No matter what you do as a parent, there will come a point where someone will disagree with your choices. Sometimes this disapproval will simply come in the form of smug glances, whispered conversations, or loud proclamations of how their child does the opposite or how they would never do that in their parenting. Other times people will get nasty and actually call you a bad mom, to your face.
Because you can be labeled a bad mom even before you hold that baby in your arms for the first time. Did you do something “scary” while pregnant? Did you elect to be induced or have a C-section? Did you “risk” the life of your child by having a homebirth or by not taking your daily prenatal vitamin?
After birth you can be called a bad mom for not circumcising and for doing it, for vaccinating, or not vaccinating, for bottle-feeding, for letting your child Cry-It-Out, for co-sleeping, and for a countless host of things. And that’s just in the first few months of your child’s life! Once the child starts walking and talking the list expands to an even more diverse list of how you can be deemed a bad mom. You are a bad mom for letting your kids go to sleepovers, by letting them watch too much TV, for yelling, for spanking, for letting your kids play outside unsupervised, for never letting your child out of your sight, for sending your child to public school, for homeschooling, for over-scheduling extracurriculars, for giving them sugary and unhealthy foods, for letting them stay up until 10pm on a school night, and on and on.
To someone, somewhere, we are a bad parent in their eyes, at least at some point in our mothering career, for something.
One choice, one event, one part of our parenting (99% of the time) hardly justifies us for the ultimate label of “bad” though. Assigning such a title is hurtful, mean, and wrong, and ultimately only up to God at the Judgment Seat someday. Because, underneath our choices often lie the same loving parenting heart as every other mother and father out there, a heart that just wants to love as best and as right as it can. And sometimes that means taking a different part than another mom or dad. We are more than a grouping of labels as a parent.
We are more than one aspect and one moment of our parenting.
I do not know why we have this obsession to judge other mothers today; why we look for another’s imperfections in motherhood. It may be so we can feel better about our own choices, and feel proud of ourselves and our children. But, really, why do so many of our personal choices need to be up for public debate and discourse in the first place? Many of our parenting choices have absolutely no affect on another family at all, so it shouldn’t matter so much what we do with our own children.
So, can we learn to stop looking for ways to correct and to convert others to our parenting ideologies? We don’t need everyone to parent like we do. Every parent, family, and child are unique.
However, there will be a time in our mothering careers when we will make a poor choice, lose our cool, and go against our mothering intuition in order to please someone else, like a doctor, friend, spouse, or parent, or in order to be like someone else. This is because we are all imperfect mothers because we are all imperfect people!
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. We are flawed, often stubborn, selfish, people. But, life is a learning process, and part of learning is screwing up, making mistakes, and growing from those times. As parents, we all figure things out as we go. So we all try our hardest to do our own research, ask for opinions and advice, but ultimately make our own decisions based upon our own family and their needs, as well as our own personalities.
So, yes, at times we can all be considered bad mothers, because at that time we are being a bad person. We are being rude to our child, we did make a poor judgment call, we did ignore our child so we could do something just for ourselves. We raised our voice, were too harsh, didn’t follow through, didn’t teach them about this or that before someone else did it for us. We all have our failings as a parent. Every single one of us.
But we are more than a few bad or questionable moments. We are more than one public display of less-than-stellar parenting. Because the truth is most of us are not this way all the time. So, as onlookers we do not know all the details about that child, about that mother, about that particular (perhaps extremely taxing/stressful/exhausting) day. We also don’t see another mother’s quiet, tender, sacred parenting moments they have with their children in their homes, perhaps even that same day as that mother goes to her child in tears and apologizes for treating him poorly earlier. As outsiders we don’t see the dozens of hugs and kisses a mother gives her child each night before bed, or the tears she sheds on her pillow as she pleads to God for her child and her own parenting each and every night. We don’t see her selfless sacrifices of getting up in the middle of the night, multiple times, to care for a child. We don’t see her happy, laughing, bonding, and connecting moments with her child either.
And that’s problematic when we as outsiders (especially as friends and as family members), start labeling each other as bad mothers. Because, once you become a parent, a mother, part of your heart is walking (or crawling) around outside your body. For better or worse, a core part of your identity is now that of parent, and for the rest of your life you will forever be one, even after your children have grown. Once a parent, you are always a parent. So to label someone as a “bad parent” is completely offensive, as it essentially judging their core, their life, their love, as bad. How dare we say an integral part of someone is bad, often simply because we ourselves don’t think what they are doing is the best way to raise a child?
And then we may question everything about ourselves. We may actually think we are indeed the world’s worst mom. We may think that everyone else is doing this parenting gig better than us. While feeling this self-doubt can be beneficial every once in a while, if we are made to feel inferior frequently, we may struggle in such sad, hard, and painful ways, and perhaps even put some of this negativity and guilt upon our children.
Where is the grace? The forgiveness? The love? We should be trying to support each other, and true support doesn’t come in the form of name-calling, labels, and one-ups-manship. As mothers, we should unite as sisters, as parents, as friends. We should be each other’s village, not each other’s critics, especially because some of us are already our own worst critics, and call ourselves the world’s worst moms without anyone else’s help. It’s why so many mothers are already plagued with guilt and suffer from depression.
Sidenote: To you guilt-ridden mothers, I wish to assure that you are (more than likely) not a bad parent at all, and the fact that you are evaluating your parenting, just shows how much you care, how much you love, and how much you are striving to actually be a very, very good mom.
So, parents of the world, STOP IT! Give each other the benefit of the doubt, please! Stop labeling another mom as bad. Most mothers have likely researched, prayed, talked it over, read, and felt in their hearts that the way we are choosing to do things are indeed what is best for their families. Respect others choices. Don’t make them feel less than because you completely disagree.
We are all bad moms sometimes, but we are not actually bad mothers in totality. Now let’s unite as sisters, as moms, as friends, and help us overcome those bad mommy days without judgment.
Have you ever been called a bad mom?