Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Bad Mother Conundrum

I am in the that phase of my life where pretty much everyone around me either has, is having, or is thinking about having children. And without exception, every one of them thinks they are, or will be, bad at it, especially the women. For instance, I have a friend, we'll call her Christy, because that's her name, who recently, after spending several years and thousands of dollars trying to get pregnant, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. During her pregnancy Christy read every book, and researched every product. She is my guru when it comes to what a baby needs and does not need. She is also one of the most loving and responsible people I know. Yet, earlier this week, she sent me an email saying she felt like the world's worst mother. I won't go into the details, Christy is also very private, but suffice to say, it was not a matter she had any real control over, nor something that put her in the same league as Medea or Nadya Suleman. That got me thinking, does any mother actually feel like they are doing a good job?

I know my Mom has never really felt like she was a good parent. My sisters and I are now all in our thirties, and she still can remember instances when she believes she scarred us for life. Also, I know that out of the millions of blogs out there, I still have not found one written by someone who thinks they are an awesome Mom. I have come across "Her Bad Mother," "Martini Mom," and the "Un-Mom," but I am still looking for "Doing Fine At Mothering." Oh, and let's not forget Dooce, who makes bank criticizing her parenting skills. Why do all these women, none of whom appear to be raising serial killers, feel so bad about the job they are doing? Is it real, or is it an act? Do Moms inherently think they have to bad mouth their skills, even if their skills are good? Are they afraid they will be opening themselves up to criticism, or doing they really believe they aren't very good at child rearing?

I guess I am asking these questions due to my (hopefully) impending motherhood, and the fact I am already sure I have messed up my child, even though I haven't met him or her yet. First of all, there is the fact I will not be growing this child inside of me, or giving birth to it. The person who does that will be involved minimally, if at all. I think we have all heard the horror stories that result from those situations. Also, there is the fact that our child will likely be of a different race. That means the first thing most people will think when seeing us together is "oh, that kid's adopted." Will that lead to me embarrassing my kid by attacking anyone I perceive to be racist? Or will it lead to them feeling like they were ripped away from their culture due to "white privilege?" And how am I supposed to do their hair? I can barely do mine. Lastly, there is the issue of breastfeeding, which I will go into in depth in another post. For now let's just say that in the past few weeks my breasts have gone from my favorite part of my body to a source of pain, frustration, and embarrassment. Part of me thinks putting myself through this to breastfeed is the least I can do for my child, and part of me thinks the mental damage it could do would make things worse rather than better.

Here is what I am proposing: let's all feel good about our parenting skills. Let's not just feel good about them after getting support from blog comments telling us we are actually doing great. Let's make a concerted effort to know we are doing the best for our children, or children coming to us. Trust me, there are enough bad parenting stories out there to prove me right.

To Christy and my Mom, know this, it is women like you who give me the courage to undertake this endeavor at all. Thank you.

18 comments:

Amanda said...

It is hard to think you are doing a good job when you are in a situation where your pride & joy is howling like it is the end of the world over something as petty as a $1.00 toy that will most likely break as it comes out of the package. Or when you respond less than adult after being assailed by a rapid-fire volley of "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Momomomomomomomomomomomomomom, MOM!!"

Cate said...

Hey Jerkface, I am 29. You will be a wonderful mother. You have learned from the best.

Lulu said...

Ummm......there will be times when you are the best mother ever and your kid will rock - Nobel Peace prize or McDonald's fry maker - whatever he or she does!

And then, some days, you'll be happy if the kid's lying around and contentedly sucking down a popsicle dipped in sugar and washed down with straight fruit juice while you're face down on the floor exhausted, cheerios stuck to your back with a sucker in your hair.

Shannon said...

I can't complain... I GENERALLY do a pretty damn good job at raising my kiddos... sure... I have my not-so-perfect moments, but that doesn't make me a BAD mom! Believe me... in my work, I've met and dealt with moms who are NOT doing a good job - at least by protecting their kids from harm (abuse). So... if you ever read something on my blog where I'm complaining about being a bad mother, would you call me on it??? Thanks! And I'm so glad I found your blog through your awesome sis! I'm hooked already!

