Bad Mommy

First, let me say…nope, no baby yet. I’m hanging tough with the help of Ben, Jerry, and your exceedingly good wishes. In the meanwhile, enjoy my current Time Out Kids column which I wrote a few days ago, while I could still complete sentences that sounded sort of like English and not aboriginal grunts.


This week my friend and blogger extraordinaire Rebecca Woolf posted a brilliant essay seeking to understand why parents are so afraid to admit that we’re good at this parenting business. “Claiming to be bad parents is the new I’m fat,” she writes.

I loved it. (But then I love everything she writes.)

The same way we don’t want to say that our kids are smart in front of other parents, we are so quick to proclaim—even exaggerate–our own failures. For fear of being competimommies or alienating potential friends and mommygang compadres, we instead take comfort under a cloak of feigned incompetence and overstated shortcomings.

Shut UP. You’re thinking. Your own blog tagline is “I don’t know what I’m doing either.”

I’m self-deprecating, sure. And I often don’t know what I’m doing. Do you?

All the time?



It’s okay. Ease up on yourself a little bit, mamas. Bushwacking your way through the parenting jungle blindfolded (okay, blindfolded with both arms tied behind your back in a monsoon during a total eclipse) doesn’t automatically make you a bad parent. Surely there’s a distinction between winging it and blowing it entirely.

Which is why I’m never going to say I’m a bad mom.

Okay, so I do. Sometimes. Facetiously.

Like I fed her peanut butter twice today because reheating the couscous that Nate left in the fridge feels too much like cooking. Oh, and it’s not organic peanut butter – it’s Skippy. Bad mommy.

We watched six consecutive episodes of the Wonderpets. Before breakfast. Bad mommy.

I cleaned out Thalia’s pack n play (a.k.a. the repository of toys n’ crap) and found two paper clips a button, a ball point pen, a deflated balloon and some plastic bags. Bad mommy.

Dr Sears sez: Limit juice consumption to 6 ounces per day. Oops.

Read between the lines and you won’t conclude that I actually consider myself a bad mommy; my self-assessment is more a sarcastic nod to the Judgy McJudgersons out there who have deemed themselves official arbiters of good and bad parenting behaviors–which is where I think so much of the guilt comes from in the first place.

Who are these people anyway?

I mean, besides Dr Sears who makes it perfectly clear that if you haven’t mastered the 47 various breastfeeding holds and don’t cosleep with your children until they ace their PSAT’s you’re doomed to raise a brood of serial killers. Or worse, minimum wage fast food employees.

Is there some sort of Bad Parents Council of America? A group comprised of psychologists and researchers and a token marketing executive from Fisher-Price? Are they ones who surreptitiously phone the media with leads for the next mommywars story? (Moms who drink at playdates! Type A moms! Sic ‘em, Meredith.) Are they the people who invented Turn off the TV Week, or, as those of us with pre-preschoolers prefer to think of it: Ew Why Does Mommy Smell Like She Hasn’t Showered for a Week Week?

If so, I’d love to have a little sit-down with them, that they might consider wielding their collective influence in some constructive ways. For one, helping to get more moms to distinguish good/maybe not-as-good parenting choices from good/bad parenting.

I’d also like to warn the council that their influence trickles down to some parents who then wield the information indiscriminately and with sometimes brutal imprecision—think Luke with a light sabre, pre-Yoda.

I still sting a bit from the woman who googled crying it out leading to depression later in life, and came across my emotional post about trying in desperation to get my amazing non-sleeping baby to sleep by crying it out. This benevolent reader took a few minutes of her precious time to post a helpful comment suggesting I should be sterilized for doing so, since “even animals treat their children better.”

(The weasel came to mind immediately. They sometimes spare their offspring any pain of the world simply by eating them.)


Portrait of a child traumatized by CIO.

I laughed at her of course, then forwarded the email onto friends so we could make sarcastic jokes at her expense. But in the back of my mind, I had to question whether I was a bad mom for the choice I had made.

