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Half of All Moms Are Down With Spanking

Photograph by Twenty20

I suppose I should start by clearing the air: I am not a mom who spanks. In fact, I'm hardly a mom who yells. My child ran out into the street once and a voice rose out of me that I didn't even recognize—a fierce and commanding mommy voice that immediately captured her attention. Two friends were with us at the time, and they both looked at me and said, "I didn't know you had that in you."

The truth was, neither did I. But I didn't tell them that.

A recent Yahoo Parenting survey found that 53 percent of all moms feel shamed when it comes to their disciplinary decisions. Count me in that group. If we were being honest, I would have to admit that it is the one area of parenting where I feel the most out of my element. Discipline does not come naturally to me. Neither does yelling. I know it is sometimes necessary, but I am mostly passive in demeanor. I'm the mom who would rather sit down and talk calmly about the natural consequences of bad behavior over instituting time outs and remaining firm on disciplinary threats.

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Alas, I have a toddler. She's not quite ready for heavy heart-to-hearts yet, and caving on the consequences only makes her behavior worse. So I have to buck up and hold strong, especially as a single mother; there is no one else around to play bad cop. But spanking? It's not for me.

There are a lot of reasons I feel this way, and most of them come back to that passive nature of mine. There is just no part of me that could ever really feel comfortable with physical punishment, and I'm not even sure I would do it right if I tried. So I don't. It's off the table for us.

But that same Yahoo survey claims that for 50 percent of mothers, it's not. Spanking is seen as an appropriate disciplinary tool.

And you know what? I say all power to them.

I can already see the eye rolls happening behind your computer screens as you read that. The anti-spankers are getting ready to fiercely cite studies about brain trauma to spankees and the psychological damage done to children of spanking. The pro-spankers are getting their hackles up as they write viciously about how they don't need my blessing to spank, and maybe if I would grow the balls to smack my child on the bum every once in a while, she wouldn't be such a brat.

Feeling strongly about something is not an excuse to tear another mother apart for making her own decisions regarding what is right for her and her family.

This is one of those parenting topics that gets people all hot and bothered, convinced that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Parents are out for blood as they fight to prove their point.

And that's in direct opposition of the original goal of the Yahoo survey, which is to usher forth an era of #NoShameParenting.

That's right. A survey that published personal feelings on something as contentious as spanking came about as a way of highlighting the mommy judgment we all face in an attempt to argue for an end to that shame. It seems ironic at first, right? But what if that's the point? What if the only way to address the judgment is for us to openly discuss these issues and face the statistics that make it clear there is no one right answer to anything when it comes to parenting?

Other results of the study? The fact that the shaming begins during pregnancy and peaks during toddlerhood. And by race demographics, 90 percent of white moms have felt judged, while only 76 percent of black moms have felt the same.

This is what we are doing to each other, ladies. It was recently argued to me that the mommy wars aren't a real thing. But with 91 percent of women admitting to judging other moms (out of them 20 percent admit to having done so openly and in person and 45 percent say they feel most judged by their own friends), does that argument really hold any weight at all?

The mommy wars most certainly exist, and we are absolutely guilty of perpetuating this hate against each other.

Just look at the comments on this article. I can almost guarantee that especially on social media, there will be those who completely miss the point about #NoShameParenting (many who may not even read the article at all), automatically jumping in to comment on the headline with cases for or against spanking. These are arguments that will completely ignore the feelings of those on the other side of that battle, aiming only to "win." To be right. To be deemed the superior parent.

What would the world of motherhood look like if we all tried a little harder to give our fellow mothers the benefit of the doubt?

I get it. You feel strongly. But here's the thing: There are parents who feel just as strongly (or more so) about breastfeeding. And car seats. About circumcision and staying home. And chances are, you've been on the other side of their judgment a time or two. Feeling strongly about something is not an excuse to tear another mother apart for making her own decisions regarding what is right for her and her family.

It is not an excuse to be an asshole.

Because that's probably the biggest thing to remember: We are all different—our personalities, our backgrounds, even our children. I don't spank because it's not right for me. It's not right for my child. But who am I to presume I know what is best for another family or another child? Who am I to stand up and say I'm right, while the 50 percent of moms who feel differently are wrong?

The only thing I know for sure is that I'm right for me. For my family. And that in most cases, I choose to believe other moms are right for them and theirs.

#NoShameParenting. It's a powerful concept, isn't it? What would the world of motherhood look like if we all tried a little harder to give our fellow mothers the benefit of the doubt? And to remind ourselves daily, hourly if necessary, that most women are simply doing the best they can, working within the confines of what they know to be right for them and their children.

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We don't do each other any favors by maintaining the ongoing sense of self-righteousness that accompanies these mommy wars. And no one wins when we're all feeling judged, belittled and diminished.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the study? While 91 percent of mothers admit to judging, only 63 percent claim they are usually confident in their own parenting skills. So all this judging? It's stemming from women who are perhaps a bit unsure themselves—they project and tear other mothers down in order to feed their own weak egos.

This has to stop.


You do you. I'll do me. And lets meet in the middle for a glass of wine.

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