I just started watching the second season of Big Little Lies last night. I enjoy the show and like supporting the female talent associated with it. But I want to be clear to anyone who isn’t a mom yet, or is a mom to kids younger than school age: It doesn’t have to be that way. 

I always get a little creeped out by the stereotypes of motherhood on the show. The agro, money-obsessed working mom. The meddling, busybody, stay-at-home mom. The trainwreck damaged mom. The mom who is a closeted abuse victim who still adores her abuser. The—check the box!—mom of color who doesn’t quite fit in. And, this season, the mom who makes endless excuses for her abusive POS son because, well, to moms, sons are little gods on earth. And mostly the culture of a snooty private school where moms constantly destroy other moms as part of their responsibility, along with pickup and drop off and bake sales. 

I get it makes good TV. It makes good TV for a reason. The same reason people get excited make “cat fight” jokes when two women argue. There’s a large part of this country that consciously or unconsciously wants women divided. (Facebook—where some 88% of women witness mom-shaming—has made a massive business out of it.)

I’m sure there are some California private schools like this. But my kids’ school isn’t. At my kids’ school, most of the moms work. They work because the love it, they work because they have to in this crazy-expensive city, or they don’t work but I don’t actually know that, because no one walks around wearing a badge of honor either way. At my kids’ school, the moms support each other, doing last minute pick ups or pitching in on group Postmates gift certificate when someone has a rough time. No one feels less than if they need help. They feel more than because they get help. At my kids’ school, the dads are also on the parents’ committee, and no one thinks that is weird or gets them any fatherhood bonus extra credit. At my kids’ school, you aren’t expected to bake. At my kids’ school, when we start a new school year, we all just genuinely hug each other because the parents missed each other as much as the kids all summer. 

I was reminded of this stark contrast because my kids are going to a camp held at their school this week. I only put them in two weeks of camp at school because I felt like, jeez, they are there all year, it’s probably healthy to have a break, right? And while I still think that’s true, the three of us were so ecstatic this morning. Them flinging arms around teachers and pals they’ve missed, and me flinging arms around parents I’d missed. 

That first episode of this season when Reese Witherspoon’s character is talking about how each year the moms have to earn their place again, dissect each other all over again, look for reasons to tear each other down…Don’t be fooled. It’s the same as any other mommy war popularized by social media and mainstream media. Women don’t wake up wanting to tear each other down. We get baited into it. Just don’t take the bait.

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

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