Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I'm Not Bad, I Just Blog That Way

True Confession: I'm not a bad mother.

In fact, I'm a very good mother. Probably as good a mother as it is possible for me to be, which is, I think, pretty good. I just don't say so very often. In fact, I probably give the impression - and the title of this blog has very little to do with this, I'm sure - that I do not consider myself to be a good mother.

If one were to do a statistical analysis of this blog - and I don't recommend doing this - I'm sure that one would find an inverse relationship between length of posts per word count and frequency of the word 'good' used in conjuction with the words 'mother,' 'parenting' or 'at this' (excluding, of course, all instances wherein 'good' is preceded by 'not.') I post most frequently, and at greatest length, about my anxieties as a mother. I am most inspired as a writer - yes, inspired - by my moments of fear and confusion, my weaknesses, my mistakes. So most of my writing - as it appears on this blog - addresses itself, or seems to address itself, to my consideration of myself as a bad mother. As Her Bad Mother. Not Her Bad-ASS Mother - Her Bad Mother

But Her Bad Mother is not me. That is, she is not entirely me. She's a voice inside my head; she's one of the many reflections that I see when I look in the mirror. She's the me who worries about being a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler fall out of shopping cart), and the me who takes pleasure in thinking of herself as a bad mother (the kind of mother who lets her toddler use a shopping cart as gymnastics equipment. Montessori bad.) She is anxious me - the me that my own mother refers to as a worrier - and she is self-deprecating me.

But she is not Me-In-My-Entirety. She is not even Me-In-My-Maternal-Entirety. She's just one part of that whole. She's the part that I write about. She's my blog muse. She's a character. A true character, but still: a character, of a sort.

The real, whole me? You don't know her. Not really, not fully. You know some very, very important parts of her - parts that had probably never really been fully exposed before she began exposing herself on this blog. You would recognize her if you ever met her in real life. You would recognize the self-deprecating humour, the over-functioning vocabulary, the hand-wringing, the bob. You would see Her Bad Mother in the whole me. But you would see so much more than Her Bad Mother.

Because you would also see this: someone who is supremely confident about her parenting skills, and about her lack thereof. Someone who laughs at her mistakes. Someone who knows that she's doing the best that she can, and that that's pretty damn good. Someone who is by turns silly and sloppy and sucky and selfish and snobby and stupid. But, also, someone who is smart, very smart, and who never, ever apologizes for that fact. Someone who laughs, a lot. Someone who talks about her husband, a lot. Somebody who boasts about her daughter, a lot. Someone who is really pretty pleased with how this whole parenting/family/motherhood thing is going, even when it's kicking her ass.

You see this someone, in bits and turns, in Her Bad Mother, of course. Because she and Her Bad Mother are the same person; Her Bad Mother is she and she is Her Bad Mother. Her Bad Mother is, absolutely, an honest, heart-felt representation of who she is. But it is not all of who she is. It is not all of who I am.

I'm a writer (oooh, let that roll off the tongue). Her Bad Mother is a writerly persona. Perhaps that makes her - me - inauthentic. I don't think so: this blog may not be a diary, but it is written truthfully. These are stories, and I am a storyteller, but the stories are true and I am truthful in my telling of them. But I am selective with the content of these stories, and I choose my words carefully. These stories - and their protagonist (who is me, and not, as some might think, WonderBaby) - are poetic representations of a life and a person. They are a life and a person, written down, and as such they are shaped and molded and - yes - manipulated to best effect. They are performative; they are - as some have accused - performance art.

I perform as Her Bad Mother. I interrogate myself as Her Bad Mother. Her Bad Mother is me, splashed on canvas, edited on film, choreographed on the stage, plotted on paper, spread out on the analyst's couch, telling my tale, the True and Amazing Adventures of Me As I Choose To See Me, Much Of The Time, And How I Want You To See Me, All Of The Time.

And how I choose to see me here - and how I want you to see me here - in these pages, is as Bad. Not thoroughly bad, nor conventionally bad, and certainly not Call In Child Protective Services Bad. Self-Reflectively Bad, Happily Bad. Bad as in, Bad-Ass. Bad as in, Bad Is The New Good. Bad Because It Suits Me. Lapsed-Catholic-Shame Bad. Bad Because I Look Better In A Devil's Unitard Than In Some Silly Angel Bathrobe Thingy And Because Halos Squash My Hair.

