Wednesday, June 13, 2012

am i a bad mom?

"Do you think I'm a bad mom?" a friend asked me not too long ago.

"What??"  I had no idea what she was talking about.

"A bad mom?  Do you think I'm a bad mom?"  she repeated.

"Why in the world would I think that?"

"I feel like a bad mom."  She said.  She went on to explain that she was overwhelmed with parenting.  She had just gotten a call from her son's teacher who was explaining that she needed to spend more time in the evening reading with him.  She's a working mom, has two young children, and by the time she gets home, gets dinner on the table, gets her kids situated, gets the house taken care of, gets the kids bathed, gets EVERYTHING done, it's already past bedtime, they haven't spent the recommended "20 minutes per night" of reading that his teacher is recommending, and she felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the everyday expectations that none of --NONE OF US--can truly meet and still feel like a normal, rational human being.

She started explaining herself, stating her case, looking for areas where she could "make more time," getting herself MORE worked up, and said, "Am I a bad mom because I can't find an extra 20 minutes per night to read to my kid?" and that's when I blurted out, "you're NOT a bad mom!  You're not a bad mom because you're actually asking that question.  Bad moms don't worry about whether their bad moms or not.  They don't worry about their parenting skills. They don't care.  That's why their bad moms. YOU are a great mom. Stop beating yourself up."

It was like a lightbulb went off in both of our brains.

I think this is a question that all of us, as mothers, have wondering about ourselves at one point or another.

Am I a good mom?
Am I doing everything I can?
Is my kid going to need therapy as an adult cause I screwed this parenting thing up?
Am I doing something ass backwards and ruining my child?
Am I doing too much?
Is my kid a brat?
Is my kid on par with his friends?

Did I miss something?

We're not perfect moms, but we're far from bad moms.  We're all just doing the best we can with what we've got.

For some reason I'm really good at giving out advice, or thinking of "the right thing to say" when a friend is upset.  I'm not always so great about listening to my own advice later down the road when faced with the same question.

A few weeks later I was talking to a different friend.  Strangely, this blog came up in conversation.  She said, "I loved the post you wrote the other day...but I have to admit...sometimes your blog makes me feel like a bad mom."

"What?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"It does.  It's not your fault, but you just do so much with Sadira, and I feel like I'm not doing enough for my kids.  It's makes me feel like I need to do more.  I feel like you two have such a happy life."

"Are you serious right now?" I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I explained to her that this blog is a memory's a list of things I want to accomplish, and obviously Sadira is a huge part of my life, so usually she's involved in the activities too.  It's a collection of the happy, fun things that we've done together.  I don't blog about my day-to-day life, because the purpose of this blog was never to be a journal.  But if I did, there would be more stories of frustration, annoying, patience-testing, and other similar things that parents of young children experience.  This blog is different, and was never meant to document "a typical day in my life."  I'm blogging about the overall, the fun, the happy, the things I want to remember.  I don't really feel the need to blog about the struggles.  I may allude to them, but I don't choose to write about them in a public forum.

I deal with difficulty differently.  I speak about it to friends.  I talk it out, a lot.  I think about it, and talk about it some more.  But I don't write about.  And certainly not on a public blog.

So while my life IS very happy and full, not every day is roses and sunshine as some may think.  I just don't use THIS forum to talk about the tough times publicly.  If that comes across as phony, or like my life is "perfect," I'm sorry.  That's certainly not my intention.  It's just my preference to use this to record different memories...the happy ones, that usually involve friends who like to look back and read over our memories too.

And most importantly it was never, NEVER my intent to make anyone that I care about feel like a bad mom.

So flash forward to this week.  I've been a bit stressed at work, I'm closing on the refinance on my house this week, so juggling that, and feeling the crunch of coming home from an expensive vacation (Disney last week! Ahh!) on both my workload and my pocketbook.  My house is just beginning to look like it's pieced back together again.  There's been a lot on my mind.

And I started doubting myself.  Started thinking about all of the things I could be doing better, how I haven't gone to the gym a single day since we returned from our vacation, how I have a project at work that I really need to work on from home every night this week, but I also need to get all of the laundry finished that I STILL haven't washed from our vacation, and a host of other things...

