Fess up Mama’s! How many times a day do you ask yourself this question? Am I a good Mum?
Lately, I’ve had this very conversation with several of my Mama friends, and it seems to be a common theme with new Mums however the more experienced Mums aren’t immune to it either. Since I’m all about being truthful and not pretending that motherhood is all sunshine and unicorns, I thought I’d give you my take on what it means to be a bad Mum. Or a good Mum, cos the two seem to be get a little confused!
Since I became a Mama 16ish months ago (therefore making me an expert) I’ve learnt A LOT about being a mother. I’ve learnt that I was totally wrong about a lot of things. I have broken most of the Mama rules that I set myself pre-children. I can’t tell you how many times I looked at other parents and said”Oh, I’ll never do that to my kids” or “Gosh, I’ll never let my child do that”. Well guess what? I’ve totally done that to my kid! and hell yes I’ve let them do that! And it didn’t end there either.
The longer that I’ve been doing this ol motherhood caper the more I realise that 99% of us who’ve been lucky/crazy enough to have a child are doing the best that we can, the majority of the time. Does that mean that we’re all perfect? Hell no! Does that mean we don’t make mistakes? No way José! It just means that if you’re a Mama, you of all people know how hard it is to just get out of bed somedays, let alone parent your children… So why are you standing there, judging another Mum who’s probably doing the best that she can despite the odds (sleep/food/energy/patience/fitness/health) being against her? Aren’t we all in this together? Shouldn’t we be sharing our experiences truthfully instead of constantly sugar coating our own realities? (FYI: The answer is a big fat resounding YES!).
The difference between a good Mum and a bad Mum
Before Violet came along, I totally knew I was going to be a good Mum. I’d always wanted kids, always been good with babies and felt like the practice I’d had with my nephew and niece meant that I’d had a head start…It was in the bag, right?! I even had this vision of the type of mother that I’d be:
I envisaged myself as a relaxed ‘Mother Earth’ type of Mama. I’d take baby for walks to the park and we’d sit and make matching daisy crowns for our hair. I’d feed my baby only organic nutritious foods, and dress them in non gender-specific clothing and spend my days at mothers groups with like-minded Mums and we’d all be the best of friends. I’d use only natural products to bathe baby in and would exclusively breast-feed because everybody says thats whats best. I’d never use a dummy and I’d never co-sleep baby as that is such a big no-no and I’m far too amazing a mother to ever make such mistakes.
Yeah, we’re all happy and wearing daisy chains and shit. (image: allfreecrafts.com)
You’ll imagine my shock and surprise when motherhood turned out to be NOTHING like what I’d imagined (has anyone ever had an accurate vision of motherhood yet?!) To start with, I had a few complications during the birth which meant I was bed-ridden for 6 weeks. I cannot tell you how devo’d I was that I wasn’t able to take Violet for walks to the park in her fancy new Bugaboo pram (Yes – I was also that Mum who had to have a fancy designer pram). I literally cried for weeks at the injustice. As for the Yoga, yeah that still hasn’t happened, I mean I didn’t exercise before I had kids, why the heck did I think that was going to happen after the fact? Derr!
Seriously, the rules were all broken from the get go and I realised that all those Mum’s who’d stuck by their ‘rules’ were either full of shit, or miserable! I’ve witnessed mothers busting their arses to get the breastfeeding thing happening to no avail. I’ve seen Mum’s refuse to give their child a dummy in public (despite giving it to them behind closed doors to soothe them) because they know someone will make a comment like ‘You shouldn’t give them dummies, it’s bad for their teeth’ or some other helpful advice. Being a good Mum, in my humble opinion is doing your best to make baby (and yourself) happy and healthy. If it makes them happy to give them a dummy, do it! If it makes you happy to not have to go through the agony of breastfeeding to make yourself happy, then that’s ok too!