The answer, I’m happy to say: A resounding no. I’m insecure but not so insecure that I will let any idiot with an agenda and an internet connection make me question my parenting instincts for more than a moment. And I think that alone makes me a pretty good mom.

To say nothing of the fact that I’ve got a good kid. Her grandparents will back me up on this one.

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. Here’s a suggestion: Why not give yourself the gift of a much needed break. Grab a full-fat latte with a shot of caramel and make a few mental notes about why you’re a good parent and not a crappy one. You can even jot them down and send them off to Rebecca for all the mommyworld to see. I guarantee you’ll get some amen, sister’s and cheesy virtual hugs in return.

Now pass the Skippy. I’ve got a kid to feed.


You’ll find my Monday posts cross-published every week at NYC family online resource to the stars, Time Out New York Kids. Except for the next few, when I’ll either be on maternity hiatus or in the mental ward.


44 thoughts on “Bad Mommy”

  1. I think most people can admit to being a bad parent easier because it makes explaining the problems or mistakes your kids make much more simple.It’s almost reverse from normal life…where we NEVER admit to being wrong and seem to ALWAYS stress our pluses…as a parent, we don’t…it’s almost hard to admit that we do anything right at all. It’s almost preparing us for the worst for failure.– Jon– Daddy Detective–

  2. Hey, at least you’re feeding her Skippy, and not the recalled Peter Pan peanut butter. You’re still looking out for her best interests. 🙂

  3. What? Skippy’s bad? Huh… whaddya know….Nice piece. I’m glad you realize that you can be honest about your strong points as well as your weak ones.Hope you get some much needed rest and that the baby magically appears after 2 itty bitty pushes.

  4. My husband overheard me saying Wow, I actually did something right in the parenting world and he sat me down and took the time to point out a lot of things I have been doing right and it made me feel so much better about the current angst we are experiencing.I am sending labor thoughts your way, if you will send them back my way in a couple of weeks. #3 is baking and I am ready for her to be done!

  5. Thinking of you, Liz. I hope these last few days go by quickly, that your labor and delivery go quickly and smoothly, and that you soon have a healthy little baby girl in your arms.That was all brilliant, all of it. You & Rebecca. I’ve been thinking about this topic for quite some time, must get my thoughts together on it. So much easier, acceptable, and I fear, interesting to be self-depracating than to give the hint that you think you’re a good mommy or (what’s bothering me more) GASP, that you actually like motherhood.

  6. <>you’re doomed to raise a brood of serial killers. Or worse, minimum wage fast food employees.<>ROFL.Hey, I’m a bad mommy too. I found The Dandelion (17M) sitting on the kitchen table eating crumbled bittersweet chocolate I was saving for a cake I was going to make and I… just laughed my ass off. (I would do the same thing if I were him).You’re brilliant, both as a mother and as a writer. Sending you happy thoughts. Good luck!

  7. First off, could Thalia be any cuter?Secondly, amen and amen. We all have shortcomings, and admitting them doesn’t make up horrible parents. In fact, I’m willing to bet those seemingly perfect parents out there, who are always bragging and judging, and even more insecure than we are. Otherwise why would they feel the need to advertise how they are fantastic parents with perfect children?Finally, Baby, come out come out where every you are!

  8. Actually I’ve seen WAAAAY too many parents gushing about how gorgeous and SMART their babies are.It’s the whole “my baby is 8 months old and can SIGN FOUR SIGNS ALREADY!” because apparently teaching them to say “Mama” isn’t as good anymore as SIGNING ‘mama’. And the looks they give if their child walks at 10 months but yours isn’t walking until 14. Blah blah.I think the bragging is as big as ever… “I’m such a great parent… you are not. Your child isn’t rolling over at 7 days like MINE did!”LOL.

  9. If Skippy is bad then I don’t want to be good. And Thalia doesn’t look any worse off from eating peanut butter. If the pb is contributing to her cuteness then you should give it to her at every meal.

  10. Come out, Clintonia Portia! Trust me, your parents will find you a better name. Maybe she’s waiting for you to pack a better hospital bag? (Make Nate do it, so you don’t have to get up.)