Bad Because - let's face it - Good Is Boring. You don't want to read about good. If you wanted to read about good, you'd be reading profiles of SuperMoms in Parenting Magazine. Which you're not. You're reading this. Because - as Nietzsche and Machiavelli and Choderlos de Laclos and Madonna (pre-anglophilia and all that English Roses crap) have always said - bad is much, much more interesting than good.

But here's the thing: if you met me, you'd know that I'm a good mother. If you pay attention to the details of this blog, and to the tongue-in-cheekness of its title, you'll know that I'm a good mother. Hell, the fact that I even keep a blog - the fact that I view motherhood as a creative project, that motherhood inspires me to write, that my child inspires me to write - should demonstrate to you that I'm good mother. And I agree with my friend Rebecca that we should be much more open in our celebration of ourselves as good mothers - that I should celebrate myself more openly as a good mother.

But that, still, would only be celebrating one part of me. And, possibly, not the most interesting part of me. Yes, I am a good mother: I love my daughter and I make sure that she's always surrounded by much, much love and joy and laughter. And, most of the time, I change her diaper in a timely manner and I almost never give her french fries and I try to make sure that the television isn't on all of the time. Which is great, but, but... not all that interesting. What's interesting about me is that I'm all these things and I'm Bad - in all the greatest and most dubious meanings of the word - and that I'm very good at being Bad.

Which is why you like me, right? Or, rather: which is why you like this person who calls herself Her Bad Mother and who tosses big words and big anxieties and big love and Gratuitous WonderBaby photos at you. Right?

It's why I like her. It's why I like me.

Spawn of Bad.

Are you as good or as bad or as in-between in real life as you portray yourself on your blog? How much of your 'self' IS portrayed - revealed? exposed? - on your blog? Do you lay it all bare, and if not - what aren't you telling us?


To all of you good, good people who, over the last day or two, have left extraordinarily supportive and helpful comments at the last Basement post - thank you. I have no update from our writer yet, but I hope that one comes soon, and when it does, I will share it with you. Again, thank you.


Blogger Laural Dawn said...

And, as someone who loves reading your blog, I can honestly say there was no question in my mind that you're a good mother.
I love that you write about your anxieties, the frustration, the mistakes.
I feel like a better mother for reading your "badness". I feel like I'm not alone in my anxieties. And, I feel like I can maybe admit to my faults because after all everyone is in this together.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Claire Cameron said...

A complex idea made very digestable.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

So great Catherine. You nail it when you describe the idea of a blog persona versus a person. Aren't we all victims of our own narratives in a way? Hell, I never promised anyone a biography. Just whatever I was feeling that day and if that's the feeling of bad mothering so be it.

Still, we all know you're a good mother. Just look at that happy little girl and that's all anyone needs to know.

8:52 PM  
Blogger flutter said...

I think what I know of you is amazing, so there.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Beck said...

Interesting. I'm always a bit freaked out by my blog persona, which is not EXACTLY like me, believe me.

9:26 PM  
Blogger S said...

My blog persona is not the totality of me. It is both the best and the worst of me and probably leaves out parts of me that are more ill-defined and also less emotionally nuanced.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I love these I'm a great mother posts! We should all remember and be able to confidently say how great a job we are doing.

Great post!

9:42 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

I have no overall definitive opinion of myself as a parent...yet.

My kids are still too young. The day is still too early...yet.

Just when I start congratulating myself, "Whee, lookee, I've got the hang of this! It's going GOOD!" the wind starts to change from the east to the west and well, we all know how that goes.

Or, alternatively, just when I feel my confidence and feet under me, same goes, or when I feel warm and fuzzy because one of the children has done something marvelous and I feel proud, then something like last night happens.

I blog about the good and the bad. I don't think you'd be surprised to meet me in person. I'm told I am exactly the way I write, which is to say revealing sides of myself like some coy fan dancer so you think you can piece together the whole picture in your head but well...maybe not.

Good topic.

But I'm not about to celebrate myself as a Good Mother.

That's just *asking for it* I say, ominously, to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth.

I'm just enough children and years into this parenting gig to know better, LOL.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

That's totally why I like you! I take it for granted that you are actually a good mother...even though I don't know you. I think it's because you reveal that you are bad and you examine and question. You reveal more them I am comfortable doing on my blog so far. My blog persona is new and mostly shares musings, a few unplugged moments, but it's certainly not the entirety of me.I'm not sure the blog persona has taken full shape yet...we'll see who she becomes.

