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Friday, December 2, 2016

In February 1989, I ended a phone interview for a magazine story I was writing and looked up to find my 21-month-old daughter imitating me.

She was standing just a few feet away at our coffee table. The receiver of a toy phone was crooked in the curve of her neck as she wrote curlicues in one of my reporter’s notebooks with one of my pencils.

“Yeah,” she said, over and over, nodding. “Yeah. Yeah.”

I froze.

She looked so cute, so seriously like me. Was that good? Was it bad?

I was working at home so that I could be with her, and she was trying to be just like me. Aw.

Still, work is work, and there she was, imitating the reason Mommy had told her to be quiet. Oh, God.

I stood there for a few moments as guilt and pride duked it out inside my head. My own little Mommy War, if you will.

Guilt won.

I reached for my camera and photographed the evidence of my screwed-up priorities. A reminder, I told myself. A reminder that I’m always a mother first.

Man, I’m glad those days are behind me.

Dear young mothers: Despite recent media coverage, you didn’t invent mother’s guilt.

Dear older mothers: How silly were we?

There are plenty of battles with guilt raging between the ears of most mothers, but there are no Mommy Wars. This doesn’t stop the media from trying to start one, of course.

The most recent toss of the grenade comes courtesy of Time magazine, which ran on its cover last week a slim, attractive mother gazing at the camera with a hand on her hip as she breast-fed her 3-year-old son, who was standing on a chair. He, too, was looking at the camera even as he suckled.

My immediate reaction was to feel mighty sorry for the years of schoolyard ridicule headed that little boy’s way.

I also admit to a pang of envy, as I never wore skinny jeans or skimpy tops during my land-to-air-missile days of nursing.

The headline on the cover: “Are you mom enough?”

And we’re off!