In the future, conversations with new mums will sound like this.

“So, how’s it going?”

“Oh, well, just really, average, you know? Erm, normal parenting stuff. She does a bit of – ah – sleeping – and em – feeding. Makes baby type noises.”

“So is she an easy baby? Is she sleeping through yet? Doing controlled crying? What about her appetite? Are you breastfeeding?”

“You know, every day is – er – different. Feeding – well – I’m mixing it up. Settling – gee – I don’t want to put a label on it. Hubby and I are experimenting with a few things to see what works.”

“And schooling. Do you have her on a list yet? Or are you going public?”

“Ahem. I should be going now – ah – I think I can hear her making those – erm – baby noises again.” (Runs away.)

It’s no wonder women won’t speak frankly about motherhood.

Every word is analysed, categorised, and packed into boxes marked Not Good Enough.

The latest skirmish in the so-called “Mummy Wars” (I hate that expression) was sparked by an interview with Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (pictured right, with her child).

The superstar of Silicon Valley said her baby was “way easier than everyone made it out to be” while being honoured as one of Fortune’s most powerful women. This online assault follows the same trajectory as that following her shortened maternity leave.

It makes me want to scream, “Enough!”

Where’s the outcry about men who are back at work “too soon” after the birth of their kids?

Certainly, women need time to recover from the birth, establish breastfeeding, and bond with their babies. But every woman is different; every baby is different.

Some women need weeks; for others it’s years.

Of course money makes it easier. Marissa Mayer is among the one percent. She does not represent the average mother.

According to one blogger, “She’s showing great disrespect to women who don’t have it as easy as she does, and are certainly working harder to raise their families. She stuck her silver plated foot in her mouth, now she has to deal with the blowback like a grownup.”

But she hasn’t criticised other women; she’s simply spoken of her own experience. Imagine the backlash if she’d said it was “hard”.

“Women can’t have it all,” the headline would have read.

On the other side of the coin, Mitt Romney’s wife Ann – a stay at home mum – copped abuse for tweeting about how tough it was to raise five boys.

(If I had five boys, I’d be rocking in a corner with pencils stuck up my nose. But that’s another story.)

This a war in which no one wins.

One of my colleagues at Sky News, Jacinta Tynan, was shocked by the response to her article about baby bliss after the birth of her son, Jasper. She received hundreds of angry emails, comments and tweets.

Later, she wrote about the challenges of juggling two kids.

Despite admitting she was blessed to have healthy babies, Jacinta (pictured below) was peppered with contempt.

“Heaven forbid that you suffered from post natal depression or had a child (with) birth defects. Would you still gloat about how wonderful your picket fence life is?” one of the comments read.

For most of us, parenthood is far from perfect.

If I had to resort to labels, I would say I had a “hard” first pregnancy because we both almost died during childbirth.

Funnily enough, he turned out to be an “easy” baby who slept through the night within eight weeks.

The second was an “easy” pregnancy followed by a “hard” baby who screamed for months on end, and refused to take the bottle after I had five bouts of mastitis.

I know plenty of women who do it a lot tougher: living with a violent partner; not enough money to feed the family; caring for children with disabilities.

Perhaps we should be using our energy to help these women, instead of judging others?

In the words of Jessica Grose of Slate: “To the commentators whining that Mayer calling her baby easy makes you feel bad about yourself: Get a backbone and stop comparing yourself to her. If you want to make a difference, fight for non-CEO ladies to get real leave and benefits so that their babies might also be easy, or in any event, easier.”

Let’s give new mums the freedom to talk about their experiences with openness and honesty, and without jealousy or judgement.


*Photo of Jacinta Tynan by Andrew Johnson via The Age.



The Joint’s Destroying Us

The Hobbit of Homophobia

Life’s A Glamorous Gamble

Dear Mr Sexist

*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.