I love that you are Bad too because so am I...aren't we all? It's good to know I'm not alone. Makes me feel less exposed (even if I'm not exposing all on my blog).

10:11 PM  
Blogger Girl con Queso said...

It's so interesting that you wrote about this today. Because just today someone said to my husband that from reading my blog it didn't seem like I really liked motherhood. And nothing could be more inaccurate. And then I started wondering what else am I inadvertently, inaccurately communicating? It's an interesting line of thinking. That each person brings his/her own assumptions into something before it's even read. You said it well.

10:27 PM  
Blogger MARY G said...

I think you are a whole lot of people, HBM, and all of them are good mothers. And through them all runs a thread of gold and diamonds; your writing skills, humour and story telling ability that makes everything you say a must-read.
As for me, I don't know who I am as a blogger, yet. I'm digging through the layers, but am not confident about what to say and what not to say. We'll see I guess.
Indeed, I'm still worrying about the Basement woman. In fact, I'm praying.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Without (hopefully) sounding schizophrenic and deceptive, I think that I display a different persona with every different group of people I hang out with: home, work, acting friends, bloggy friends. Each one of these personas are honest, accurate versions of myself, though radically different.

In my blog, I am trying to show the whole person, but I don't quite have the knack yet, and I end up sounding scattered. I tend to focus on the negative more than the positive too - something I hope to mediate a bit more.

10:45 PM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

you are so funny.

bhad.ooooooo. Like phat.

sorry. tired, s'all I got. but ya made me smile and that is a good thing.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think I portray the good and bad parenting that we all do. I make bad mistakes, I do a lot of good parenting. I don't tell everything because my children, their friends, their teachers, and other people in our community read my blog, so there are things that are purposely left out. But for the most part, I'm honest about my parenting skills.

I was in the car yesterday with my son going to the pharmacy and we were talking about something and I said "Yeah, that was a defenate bad mommy moment" and he said to me "You're not a bad mommy, you're a good mommy. You're the best mom of all the moms I know." And he wasn't even brownnosing..for once!

12:25 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

Thanks for drawing my attention to GGC's post. I enjoy being a good parent. And, I do know you are.

All that said tho' I think we would be kidding ourselves to not think that part of the allure of mother-blogging-interchange is the confessionals; the exchange of errors that is so desireable for our survival as mothers.

That is why your blog is soooo perfect.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, it never occurred to me that you would ever be considered a bad mother. It seems to me that you reflect the very human anxieties that we all feel, but do so in such an articulate, humorous, and thought-provoking way that I've always assumed that your daughter is one lucky little girl.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Multi-tasking Mommy said...

I think that one of the things that makes you a good mother is that you are so open, honest and true to yourself about your anxieties. Props to you!
You are right that reading mishaps, etc. is more "exciting" than reading all of the standard good. I do like reading the good too though. The balance between the two shows you are human :)

6:56 AM  
Blogger Blog Antagonist said...

I was a good mother when my children were infants and toddlers. It was easy then. As the mother of a special needs child, the verdict is still out.

BUT...I think we have to avoid falling into the trap of believing that Mothers who are vulnerable to human foibles are "bad".

I think it's good to let our children see that sometimes we get angry, sad, frustrated. Sometimes we make mistakes.

I think we are WAY too hard on ourselves these days. I don't quite know how that happened. I think we are probably better parents than our predecessors simply because of increased awareness, more education, more awarness and better resources. And still we question our fitness as parents. It's sad.

I know you're a good mother. I think most of us are.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You're right, talking about the bad, messy parts is easier. Talking about the good is no fun.

As for you, I can't wait to meet you. The "real" you. Can't. Wait.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... Blogging as performance. That's very insightful. I'd never thought of it that way, but yes, I think most of do that.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

talk about a loaded question....and for the record, i always exchanged Bad for Good. If you called yourself The Good Mother, well, that just sounds creepy.

i think it's impossible to reveal all of our parts. we all have our angle, whether it be Bad or homelessness or whatever, the angle that creeps to the surface more, the shadow and not so shadow.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Karla Zamora, Digital Analyst said...

You know I never thought that you were a 'bad' mother, personally I loved that you wrote about all the things that were happening in my life with my own little one.

