I recently read an article on Salon.com attacking “Slacker Moms” and, frankly, it really toasted my buns because the author ripped all of the imperfect parents apart without really understanding what it means to be a “bad mother.”
I won’t describe the article in detail, but suffice it to say, it got me thinking about this cadre of women that I have recently joined. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been failing at motherhood for seven years, but I just started talking about it in January.
For centuries there has been a portrait of perfect motherhood. It shifts decade by decade, but it’s there and has been weighing on women the way the world rests on Atlas’ shoulders.
In the recent past, the perfect mother had a spotless home, happy husband, polite children and a pineapple pot roast on the table every night. When they joined the workforce en-masse, they were expected to have all of the above as well as a level of committment to the work that rivaled their male counterparts. It doesn’t help that there are Mean Girls who try to rip other women to shreds.
It’s no wonder that there was a backlash against trying to be perfect, and the subsequent rise of the self-deprecating parent. This is the woman who is helping one kid put cottonball sheep into a diorama due the next day, helping another with math they themselves forgot how to do 20 years ago, while making dinner, and tripping over the family dog, who is trying to snap up any food scraps that fall to the floor.
She is not exactly the “perfect” mom who breezes through homework, surfs Pinterest for convoluted pinecone crafts, and bakes cakes with an entire Minecraft landscape on top. Damn, I wish I could be that woman, but only for birthday parties. It’s too tiring on a daily basis.
But never for one minute do any of these imperfect parents ever claim to not love their children. Their kids may bring them to their knees in agonizing desperation, but those children are always loved. These moms (and, yes, dads too) are up late after their kids go to bed, making lunches, putting artwork created that day on the fridge, surfing the web to find replacements for kitty costumes that were outgrown years ago*, and, overall, worrying about how to not screw up these tiny humans who, for whatever reason, have not been completely traumatized by inept attempts at parenting.
(*Seriously, she’s 5. How can she fit into a size 24-month costume? And if anyone knows where to find the Carter’s pink kitty costume in a 6x, let me know. I’m pretty sure my daughter’s butt is eating the tail on the thing.)
Yes, these bad moms vent, but they are not intimidating monsters reveling in the fact they tossed their kids a snowball and Mountain Dew for dinner and called it a day. It’s about chronicling this surreal journey and knowing that we are not alone.
I know that I am not the only woman who will flip out in the middle of Target and leave a full cart in the middle of the aisle because my kids are pitching a fit about the DS game or Frozen doll I won’t buy.
I am not the only woman who whips up carrots and dill as a side dish, just to be asked, “Why are the carrots moldy? I am NOT eating moldy carrots.”
I am also not the only woman who wakes up most weekends to my 5-year-old crawling into bed for a snuggle, or who spends an extra 15 minutes telling stories to my 7- year-old starring his stuffed lambs.
There are great joys and great pain in parenthood. I am not superior to anyone, nor have I been made to feel like I wasn’t “bad enough” to call myself a terrible mother. And, frankly, if anyone does degrade another human being (let alone another parent), then they are just bad people, not bad mothers. So, let’s let everyone parent go their own way, and I’ll go back to trying to make cookies with my daughter, using her Easy Bake Oven and choking down the disgusting results. Agreed?