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  • Reply December 4, 2012


    My favourite comment is by Eleanor Rossevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” So if you feel inferior you need to take responsibility for that. It is not just about what other people say or do it is also about you and your feelings. Be happy with what you have and then what others say or think what matter to you.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    that should say “wont matter to you” not “what matter to you”

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I’m finding it even starts during pregnancy, which doesn’t make you feel good when you are coping with all that it brings along with it.
    Best advice I have had – whatever negative comments you get are more a reflection on the person saying them than they are on you. Smile and move on, your choices don’t need to be justified to every Tom, Dick or Harry.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I’m so over ‘Mummies’ full stop. For two thousand years everyone just got on with it. Now it’s a defining role that needs to get talked about endlessly….*yawn*. I do it too but I am working on it….

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    There seems to be this perception that all comments made by a woman in the limelight have to represent their entire gender. Don’t know why that is. Are we not individuals? Should we not celebrate our differences and learn from each other?

    In a way it’s a form of control – could even say it was bullying because this sort of criticism is unjustified. Seems everyone wants to make women fit a mould and stay in their place.

    And yes I dislike it. Thanks Tracy for highlighting this attitude. You’re absolutely right.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    With the amount of hype, rubbish, BS and fear that’s fed to pregnant women no wonder many new Mum’s have it out of context. There’s a gadget, pill or potion for everything. The simplicity of pregnancy, childbirth and Motherhood has become so darn complicated and competitive it makes my head spin.
    Recently my Grand Daughter had bub number two and in three years since bub number one the ‘must have’ stuff has got worse.
    Let’s not start about the SAHM’s and the WAHM’s who seem to think it’s part of the Motherhood competition to start a business. It’s all very admirable to appear bionic at running a household, family and a business but what about those who feel inadequate or left out due to isolation or finances.
    The competition of mothering is out of hand. Helping the women who are doing it tough is way more beneficial to everyone.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Talking about motherhood is the right of mothers. If you want to judge someone, or judge yourself, that’s your right too. But it’s a more enlightened individual who can listen to someone else’s experience or reflect on their own, without judging, simply accepting. That’s the journey I am on.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Wendy Green

    Mother of four, grandmother to one and all I can say is: my, how things have changed … And not.
    All I know is, there is more than one way to raise a child and, as grandmothers, and historically the most critical of the next generation, we have to be flexible and let the new Mums do things their own way, only giving advice when it is sort after.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Brilliant comment, Wendy. You’re right – there are many different ways raising a child. Whatever gets you through the night, I reckon! x

    • Reply December 4, 2012


      Tracey, you took the words right out of my mouth. My mantra used to be “what ever gets you through the night”.

      My poor mother inlaw once gave me some advice (imagine) and I may gave been a little tired, emotional and somewhat hormonal – to which I thrust the baby at her and went off for a sleep.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Tony W

    @ ally – “My favourite comment is by Eleanor Rossevelt “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

    Blokes are much better at this, we really don’t give a rats about criticism from other blokes, it’s like water off a duck’s back. Can you imagine “Daddy Wars”? I think not.

    • Reply December 4, 2012


      Valid points Tony, but he difference between mums and dads is the hormone level.

      I was hyper sensitive with my first baby, by the second the stock answer was “whatever gets you through the night”, and if the person continued, I’d answer “you may be right, but I dont think so”.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I so agree with Lydia.

    Yes, women are Mums, but we are also partners and sisters and friends and colleagues and people…and yet we go on and on about this one particular role in our lives…ad nauseum…and feel free to make comment on everyone else’s way of mothering. Imagine if we talked about our role as a life partner as much…*yawn! Surely, it doesn’t reflect the complexity and wonder of our lives.

    Being a Mum is incredibly special…but there’s actually more to me than that…

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Another reason I don’t want to have babies!

