women are strong enough not to be swayed (although even the strongest can and are shaken when swirling in pregnancy and postpartum hormones!), but most of us could benefit from being heard before being doubted. Sometimes it just takes pointing out to people that launching judgments can hurt more than they can help to get them to be a bit more compassionate in their delivery.

      Another big thing that we are dealing with is an online forum. The name calling and harshness that happens online is destructive. Again, information is a very good thing. We need to share research and we need to share our experiences- we just need to remember that we are sharing this information with *people*. Vilifying mothers for their choices and mistakes is just not the most effective way to get a point across, and unfortunately that happens all too often online.

      We will be able to best accept advice meant to be helpful when it is delivered in a kind way- when we know we’re in a safe place we are best in a position to learn and grow.

      Thank you again for your insight!

  15. Shaunna P says:

    I absolutely love this. agreed we need to stop judging each other and start supporting. Fantastic! I would love to do this as well with the moms i know

  16. Salma says:

    Beautiful pictures! And it was really great to read this post. It is important to put judgement aside (I’ve been guilty of it) and realize that we are all moms who are doing the best we can, the best way we know how.

  17. Renata Wurster says:

    It’s so true we need to support one another. I remember the look on another mom’s face when she “confessed” that she placed her son on his stomach to sleep. I vowed then to make sure I accepted everyone’s choices in motherhood. No one should feel they need to “confess” about their decisions. We are all just trying our best to find out what works for our babies and our families. So good on you for supporting each other. Here’s to Mommy Power in all its forms!

  18. Brooke Takhar says:

    Love love love this all. I hope it gains more and more momentum and attention so all Mama’s can truthfully accept the wonderful differences that make up parenting. Raising a kid is the ultimate mindf-ck – every second you think oh god is THIS the moment I accidentally created a monster. Every second. Knowing there is an army of love at your back reassuring you that it’s going to be ok is magical.

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