I have to say that my blog persona is certainly not a complete representation of me. There is quite a great deal of me that is not there. Mostly because I still find it hard to write about some of the more personal stuff. But like you I have given little glimpses of the real BWM.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Magpie said...

You're a "bad" mother, not a "bad mother"!

I just said to my kid's daycare teacher that I didn't know how they let me become a mother, and she said that she'd been wondering the same for 24 years. I like that we can laugh about our flaws, and know that they aren't really flaws, and that our kids will be just fine.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that maybe this "bad mother" complex comes from all the expectations we seem to have. Whether they are brought on by ourselves or others isn't really th point. It just seems that when we can't deal with things we think we're bad parents. But when things are good, do we start to think we're great parents? I've yet to say I'm a good mom on a good day because I know in the back of my mind a bad day will happen.

And yet, I know I'm not a BAD mom. I'm a real mom. It's hard to be the one parent that my son clings to. It's also hard to let him go. Maybe that's where all this bad parent stuff comes from. I don't know, really.

Great post. It's so nice to read what other mothers have to say.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Robbin said...

I am way, way too literal to be anything than pretty much how I portray myself to be.

I think ultimately Harry will decide if I am a good mom or a bad one. But I am not at all the mother I expected myself to be. I am far more relaxed, far more confident, far more "at home" than I had any reason to expect a 40-year-old-career-woman turned first-time-mom has any right to be. And I a mother who derives unlimited(and unexpected) joy out of being, above all other things, Harry's mom.

11:17 AM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Yeah, well, I Am Bossy.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said. I most definetly think of my RNM as just a piece of my pie, not my whole pie.

I do my very best to always be honest about what I'm feeling and to articulate what I am thinking, but still, unless I published a weekly novel, there is no way a person could truly know me just from reading my posts.

That said, you would recognize me. How many ladies do you know that tattoo the sides of their neck, their ass cracks and offer to show strangers their nipple rings, all while dragging around an invisible child on her back and yapping about the other two??

Great post my dear.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought that I am the only mother I would ever want my children to have. I am the best mother for them. I am a good mother.

You are all of those wonderful things you said you are, and one more...self-actualized. I like that in a blogger.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

It's one thing to bask in badness because it's "cool" -- it's another to talk about it as an issue that haunts many mothers.

You're good. And we all know that. But sometimes it's nice to say it out loud.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

I was getting all thinky about this and then I got to the Rambo pic. And snorted coffee and coughed a little. Yeesh.

Hyperliterate and hyperselfaware as you are, I imagine it is difficult in many public situations to feel as an umediated authentic self. I imagine also that as your readership exploded your self-consciousness and craftedness increased. You sound different than in your earliest posts, but that might be a factor of acculturating yourself to the genre, and blending your voice with others in this sphere.

The pseudonymous nature of most blogs is apt: this self is not coextensive with the real live email account that creates the persona named 'HBM' or 'Mimi' or what have you.


3:56 PM  
Blogger Maddy said...

Yup - pick your poison and then project it publicly - they joy of a double life with none of the danger.
Best wishes

5:04 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

The same thing happened to me as Mimi...the Rambo picture threw me for a loop!

Is my blog the real me? The entire me? I don't think anyone can answer that entirely. It is me at that moment and it reveals a part of me, but I doubt it reveals the whole me. It is a moment and though captured in time in words rambling out of my brain faster than I can type most days.

It never occurred to me to think you were anything short of a wonderful mother, with a wonderful sense of humour, fabulous wit and keen intellect. Anyone who hadn't noticed that in the first 10 seconds of reading is reading the wrong blog.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I have commented that it is really impossible to do a psychic reading for a person and not find yourself admiring and loving them a bit I get 'the' question. It is ususally something like 'But have you ever done a reading for a serial killer or other violent person?' The answer of course is that those people don't go in search of a psychic. It would never enter their minds to explore themselves or their choices at all. In the same way, only a great mom would examine her own parenting skills, motivations and impact.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

I don't think your readership has ever thought you a bad mother - you're a Bad Mother, with the style and introspection that title implies.

One of the reasons I like the nom-de-blog is to distinguish between the part of myself or bloggers that we publish, and our real selves.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Kyla said...