    • Reply December 4, 2012


      VV – no one should ever have children due to social pressure. By the way not having a children is a valid choice too.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Annie Also

    Thank you so much for this article.
    My daughter has just had her first baby, our first grandchild.
    She is 1300klms from me.
    We talk via skype and to hear her crying with the overwhelming feelings of being a mum, being tired, and the expectations ‘out there’ it is awful. Whether it be; “Is baby sleeping through the night ( 41/2 months old don’t be stupid), are you still breastfeeding ( roll eyes coz she is) or are you leaving him on the breast at night coz She is so tired it is a relief to get any sleep you control crying ( she is not cruel), when are you going back to work ( in time) and when are you going to get back your pre baby body again (????What the hell is that???)
    So it is all new to me, again ( after three children and she is my youngest) in how to deal with this new attitude to being a mother.
    I try to explain to her that it is NOT a what feels right for you, your hubby and bubby; and you have made a human…it was traumatic ( a bit of a rough start) for you and baby and after what your body has miraculously done, why SHOULD it be ‘back to where it was’? What a freakin’ insult to Mother Nature would that be!!

    I feel so much for mums now.
    In my day it was – how to tell my mother I am breastfeeding as long as possible, or how to breastfeed in public without being abused ( in Qld 1977) etc.
    I just wanted to make sure my babies were healthy, growing and my husband still loved and wanted me. Full Stop.

    It is such a wonderful experience…I want her to ‘lighten up’ and just enjoy. I know it is hard work but the time flies and it is for such a short time…you can make it fun and don’t look too far ahead..just enjoy each day.
    I wish that women, whatever THEIR experiences would support all other women in this amazing life’s work!

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Elaine George

    Oh my goodness – such great comments and insight!!!

    I agree that as women we need to be more supportive of one another, and dare I say more tolerant – vive la difference!!!

    It’s not just the baby scene and negotiating mother’s group, playground rules/etiquette, playgroup etc – that’s just the beginning – OMG – just wait until they start school!!!

    The scary thing (I think) is seeing how some parents impose way too much on their children – almost as a compensation for what they didn’t do or get as a child.
    Most children don’t care what they wear or where they go on holidays as long as they have fun…..

    Unfortunately we live in a competitive world, but it’s not survival of the fittest….it’s survival of the sanest!!!

    Also so true re time going so quickly – we all need constant reminders that the seemingly relentless treadmill will stop – BUT we have to take responsibility ourselves – nurture ourselves and our relationship – even if that does mean brief escapes – this always gives perspective & appreciation!

    Elaine George

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Jan Dobson

    Well said! Don’t think it’s an entirely new phenomena but the “tell you how to live your life” brigade are rampant & parenting is one area where many of us are particularly vulnerable.

    Yes, we can choose how much to take on board, but not everyone has that depth of experience or confidence in every aspect of their life.

    We all need go be more supportive of, and less competitive with, each other. Remember, since there aren’t any perfect people in this world, no one has managed to be the perfect parent.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Sam Stone

    AWESOME article! Totally well said.
    Poor Mums can’t take a break, too hard or too easy and there is someone (sadly sometimes another Mum) to give you what for!
    Let’s support each other no matter what!

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Tony W

    I remember years ago parents used to laugh it off with the old joke “babies should come with an instruction manual.” Now there are too many instruction manuals!

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    As a non-maternal woman without kids I just don’t get it. If your kid is healthy and happy, and the mother is healthy and happy and the family is healthy and happy isn’t that what matters? As if anyones going to give a toss about the details once the baby is older… nobody has ever asked me if I was breastfed as a baby, or if mum used cloth nappies on us, or whether she was a stay at home parent, or if she had a c-section, or whatever, and I suspect the same is true for the majority of us. We are all functioning adults and we were all raised differently so why the judgement and stuff? Can’t get my head around it.
    If I am ever knocked up I will probably answer questions if people ask but I wouldn’t enter into discussion about it. Or maybe I’d say “I dunno, ask the boyfriend, I’m just incubating it and after I hatch it he is in charge” because a) why shouldn’t he be and b) it’d probably shut some people up 😉

    Ah, perhaps I’m just naive.

    Jonah, obviously you move in different circles to most of us, as I know precisely zero women like that. But if you take the flipside of your argument, wouldn’t that mean that these ‘lousy’ dads only suddenly want to take care of their kids when divorce is on the table? If so doesn’t that make both parties jerks and therefore rain on your sexist parade?

