Jan 10

Bad Mothers

“No more wire hangers!”

I am not a mother, but I watch all of you—the ones I know as well as the ones I don’t. I do. I watch what you do with your children. I see you in the grocery store, seething (and sometimes yelling) because your three-year-old will not. Stop. Whining. I see you when you helicopter parent, refusing to let your child out of your sight. I see you when you don’t even seem to know where your kids are. I see you when you rush to pick them up and cuddle them when they fall down instead of letting them learn to calm themselves (because don’t they need to learn to self-soothe?). I see you when you let them cry after they’ve been hurt instead of swooping in to comfort them (because don’t they need to know their mom will always be there for them?). I see you rushing to the store at the last minute to get posterboard for a project, due tomorrow, that your son should have told you about days ago. I see you telling your daughter that you aren’t going to rescue her again so that maybe this time she can learn responsibility. I see you do things so differently from how I would do them. I even see you making what could, based on real data, objectively be defined as “parenting mistakes.”

What I don’t see are very many bad mothers.

I do, however, see a lot of human mothers. In fact, as far as I can tell—aliens-among-us scenarios notwithstanding—all of you are human, which means two things. One: as a mammal, you have a vested interest in survival of your genes, which means that whether you know it or not, you are following the biological imperative to get your kids to adulthood relatively intact so that they can have a hand in continuing the species themselves. Two: you make mistakes. Every single day.

Translation: You are doing the best you can, but sometimes you screw up. Well, welcome to life, sweetheart. You are never, ever, ever, EVER, never-ever going to be The Perfect Mommy™ (as defined by Pinterest and the mommy bloggers, natch). No matter how hard you try, you are going to screw your kids up in one way or another.

And that’s TOTALLY FINE. The important thing is that you are screwing them up the best way you know how.

Look, I’m not saying that it’s not important to think about how you’re raising your kids. Of course it is. I’m not even saying that there is nothing you could be doing better. Of course there is. (To paraphrase the great Maya Angelou, you are doing the best you can with the knowledge you have. When you know better, you do better.) And I’m sure not going to tell you to let go of that guilt that you carry around with you 24/7 like the biggest load of baby weight in the world—not because I think you deserve all that guilt, but because I don’t want you to have yet another task to complete—and then, of course, feel guilty when you can’t. Guilt is just part of it, I think.

All I’m saying is that there is someone you know who thinks you are executing very well on an incredibly important job that is in turns mind-numbing, intellectually challenging, thankless, rewarding, draining, and fulfilling. That someone is me.

Oh! And your kids. They think that too. You think you love them more than they could ever know, even though sometimes the whole process makes you insane, and every once in a while you really don’t like them much at all. The funny thing is that that’s also how they feel about you.

Partnered, divorced, single, adoptive, birth mothers (even—maybe especially—if your bravest act of parenting was to try to give your child a life you couldn’t provide), mothers who work outside the home, mothers who don’t, mothers with 10 children, mothers with one child, mothers with only memories and mementos of their children, stepmothers, foster mothers, mothers with full custody, mothers with partial custody, and even dad-mothers: you are a good mother. You are enough. You. Are. Enough.



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  1. Jennifer

    You really don’t know how much I needed to read this today. There are days when I really feel like I am failing. Today is one of them. Thanks.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      Ah, a MomGuilt™ day, huh? Well, I think you are doing great!

  2. shambo

    The bad moms leave their kids chained to the couch with a bag of frozen peas and a half empty warm beer when they go shopping.

  3. Renee

    Thanks for this! Motherhood is so hard, it’s the hardest thing ever. Something that Emma said in “Terms of Endearment” sums up motherhood quite nicely. She said “As hard as you think it is, you end up wishing it were that easy”. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to see what kind of job you’re doing. You just keep on doing your personal best and hope that marinating them in love for life will keep them on solid ground, but you’re never sure.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      You can never be sure. After all, they’re little people with minds of their own. But really, most of us turn out okay. 🙂

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