Yellow Trash Diaries said...

I didn't know I wasn't white until I was like 10. My husband didn't know until we had sex and he saw I had a slanted vagina. It may be a little harder to fool your kid, though. Best bet's to be up front about everything and realize you're gonna question every decision you make.

Making a martyr of ourselves is one of the few joys we Jewish mothers have in life.
Wait, I'm not Jewish either.
Your kid's fucked.

She Said said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aunt Juicebox said...

Everyone feels a little insecure about their skills as a parent, it's natural, you get over.

I will give you one piece of advice. If you think you can't take care of your child's hair, then pay someone to do it. I grew up with a girl who was bi-racial, and she said she hated the fact that her mom never knew what to do with her hair.

I know they have hair salons that cater to women of different ethnicities. Better to seek advice than worry that your child will be embarrassed. And probably? You could find info on the net or even instructional videos on youtube. It's a long way off though, before your kid is going to care what their hair (or clothes, etc) look like, but don't worry about it, there's a solution when you need one.

She Said said...

I don't feel like being funny. I just want to thank you for posting something so thoughtful and honest. Thank you. Great post!

Megan said...

You will be an amazing mother no question about it but you will have your moments of doubt!

But if you can't do your child's hair you better call me! Don't be one of those moms who thinks its "cute" for their child's hair to be wild and crazy. Then you would be a bad mom. Aunt Juicebox is right, there are resources... I'm happy to be one of them. One of my biggest pet peeves.

Lana said...

i like your point of view about the whole 'self-depricating parent' talk. i've often thought the same myself. maybe my kid is freakishly easy-going, but i haven't had cause to feel like a horrible parent yet and she's nearly a year old. it seems to me that the less you question yourself the more your kid will follow your lead.

can't wait to see pics of your baby, when he or she arrives :)

ilyssasky said...

The first time I lost my patience and yelled at my baby (yes, BABY), I called my mom telling her I felt so awful. She laughed and said "Motherhood = feeling guilty for the rest of your life." She was right...

The good news? Being a great mom outweighs the guilt that you will inevitably feel. (Booze certainly helps too.)

Jules said...

I'm choosing not to have kids, but ALL of my friends have either
1. dropped their kids at some point
2. left them somewhere for a SHORT period of time because they forgot them
3. fear child services will think they are beating them because their kids fall down, run into things, etc and they have to get stitches or whatever so often.

I think it goes with the nature of being a good parent.

Candice said...

Well, I don't think I'm a horrible mother, but I'm putting money back for both of my offspring for their future therapy sessions.

You know, just in case.

MomZombie said...

As long as you don't attach your child to a leash, or use him or her to test if that fence over there is electrified, you should be good to go.

Kristine said...

I never felt like a bad mom.

Then my son turned two.

Now, I honestly think that if you *don't* feel it at some point, you're not doing it right.

Or you're just really cocky. :)

Gina said...

I have done stupid shit and felt like a bad mother a million times. We've all been there. And we need to give ourselves a break.

Kearsie said...

I tell you what. Twice this week, I had a "Hmm, I must be doing something right" moment. First, I went to the bathroom and the toilet paper roll had been changed. Without me asking. Or demanding. And then, my 5 year old left the bedroom and - wait for it- turned.off.the.light.

You are just blinking and wondering why that is so important. Because it is. *so proud*

Anonymous said...

I love this post. In general I think I am a good mother. But when I doubt, I DOUBT. I think it's because we have made EVERYTHING so damn important. Do we honestly believe every little decision we make will have a huge impact on our children? I think we worry insanely over everything 1. because there is so much we cannot control and 2. we are constantly bombarded with the idea of the perfect mother- that I am sure dooes not exist. We are supposed to be like leave it to beaver's mom at home, plus super woman, and the female version of donald trump. impossibly high and unrealistic expectations = failure even when you're doing a pretty good job. which let's face it, most of us are