Why Do We Label?
Single moms versus married moms. Breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding. The world is filled with dozens of labels for moms. What are the biggest label wars out there?
A recent essay on Parenting.com drew the ire of single moms -- because of the headline. Although the phrase never appeared in the story, the headline indicated that the story was about "Married Single Moms." Single mom readers attacked the married mom writer for comparing her hardship with theirs, though she didn't.
Reality TV star and former Hef girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson also came under fire for calling herself a "single mother" when she moved from Philly to Los Angeles, instead of to Minnesota with her husband. Wilkinson wanted to live near friends and family, all year 'round. Single mothers took offense to her comments, especially because it was a decision to live away from her husband.
The problem with these situations isn't what the moms are feeling -- it's the label that's being put on it. Single moms are those without husbands. It doesn't necessarily mean they parent solo or that they are without financial support. In some cases, being single is just not being married. But in other cases, it is truly a mom parenting and supporting a child on her own.
Meanwhile, married moms are presumed to have emotional, physical and economic help in raising their kids. That isn't always the case. In some families, one parent will live elsewhere -- for work, for instance. That leaves the mom to be the primary physical and emotional caregiver. But instead of labeling that the single married mom or somesuch, a less offensive label like married mom parenting solo skirts the ire issue.
Of course, it is a mouthful.
This sort of mom-on-mom combat sadly isn't isolated. From feeding babies to circumcision to working, there is an undercurrent of competition that manifests in arguments over whose decisions are better and what plight is worse.
Beyond the single mom versus married mom parenting solo combat, what other labels fights are there?
Breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding
Just when you thought it was safe to feed your infant...the method of feeding you choose is almost guaranteed to cause eye squints of judgment.
On one hand, you have the breast-is-best crowd and on the other you have those horrified over breastfeeding in the long term. No one wins.
And the fact is that while breast is best, it's not for everyone -- and, more importantly, it's not possible for everyone. "The war over breast-feeding and bottle-feeding appalls me. Some women can't breastfeed because they are on medications that prevent it, or they don't have any milk, but there are women who assume these women are too selfish to breastfeed and are doing their child harm when its quite to the contrary," says mom Kristine Hughes. "Swallowing your pride and realizing that sometimes life has other plans then what we want is maturity," says Hughes,who writes TheAdventuresOfMissMommy.
And for long-term breastfeeding moms, there is a whole other brand of judgment.
The irony of 'working mother'
Working mothers are those who work outside the home, and still manage to manage their households. Except not all moms who work do so outside of the home. And no matter whether they have a paying job or not, all moms are working in some capacity. So the label? Ultimately offensive.
"I don't know any parent that doesn't work. Whether it's inside the home or outside the home, every mother is actively involved with work during her day. Because most two-parent families now work, it's a pretentious and often abused label that the media, women and the public at large throw around without really knowing the implications," says mom Kate-Madonna Hindes.
So, why label?
Whether you are single, married, working, staying at home, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, natural-birthing, c-section or any other label, moms all have a similar responsibility: To care for and raise their kids to be good, kind, productive adults. So, why all the label angst?
"Sometimes, I feel labels exist for the pure fact that we want to prove that we each have a burden to carry. I even find myself doing it daily," says Hindes. "When it comes down to the bottom of it, I think each of us (parent or not, label or not) needs to remember just like we burden ourselves with the labels we carry -- we burden others, too."
What do you think about the labels?
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