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In May I gave birth to a beautiful girl; my oldest will be 2 this month. My children are the joy of my life. And I'm glad I feel that way now, because some day they will be teenagers.

By the time I finally got married at age 32, I had spent decades thinking about becoming a mother—something I'd always wanted. I had analyzed and overanalyzed how I would discipline, which virtues I would emphasize, and what educational philosophies I would follow.

I thought I had pondered everything.

And then I joined a neighborhood e-mail discussion group for parents. I was soon a witness to the Mommy Wars. Originally, the big battle was whether women should work outside the home. Now the wars engage a wide range of parenting questions:

Is it better to raise children in the city or suburbs? Should you breast-feed or use formula? If formula, which type? How much should you nurse? Do you want to join a "nurse-in" to protest bans on public breast-feeding? Are Cesarean sections evil and overused, or modern-day medical miracles? How much effort should be made to avoid products containing the chemical Bisphenol A? Does an environmentally conscious consumer purchase disposable or cloth diapers? Is it your civic duty to send your children to public schools? Or is it an unconscionable act of abandonment when you live where I do—in Washington, D.C.?

The wars show no signs of abating. In April, The Atlantic set off weeks of debate after publishing "The Case Against Breast-feeding," a lengthy lament about the sacrifices of parenting. And late last year, we witnessed the Motrin Moms saga when the drug company posted a snarky online advertisement about how its painkiller helps ease the pain associated with carrying children in wraps and slings worn ...

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In the Magazine

September 2009

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