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The Bad Mom Persona

by Alexandra

honestly

February 22, 2014

The Bad Mom Persona

You’ve probably already made 84 decisions today, and it may only be 9 AM. Hello, Darling, welcome to motherhood. Making decisions for ourselves can be hard enough, then we add in making decisions for everyone in our family. And add to that pressure, the fact that some of the decisions we make will affect that small person’s life for the next 80 years. Yikes. Sometimes we’ll group a bunch of decisions together under one title, as is the case with the bad mom movement. Two of our house bloggers wanted to respond and add their voice to the conversation. Check out what Alex and Emily have to say, then add your voice to the conversation in the comments.


 

I’ll confess I’ve been part of the bad mom movement. Well, never intentionally. What I have done is admitted my mothering faults publicly in order to remind other moms that perfection is not the standard, human effort in parenting is. In fact I’ve embraced this less than awesome at mothering persona for that very reason, it makes others more comfortable to know that if indeed there is a standard (which BTW there isn’t) to being a good mom, most of us (aka all of us) are falling way short of it.

There have been recent discussions in the blogosphere stating that the new trend to claim the title of a “bad mom” is as damaging as the mothering perfection it is pushing against. That any standard that claims to be better than another is indeed a destructive and divisive one.

Darling, I couldn’t agree more.

However that doesn’t mean that every mom who states her shortcomings is trying to push an agenda on other parents. I know I have tried to reveal my TV as babysitter, Kraft macaroni and cheese as dinner, home a toy disaster zone self out of a love for the woman who feels like she is failing all over the place. Because it’s just plain true that when you hear someone else is not living a pinterest-worthy life, you realize there is a different normal than what social media has to offer.

(While we’re on the topic of social media – I’m sure I’m overstating here, but we live in a hyper-comparison world. I imagine the woman who lived in my home city of Denver 100 years ago had no idea what her friend around the corner was making for dinner. She couldn’t see her friend’s children’s delight at the crumb cake served, nor the clean kitchen in which the magic all took place. But today we can. We see the edited, beautiful moments at much higher proportions than we do the whiny, yogurt splattered ones. And when I compare what I see on Facebook with what I am experiencing in my life with four kids, I join the ranks of the majority who feel less satisfied with my life after hanging out on the Facebook black hole.)

So for those of us living in this time and space of visual expectations and comparisons (which might not seem that new since it’s been around for like 7 years, but guess what in the range of time and space and history, parenting in the midst of social media IS new), I see a space here for moms to step forward and say – guess what? My life doesn’t look like that! My life looks like kids with bouggars and saggy diapers, with leftovers in the fridge that need to be thrown out, and kids who are hiding under the bed with the iPad and I’m letting them  watch for my sanity’s sake. It can be done with humor (which I need), sarcasm (which I enjoy), and judgment (which I must try to avoid). And it’s the backlash to Pinterest, and all things beautiful, that I think is creating this newly proclaimed hipster identity of the ‘bad mom’.

To assert these bad mom moments is to normalize our ACTUAL lives. When I became a mother eleven years ago Facebook didn’t exist. I couldn’t hear about Aiden’s time on the ski slopes as a two-year old or Patrick’s surprise when mom and dad announced that trip to Disneyland. But I did worry about being enough for my kids. And I heard other moms confess they didn’t feel cut out for the job either. So I made a decision I would be willing to go first in the self deprecation department to give my friends the freedom to know THEY ARE NOT ALONE. And that can’t be a bad thing.

I’ll confess there was a time when I thought my laid back approach was the ‘best’ approach. I had a friend, let’s call her Tina, who was my antithesis in parenting styles. I found her rigid and constantly stressed and overly scheduled. She was doing her darndest to be a good mom and because we were so different, I did my best to point out all of the ways I differed, which could have been last decade’s version of self-identifying as bad mom.

One hot summer day Tina was retelling a story from dinner the night before. “We had to eat dinner on the front porch because Timmy (her baby) had to go to bed at 5:30. As all of the neighbors walked by we told them we were hiding out on the porch.” Timmy, her only baby at that time, was a scheduled machine. Everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was dictated by this fifteen-pound person’s sleep schedule. Enter my judgment. I just knew I was giving my husband a more relaxed child and wife by not keeping to such a rigid schedule.

And then I pictured their evening on the front porch. And realized, she and her husband had dinner on their front porch. Alone. With no baby. The only interruptions to their adult conversation were their neighbors who stopped to chat as they walked by on the warm summer evening. And then when they were tired, these friends of ours, walked into their house and went to bed. All night. Because their baby was sleep trained.

I was overwhelmed with jealousy at the thought of a date with my husband on our front porch as I recognized the benefit of my friend’s different, more organized tactics. And I recognized how my superiority complex in all things relaxed, wasn’t a gift to Tina at all. My internal and external eye rolls anytime a schedule was mentioned were just meant to make me feel better about myself. I’d say that’s true bad mom form.

So in the words of one of my favorite self-deprecating moms, author Jen Hatmaker, “If you’re worried you’re a bad mom, you’re probably not one.” We know deep down we’re all really good moms because we’re doing the best with what we’ve got (personalities included).

But I’m not willing to give up the title of bad mom completely because anything that says I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and that’s okay is in the end helpful. But I will promise to keep my humor going as best I can, my sarcasm to a minimum (though we all need  a bit of it sometimes) and my judgment to nonexistent when telling you about how Cheetos really are justified in every child’s diet and cleaning the basement is a worthless chore because it just gets undone right under me.


 

Alexandra Kuykendall: As a mom to four girls, ages 11, 8, 4 and 2, Alexandra Kuykendall is offered daily doses of the ludicrous and sublime. She is the author of this year’s MOPS International theme book, The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir and is the Mom and Leader Content Editor for the organization. This means she reads a lot and writes when she can. But don’t be fooled by long and fancy titles, most of Alex’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.

 What are your thoughts on the bad mom movement?

 

Related topics: Perfection, Alexandra, Encouraging

Share your thoughts

Maybe a key is to find ways to give one another permission to be who we were created to be, while not being perfect, without comparisons. Let's face it, there is no "right way" to mother or God would have made us all the same. Can we celebrate ourselves and one another without making comparisons at all?

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I can see how we drag ourselves out in the open to make others more comfortable - I do it often. I'm not perfect, and neither is my life. Great post!

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This sums up my thoughts so perfectly. I think of this movement less as us being "bad moms" and more being "imperfect moms". And it is most definitely in response to the increase of social media and its zillion opportunities for comparison and our own deep-seated insecurities. I was also recently talking with some friends about the faux-vulnerability that "bad mom" admissions brings. It's like we're saying "my sink is full of dishes and my kids are wearing mismatched clothes, I'm such an open book!" Yet we still hide the battles against anxiety and depression, the troubled marriages, the truly terrible parenting moments that we'd never want anyone to find out about.

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