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?”)
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. )
About Elisabeth Wilkins
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.