In Praise Of 'Bad Moms'

07/26/2016 12:48 pm ET Updated Jul 26, 2016
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If you’re anything like me, you have a loud peanut gallery in your head doling out constant commentary on your mothering…Is this dinner nutritious enough? Do I need to enroll her in more activities? I shouldn’t have used that tone. Should I be crafting more?

Every mother I know has some gradient of this doubting, critical soundtrack in her mind. The job is fraught with judgment—from within and without (see online comments section of any parenting-related topic ever).

That’s why, when I created Dear Baby XO, I had one goal: to entertain. Not to promote or stump or weigh in on the latest parenting trend. Only to give myself and other parents a laugh while caring for the small, sometimes insane people who live with us.

But I realized recently Dear Baby XO is not just about humor. It’s also a shame-free zone where moms can be honest and feel connected – not criticized – for their screw-ups and frustrations. And this has never been more important. 

We live in an era of excoriating judgment. Public mom shaming has become our status quo. If we buckle the car seat incorrectly, or use conventional sunscreen, if we leave diapers on for too long (I once got an earful about that), if we nurse our babies beyond “the normal” timeframe, we are targets. People we have never met will tell us why we’re wrong.  

And should an accident happen to a child under our care and the world finds out? Buckle up, because we are about to receive a monumental shit storm of knee-jerk vitriol and sanctimony doled out by thousands of people who don’t know us and weren’t there. But will have no problem labeling us unqualified, neglectful, unfit to parent (see recent Disney World and Cincinnati Zoo incidents). 

Lately it seems the voices of condemnation gave grown louder than those of understanding. Whether talking about tragic accidents or going out to dinner a week post-baby (I applaud you, Chrissy Teigen, for getting out of the house) – we are trigger-happy to broadcast the fault we find with other people’s parenting.

And it’s not okay. We, as a society, need to ease the hell up on moms and stop acting like we have any right, much less authority to indict mothers we don’t know on matters both big (loss of life) and small (non-organic blueberries!)

It’s gotten out of control, this epidemic of reckless adjudication on some else’s mothering skills.

That’s why I’m glad this movie about “Bad Moms” cutting loose and doing “un-motherly” things exists. It seems as online evisceration of mothers ratchets up, so does our appetite for stories of moms doing things they “shouldn’t” be doing. Blogs, books, TV shows and now movies are showcasing moms telling it like it is – the messy, un-PC, irreverent truth of this rewarding, yes, but also super-hard, unpaid, often isolating job. We need this. We need to see moms who are caring and involved a majority of the time, get fed up and say “F it. I’m taking a break. I deserve it.”

Because we have reason to be fed up. With the standard we are increasingly meant to uphold –a world of Yogarate and Spanish music classes and Pinterest-themed birthday parties and in-depth, comparative pre-school searches and wiping the counter 62 times a day and doing it ALL in a cage-free, non-GMO way, while being authoritative but not authoritarian (and don’t you dare helicopter or over-praise or you might give them a paralyzing fear of failure), while using fair trade, gender-neutral shampoo and only 30 minutes of educational programming a day (if you must). (P.S. Make sure you never have to get your tantruming kid through a parking lot or the Internets will come for you). 

It’s too much. We’re going to make mistakes, big and small. Not only because it’s an unrealistic standard of parenting. Because we are human. 

Let’s give ourselves and other moms permission to mess up, to occasionally let the kid snack off the kitchen floor, or forget to buckle the car seat, or momentarily lose sight of a 4-year-old at a crowded zoo, or have shitty moments where we hate everyone and want to quit—and still be good moms.  

We need lightness and laughter; we need generosity of spirit. We are overwhelmed, distracted, fallible people with an inadequate number of eyes and arms for the job. Sometimes we nail it, and sometimes we make up a fake errand so we can go sit alone in a corner of West Elm with a bag of Doritos. We are doing our best. We all have “bad mom” moments and it’s impossible for it to be any other way. And that’s okay. 

Sarah Showfety is the author of Dear Baby: I’m Sorry...Apologies for Life’s Little Parenting Fails. Get a copy for the bedraggled new parent in your life. Check out Dear Baby XO on Facebook and Instagram for daily laughs. 

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