Enough With the Mommy Wars, Already!

The mommy wars are killing me. Raise your children however you'd like. Just please—please—stop telling me about it. Do whatever you want: stay at home with your kids, wear gym clothes all day and make your own organic baby food. Work 60 hours a week, fire your babysitter every six months and communicate with your children via BlackBerry. Declare your toddler carbon neutral or get your hair highlighted while you're in labor. Breast-feed your kid till he's 17! I'm a single working mother, and should be interested in all this, but I'm not.

I am bored to death with talking, hearing and reading about motherhood. I know all about the war between working mothers and women who stay at home with their children (though I see little real evidence of it). I'm fed up with snotty message-board posts. I'm tired of Yummy Mummies, Alpha Mommies, Rock-Star Mommas, Momzillas and MILFs (Moms I'd Like to F---). I've begun to dread mommy-lit novels, including the latest entry, "Slummy Mummy."

We have become Narcissist Mommies, obsessed with defending our parenting choices. Yes, motherhood is exhausting. Sure, husbands could be more helpful and bosses are always demanding something on the day your kid comes home with lice. The challenge of finding good, affordable child care is no joke. But we didn't exactly invent kids. "No one can ever understand how difficult it is," says Kateria Niambi, a publishing executive from Montclair, N.J., and single mother of girls, ages 14 and 11. "But once you are a mother, you need to get over it. There's no need to whine about it."

We aren't likely to stop anytime soon. Newspapers chronicle every maternal skirmish the way sportswriters follow Barry Bonds's home runs. My favorite headline so far this year: laid-back mothers gaining ground on the perfect mom. Newsmagazines play their part. A NEWSWEEK cover in 2005 delved into "Mommy Madness," based on a book about "why this generation feels so insane." Stacks of nonfiction books appear each year, including the recent "The Feminine Mistake" by Leslie Bennetts, which argues that mothers should have jobs.

Most of these books and articles are well researched and well meaning. But because most of them are written by women like me, who do not have to worry about how to pay for basic medical care for their children, they can come off as a bit, well, self-involved. "Sure, it gets a little sickening after a while to read about the minutiae of their households and their little family dramas," says Lucy Kaylin, author of "The Perfect Stranger: The Truth About Mothers and Nannies." But it's "some of the most important stuff any of us will ever go through."

Important? Absolutely. Interesting? Well, that's debatable. Which is making it hard to tackle this summer's crop of mommy-lit novels. Back in 2002, I got a kick out of "I Don't Know How She Does It," by Allison Pearson. The travails of protagonist Kate Reddy, a hedge-fund manager and mother of two who "distresses" a pie she's supposed to bring to a school event so it looks homemade, were pretty amusing. But a few years and a growing pile of books in pastel jackets have taken the fun out of the genre. There was "Babyville" (a 33- year-old TV producer decides she needs a baby and becomes obsessed with getting pregnant); "The Yummy Mummy" (a new mother gets a makeover from a West London "friend" who reminds her of the importance of groomed eyebrows), and "Shopaholic and Baby" (the Brits have a lot to answer for in this genre), to name a few.

And now, in case there's a mother left on Earth who doesn't know that toddlers pee in the darnedest places, we have "Slummy Mummy," by Fiona Neill. The book's heroine, Lucy Sweeney, gives up a big career as a TV news producer to stay home with her three sons. She bungles her way through one domestic disaster after another, losing her credit card 11 times in a year and sending an e-mail about sex with her husband to every parent in her son's class. Like the protagonists in many of these books, Lucy takes a hard look at the lives of women around her—and eventually decides hers isn't so bad. Like many authors before her, Neill has a wry respect for the tribulations of motherhood.

But she also can't resist dividing women into stereotypes. Our sloppy heroine must contend with the hypercompetitive Alpha Mum, and Yummy Mummy No. 1, who wears Christian Louboutins to school drop-off. Worse, Neill is breathless about life's dreary routines: "It is utterly baffling to me that I used to be able to put together the lead package on Newsnight in less than an hour but am so singularly unable to meet the challenge of getting my children ready for school each morning." I think most mothers would be baffled that she's baffled. I, too, have hectic mornings: my 7-year-old asks me when we can move to a bigger house, we navigate a tearful debate over which bathing suit to wear to swim lessons and I discuss with my ex-husband what I should wear to his birthday party, all before 8:30. I race off to work without looking in the mirror or having read a word of the newspaper, and end up on a subway car with a mariachi band. But I recognize that it's just not that interesting. Except for the mariachi band.

My mother's generation didn't have the time to obsess. They plopped their toddlers down in playpens while they cleaned their own houses, cooked their own meals and tried to save money in what was a far less affluent era. My mother reminisced recently that she used to leave me as an infant napping in my stroller outside on our porch in New Jersey. Under the watchful eyes of our dog. ("He was a very caring dog," she says, only slightly defensively.) Motherhood had a slightly careless feel, but I had a wonderful childhood.

Some of our current anxiety is justified, of course. I grew up in an age without car seats, before professional opportunities—and pressures—for women exploded. By the 1990s, nurture seemed to have trumped nature, and researchers began to focus on how experiences in a child's first years of life could affect his or her later development. It wasn't long before marketers trumpeted the message that children's success in life would be largely determined by how frequently mothers ate salmon during pregnancy or how often they played Mozart in the nursery.

Today's mommy angst makes perfect sense, according to Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at University of the Arts. Modern feminism sprang up in the 1960s mostly in reaction to the climate of the '50s, when the wifely arts were sanctified. But not long after Betty Friedan (who was a housewife on New York's Long Island) wrote "The Feminine Mystique," the women's movement became largely focused on opening up professional opportunities for women. Younger women today, Paglia says, are simply rebelling against the legacy of women who prized their professional roles at the expense of family. They want to talk about how to balance work and home. A lot.

As long as women keep having babies—and writing about it—we'll have something to wring our hands about. Dana Gers, a senior vice president for marketing at Ferragamo USA and mother of two girls, 9 and 6, said she was depressed by the overwhelmed heroine of "I Don't Know How She Does It." Still, Gers says she just might pick up a copy of "Slummy Mummy." It's nice to read something that "gives us permission to be worse mothers," she says. Permission granted.