  11. Thalia? So adorable I’m not sure how you ever say no to her. But I’m speaking from daughter deprivation.Maybe Girl Two is giving you a hint of things to come? Doing things on her own timetable and no one else’s?People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We are all good mothers some of the time, not so good others, excellent now and then, and crappy once in a while. Life. It’s multilayered. It’s complex. That’s what makes it interesting.

  12. I wrote a pretty similar response to the same issue on Friday.And I am SO glad that the CIO thing worked for you (as it has for us) I seem to remember pushing it on you about a year ago, and I’d have felt SHIT if Thalia was suffering from clear signs of “learned helplessness” because I could not keep my mouth shut. Sears would have hunted me DOWN.I like the Mother’s Day tip. I’ll do my very best. I am rather good at this parenting too, but I don;t tend to take stock of that in writing. Can’t hurt. Just once. As long as I don’t become insufferable.And SM is right. The second one shows you how much you’re stilling effing clueless.

  13. i’m pretty much never around and commenting anymore (sorry!) but i’m still reading, and i’d just like to say that i’ve known this secret – that you’re a great mom – for a long time. in fact, most of the mommybloggers who have been responding to rebecca’s post are good mommies, and this isn’t news to me. but it’s really nice to have y’all reminding yourselves and us. maybe i should write a post about how i *will be* a good mom someday, even though i worry that i won’t be… or maybe this is just a bandwagon i can’t jump on. 😛

  14. thank you for sharing pictures of beautiful thalia! she’s a lucky girl to have you for a mommy 🙂

  15. Thanks for this– I’m overwhelmed with all of these amazing posts.Someone wisely suggested that all of this self-deprecation and negativity comes with the back-lash of the 50’s June Cleaveresque mom. We’re rebelling against the “good mother!” stereotype which is cool and fine but a little unfair on us and tomorrow’s mothers. “I suck” is not the most flattering of fashion statements.The style needs to change (in my opinion) in order to see change in the parent-community.Love you mad. Love those babes of yours as well. Born and soon to be flailing among us!

  16. Great post. I’m still laughing. Yeah, I’ve got that “bad mommy” thing too … when the pediatrician asked PunditGirl at last check up about eating her fruits and vegetables, she happily responded,” I don’t have to eat them. My mommy gives me PediaSure.” (Insert patented pediatrician evil-eye look here). And doesn’t TV do a good job of keeping our kids in the social look so they won’t feel left out?? 😉

  17. I am a “bad mommy” too. I let my five year old play WAY too many computer games this weekend – the worst part – they weren’t educational (gasp).

  18. I think the self deprecating slant is all too common for the reasons you elaborate on, but at the end of the day everyone is just doing their best to ‘get by.’I’m also sorry that you had that ‘nasty’ comment. I don’t know how common that kind of behaviour is [the horrible comments] I do know that for some reason the horrid ones haunt you, no matter how many other pleasant ‘chat’s you have with people. I think that maybe it’s indicative of human nature – we perseverate on the negative rather than bask is the happy.Best wishes

  19. Thanks, I needed that. I’m in the stage where everything changes hour to hour so I have no idea what’s working and what’s not at this point. It’s great for your parenting self esteem.I’m giving myself small kudos every day though – like the fact that Myles hasn’t peed himself out of his diaper all day. Who-hoo! I’ve been thinking of you. I hope you’re hanging in there.

  20. I love this. Especially as I serve up my daughters big helpings of Cup o’ Noodle <>(There’s HOW many grams of fat in that?!)<>We could all use a break.

  21. I can’t understand the natural peanut butter stuff. I’m a Skippy girl all the way! This little girl (Natalia, right?) will come soon! (how’d you like that prediction).I love reading all the posts started by GGC. I just can’t do it. No matter what I start to write, I heart ‘evil twin’ inside my head adding a ‘but’ to everything I say.