And then that little voice popped into the back of my head, "Am I a bad mom?"

I seriously started thinking that.

And I know the answer is no, I'm not a bad mom, I'm just a busy mom, but that little voice just stuck the back of my brain.

Then last night I was at my grandmother's house.  She somewhat absentmindedly mentioned to me that her neighbor had taken her kids to Sesame Place (a theme park in Pennsylvania) and they had SO MUCH FUN, and have I ever taken Sadie there?  Because she would probably really really enjoy it!  (Which resulted in Sadira saying, "yeah Mommy, can we go to Sesame Place??!!")

I resisted the urge to scream, "ARE YOU KIDDING WE JUST GOT BACK FROM DISNEY WORLD!!!!"

But I didn't. I just said, "No, we've never been.  I meant to try to go last year, but we never made it."

My grandmother didn't say anything else about it.  She quickly changed the topic, and I'm sure she forgot we even had the (brief) conversation.  But for some reason it stuck in my head.  I remember when Sadira was little and some friends were getting ready to move out of the area, they planned a trip to Sesame Place and invited us along. I declined, though, opting to wait til Sadie was older, since she was awfully little at the time, and I didn't want to spend money on a trip I didn't think she'd even remember.

And now she's pretty much outgrown Sesame Street.

So this morning (THE NEXT DAY, can you believe it? WHY was I still thinking about this?!) as I'm walking around the living room with my bowl of Cheerios in hand, I was thinking,

"Am I a bad mom cause I never took Sadira to Sesame Place?"

Attention Moms of the World, do you hear how absurd this statement is?


For the record, Sadie doesn't even care that much for Sesame Street or Sesame characters...she never really got into it (much to my dismay, since it was my childhood obsession!)

Then I remembered the conversation I had had with my friend weeks earlier...that if you even have to ASK the question of yourself, "Am I a bad mom?" then you know what the answer is.  ESPECIALLY when you're asking yourself that question about something as superficial as a trip to a theme park.


Good Lord, no.  Of course I'm not a bad mom because of that.  I'm not a bad mom at all!

And then as I was getting ready for work, I thought of all the other little "reasons" why I've felt like a bad mom before.  And I'm going to write them all out right here.  Just so we can all see how absolutely ridiculous they are.

Am I a bad mom because I never took Sadira to Sesame Place?
Am I a bad mom because Sadira still hasn't learned to swim all the way by herself?
Am I a bad mom because when it's not a school night I'm flexible, and sometimes waaaay to late with bedtime?
Am I a bad mom because I'm strict when it comes to behavior?  Because I know how well she's CAPABLE of behaving, and when she acts out (or more like a typical 4 year old) I get angry with her?
Am I a bad mom because I didn't try harder with Sadie's dad?  Because I didn't marry him or try harder to "make it work" for her sake?
Am I a bad mom because we are happy with our unconventional family?  Is this teaching her to disrespect the sacrament of marriage?
Am I a bad mom because I don't buy her a birthday gift each year? Because I feel like her party is her gift, and that's sufficient?
Am I a bad mom because I won't let her "play" on my cell phone or iPad?  Because I feel that these are MY things, and she has enough things that are hers, I don't need to share MY electronics too?
Am I a bad mom because I limit her toys?  And when my grandmother starts to send her home with too many new things I make her donate some of her older toys?
Am I a bad mom because I hate hate hate hate hate having toys in my living room/dining room or really anywhere on the first floor?
Am I a bad mom because when I see my friends post on Facebook things like, "Who in the world would have their child out at a restaurant/Target/grocery store/{insert other public place here} at 10pm at night?" I'm usually tempted to raise my hand and say, "ME!  Sadie and I are often those people!"?
Am I a bad mom because at least one night we eat dinner out, because I just don't have it in me to cook?
Am I a bad mom because I refused to listen to kids songs in the car?
Am I a bad mom because as a result of outlawing kids songs in the car, Sadie often hears songs with language not suitable for a four year old?
Am I a bad mom because I'm estranged from my father?  Is it bad that Sadira will never have a relationship with her grandfather, even though she bears his last name?
Am I a bad mom because I frequently slip up and say "shit, damn, ass, or hell" in Sadie's presence, even though I try not to? And instead of working harder on watching my tongue I've taught her that they are words that adults can say but not kids?
Am I a bad mom because I didn't try harder to pump after Sadira weaned herself at 6 months and stopped breastfeeding?
Am I a bad mom because I did not volunteer to chaperone any of her field trips last year?
Am I a bad mom because she doesn't have a TV in her room (and won't probably until she's a teenager, if ever)?
Am I a bad mom because I don't have a college fund for Sadira, and I expect her to finance her own college education just as I did?
Am I a bad mom because I won't let Sadira have a Nintendo DS? or Wii?  or Xbox?

