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    team mama

    The deeper I get into this motherhood thing, the more the topics of 'making people feel bad' or 'honoring everyone's choices' comes up. In short, this all seems to fall under the blanket of TEAM MAMA: an idyllic group with matching t-shirts (the color of which is universally flattering, obviously) that gets together to talk about how great it is that we all make different decisions. On this team, there's none of that nasty, terrible thing called judgment; everyone listens serenely to others' experiences, then congratulates each other on the group's willingness to assume that everyone is doing her best. Your ideas don't have to mesh, but you'd better not make anyone feel BAD, by way of personal story or facts or legitimate questions, because then? You're a dreadful, unfeeling and vindictive person. But: no judgment. 

    I have always been a happy outsider to this group. Firm in my opinions and willing to express them calmly, I'll partake in the odd conversation about "the issues," as I find banter fulfilling and interesting (and assume, often mistakenly, that if others are engaging in a discussion with two obvious viewpoints, they do as well). About 75% of the time, this goes over like a lead balloon. Perhaps I should start prefacing my comments with "no judgment, but..." or some other hollow validation (my particular "favorite" being 'no offense' -- the universal alarm signaling that someone is about to offend you), but time and again, I assume that people are able to handle logical, fact-based debate. It turns out, this is not a tenet of Team Mama. It's actively discouraged! Encouraged, however, are apologetic half-arguments, embarrassing admissions, flippancy and a general air of well, I made this choice, but I could totally be wrong, so you know, it's whatever! 


    My question is this: what does it take, exactly, to get you thrown off Team Mama? What qualifies one for exile to the Island of Misfit Mothers? If we're under the assumption that every woman is simply doing her best (as most therapist will tell you is indeed the case, despite lots of truly shitty results), that every decision is well-researched and thought-out, as seems to be the prevailing theory, where do we draw the line? Because everyone has one. 

    I can list the unpopular issues that, if it weren't for fear of banishment, might be some people's threshold: breast vs. bottle; circumcised vs. intact; spanking vs. ...not. I still haven't come across the one thing that rallies the troops against a common evil, excepting, that is, judgment. So, if someone uses a belt on her kid's bare ass, but does it in good faith because she was raised that way and turned out "just fine" that okay? If someone submits her daughter to removal of the clitoral hood because it's culturally normal, is that okay? DUI? Allowing your son to wear a tutu? What is it -- someone please enlighten me! For reals! 

    Will Team Mama ever take a break from self-congratulation to make a stand on something? Why is holding people accountable for their choices, for presenting valid, opposing information so mean? If there's room for agreement, there should be room for debate, otherwise we're doing our children -- and, I think, more importantly, ourselves -- a gigantic disservice. If my son sees me as a person, specifically a woman, who loves to research things, who makes informed choices and likes to discuss them with people who don't necessarily agree but can counter with equally well-researched arguments? AWESOME. If he sees me as a shrinking violet with herd mentality who'd rather not offend anyone with her views? FAILURE. I was talking to someone the other day about politics being an impolite conversation topic. Lamenting that, especially for my children's sake. If we can't sometimes delve into real conversation that foments new ideas, broadens horizons, and makes people a little hot under the collar, I fear for the future. Hell, I fear for the present: there are many, MANY who take pride in their ignorance and cling to outdated information to the rest of our detriment. I've also seen firsthand the results of teaching children that no one is to ever feel bad for anything: often, it's entitled people who make excuses for their own bad behavior or irresponsibility, who have little reason to do anything difficult or take risks, who don't speak their minds because they barely have minds to speak of. 

    I'm lucky to have good friends. Good mama friends, a few of whom are torch bearers for the Team, and in some ways I envy their ability to assimilate. On the other hand, though, I'm perfectly happy with the people I've welcomed into my life. I don't feel at a loss for friends, for simpatico people to talk to, and every month, lately, brings news that a new little baby's being born to a set of radical, Radical parents in my circles. So, Team Mama, you might see me at some of your potlucks but your shirts are bunchy in the armpits and I'd rather talk about, well, anything, than the latest episode of Up All Night/Teen Mom or the Twilight saga. If you work up a hardline on something, send me a memo, but othewise I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. If you can handle that. 