Don't we all do this? In a way, my blog readers know me much better than even the family and friends around me. I am emotionally open in that space when I cannot bring myself to be anywhere else. But do my readers know the whole me? No. They can't. I would say they know me very well. We could sit down to coffee and not feel like strangers. But they don't know the sum of my parts. I don't talk about my marriage on blog, or my extended family, or share many stories about my past, and so all of those facets of who I am are not there for them to get to know. It is the nature of blogging. While we can form amazing social and emotional bonds through our words, they can never quite capture the whole reality.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HBM you are always thought provoking.you make me laugh and smile and think.and yes i know you like the rest of us are doing your best. i have tried blogging but i feel too exposed doing so.and it makes me anxious and uncomfortable. i think you and all those other mommy bloggers are brave to do what you do.so if you keep posting i will keep reading and commenting.LAVENDULA

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who claims to be a good parent all of the time is a delusional liar!! We all make mistakes, we all regret things... we all mess our kids up somehow or another.

Thank you for a thought-provoking post!

11:50 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

well you KNOW i fucking love this post. LOVE LOVE LOVE. tra la la la la.

dammit. i might just have to answer your questions now.

what i *will* say is that although many of us write about the "bad,' don;t we all *know* we're really rather good? that this is a persona, a way to connect, a way to level the playing ground and share?

hmmm. lots to think about.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Oh how I have missed your blog.

And oh how I know what a phenomenal mother you are ... good just isn't the right word.

No one is a perfect parent. No one.

And re blog persona ... that is a very thought-provoking post. In many ways I am a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of blogger because my blog is nothing more than a personal blog that is totally selfish working out the voices in my head. I give the good and the bad. There are several topics I don't blog about for a lot of reasons (mostly to protect other's privacy) but on the whole anyone who knows me well would say my persona is also my person. How boring :(

1:56 PM  
Blogger Tere said...

I've been thinking about this since I read it yesterday, and to respond, I have to cheat a little. I touched on this topic a few months ago here.

But that post had more to do with how others perceive me, so I'd like to expand on my thoughts by saying that I try to be as "myself" as possible, but because there are certain places I won't go (my marriage, sex talk, childhood traumas), I'm aware of a need to play up certain aspects of my personality. On the one hand, no one blog could ever capture "me", especially all of me. On the other, the real me can be pretty damn boring. So I think it's o.k. to take certain aspects of myself (my tendency to over-analyze everything my paranoia, my sense of humor, etc) and extrapolate on those. In the post I wrote about this, I used the term "caricature" - I'm not sure if that's the best word but it'll have to do for now.

Also, I can't stress how important humor is to me. Even when it might not read as funny, as I'm writing, I'm usually in a funny, humorous mood, and I use that to expand on my brand of humor.

Like you, HBM, I'm a writer. I see my blog(s) as a chance to become a better writer, find my voice(s), etc. I started blogging as "myself" after 6 years in anonymity, and I see it as an experiment of sorts. Also, free therapy.

So basically, I'm me, but a slightly more manic me. I reveal a lot, but not everything. If I had to put it in numbers, I'd say it's 80% "self" and 20% me being an actress.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Oh, WE definitely like you -- anxieties and all. I'm a lot like my blog persona -- when you really get to know me. People who meet me for the first time think I'm much more serious and "intellectual" than I portray myself on my blog. I think every side of me comes out on my blog -- my darkest is definitely there, my lightest-humoured is definitely there. I can't write except as myself -- I ran into a problem with that recently with a trolly comment. But, it's all good now.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Mad said...

I'm a freakin' fantastic mom who screws up a lot and who recently swore off meta-bloggin for a while and therefore will need to end this comment here.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Damselfly said...

Good can be boring unless it's in the hands of a really talented writer, I guess! Love your post.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

*sigh* I'm afraid I'm just as boring in real life as I am on my blog. Also just as honest, curse just as much, and I'm really that big of a bitch as you see on our medical blog. LOL

I'm afraid of what an alter ego of me would be like. I think I'd make myself sick! ;)

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this post! It is so true and I really love that you are just as proud of your badness as your goodness. It is true, that when we sit down to blog, a filtering process goes on where the bad or insecure or anxious always wins as the more interesting to write about; but also, it is the part of us that requires the validation, the comfort and the need to know we are not alone. My good mothering needs no reassurance or applause. The other part... well...

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this post...

(um yeah, sorry but it's a boring comment because I can't think of how else to elaborate on it. heh.)

3:28 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

I knew I liked you. :)

10:00 PM  

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