5.06.2008

Bad Mothers

I came across this post on "Mile High Mamas" and I almost screamed hallelujah from my seat! I have a few mama confessions to make, folks. I'm a mom who sends her kids to public school and doesn't think they'll get a bad education. I'm a mom who stuffs my kids with Tylenol when they have a fever, and whatever medications I think they need. I'm a mom who gives my kids candy...yes, candy and even (gasp) pop! (Soda for all your Americans). I'm a mom who bottle fed two of my kids from birth. The reasons are my own. I'm a mom who used disposable diapers. I'm a mom who let my kids cry themselves to sleep when they were 6 months old because I just can't have them in bed with me. I'm a mom who has no problem leaving my kids with sitters because I NEED A NIGHT OUT. I'm a mom who lets her kids watch TV and movies, and play on the computer. I'm what some might call imperfect, but I'm not a bad mom. It feels so often like I have to apologize for the choices I make in my own home as a mother. Do you ever feel that way?

In a conversation with a good friend, who home schools her kids and does a few things differently than I do, we both felt that we often need to apologize for our choices as mothers - or at least feel judged for them. Luckily neither of us has a problem with how the other does things, which is why we are such great pals, but isn't it a sad notion that we mothers often feel the need to judge and condemn each other because the way we do things isn't the way others do? This article was so great, and embraced many of my own thoughts. I hope you'll take a minute and read it:

"Every year, mothers are celebrated on that one special May day (which is not to be confused with “mayday,” another word with which mamas are familiar).

And every year growing up, I remember my mother was consumed with guilt and inadequacy, the very antithesis of what Mother’s Day is supposed to be about. Was she the perfect mom? Of course not. None of us are. But she loved, sacrificed and cared for her children as best she could.
I was recently at a resale children’s clothing store. As I poked around, the shopkeeper asked the age of my son and she confided she had a boy his same age. At check-out, I grabbed both of my children a free sucker to reward them for their good behavior. She looked at me and distastefully commented,

“I just can’t imagine giving my 21-month-old child a sucker.”

I laughed her off but almost wished I had said something like, “Yeah, I feed him straight sugar via intravenous for breakfast.”

As I walked out of the store, I was irate. How dare she criticize me? At that same moment, I noticed a very tan, very pregnant woman leaving the adjacent tanning salon. Immediately, I placed judgment as I incredulously thought, “I can’t believe she is doing that!”

I stopped myself. I did not know that woman. I did not know her circumstances. For all I knew, she had just received a spray-on tan or her skin was naturally that color.

Being a bad mother does not mean you give your child a sucker. It does not mean that you feed your baby formula instead of breastfeeding or that you choose to work instead of stay home. Being a bad mother is not about using disposable vs. cloth diapers or failing to feed your child organic food. Religion (or lack of it) does not make you a bad mother, either.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bad mothers out there. I was recently lead to a fantastic blog post by Sabrina Porterfield on this very subject:

“There are women out there who are bad mothers. There are mothers shooting up while their children die of starvation and neglect in the next room. There are mothers out there who stuff a pillow over their heads so they don’t have to listen to the whimpers from their 8 year olds while their fathers sodomize them. There are mothers out there who abandon their children on the street because they no longer wish to care for them. There are women who slowly twist their children’s limbs until they snap while their children cry and beg, promising to be good.

Bad mothers.

Yes.

But most of us are not.

At some point along the line, women in the Western world stopped trusting their instincts. We began to listen to doctors. We eagerly read studies and books that would confirm to us that yes, we were good mothers!

And worse, we began to betray each other. We began to gather in camps, and we set up rules for what constituted good mothering. And any mother who strayed outside those rules was a bad mother. We’d sit together over tea and discuss in outraged tones the ignorant woman down the street who bottle-fed her child from birth, smugly asserting our superiority in breastfeeding our own children for years. We’d converse over a power lunch about the poor deluded woman who quit her high-profile job so she could stay home and finger-paint, rolling our eyes and congratulating ourselves on our excellent luck in nannies. We’d snipe over email and on message boards, on blogs and over the phone.

Look at me! I am a better mother! And I can prove it to you by surrounding myself with other mothers who think just like me! I can prove it by shoving these books in your face! I can prove it by demeaning other mothers who have made different choices than mine!

Why are we doing this?

Why can’t we feel confident in our own mothering choices? Why do we feel such a need to prove ourselves through book after book and scorn directed towards other mothers?
Ask yourself, and be honest. When was the last time you criticized another mother in your mind? Was it today? Was it yesterday?

The next time you hear yourself making a nasty comment about another mother…stop. Just stop. And ask yourself – is she really a bad mother? Does she abuse her child? Does she neglect her child? Co-sleeping is not abuse. Bottle-feeding is not neglect. Think about what is coming out of your mouth.