    • Reply December 5, 2012

      jonah stiffhausen

      not sure what you’re referring to here as there is absolutely no record of any comment of mine on this subject.
      Unless of course there was one and it was removed by our guardians of free speech!
      Roll on sisters!

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    One of the upsides to having 3 developmentally disabled children, two with autism, is that I have stepped off the competitive roundabout a long time ago and am enjoying the view from the outside. As an example, group of mums talking about how little johnny or little chloe is struggling to read their readers and I chime in and say I suppose it’s good my daughter can’t talk – I don’t have to struggle with those boring readers. It kind of puts them in their place and is the only way to look at life. Because of my situation, I always get a lot of mums opening up to me about all the issues they have with their kids. Believe me, the vast majority of kids have struggles with different things at different times. And if the kids aren’t struggling, the parents might have their own issues! Please enjoy your kids! I’m doing my best to enjoy mine even though the road is hard and I have no idea where it is going. I love that some people have it easy with their kids and that they say so. Easy kids do exist! Although I can’t work due my kids needs, I’m really inspired by people who can. I’m also inspired by people who care for their kids at home. If I had five boys I’d have more than pencils up my nose! I think we need to be more accepting of everyone’s situation. My four year old is non-verbal and not toilet trained but he just had a magic time at his kinder Christmas singalong with the help of his aide. When you stop breastfeeding or when they sleep at night doesn’t matter a toss.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Beautiful comments, Vicki. You have just put everything into perspective. I take my hat off to you. x

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Onya Vicki. I have felt for my sister a long, long way away who juggles this stuff in amongst wanting “to be a good mother”, and finding a career (some thing to do) which suits her needs, and her nature….

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I am not sure when society decided that women had to be perfect mothers and never talk about their frustrations. This is the very thing that makes women judge and put misplaced frustrations on other mothers.
    If I let other mothers know I had PND or make a bad joke about looking after my kids or admit I prefer working to entertaining (bathing or feeding) my kids, the other mothers will join in and agree but in hushed tones because we all know we are supposed to love it and it is the pinnacle of being a woman.
    Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t because all women are different. You (society, men?) can’t put all women into one category when they have children.
    We all need a sympathetic ear for both good and bad times, and even in our exhausted (or not) state, shrug off unwanted suggestions and criticism. The important thing is knowing we are supported no matter the situation.
    Mothers are great but not perfect. Don’t even try to be, it isn’t worth it.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    We women need to do ourselves a favour and stop judging each other especially in the area of parenting (weight is he other one, but another story ). We need to be confident in ourselves and our choices and trust that others are doing the same.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    mudhouse jane

    Same as the ridiculous vapors from anti-feminists: it’s all about freedom of choice, people. Hard won and not to be taken lightly. As far as motherhood goes: it was a blinding shock to me that I had NO say over how easy/difficult my baby would be: write board papers etc no problem; deal with my 24 hour party baby, eek!! I had a cast of people in hospital advising me on 1001 variations of doing the same task. Back, front sleeping, you name it. Being a mum or dad is part of life: you just get on with it, crossing everything and hoping for miracles and guardian angels.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    With regards to the “mummy wars”, I guess we have to realise there are women as well as men who are happy to bully and judge others. We really need to accept this and as others have commented, realise when a comment is made about A women it doesn’t necessarily mean ALL women. BTW, have you noticed how many articles there are that emphasise divisiveness among women at the moment? Coupled with the rise and rise of sites like the Hoopla and Destroy the Joint. I think the establishment may be feeling a wee bit unsettled. Lets hope so.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I reckon “Mummy Wars” is a false paradigm.

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Sadly, I think the ‘mummy wars’ is just an extension of the over-competitive culture we seem to live in these days. Everything now seems to be about having more than someone else, and sometimes it is those who have the most who seem to complain the most. Their children become nothing more than another status symbol or accessory. When will we ever learn to simply appreciate what we have already been blessed with.

