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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Mom, Bad Mom - How about am I a NORMAL mom?

Written by Lee

I don't need to call myself a good mom or label myself with a group of moms who want to identify themselves as "bad" moms, I just want to feel like a normal mom. And by normal I mean, you know, feeling like what I go through as a mom is a part of the universal mommying experience and that I'm not some alien creature floating around in my singular wacked out solar system.

Isn't that a reasonable thing to want?

Feeling rather abnormal started from the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first kid. Contrary to most of the women around me who were thrilled and overcome with life joy at the prospect of becoming a mom, I was scared to the core of my soul. To be brutally honest, I wasn't even sure I wanted to be a mom even as that tiny life had already started to grow within my belly. Thank God for faith and a soulmate of a husband is all I have to say.

The strange feeling continued throughout my pregnancy as no pregnant woman I encountered seemed to feel the way I did - ambivalent, confused, frightened, detached. And looking for maternity clothes as I busted out only amplified how out-of-sorts I felt.

The day I brought my firstborn home, I had a practical nervous breakdown as we walked through our front door and I saw all of the familiar comforts of home around me. I sobbed and sobbed with the realization that nothing was the same anymore. Our comfy couch, our loyal dogs, our escape of a bed, our walls scattered with art from our travels - nothing looked the same. It all looked and felt different. This baby was here to stay and would change everything around me and I crumbled under the realization that there was no turning back now.

And so begun the journey of my motherhood.

Almost seven years and three kids later, there are countless examples of how I have felt and continue to feel well, atypical. But the part of my mama experience that makes feeling atypical the hardest to deal with is that it seemed to me that no one was talking about the way I was feeling.

In most of the places I encountered moms, the conversation was not the one I wanted to be having. It's not that other moms wouldn't admit that being a mom was hard or that they yelled from time to time, it's just that most moms didn't care dig in to the real stuff like I did.

I needed to hear that I was not an alien because I didn't really want to cook for my kids too much of the time. Or that it's okay to feel that their screaming and running through the house is like an assault on my person. Or that turning into a Nazi dictator at bedtime barking orders is totally normal. Or that muttering and cursing under my breath how much I hate doing this mom thing while washing the dishes and listening to the fighting is what ALL moms do.

I need and want to talk about how I'm not good in the kitchen, how I don't care if my kids eat sugar maybe too often, how getting good grades and sending them to a "good" school is not at the top of my priority list, how I don't plan on saving to pay for their college, how it doesn't matter to me that they're not enrolled in every class under the sun, how playing naked in the backyard is more important to me, how my house lives in a constant state of toys and clutter, how my mind often wanders to exploring exotic places, and most of all, how I have to dig deep most each and every day to recommit myself over and over to my choice in becoming a mother.

Does any of this make me good or bad? I really don't care. I just want to know I'm not alone.

There have been plenty of posts about whether or not the current media trend of being a "bad" mother is a good or bad thing. Now the media trendsetters may have gotten the label wrong because really the "bad" everyone is talking about is not "bad" at all. It's normal. And what mom in her right mind wants to slap a BAD label on herself and wear it proudly. (And yes, I do know about her and although I don't know her, she's most likely in her right mind and she just seems like she was ahead of the curve with the label of "bad.")

But really the "bad" that everyone is talking about is really a good thing because it opens up the conversation. It exposes the feelings that I've had from the moment of seeing that line on that pee stick up unto today. It helps all of the moms who are afraid to admit their many many weaknesses in the middle of a playgroup to be able to stand up for a moment and verbalize that yes, maybe they do some of that "bad" stuff too.

It would be really wonderful to think that we as "bad" or normal moms are not being judged. But I know firsthand that there are plenty of supermoms out there who feel quite comfortable in the judging role. Who look with question and doubt on some of the choices that us "bad" moms make. Who feel that there really is a "right" or better way to be doing this mothering thing.

And you know what? I'm guilty of it too. I look at some of the supermoms in my world who home school and bake organic bread and organize educational field trips and put their kids to bed at 6:30 PM each and every night with disdain from time to time. Like their way of mothering somehow threatens my way of doing things. And this conversation that is now developing in the mamasphere is making me rethink my position. And that is a good thing.