    Reader Comments (3)

    I find myself being part of Team Mama in public when in reality that's not how I feel. It's a social nicety I put on for the blogs, facebook, emails, and large gatherings of people. I've got strong opinions, that I've come to thoughtfully and purposefully. I'd rather have a good debate and REALLY talk about something, even if we still disagree at the end. And who knows? Maybe I will learn something and need to go back and reevaluate my decision. Maybe not. I am trying to get better at sharing the REAL me and not just the socially acceptable opinions. And for the same reasons, I want to teach my daughter that if her opinions are well thought out, researched, and logical...then they are valid and she shouldn't have to change them to make others happy. Why should I be afraid to say how I really feel for fear of offending someone?

    November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauriel

    Can I just say, I love that picture of George.

    I think that judgment is rampant throughout Team Mama. You just get the fake smile and nods when you talk about something you happen to do that they don't agree with. I also think that there is a huge difference between being able to freely share your opinions/position on parenting issues and judging the decisions that others make. It is unfortunate that the two seem to overlap most of the time.

    As adults, I think we should be models to our children that: 1) it is okay to have differences of opinion; 2) that you can discuss said differences in a civil manner without being demeaning/rude; and 3) that you shouldn't be offended when someone expresses an opinion at odds with yours.

    November 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

    duder, i just saw this. maybe i'm one of the friend moms you consider part of team mama (though not in your circle), and i think, realistically and for the sake of community, often I am. But i also think, like so many things, its more complicated than that. a number of points:

    1. i don't disagree that everyone has a boundary. I was just saying to someone who posted something on facebook that was literally titled "i'm a good mom, you're a good mom" and i was tagged as probably being "into" it, that it IS hard to balance the situation. I am passionate and also not arrogant about a lot of the individual decisions i make for Adrian and myself. (frankly, one of them is queer family). And then I have very real and opinionated boundaries about ALL CHILDREN. this is true for most people i think, we are all assessing information and making judgements and I don't think life is about everyone being a "good" mom or always doing our "best." I think people (including myself) make compromises or ill informed decisions based on convention all the time and also i think we are judging each other all the time. i'm not against admitting that. or doing it.

    2. my entrance into TEAM MAMA is this: people are (not always, but often) fucking rude about shit. self-righteous, condescending opinions that are either unasked for or unneccessarily elitist will make me start arguing with someone i AGREE with on the topic. on a topic i even feel passionately about! and here's why: a. its rude. and b. its not getting anyone anywhere. despite my penchant to partake when really angry, i have a very very low tolerance for condescending 'discussions' and i think that is true for a lot of people. maybe me more than others. and realistically if someone expresses something I am against i think there are many approaches on how to respond to that in a way that can at least maximize potential. snarkiness and self-righteousness (which is what i am referring to when i've talked about this in the past) shuts people down. if the issue is caring about children, shutting down their parents on an issue they are then defensive and protective of doesn't help them.

    I might be oversensitive at the moment to all the mom insecurity and mom judgment thrown about (*both thrown about). its just a whole fucking world, and i wasn't entirely prepared for it i guess. But I AM also tired of the way things are discussed as THE only way. there isn't one way to breastfeed or co-sleep even. it doesn't mean we (people on team mama) don't have hard lines or don't express them or want to express them. i think its a lot in the how.

    that being said, i love you and i appreciate that you give me a lot of information, advice, context, and perspective when i need it. even when i don't give context for the question, i am asking for it. and you may not be on team mama with me, but you're on my team. girl!

    (p.s. that last cheesy part was meant to be a cheesy joke. obviously? not obviously? ugh, we need to hang out in person already.)

    December 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertara

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