In the world of motherhood right now, it’s good to be bad.
Just as soccer moms, hipster dads, and helicopter parents all have been media darlings at one time or another, now the Bad Mommy has stepped up to the plate.
She’s appearing in tell-all memoirs, openly confessing that she loves her husband more than her children. She’s admitting to magazine journalists that having a baby really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She’s turning up on mom blogs, where she writes candidly about spanking her kids or having a glass of wine during neighborhood play dates.
I’ve been reading these tales with great interest, because I think there’s a little bit of Bad Mommy in all of us. The difference is that suddenly, it’s OK to talk about it.
I made the dubious decision last week to write about my own Bad Mommy experience on my blog. My family had recently ventured outside Nashville to a small, family-friendly restaurant with live music, and that’s where my 2-year-old son unexpectedly had a meltdown. Throughout the meal, he periodically screamed and cried and demanded to be let out of his highchair.
Lest you get the wrong impression, his discomfort wasn’t affecting anyone’s dining experience. The music was louder than loud and more than adequately drowned the kid out.
But toward the end of our meal, with the restaurant getting ready to close and the remaining patrons finishing up their food, I finally caved to my mini-dictator’s repeated demands to get down from his highchair. I watched as he ran to the back of the room, while I shoveled a few bites of my now-cold meal into my mouth.
At that moment, I wrote, I realized that I was, essentially, That Mother — the one I ordinarily frowned at in restaurants while my own children sat angelically by my side. Until then, I would have sworn that I’d never allow my son to get down from his seat and run alone to the back of a restaurant. However, in that moment, I used my judgment and decided it was OK.
What’s more, I told my readers that I was going to try harder to not make snap judgments of other moms whose kids were misbehaving. Perhaps they really were good moms who were simply having a bad day.
As soon as I published the post, the comments began pouring in. Many were from moms who agreed with me, and said they’d been in the same position. But a significant number of readers were outraged at my Bad Mommy behavior.
“Letting your kids run around a restaurant isn't just obnoxious (other people didn't go out so they could entertain your kid while you eat), it's dangerous,” wrote Amy, who went on to compare what I did to allowing my small children to ride unrestrained in the back of a minivan.
“Four kids and I was never once that mom,” claimed Jenn.
“As parents, when our children do not behave as they should in a public place and interrupt the enjoyment of others, you pick up your kid and leave” chided ‘Anon.’
“I just don't think it's OK to justify being a lazy parent,” sniffed Lisa.
Some of these remarks undoubtedly were intended to sting, but my maternal armor has become pretty thick over the last few years, tempered by the slings and arrows of adolescence.
Seriously, steer a couple of kids through puberty and you will abandon all notions of parenting perfection. I have learned from six years in the adolescent trenches with my stepdaughters that I could be a modern-day June Cleaver, following all the latest parenting manuals and dispensing time outs, engaging in role playing discussions, and practicing occasional tough love.
I could, in other words, do everything “right.”
My kids still will think I’m the Ultimate Loser by the time they hit 12 or 13 years of age. Not only that, despite my best efforts, they will still mess up. They will still act out. And sometimes, people around them will witness their defiance.
If I’m more confident now as a parent, it is only because I have given myself permission to have an off day every once in a while. To be a Bad Mommy. And I can’t give myself that permission without giving it to my children as well.
My son is generally a good kid when we’re out in public, but occasionally he has his moments. He is, after all, 2. As long as bad behavior isn’t the norm, I’m not going to put some Six-Step Parenting Disaster Plan into action when the kid has had it. We’re simply going to get through it as best we can.
Yeah, we’re bad. Stare all you want. I’ll try to minimize your discomfort, but I’m done cringing under your gaze when I know that you have just as many imperfections as I do.
It really is OK to be a Bad Mommy from time to time.
But if my readers are any indication, maybe it isn’t such a good idea for me to write about it.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.