You're probably reading some of those things thinking, "why the hell would think that would make you a BAD mom?  If anything it might make you a better mom!"  

Or you may be reading some of those things and thinking, "well, it's not what I would do, but it certainly doesn't make you a bad mom!"

Or you may be saying, "uhhh..yeah, Nas, you're a pretty crappy, strict mom...."

The beautiful thing is, whatever you answered, I don't care.

I know deep down what works for our family.  I know what's working for us, and what wouldn't.  And I know that at the end of the day I'm doing the best I can, making the best decisions for us, and working with what I've got.  

We all could be doing this parenting thing differently, but we do what works for us...and that NEVER makes us bad moms.

So next time you start to think to yourself, "Am I a bad mom because {insert ridiculous standard here}?"  Remind yourself that just by asking yourself that question you already know the answer.

And I promise I'll try to remember to do the same.

Because we are effin' awesome moms.



Sharron said...

I absolutely love this post! Hit home for sure...

Emily B said...

Well, super, now I'm all teary-eyed on the Marc train! This really hit home, Nas. I just dropped Kalil off at school and was told we'd have to chaperone a field trip because he has behavior problems. Rationally, I'm all kinds of pissed that I haven't been told he's a problem, but I've also spent the past hour thinking about how this is my fault because I'm a bad mom. You, my dear, are a fantastic mom and that little girl is lucky to have you!

Shannon said...

I LOVE THIS- AND YOU BOTH. I will be bookmarking this and reminding myself of it often, I am sure.

Stefanie said...

Nas, I do the SAME thing all the time. And the ironic thing is people ask me how I do it all the time -- and then that makes me wonder if I am a bad mom because I do too much! Ha! We are always our own worst critics!

Rachael said...

This is a great post, Nas! I loved it.

Laura said...

Thanks for the excellent reminder Nas. Loved this post!

befcomet said...

As always, Nas, you've said it, and said it well. Love this post.

Lisa S said...

As usual Nas, WONDERFUL post and a good reminder that we as moms need to break through the mommy guilt that plagues us constantly. Thank you!!! You are awesome!!!

nina said...

Out of no where, and when I never expect to hear it, my mom says, "You're a great mom." It stops me in my tracks and makes me reflect on the things I do right, as I so often vilify myself for what I do wrong.

Lola Jacobs said...

I know this was blogged almost a year ago but I just found this site. I love your post, I am going through similar situations but the thing is the people making me feel as if I am a bad parent is my younger brother and sometimes, well most of the time my mother. My husband was diagnosed with bipolar, shouldn't been known, and is no longer allowed to stay with me and my two kids at my brothers. We are living there due to getting fired from both our jobs and husband being injured at work, I now work from home, pretty much a single mother too. Yes, you are right, no one understands what I'm going through, they don't live my life and don't know the sacrifices I am making. But it just hurts that the people you trust the most is the ones who says you're a bad parent without even trying to understand you first. My brother and his inexperienced girlfriend sees some of the stuff I do and yes there were times I am a little more flexible on my kids than other times, but for him to assume I'm like that all the time, I just can't wait until they has kids of their own so I can sit back and enjoy their struggles with parent life, not that parenting is bad, but sometimes overwhelming.

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