This week my friend and blogger extraordinaire Rebecca Woolf posted a brilliant essay seeking to understand why parents are so afraid to admit that we’re good at this parenting business. “Claiming to be bad parents is the new I’m fat,” she writes.
I loved it. (But then I love everything she writes.)
The same way we don’t want to say that our kids are smart in front of other parents, we are so quick to proclaim—even exaggerate--our own failures. For fear of being competimommies or alienating potential friends and mommygang compadres, we instead take comfort under a cloak of feigned incompetence and overstated shortcomings.
Shut UP. You’re thinking. Your own blog tagline is “I don’t know what I’m doing either.”
I’m self-deprecating, sure. And I often don’t know what I’m doing. Do you?
All the time?
It's okay. Ease up on yourself a little bit, mamas. Bushwacking your way through the parenting jungle blindfolded (okay, blindfolded with both arms tied behind your back in a monsoon during a total eclipse) doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent. Surely there's a distinction between winging it and blowing it entirely.
Which is why I’m never going to say I’m a bad mom.
Okay, so I do. Sometimes. Facetiously.
Like I fed her peanut butter twice today because reheating the couscous that Nate left in the fridge feels too much like cooking. Oh, and it’s not organic peanut butter – it’s Skippy. Bad mommy.
We watched six consecutive episodes of the Wonderpets. Before breakfast. Bad mommy.
I cleaned out Thalia’s pack n play (a.k.a. the repository of toys n’ crap) and found two paper clips a button, a ball point pen, a deflated balloon and some plastic bags. Bad mommy.
Read between the lines and you won’t conclude that I actually consider myself a bad mommy; my self-assessment is more a sarcastic nod to the Judgy McJudgersons out there who have deemed themselves official arbiters of good and bad parenting behaviors--which is where I think so much of the guilt comes from in the first place.
Who are these people anyway?
I mean, besides Dr Sears who makes it perfectly clear that if you haven’t mastered the 47 various breastfeeding holds and don’t cosleep with your children until they ace their PSAT's you’re doomed to raise a brood of serial killers. Or worse, minimum wage fast food employees.
Is there some sort of Bad Parents Council of America? A group comprised of psychologists and researchers and a token marketing executive from Fisher-Price? Are they ones who surreptitiously phone the media with leads for the next mommywars story? (Moms who drink at playdates! Type A moms! Sic ‘em, Meredith.) Are they the people who invented Turn off the TV Week, or, as those of us with pre-preschoolers prefer to think of it: Ew Why Does Mommy Smell Like She Hasn’t Showered for a Week Week?
If so, I’d love to have a little sit-down with them, that they might consider wielding their collective influence in some constructive ways. For one, helping to get more moms to distinguish good/maybe not-as-good parenting choices from good/bad parenting.
I’d also like to warn the council that their influence trickles down to some parents who then wield the information indiscriminately and with sometimes brutal imprecision—think Luke with a light sabre, pre-Yoda.
I still sting a bit from the woman who googled crying it out leading to depression later in life, and came across my emotional post about trying in desperation to get my amazing non-sleeping baby to sleep by crying it out. This benevolent reader took a few minutes of her precious time to post a helpful comment suggesting I should be sterilized for doing so, since “even animals treat their children better.”
(The weasel came to mind immediately. They sometimes spare their offspring any pain of the world simply by eating them.)
I laughed at her of course, then forwarded the email onto friends so we could make sarcastic jokes at her expense. But in the back of my mind, I had to question whether I was a bad mom for the choice I had made.
The answer, I'm happy to say: A resounding no. I’m insecure but not so insecure that I will let any idiot with an agenda and an internet connection make me question my parenting instincts for more than a moment. And I think that alone makes me a pretty good mom.
To say nothing of the fact that I've got a good kid. Her grandparents will back me up on this one.
It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. Here’s a suggestion: Why not give yourself the gift of a much needed break. Grab a full-fat latte with a shot of caramel and make a few mental notes about why you’re a good parent and not a crappy one. You can even jot them down and send them off to Rebecca for all the mommyworld to see. I guarantee you'll get some amen, sister's and cheesy virtual hugs in return.
Now pass the Skippy. I've got a kid to feed.
You'll find my Monday posts cross-published every week at NYC family online resource to the stars, Time Out New York Kids. Except for the next few, when I'll either be on maternity hiatus or in the mental ward.