Bad Mothers, Unite

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I were talking about things we’ve done that will undoubtedly land our children in therapy.


I laughed. What haven’t I done?


I am guilty of accidentally locking my 3-month-old son in the car at my other son’s soccer practice and having to call the fire department to let him out.


Then there was the time I didn’t know that his brother was suffering from an ear infection until it started bleeding.


Then there was the time I gave my 9-month-old daughter french-fries.


Throughout the years, I haven’t done nearly enough homework with my children, and I frequently let them eat Lunchables.


I miss more PTA meetings than I attend.


I let them watch South Park.


I have been angry at them when they didn’t swim fast enough at a swim meet.


I have taken money from their piggy banks to buy a latte and forgotten to pay it back. On more than one occasion.


I have lost my temper and cussed at them.


They have been known to cuss back. (I blame South Park.)


Last month, my son complained that his hand hurt after he fell on it at school. I put him off for two days, until I finally took him to the doctor – only to find out he had a broken wrist. Ooops.


There’s no denying that I have been a bad mother. But in this Mother’s Day issue of Bay Area Parent, we ask the all-important question: what does it mean to be a “Good Mother?”


As associate editor Millicent Skiles points out in her story, “Old-school vs. New-school Moms” (page 20), our own mothers can’t really be held up as examples. After all, they drank alcohol and smoked while pregnant, and they spanked us rather than put us in a “time out.” Some even did the unforgivable: squashed their own identities and lived their lives for their husbands. What kind of example were they setting for us?


But they will look at us and shake their heads at our attempts to “do it all,” juggle careers and children and still manage to channel Martha Stewart at home. They claim we overschedule our kids and that we are robbing today’s youth of their imaginations.


And finger-pointing isn’t just reserved for intergenerational comparisons. As Berkeley author Ayelet Waldman writes in her new book, Bad Mother, it’s often society, the media and other moms who are hardest on us. (Waldman talks about the Bad Mother stigma in an article on page 26.)


With all this firepower of vitriol aimed at us, it’s amazing that, as a culture, we continue to procreate at all. I thought President Obama had it rough in his new job. Being the leader of the free world during unprecedented economic upheavals and threats from abroad is nothing compared to being a mom. Like Obama, we are targets for unparalleled criticism from many different sectors, even our own parties – and our own mothers.


However, we can’t ever be voted out of office. Mothers are forever. And if we manage to slip in some unconditional love, wise guidance and hugs between all those mistakes, we just might be OK.


And I’m not a complete dolt. Last week, my teenage daughter complained to me that she’d never be able to write a good college application essay because she’s had “too good a life.” “You did too good a job with me,” she said. “I haven’t had to overcome anything really bad.”


She obviously doesn’t remember the french-fry incident.


Happy Mother’s Day!


– Peggy Spear, BAP Editor
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