We have a real problem with bad mothers in this country. There are thousands of them. Maybe millions. Are you shocked yet? You shouldn’t be – I’m only basing my statement on the kinds of things moms say about themselves all the time… in books and blog posts and at parties and when they get together with other moms for coffee. You hear it over and over:
I’m a bad mom.
I’m not good enough.
I need to try harder.
I’m not good at this.
Admitting you’re a bad mom – out loud, in pubic – is the new black. It’s a little cool, the way telling people you only buy organic or saying you don’t vaccinate used to be. In a way, it is the ultimate humble brag. It’s like unless you’re telling people how bad of a mother you really are how is anyone going to know you’re actually trying really hard? Unless you keep posting Facebook updates about how often you’re failing at motherhood how will people know you actually care?
That mom who feels relaxed and confident and doesn’t worry too much about her parenting decisions? Something must be seriously wrong with her, right? She’s probably at home watching 16 and Pregnant while her kids are eating McDonald’s fries dipped in Drano.
Apparently at some point American moms decided en masse that they would play a game where the only rule is that you have to feel guilty ALL THE TIME. About everything. Food, sleep, discipline, education, hobbies, diapers… hell, there are moms who feel guilty about using strollers that face out instead of in. Stroller guilt!
There’s this cultural idea that if you’re not feeling guilty or constantly second guessing yourself you must be mothering wrong. If you’re not enriching your children’s every waking moment you are deficient. If you work or if you stay home or you can’t afford X or you just plain don’t feel like doing Y, you need to make sure you are audibly guilty about it because your guilt is a tribute you offer up to the wider world to make sure people know you are throwing every ounce of yourself into this parenting thing.
But what if there was another way? One that involved not needing to prove how serious you are by putting yourself down. Self-deprecation, even when it’s for show, can have a powerful negative effect. Say you’re a bad mother enough times and you’ll start to believe it. Believe it for long enough and you might just start to become one.
Do you love your kids and give them the necessities and sometimes the extras? Do you teach them right from wrong and respect them? Do you do whatever you can to prepare your children to be a functioning part of the adult world? If you answered yes, you’re doing a fine job. If you still feel the need to convince the world that you’re failing miserably even though you know in your heart of hearts that you’re a wonderful mother, it might just be time to take a look at your priorities.