I’m Giving up Guilt this Mother’s Day–Care to Join Me?

Posted May 6, 2008 by

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I am a bad mom. At least, that’s what I tell myself on a regular basis.

There are examples galore to back up the self-blame. A good case in point: this very morning when I said, “Yeah, Honey, you can watch Nemo again while Mommy works on the computer.” (Bad mom.) And recently, my five-year-old son informed me that he did not like it when I talked in the “Mean Mommy Voice” when I was angry, and asked me to stop. To date, I haven’t. (Bad mom.) And then there was the day last year when we were up at the playground near our house. I’d met some other moms and was chatting away with them, watching my son’s red gym-shoed feet running around on the other side of the jungle gym. About 10 minutes into the conversation, a mother I’d never met before ran up to me. “Is your son eating an apple? Because he’s stuck up in the tree.” Gulp. I’d been watching the wrong kid running around on the playground. Bad mom! Even penguins don’t lose their babies on a beach full of thousands of them, right? I was wracked with guilt as I helped my son out of the tree, and then held him while he cried. (In the weeks that followed, most of his conversations with me seemed to start with, “Mommy, remember when I was up in the tree and I called and called for you and you didn’t come?”)

Bad mom.

It’s the mantra I have going in my head most days, and I have a hunch a lot of other moms do, too. The truth is, I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a mom, and I know I’ll make more. While I try to learn from them, I’ve also realized that we have to accept our imperfections at some point. We’ll never do everything right all of the time, but trying to be a “good enough” parent is sometimes, well, enough.

So this mother’s day I propose that we all call a ceasefire on the guilt and self-blame. That we think instead about the times when we read our kids The Cat in the Hat one more time, watched a video together snuggled up on the couch, really listened to them tell us about something that they were passionate about, sat in a cold stadium cheering on their soccer game/hockey match/swim meet, or stayed up late washing our kids’  clothes or working on a school project with them. The times we gave them the last chocolate in the box (even though we wanted it very, very badly.)

I have a truly revolutionary idea: Let’s take this Mother’s Day to celebrate all the small acts of love and selflessness that moms do every day and just give ourselves a break.

Happy mother’s day to all the good moms out there.

(And if you have the time, tell me your funniest, worst or most embarrassing “Bad Mom” moment. )


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Dr. Paul Report

    Hey moms, my hat goes off to you. You don’t fully realize the powerful impact you have on the world, as you do the most important job in the world. Lighten up and realize you are loved.

  2. Ari Ryder Report

    My “first baby” turned out to be twins. This gift has entitled me to double the “bad mom” moments, especially in the early years!

    When the twins were 8mths old I was rocking my daughter in the glider to calm her down during a fussy time (good mom), meanwhile ignoring her twin brother (bad mom). I then hear screaming and realize that I had “glided” over my son’s arm (bad mom). I immediately put my daughter down and grabbed him to take care of the arm situation (good mom) only to whack his head on the doorframe when I went to get ice for the arm (bad mom)!!

    There are so many more “bad mom” moments (like right now – since I am ignoring my 4 yr old to contribute my story to this blog), but it would probably be detrimental to the lives of my children for me to carry on to tell you about them!!

    I loved reading all of the stories from my fellow “bad moms” and look forward to many more!! You know you’re out there!!!

  3. Kam Ouellette Report

    Thank you for your article. After a lot of horrible and painful criticism from family members on both sides that actually finally has ended relationships with them – it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone in mistakes. Life is hard – so we need to take it a little easier on ourselves!

  4. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Hey Everyone, thanks for sharing your “bad mom” moments. Some of these stories made me laugh out loud (because I’ve done similar things and felt exactly the same way) and all of these accounts made me realize anew how hard we moms can be on ourselves at times. As MamaSara said, “Sometimes you just gotta laugh.”

  5. Julie McGeorge Report

    We all have our moments. Just remember, every day we get another chance to be the best we can be!

  6. Dawn Bradley Report

    I was cutting my middle son’s hair when he was a toddler and he was being a wiggly worm. He moved and I cut his ear lobe (bad Mom). He is a teenager now and never let me cut his hair again. Everytime I take him for a haircut he tells the hair dresser how I cut his ear lobe. He can remember this, but can’t remember his chore list!
    When anyone of my three sons has a splinter, they remove it themselves! I always aske to help, but they all say the same: “Mom you hurt me when you remove it!” Bad Mom! I am an E.R. nurse!

  7. MamaSara Report

    When my daughter was getting married, she and her sister went to a very expensive salon to have their hair and make-up done. When they came home, I thought their make-up looked so garish and unnatural that I blurted out something like, You look like my little clown babies. O my, how could I have done that! (bad, bad mom!) They would have cried except for wrecking all that make-up, so they pouted all afternoon. My daughter still reminds me how 6 years ago I almost ruined her wedding. See, even we moms with grown-up kids can be “bad moms”. Ya just gotta laugh!

  8. Carri B Report

    I have also locked my first baby in the car in the heat of the summer (luckily I have AAA and did not have the embarrassment of fire trucks and policemen but it happened at a friends house and she has yet to let me forget it), lost my toddler at Fred Meyers and was blessed by a wonderful lady who saw him go out the front door looking for me and brought him to the courtesy counter (terrifying experience, I cried for and hour afterward thinking of “what if”), and caught my tiny infant hanging out of his stroller because I failed to buckle him in. But the one that stands out in my mind is when I had my brand new baby all bundled up for winter. We’d been out shopping and she’d fallen asleep in her car seat, so when I brought her in the house, I left her in the seat nice and cozy. I got busy doing things and about 20 minutes later I checked on her. She was breathing really hard and was soaked all over. I hadn’t thought about how hot she would get still bundled up now inside the warm house. It’s a good thing I finally checked on her, she was so tiny, I might have lost her to heat exhaustion (bad, bad mom). Teens have their own set of difficulties, but at least they aren’t as vulnerable physically to our “bad mom” moments as babies can be. I guess we should count our blessings?.