Do not diminish the pain of a child who sleeps chained in a closet, ribs cracked from her latest beating by equating her to a child who has learned to sleep by crying it out for a few nights in her crib. Do not diminish the pain of a child who has been sexually abused by equating her to a child that sleeps peacefully between her loving parents. Do not diminish the pain of a child who has not eaten for days by equating her to a child who is not fed meat or who drinks formula.
None of us are perfect. And we will all make mistakes. We will learn, we will revise our thinking; we will throw up our hands and let go of a long cherished ideal because we have just got to do it or collapse.

So how about instead of attacking other mothers, we start feeling confident about ourselves? How about we look to our own children instead of spending time self-righteously judging everyone else’s? Throw away your parenting books. Think about what your doctor tells you and evaluate what it means. When other mothers criticize you, shake it off and ignore the temptation to turn around and attack back.

Let’s try supporting each other for a change. I think it would make all of us better mothers to do so.”

Isn't that great?! Mothers of the world unite!! LOL!

Yep. I'm not an exemplary mother in the sight of many, I'm sure. But no one can deny how much I love those little girls of mine. How my face lights up when they walk in the room. No one can deny how they make me giggle like a child, and make my eyes well up with tears when I see they are in pain. I may not home school, or send them to a private academy, but I teach them to pray. I teach them about the rules of life and how to make choices that will bring them and those around them the most happiness. I may let them watch TV a little too often, but not as often as I read to them, sing to them, or play with them. No one loves them quite like I do, not quite the same way. Which is why I'm confident in the way I choose to mother them, regardless of what the world tells me. Who the world thinks I should be. I think most of us can say the same thing. We all are doing our best. I really believe that. So, happy mother's day (which in my book is every day) and try not to be too hard on yourself - especially when you're not at your best or brightest. We all have days like that. We all do. We are all in this together!

13 comments:

Nora said...

hear, hear.... wonderfully put
and, I agree with all you said.
Actually I have somerimes been my own worst enemy.
My children are grown up now
but still.. sometimes there's guilt about what I should have, could have done... would things be different. Anyway, your a wonderful mom,, as your mom was too
I hope its ok... I added you on my blog ? If not , just let me know..k

Katie said...

Thank you for this reminder! It's amazing how all of us moms feel guilty turning on that tv to get an hours worth of work done around the house in peace! But how I love the memory of Sat morning cartoons growing up!!

Happy Mother's Day!

Chanté said...

I'm in tears...your last paragraph was just so beautifully written. I have one daughter and I already feel so much guilt for various things (#1 being that I work outside the home and feel extrememly judged over here in Happy Valley)...but it's just like you said, you do the best you can and no one loves your children like you do...and I know that I'm the best mom for HER. Plus, I'm just super lucky (blessed) that Heavenly Father sent her sweet spirit to me...of all people I'M the one that get's to care and love this special little girl.
So thank you for this great post (I might even link to it from my blog if you're ok with that!)

Jenn said...

AMEN!!! I so needed this post-- more than you will ever know! With Jo's recient feet with milk problems I have been bombarded with advice and suggestions and people telling me I am over doing the carefullness of it all! ANd I have tried to please everyone and tried to listen to everyone and be-- perfect and I just need to follow my heart and do what I think is right for my boy. For all three of my kids. And I think just taking the time to love our kids and teach them to pray is the most important lessons we as moms can teach. Thank you Bobbi- well put!

Mandy said...

I really think you did a great job at expressing how us mother's feel most of the time. I think especially being LDS we know better and even if we aren't taught by our parents, we can choose to learn the ways of the Lord and follow him. I really enjoyed reading your post. It was very thought provoking and touching.

Lynn said...

AMen girl! YOu said it perfectly and beautifully. Here's to all those good mom's out there, who follow their righteous hearts when it comes to their own children. Happy MOther's Day to you....just in case I forget on SUnday. : D

Erica said...

I love the realness of this post. I especially loved the part about not judging-I always say it's easy to parent other people's kids. We have been given the children we have because we need to learn certain things and so do they. And aren't we lucky enough to be given that opportunity. My mom wasn't perfect but I almost love her more because she hasn't given up despite it all. I only hope my children will one day say the same thing about me.

B said...

BRAVO!

hiloui said...

Horray and stuff for that post Bobbi. Well said, and it made me think a little deeper of the critisisms I lay onto other moms out there. Hope you are doing well in your new place!

Talia said...

Wow.

Thank you so much for putting into words what I always think...I totally give my kids "treats", let them watch TV, and plan on sending them to public school...and I think I'm a good mom, too!

Like you said, no one loves my girls the way I do...and I will stop before judging other mothers, too.

Awesome post!!

Ailyn said...

I LOVE IT!!
I always think I need to be perfect. This is just what I needed to hear.
Thanks Bobbi-Jo

Anonymous said...

Amen! Thank you for your beautiful post!

Christina said...

Wow! Very well said! Thank you for the reminder!!