I once watched on as one of my Mama friends struggled with a toddler and a newborn whilst we were supposed to be enjoying a picnic lunch. The toddler kept insisting that he wanted some of the soft-drinking that she was drinking. I watched her resist over and over and over and OVER. In the end, she snapped. She was over it. She gave him a sip. Just as she did she noticed me watching, and said “I swore I’d never do this. I know! I’m such a bad Mum”. It broke my heart. I did my best to not make her feel bad and said something along the lines of “A sip won’t hurt him! At least he’s happy now!” and he was, and she was able to re-group, calm down and continue enjoying the picnic. Don’t get me wrong, I know its not the best parenting technique to just give in to your kids every time they want something, but sometimes, on those days, you need to pick your battles! And in my books, that doesn’t make you a bad Mum!
I guess what the point I’m trying to make here is this: We’re all different, and we’ve all had our own failures and successes, but at the end of the day we all share many of the same problems, triumphs and memory loss, so why not support each other and tell the truth when another Mother asks you if your baby is sleeping through the night? (This was one that did my head in as V still isn’t a regular sleeper-through-the-night). I wasn’t always honest when I was posed with such questions early on, but now with a little more experience under my belt I’m much more secure in the fact that I AM doing a good job and that these stupid scenarios aren’t a measure of whether or not I’m a good Mum.
Still not sure if you fall into the Good Mama or Bad Mama category?
Here’s a handy checklist for you to find out! (Please note: 50% is considered a pass with flying colours).
Good Mama Checklist:
- You exclusively breastfed your baby
- You bottle-fed your baby
- You fed them only organic food
- You fed them whatever you could afford (organic food is expensive!)
- You gave them a routine from day one
- Your kid is a 13 and still doesn’t have a good routine
- Your kid sleeps through the night
- Your kid has never slept through the night and shows no signs of doing that, ever.
- You’ve never let your child eat fast-food
- Sometimes, when you’ve got a starving screaming child in the car, you get Macca’s to shut them up.
- You prepare special, nutritious meals especially for your child
- They eat whatever the hell you’re having for dinner, even if its pizza
- You never dress your kid in licensed or gender specific clothing
- Your kid could easily be confused for Peppa pig, an Octonaut, or a Barbie doll
- You take your child to the doctor at the first sign of a snotty nose of fever
- You wait a while to see if that rash is just prickly heat or in fact chicken pox.
- You send your kid to daycare cos you work
- Your kid has only ever been cared for by you/friends/family
- Your child sleeps in their own bed
- Your child co-sleeps with you
- Your kid never watches TV
- TV keeps your kid quiet while you shower/cook dinner/clean the house
- Your kid is fluent in Spanish, plays the piano and knows the alphabet backwards before they’re 2.
- Your kid can barely speak english, plays the saucepans and think there is a letter called “elemenohpeee” at 3.
- You used the control-crying method
- You used the ‘If baby is crying pick them up immediately’ method
- Your home is completely clean, safe and baby proof
- Your house looks like a bomb hit it and sometimes your baby is found sharing dog food with the dog
My sentiments exactly!
Did you pass? No? Well that’s ok because this is a stupid made up list! I bet you’re still a great Mama!
So Mama’s, Mama’s to be, or other random strangers who think it’s ok impart wisdom onto others when in actual fact you’re just being rude, non-helpful and passing judgement: Please do us all a favour and shut your gaping trap! Instead, perhaps think about how you could really help your fellow Mama at the supermarket with the screaming unhappy child. Believe it or not, giving them the evil eye or shaking your head in judgement is not helping! Why not offer them some help? Or be genuine and real and tell them that you’ve been there and that it really and truly does get easier? Sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a Mama’s day!
So in the interest of letting all those Mama’s out there know that they aren’t alone, and that we’ve all suffered from these same problems, I’d love you to share your ‘Bad Mama’ experiences too! Let’s lift each other up and laugh until we pee at our shared experiences shall we?
Have you broken your own Mama rules? Tell us in the comments below!