Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Bad Mommy versus The Perfect Mommy

When I announced my pregnancy to my large group of -mostly childless- friends, several people told me that I would make a good mom.

That sentence scared me like nothing else in pregnancy ever had. What does it even mean, to be a good mother? How does one qualify what a good mother looks like, sounds like? And if some mothers are good mothers, that means there are bad mothers - and what if I was secretly one of them? What if I was selfish sometimes and wanted to go to the bathroom without my kid in there with me, what if I wanted to leave my baby with his daddy and escape to the coffee shop sometimes, does that make me a bad mommy?
Is this what a bad Mommy looks like?

What if I put my sleeping baby down in a swing, does that make me a bad mommy? What if cloth diapers just don't work for us overnight - now am I a bad mommy?

It's all just too much to think about, defining who is and who isn't a bad mommy. I can only focus on what I choose to do because it feels right to me.

It feels right to put my sleeping baby in a swing, where he will be rocked and loved while I breathe and sip the cold coffee I made for myself hours earlier. It feels right to put him in a disposable diaper so that neither of us are waking every hour for a diaper change. It feels right to take time to re-charge every so often, to remind myself that I am just "I" - not always a "We."

It feels right to breastfeed my baby, but if that didn't work for us the way it has so far, it would feel right to make sure my baby was fed and happy - no matter what I had to do to accomplish that task.

In 2008 I had the chance to be a part of a community where nobody is judged for any choice that they happen to make, as long as it is respectful to others. I felt absolutely freed from the world's negativity. I vowed that I would return to my life and work harder than ever before to make sure nobody I ever encountered felt judged for any choice they make (as long as it was respectful towards others). I've slipped up more than once, but I still continue forward with this mission, especially now that becoming a mommy has opened up a gorgeously diverse group of women for me.

But as I get to know these mothers, as I move forward as a mother myself... I'm realising that I never stopped judging myself. I never stopped and allowed myself to simply make the best choices that I can. I haven't let myself believe that it's okay not to be an absolutely perfect mother.

Or that maybe I get to be the one who decides what perfect means for my family. I think it is time to move forward, to let go. I think it's time for freedom.


  1. This is a great post. We all doubt ourselves at some point or another when it comes to parenting.. and there are times when you feel like a great mother and times when you feel like you have no idea what you're doing.. but you have the right idea. Find what feels right for you and do it with all of your might!!

  2. Thank you, Jayne! Is it sad that I only realized today that I can be something other than either a bad mommy or a perfect mommy? That there is this lovely grey area in between, and it's pretty comfortable here...

  3. You absolutely said it best!!! You are an inspiration to me as a person since I am not a mother (hehe) but I too judge myself ALL the time! I am learning through people like you and my amazing boyfriend that if it is not ok to judge others then why am I constantly judging myself?? Farren there are no words to describe how much I appreciate you and LOVE having you in my life!! You are one of the most inspiring and amazing people I know and truely you are my favorite...hehe :)

    So much love and hugs to you!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3


  4. This kind of thing obviously applies to all parents. When Xavier was born, I freaked out and blamed myself for every little thing that happened with him ("Oh no, he scratched his face! It's my fault for not cutting his nails shorter or covering his hands when he went to sleep!), and I cried over these things. I made myself a little nuts about it. I worried when he refused to breast-feed ("Oh no! He's not going to bond with his mom!") But that gave me a chance to feed him, and, ultimately, it turned out that he was able to bond with both of us, and my wife wasn't stuck being the only person who could feed him. I worried when my wife stopped being able to produce milk, and we had to switch him over to formula ("Oh no! Doctors say that kids who don't get breast milk aren't as smart or grow as well as the the kids who get breast milk!") But Xavier is plenty smart--he knows all kinds of stuff, speaks very well for a two-year-old and has a nicely developed sense of humor. And he's off the charts for both height and weight for his age (he's two-and-a-half but wears clothes meant for a four-year-old.)

    Point is, there's not a wrong way to raise your kid as long as you're sane and keeping them safe, fed, clothed and loved.

    Is it wrong that I taught my kid the "What What (In The Butt)" song? Maybe for some people, but we all laugh like crazy in our household when Xavier sings that. Is it wrong that Xavier says, "HEYYY BABY!" when he sees his mama at the end of the day? Maybe for some people, but we think it's cute.

    All of the things we do with our boy are our choices, and we make them through our common sense, practicality, our values and our love for our kid and our family. I don't see how anything we'd do could be wrong.

  5. As someone guilty of tell you "You'll make a great mom", I just want to clarify/defend etc that statement.
    I said it with the underlying meaning of "Farren, you are a true, honest and great human being who cares deeply about those close to you. By this fact alone, I am assuming that taking care of your baby will feel like second nature to you. Sure you'll learn as you go and make some mistakes, but you'll grow from them and be better because of it."

  6. Haha, Favrah, you know I love you darling. <3

    Erik - Great comment, I loved hearing your point of view. I agree that this does happen to parents of all genders, I should have said that and I thank you for pointing it out! Desmond had a serious scratch-on for his face, too! His fingernails were so long that the first day he was home we went to trim them and realized we nicked his finger. We just about died we felt so terrible, especially the next day when the visiting health nurse told us not to cut his nails for 2 weeks. Ugghhh. Parenthood.

  7. Maria - I sincerely hope that you don't feel badly for your comment, I knew your intentions were kind - it was my own mind that turned it into something more. That said, your comment here means a lot to me and made me well up with years. Thank you. You are fantastic.

  8. No no no, I don't feel bad about saying it! I just wanted to clarify that it wasn't just a blanket statement as a reaction to your mommy-hood.