We all know her. The perfect mom. The one who never forgets the sunscreen, bags her own food pouches with homemade baby food, and never/always cosleeps/vaccinates/attachment parents, depending on your stance. We watch her playing at the park in her perfectly fitting jeans while we scrape spit up off our good pair of yoga pants and pass out 100-calorie snack packs of death to our hungry kiddos who had to split the last blueberry breakfast bar that morning because there was only one and eating a raspberry one would be tantamount to treason in Toddler Land.
Maybe she’s a wonderful person. Maybe she’s barely holding it together. But what she is, truly, is an embodiment of all your self-loathing and parenting insecurities. And honestly, where did she get those jeans??
We decided to give the “bad moms,” the ones who maybe break out the iPhone during a long dinner, cave to the cookie pleading after dinner, or who let the broccoli go untasted at the table, a break.
You are not bad moms. You just don’t Bento. (And baby, I don’t either).
In my house, we have what we call the Big List. This list is personal, ever-changing, and exists only in my mind. It doesn’t impact anyone else directly, but it dictates every damn thing I do. It’s basically an accounting for all the f*cks I have to give in a general timespan. Some f*cks given are required (breakfast for kids, grocery shopping for meals, washing clothes, serving dinner, mom having ten minutes alone to get dressed), and some are f*cks+, upgrades, if you will. That means you get your breakfast arranged on the face plate so that the person on the plate has French toast hair and blueberry earrings. Sometimes I’m down for the + version, and sometimes my kids are served up the standard, which is generally oatmeal in a normal bowl, breakfast bars, or scrambled eggs. (The horror, right?)
If you try to come to me during a peak f*cks-dispensing time (known as “meals” around our house) asking me to read a story, whine about why your favorite plate that you used at dinner 10 hours ago is still in the dishwasher, or request that I price home repair contractors, so help you God. I do not have any spare or leftover f*cks or really, the extra minutes to conjure a f*uck buried deep down within me, to give you during a peak f*cks-dispensing moment. I just don’t. Do you remember the last time I made anything in a mason jar? Oh right, me neither. Because I don’t have time for that kind of sh*t.
In the health world, this is known as The Spoon Theory, something well known to those enduring ongoing health issues. In essence, each day you have a certain number of spoons. Each activity in a given day costs you spoons. You have to budget your spoons to get to the end of the day. You can borrow from tomorrow, but then you’ll have fewer to survive with the next day. And the next. And since health and food are so intertwined, I can’t help but see how it totally applies. I allot my mothering f*cks to give as I see fit, I budget them to cover the important things. And what I can’t cover, can’t be that important. Right?
Not that any of my f*cks or spoons or constraints or face plates with French toast hair and blueberry earrings means jack diddly to the perfect mom with the jeans I’ll probably never have.
I grew up in the South. I’m used to hearing the most beautiful, well-crafted insults disguised as compliments, and have been guilty of doling a few out myself. During my freshman year at college, someone unfamiliar with the southern accent listened to me in class, cocked his head, and said, “Your words sound really nice, but I think maybe they’re not.”
He was right.
I was raised on a diet of insults balanced with “bless their hearts” and gossip masquerading as prayer requests. “Pray for Lila’s mom. She’s been *drinking* again.” “They thought that was a good paint color, bless their hearts.” In context, it’s almost charming, especially if it’s all you’ve ever known.
Until it’s applied to your children.
“That’s so great that you don’t mind making PB&Js every night. Good for you.”
“I wish my kids would eat fast food. They hate it.”
“I think it’s retro that you send your kids with a brown bag lunch. Then you don’t have to wash the environmentally-approved Bento boxes. So fun!”
Yeah… so basically, you’re trying to tell me I’m a bad mom, or at least not as good a mom as you. Thanks. I hear you.
But there are absolutes in this world. Cookies are always better with milk. Birthdays require cake. Everything looks a little rosier after a glass of rosé.
And then, there are things that just don’t matter. My kids eating (two) breakfast bars before school. An unscheduled family movie night that runs past bedtime. The occasional glass of juice with breakfast as a treat.
Why is it that we, that moms, are perfectly fine with the absolutes, but lose our freakin’ minds over the trivial day-to-day choices that other people make. If little Debra from day camp is a wiz on the iPad, why not cheer her on? Or better yet, butt the f’ out and worry about your own kid, instead of saying, “Wow! She’s a natural. She must get so much time on that thing.” As one of our editors replied, “Yeah, iParent. So what?”
Exactly. So what? I/she/we are doing the best we can in any given day… I’m sorry, but does that actually constitute being deemed a bad mom or is it fodder for bored mom to make “nice conversation?”
I’m not going to get into what makes someone a bad mom. My personal–completely personal–bar for a good mom is one who is trying. One who is working to keep her kiddo healthy, happy, and safe. Right now, there are moms in refugee camps, moms struggling with health diagnoses, and moms working three jobs to survive all trying to give their kids the exact same thing I’m trying to give mine: A healthy, happy, safe childhood. Tonight, one “bad mom” to another, I’m drinking to them.
Bad Moms, a movie starring Mila Kunis as a uniboob-sporting beige bra-wearer and Kristen Bell as her awesome self premiers July 29, 2016. We wrote this post as a written fist bump from moms everywhere who just can’t anymore.