I recently caught the trailer for the movie, “Bad Moms,” starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Christina Applegate.
Applegate is the queen bee mom who apparently does it all – gluten-, salt-, and sugar-free. Kunis and Bell lead the group of bad mothers who do the unthinkable by bringing supermarket-purchased cookies for the class party, and dare to admit that sitting in the bleachers watching pee-wee baseball every Saturday morning has its tedious moments. (We’ve been down this road before with Sarah Jessica Parker in the film version of “I Don’t Know How She Does It?” and, more recently, with Bravo’s “Odd Mom Out?”)
But with the horrific headlines that come and go – think: Casey Anthony – where a child is slain or abused, it’s time we stop using the phrase “bad mom” as a humble brag.
As a 21-year veteran of motherhood (my second child is 18), I want to wretch whenever I hear others say things like, “I’m such a bad mom, I’m letting Jason eat cotton candy at the carnival.” I then cringe when her friends chime in, “Stop it. You’re a great mom. A little treat like that isn’t a big deal.”
Yet, I understand why mothers are so desperate for approval that we call ourselves names.
We – and our children – are always being criticized and judged by teachers, school administrators, celebrity moms, and strangers on the street. We often seek validation any way we can. And most of us are trying to do the best we can to get the job done.
We need to call our lack of perfection something different considering that there are some mothers out there who’ve actually earned, and deserve, the adjective “bad.”
Childwelfare.gov cites parents, acting alone or with another parent, are responsible for 78.9% of child abuse or neglect fatalities and more than one-quarter (27.7%) were perpetrated by the mother acting alone. These are the truly “bad moms.”
So why don’t the rest of us start calling ourselves what we are: human moms. Considering that on any given day we need to remember to fill the backpack with the homework, the special project, the envelope with the permission slip and money for the class trip, lunch, snack and the show-n-tell object, there’s a good chance we are going to forget what day it is, or that sneakers are required for gym.
By calling ourselves “bad moms,” even ironically, we empower those judging us, giving them ammunition to take our moniker at face value – and for any reason.
When I was a new mother, I could never understand why others cared how I was taking care of my children or felt the need to comment, especially since nothing bad was happening.
After two decades of parenting and general life experience, I can tell you that outside remarks have nothing to do with your mothering skills. The mom who grew up with her own mother telling her she could do nothing right, will be the biggest one-upper on the playground. The one who was instilled with the notion that daddy only loved a winner will compete for everything from a swing to a spot in pre-K.
How does one cope when you have bigger (or actually littler) fish to fry than the baggage of others? Set your own standards and do what you do, letting others do what they do. Remember that as with any other venture you’ve undertaken, some ideas will work out and some won’t.
You’re only human, mom.