Don't put your baby on my dinner table, please, my inner sanctimommy said as I was on the way to finding a parenting style.
There was an evening in the early 1990s that we had a dinner party, and the couple with a newborn put the baby – in its bouncy chair – on my set dinner table.
There was no request to put the baby on the table where we were going to eat, just the parental assumption that because the baby was the centerpiece of their life, it would be OK to make it the centerpiece of my dinner party.
I was socially paralyzed. Cute baby; wonderful baby; amazing baby. But this was a dinner party of adults who, heretofore, had met regularly and had wonderful conversations over leisurely dinners.
What was I going to say? Nothing.
What was I going to do? I became a silent – but studious – observer of parenting differences, taking notes that would amount, ultimately, to my own internal parenting manual for that time in my early 40s when my husband and I finally did become parents.
That dinner party remains a vivid memory: The first shot across the bow in my experience of the “mommy wars.” Or as the latest thesis on the topic, a New York Times Sunday Style section story, called it: “differences over parenting.”
The mommy wars often center on the stay-at-home-or-not issue; but it does go beyond that to parenting styles. The Times story centers on friendships that go MIA when babies arrive, and quoted an expert who boiled it all down to the “I’m a better mother than you” syndrome.