  22. You know my husband’s Granny says when she was raising kids no one said ‘good mother’ or good father. the question was always if they had a ‘good baby’. interesting(name of the day is Phaedra)

  23. Confession: We never co-slept. Not ever. Except when someone had a nightmare and then they usually tired of being with us and asked to be taken back to their own beds. Bad Mommy? I dunno…all my kids are in the honor program. Not braggin…just saying since I’m sure Dr. Sears would have me pistol-whipped for not breast feeding until they got their driver’s licenses.

  24. Gorgeous, gorgeous kiddo. Definitely showing signs of suffering from CIO.I wrote yesterday about the complicated, mixed, confused feelings about being a mom. It’s very much on my mind these days, but mostly in a happy place.

  25. Thank you. I’m new around here, and 36 weeks pregnant with my first, and can I just say that the internet has me already neurotic with all the “issues” out there, from cloth diapers to co-sleeping/babywearing to breastfeeding… so by the time I was 20 weeks into the pregnancy (never mind the baby!) I’d already decided I was destined to bad mommyhood.Nice to know there’s hope.(And dammit, I’ve still got at least 4 weeks left till I’ve got my little one, you need to pop that one out soon so I can live vicariously… or something…)

  26. sighI just left the most awesome comment ever, and The Internets ate it.Anyway…you’re child is extremely cute for someone suffering the psychological sequela of CIO. However, I am still forced to call CPS.Everything in moderation – that includes peanut butter, gummie bears, wheat grass, self-deprecating, and bragging.I thought my best moment as mommy was scoring a Cinderalla breakfast at Disney World. My younger daughter recently made me a thank you card for doing her hair in butterfly barettes. I evidently work too hard at perfection – I didn’t realize how easy it does come. 😉

  27. Thanks Daphne! How about some other musts for me? What do you think about vaccinations? Cosleeping? Babywearing? Cloth diapering? Pacifiers? Thumb sucking? Nap routines? TV watching? Tummy time? Hurry and let me know–I won’t make a move until I hear from you. While you’re at it, I need a name, so whatever you’ve got in mind I’m sure will be perfect.

  28. I have a ten year old and I don’t think I’ve ever had organic peanut butter in my house. Shit. How do I make up for that now? At least now I can totally blame anything that happens in the next several years on her lack of organic peanut butter. Angsty myspace? No organic peanut butter. Black eyeliner and black clothes? No organic peanut butter. If I only knew that organic peanut butter was a must! Oh, the horror!~Aurelia

  29. Clarks!You’ve got to hurry up with that kid, Liz, ’cause we’re leaving town on Thursday. I’ve got my catcher’s mitt ready for “Plan C”…

  30. Well said Liz.(I don’t know how much merit that praise carries as it was offered by a woman who regularly feeds her children – and dog – nothing but processed cheese and peanut butter.)But damnit, I make my own jam from scratch, so I must be a great mother.Good luck with the birth. I hope it’s easy and the babe arrives happy and safe.Best wishes.

  31. mom-101, may i just say you are such a good writer it leaves one reeling. i feel lucky to get to read every one of your deftly wielded words. thanks.

  32. I love this post. I don’t buy organic anything, I let my girls watch Sponge Bob, and I lose my patience far too easily.But we also read lots of books, we act silly and boogie to Dancing With the Stars, and we have picnics on the dining room floor. I think sometimes it is the sign of being a good parent when one can laugh at one’s parenting skills, or lack thereof. I know if I didn’t laugh, I would cry.Here’s hoping you have a new baby by Mother’s Day. 🙂

  33. Upside Up just won the contest for new bestest, favoritist reader. I know I haven’t publicized the contest well, but that’s what makes it such an honor to have come in first.

  34. did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?…..did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?did you have the baby yet?(sorry, Liz. got an attack of the crazies)But, ehm, did you have the baby yet?

  35. I really am a bad mom sometimes. Really. But often I’m not so bad and sometimes I’m pretty damn good, frankly.I’m a little fat too, but not fat enough to complain about anymore, so I’ll keep it to myself now.

  36. <>Thalia is Beautiful<>Also, your post on being a bad mommy has been nominated by our readers as Hot Stuff Of The Week over at our site, < HREF="" REL="nofollow">GNMParents<>. Good luck in the voting!

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