So if the "bad" mother trend does anything for the state of the modern-day mom, I hope it brings to our consciousness an understanding of the other side. That it inspires and sustains a conversation that can help us look one another in the eye and nod in understanding that this is one tough job and that we all seek to do it a million different ways.

And whether we struggle or excel at cooking, cleaning, teaching, painting, breastfeeding, sleep-training, girl scout leading, sports coaching, PTA attending, homework helping, it doesn't really matter. No matter how we do it, it's not good or's simply normal.

And...we are not alone.


  1. You rock.

    In my post about this, I was trying to say a lot of what you just said. Why do "those" things have to be labeled as BAD? I do think the label started off with another meaning, and that's what you've described here. People were finally talking about not being perfect and it's just kind of gotten out of control.

    But I think you're right, it's so good to open up the conversation.

    Here's the thing for me. I don't know if I'm a freak or not, but I never felt/feel like I couldn't talk about the very things you list here. I had THE EXACT same experience, even to the break down when coming through the door that first day with Miles. I totally lost it. And I've been talking about it ever since. Maybe I just have really good, open, non-judgmental friends (that's a very big part of it), but it's also that I'm just that way. I try to articulate this struggle I've always had in a genuine way with pretty much every mom I'm getting to know. And almost every time, I can see this sigh of relief change in the person's face when I start saying how hard this is and how I struggle so much with my emotions about all of it. If I say that I grieve my life before kids, that doesn't mean that I want to stop being their mom. And it makes other moms feel a whole lot better when I say it. If they end up thinking I'm "bad" because of these thoughts and feelings, I just really don't care. Because I think the majority of us do have these feelings.

    Now that I've written a book, I have to go feed my kids lunch. I don't feel like it though...

  2. Lee, being normal is over-rated. :)

    I really like this post. I think we all struggle and I don't trust those women who can't admit it. They are not being real. Or maybe they have full-time nanny.

  3. Oh thank every deity that ever was, I am NOT the only person out there who struggles.

    When I first got pregnant with my son I was involved in an online group of women due the same month as I was -- and through the whole experience (since not ONE of my friends has had a child yet, or even really thought about it, and I'm 35!!!!) they all seemed so blissfully SURE about what was RIGHT and GOOD and PERFECT and how wonderful this all was...

    And... I wasn't.

    I was (and AM) scared a lot. I yell sometimes. Heck, I have sworn! I let my kids eat candy and watch tv and play video games (although I only have a wii) and I don't enroll them in all the millions of culturally expanding classes.

    I count myself LUCKY if they make it through the year, if they manage to keep going through the struggle to learn (since my son has a learning issue) and I try not to compare them to other kids and the acheievements that other parents are so puffed up about.

    Since becoming a single parent i have had to give up the illusion of being a "good" mom -- of the 100% organic, vegetarian, enviro-hippy, extra curricular pushing, homeschooling mama that everyone I knew looked up to... and realize that I'm doing the best I can... and my kids will love me anyway.

  4. So never alone!

    I don't have any idea what kind of mom I am - - hopefully good enough. I was so scared and had no idea what to do...even now I mostly feel like I'm "winging it".

    This was a great post - thanks for sharing. It's good to have company!

  5. I don't like the labels of good and bad. I think that it should be real and fake. We are all REAL Mother's. We make mistakes but love our kids with our whole soul!

  6. I still look around every once in a while, wondering when the "parents" will show up so I can leave this babysitting gig - I still feel that young - who the heck thought it was a good idea that I raise kiddos?!

    Today I spent two hours making low protein crackers for youngest - two hours - only for him to grab my hand and spit the damn thing out. I tried them. He was right. They tasted like pooh. Back to the drawing board.

    The Good Mom would have gotten it right the first time around :-) The Real Mom tries again with a smile.

    When are you moving to Texas?

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  8. You said it! I think you and I would have been great friends and had fun raising our kids together. I always thought my BFF was a "supermom" she made sure all of her kids clothes matched all the time. She always kept a clean house. She always did everything perfectly. Except she had no idea how to be a parent to 3 kids. If our husbands were out of town (they are business partners) she would call me over to put her kids to bed because they wouldn't listen to her and I was the bedtime Nazi. They listened to me because I yelled and stuck to my guns and didn't play their game.

    I envied her though (still do) because she is a neat freak and I am not.

    I love all of her kids as I have known the youngest since he was 2 and that was 12 years ago. the oldest is almost 21 and the middle is exactly 3 weeks older than my 17 year old son.

