Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ecce Mater

Okay, look - and I feel called upon to address this because there are some people out there who are not getting it - when I call myself a bad mother, I do not mean that I condone the neglect or abuse of children. I do not mean that I neglect or abuse my kids. I do not mean that I or anyone should celebrate these things. I mean, seriously.

What I mean is this: I do some things, many things, that would, when held against dominant (mainstream, media) narratives and representations of the Good Mother, appear to be bad. I do some things that are by any measure bad. But I am human, all-too-human, and my inability to be perfect is part of my make-up. And I believe that my quirks and foibles and imperfections as a mother - as a human being - are what make me a wonderfully flawed, perfectly imperfect mother for my children. And I also believe that sharing the stories of my quirks and foibles and imperfections does some small service in encouraging other mothers - other parents - to accept and embrace their own flaws and imperfections, their own quote-unquote badness.

Which is to say, by celebrating badness I am not celebrating a race to the bottom of the parenting barrel. I am not suggesting that it is 'cooler' to give your children cookies for breakfast or to let them watch three hours of television or to publicly proclaim your need for Ativan. I'm not trying to conflate cookies-for-breakfast with failing to provide care for your children or use of anti-anxiety medication with drug or alcohol abuse. I'm simply describing my reality, and struggling to accept myself as the wonderfully flawed parent that I am, not despite my flaws, but because of my flaws, because of the total package that I am. And I am calling that package bad because that is what I have been called by some and would be called by others and I want to seize it and claim it and redefine it as my own and apply it to my own particular, quirky brand of flawed wonderfulness. I want to take the power of judgment and labeling away from anyone would use it against me, so that I can say, whenever someone points their finger and whispers, bad, BAD, I can cry out, loudly, I know I am but what are you?

And I want you to do the same. I don't care what you call it. That's the point, after all: if we all refuse to acknowledge the supremacy of the Good (good with a capital g, good in scare quotes) Mother and the imperative to pursue 'Good' at all costs, then we liberate ourselves to model ourselves however we like, to celebrate ourselves according to whatever measures we choose, and to call ourselves whatever we want.

I choose to call myself Bad. Proudly.

(And then I go steadfastly forward and post a - cleverly edited, but still - picture of my child peeing. Standing up. In the park. WIN.)

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