“I’m a bad mum”
We all say it, right before we confess to something that society considers an inappropriate parenting technique.
“I’m a bad mum because…”
Right now, while we are all in the midst of the current pandemic, it seems that this phrase is being used more often by mothers around the globe.
With social media in overdrive, endless time on our hands to scroll the internet, and never ending live work outs, recipe ideas, messy play and fun do’s popping up on our screens, it’s no surprise that many of us, by comparison, feel justified in saying we are “a bad mum”.
“I’m a bad mum, because I let my child watch television for two hours today”.
“I’m a bad mum because I fed my baby toast for dinner last night”.
“I’m a bad mum because I didn’t make play-do for my little one to play with”.
“I’m a bad mum because I’m not using this time to organize my home”.
The list goes on and on and it is nothing new.
Before this pandemic, many mothers prefaced confessions with these four words.
There have always been endless lists of what we should and shouldn’t do with our children. We read the stories in the media, the posts online and get constant reminders from everyone about how we should be raising our children.
While there are mothers in society who would be considered by professional standards as “bad mothers” (neglectful, abusive and substance abusers etc), the majority of us who do not fall into this category continue to use this phrase. It seems we are conditioned to do what is “socially acceptable” and in line with the “social norm”. If we veer away from either, we often find ourselves justifying why we couldn’t or shouldn’t have done what we did. It is a way of protecting ourselves from judgment and criticism.
“I’m a bad mum”. Whether we think it or vocalize it, we are not doing ourselves or other mothers any favours. We are allowing unfair comparisons to diminish our confidence in our own parenting ability and in turn make unhealthy precedents for others.
If you let your child watch television for two hours, you are not a bad mum. You are doing what you need to. Pandemic or not, we all need to do what we can to get some time for ourselves or to complete the never-ending list of chores piling up within our four walls.
If you feed your child toast for dinner every now and then, you are not a bad mum. You are doing all you can to survive right now. Pandemic or not, simply getting through the day can be tough and, more often than not, all of your proper cooking remains untouched by a picky child anyway.
If you do not make play-do or create sensory play ideas for your child, you are not a bad mum. You are doing all you can to try and keep yourself and your family happy. Pandemic or not, we all have different pressures and we must always remember that these varying degrees are not always showcased through social media.
If you do not organize your pantry and linen cupboards, you are not a bad mum. You are prioritizing what is important for you and your family right now. Pandemic or not, we all place values on different things as mothers and just because our values may be different to others, this does not mean that we are lesser of a mother.
We must continue to keep things in perspective, for ourselves, other mothers and our children, particularly now when we all feel particularly vulnerable.
If we feel triggered to use this phrase by the state of another mother’s immaculate home, amazing meal plans, endless sensory play ideas and workout regimes, we owe it to ourselves to consider socially distancing ourselves from them for a bit, whether that be by taking a bit of time off social media, turning to books instead of the web or unfollowing/muting accounts.
If we are doing our best to keep our children, safe, warm, fed and loved, we are amazing mothers. “Bad” doesn’t have a place in this context.
Don’t ever forget it.
Words by Emma Heaphy
Photographed by Sharon Schuster exclusively for Mother Muse print No.13 available here