  9. Brooke Report

    I have to say that most of these “bad mom” testomonials, don’t seem so bad to me. Most of them are accidents, plain and simple and not deliberate acts which I think consitute real bad mom behavior.

    I once threw a ham sandwich at my three year old, which was deliberate and very, very bad mom. He was starving, but wouldn’t eat because the turkey, that he loved yesterday, was “poopy” and even the strawberries tasted funny. He promised me he would eat the ham sandwich, which I made to specifics, so when he said he didn’t like the way I cut it, I flipped. I didn’t throw the sandwich at him, rather at the table where he was sitting. I am not proud of myself, it was one of my rock bottom parenting moments, but interestingly enough he did stop crying and eat the sandwich.

  10. Sue Report

    It is amazing how much it helps to know you are not alone!
    I was pushing my three year old son in an umbrella stroller, in which he was not buckled in. I was also not paying attention and hit a big bump in the sidewalk, so he flew out, landed on his face and chipped one of his front teeth. It been over 6 months and i have almost forgiven myself, but it’s hard to foget my bad mom moment every time i see him smile!

  11. Tara Borek Report

    Thank you for sharing I am feeling like a terrible mom- I have five kids of my own- all grown- three step kids- all grown, then adopted two relative boys with a need for a family and am really struggling with them- both are strong willed. I tell myself I’m not doing this the way I want to and I am a bad mom more than a Good one… I am so glad to read other mom’s comments. I was not celebrating Mother’s Day because of how I’m feeling.

  12. joan Report

    My third child fell off the counter in the bouncy seat when she was 2 months old (it never happened with her brothers!). My second child swore his throat hurt and I told him to stop complaining and sent him to school (yes, we later found out he had strep). My first child swore his uniform shorts no longer fit, but I sent him to school in them anyway. Yes, they ripped at school and he was mortified. I could go on and on and on….but I’m only human. I tell them it wouldn’t be any fun to have a perfect mom!

  13. Alison Report

    My daughter was 2 years old when we left the Burger King. I put her in her car seat (good mom) but then some way my keys landed in the seat. I went to get into the front seat — the doors were locked. My daughter had scooped up the keys and locked the doors. We live in the south and it was a typical July afternoon so needless to say it was about 90 some degrees and high humidity. My cell phone was on the front seat so the folks at Burger King called 911. Well, 2 fire trucks, 1 police car and and ambulance pulled up with sirens and all!! It was sooo embarassing!! The policeman approached me as if I put her in there on purpose to go into the restaurant without her!! She just sat in the car happy as a lark with her juice box in hand.

    She is now 6 and tells everyone how I locked her in the car to burn to death!! I have just started the total transformation series and am looking forward to learning how to handle my VERY head strong little girl.

    Thank you!

  14. Cyndi Report

    My church has a youth group function every Tuesday evening. My oldest, Jessica had been attending for three years. Finally my son, Tim, was old enough to start attending and this was his first night. I was in a car pool and it was my night to drive about six kids home. I got almost all the way home and realized I had left Tim. (really bad mom) I was devastated. It was then difficult to engage him in a conversation about how his first youth meeting went. All he could talk about was how I left him.

  15. Rachel Standley Report

    My 2year sold son and I were at the pumpkin patch a few days before Halloween. He was having a great time but it was passed nap time and his attitude was becoming obvious. I was carrying a pumpkin, my purse, diaper bag, bag full of candy and Gabriel. When we got to the car, I set him down at my feet to get the keys and unlock the door. When I opened the door, I realized he was gone. ( BAD MOM!) I had half of the people in the parking lot looking for him and he was under a huge lifted truck. I was so scared and he was all smiles. I love to hear other moms make the same mistakes.

  16. Sara Report

    Ahhh….I’m not alone….

    Here’s one of my “bad mom” moments. My husband and I decided to take my 4 year old and my 6 month old to Friendly’s for dinner. I laid my 6 month old on the bench in the booth while I took my jacket off. While I was doing that she decided to roll and went right onto the floor under the table! I was horrified because there were pleanty of people around us who saw this happen. Thankfully it was middle of winter and she was in a super thick snow suit with only her little face sticking out of it and didn’t even feel anything from the fall!

  17. Hillary Steinau Report

    Thanks for this. Too right. I am sending this along to my mom friends who are always feeling guilty.

  18. Francine's friend :) Report

    Recently, I was in a TJ Maxx with my 16 month old. He stopped to look at some toys – I stepped about 1/3rd of the way down the adjacent aisle, just steps away and within sight of him. I glanced away for what seemed like seconds. When I looked back up, he was gone (bad mom). I ran down aisle, looked to left – no kid, looked to right and (releif breath) saw his little feet in next aisle coming towards me. As I turned the corner to see him proudly toddling toawrd me I saw that he was drinking from someone else’s discarded coffee cup! UGH!!!! (BAD BAD MOM)

    The best part of being a mom, is being able to confidently share my horror stories of bad parenting with others who not only validate me and my abilities but encourage me to laugh at myself!

  19. Francine Report

    My son was 2 when he broke his leg. He was swinging on a “big boy” swing and fell off. At my feet. While I was standing Right There. (Bad Mom!) What’s even worse is that I didn’t even realize that he was really hurt until the Next Morning! (Really Bad Mom!) I felt – and feel – just terrible about it and then started talking to other parents, who made me feel like we were not alone. I love the idea of celebrating Good Mom moments and supporting other parents when they struggle.



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