    Am I a better, or good parent? Who knows. But I am normal. Good for you for writing this. You should send it in to a parenting magazine to let other moms know they too are normal and should not feel guilty for being the only mom they know how to be. Just like I told Amy the other day.

  9. from one mother to another - you always manage to get right inside my head.

  10. I have to say, I truly hate this "bad" label. It makes me cringe each and every time I read it. Moms today have SO much pressure to excel at everything "motherly"...a term like "bad" makes me want to slap someone's face.

    I'm not sure why we, as women, cannot support eachother and recognize the struggles of motherhood more often. I have a few select friends (you, my dear friend are one of them) who I can confide my failings and insecurities to without the fear of "judgement". Every momma needs that.

    When I brought my first-born home, my entire world was rocked. NO ONE (and I literally mean NO ONE) prepared me for those difficult days. Because of that, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. That was a dark time (so hard to admit!!) It wasn't until my sister-in-law confided to me that she had gone through the EXACT same thing with her first child that I finally felt like I wasn't completely losing myself.

    I love the idea of throwing out the labels and concentrating on "normal". I think it starts at a supportive place like here at MWOBs!


  11. exactly! i mean, what is normal? lovely sharing lee!

  12. Moms Without Blogs is being featured on Five Star Friday!

  13. as some say...normal is merely a cycle on the washing machine :)

  14. you sound perfectly normal to me! but i know that's not saying a whole lot.

    i'm sorry it's taken me 800 years to get over here and read your post. it is so reassuring to know that there are others that just want to keep things real. i think your girls (and little mr.) are going to grow up to be extraordinary parents (and people) because of the simple expectation you have of them to be normal.

    i do think somehow there is this desire among people (maybe more so with women) to be perfect. i guess it is societal pressure, i don't know. it just screws everything, and everybody, up.

    i want to be a better mom, a good mom, but that doesn't mean the classes and the output of my children and the cooking... i want to be better about tuning into what my children are really feeling and helping them find ways to fill the voids. i want them to grow up to love themselves as much as i love them. then maybe they won't feel the need to be something other than... NORMAL!!

    awesome post from an awesomely normal mom.

  15. To me the measure of a "good" mom is how loved her child feels- in the end that is all that really matters ;)

  16. Thank you. I feel like running away from it all sometimes. My kids are young, 6 and 2 and I am a SAHM. I hate not being alone even to use the bathroom. I scream, threaten, and cry. I worry that I am damaging my kids. I want to be happy. But I think I have been trying to be something I am not. I live in Utah and everyone here tries to be "perfect". I cannot be.

  17. Thank you...i thought i was on the verge of losing control. Im 20 years old I work Nights at the hospital 11-7am and school 8am -1pm. Im a single mother of a four year old. She goes to school, and she's so smart. everyone tells me how good of a kid she is but when she is with me all she seems to do is whine, and ask for things. My mother helps so i can finish college and Grandmas spoil their grandchildren, and im not there all the time to control it. I feel like i barley see her even when I am home, im exhausted...but i refuse to be another statistic. the 15 year old girl that got pregnant and is doing nothing with their life. I want a better life for her and this is the only way. I am still developing, and growing myself. Finding myself. It's difficult to raise a child when you are still a child, so I am constantly feeling like a terrible mother. She is an only child, she's bored, and so interested in everything. I'm not a bad mom. I may not be the normal mom, but i am not a bad mom. I didn't make the wrong decision, and I never look back and regret it, sometimes I just want some me time like the rest of people my age. Is that so wrong? I may not get it all the time or go out of my way to indulge in it, but sometimes I want it so bad. I hope in May when i graduate and move out with her alone that she can grow up understanding all that I did for her. This is all for her, I would never ask for this for me. I go with no sleep for 2 days at a time just to stay up and watch her run around at 5pm when i havent slept between work and school since 10pm the night before. I love to watch her. I just hope she isn't feeling neglected or alone when I am not there. Maybe I am the one with the's just too much and i can't slow down. I have to keep going. Than maybe next year I can get to normal. but in the mean time I'll let the kid stay up and watch T.V or run around with no shoes on with the neighbor kids or eat 4 pops if she wants to...I don't have the energy to fight or argue. Talking right now is all i can do, i'll work on normal later!


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