  • Reply December 4, 2012

    Mrs Woog

    It is terrifying, funny, revolting, exhausting, hilarious, joyful, worrying, boring, exhilarating, amazing, mundane, dull, rewarding, hysterical, underpaid, over-rewarded, fretful, diverse, unpredictable, neurotic-inducing, concerning, heart-exploding, slave-driven, frustrating, guilt-ridden, pant-wetting, heart-thumping, pride-bursting and…. more.

    I have a challenging and rewarding enough time dealing with being a Mum to worry about how others think how I am doing.


  • Reply December 4, 2012


    I have cared for many families in my career as a nanny and I was sort of surprised at first when I’d ask mums what THEY wanted for their kids (after they had given me the ‘list’ they had created). Sometimes they wouldn’t even be able to answer.
    After 12 years I had my own – I was lucky I suppose – I’d already seen what was important and what wasn’t.
    The main thing that I learnt was that families were the happiest when they were able to follow their own dreams – raise their kids in the way THEY wanted to.
    BOLLOCKS was a term often shared when mums would start repeating stories, myths and other beliefs – now I find myself saying it to the strapping teenagers I find myself surrounded by (which seems really strange especially when they have outgrown me!).
    Mums feel vulnerable, same as these teens. Support mums where they are and in what they want to achieve – remind them that they CAN have everything, just not all at once (and really who’d want to!). And when the crappola starts flowing, send it to the bollocks pile and get on with enjoying life 😉

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    Mrs.Woog, you are just expleting, and inhaling life, like the rest of us, sharing the planet at the same time,with, or without “mummy” status”……

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    We are our own worst enemies. Let’s stick together girls and support each other. Just remember that yes we can have it all just not all at the same time!

  • Reply December 4, 2012


    We, as Mothers, all have a story. A story that reflects our journey through life. The birth of our child, the health of our child, our marital status or the state of our marriage are only a few things that make each of our stories different. We have each our own journey to complete, if only we would each simply get on with living our own lives and stop examining other’s.

  • Reply December 5, 2012


    women r their own worst enemy….one reason my best friend is a man.

  • Reply December 5, 2012


    I don’t think we are our own worst enemy. I think people are people, some are great, some won’t like you, some are awful. Something I’ve learned since becoming a mum is that some women won’t be supportive and will dump their anxieties and judgments on you, not their experiences, their values and narrow vision of how mothers and families are supposed to be. They probably aren’t aware they are even doing it. If you come across someone like that…someone who questions everything you do…just move on nicely. Find the people who are supportive and ‘get it’ and continue along the path that suits you. We don’t all get along but we can surround ourselves with the ones we do get along with! You can’t sit around letting others chip away at you in the hope that they will one day be understanding, been there, done that, just a drain.

  • Reply December 5, 2012


    why do we always have to make our lives harder than they already are. There is no right or wrong way only the way that works for you and your baby, they grow up too quickly and you find all that angst is wasted energy, they don’t remember.

  • Reply December 5, 2012


    if its your first baby and you are at home shelve everything for that time. when the baby sleeps – you sleep too. if the baby is quiet for some time throw things in the washer. it gets easier. i had two babies in 15 months. the good thing was i took all the help offered. i tried to do it all but found i couldnt. dont compare yourself or your baby to any other. each mother is different and so too is each child. the best advice i can give any new mum is follow your instincts and let the experts get on with being experts. enjoy your baby time as its a great experience.
    women who choose to not have children should not give any advice no matter how well thought out.

  • Reply December 7, 2012


    […] I’m So Over The Mummy Wars […]

  • […] At least the shortlist goes some way towards redressing that imbalance. Three of the eight are women: Hillary Clinton (pictured right); Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist shot by the Taliban; and Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer. […]

  • Reply January 22, 2013

    Alison Hallworth (@cheekyfriend)

    I loved both Jacinta’s articles. It is beautiful. it is wonderful. It is challenging. It is bollocks. It is all things. And I like this article too Tracey. Enough already.

  • […] I’m So Over the “Mummy Wars” […]

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