Her Bad Mother

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Bad Mother Manifesto

There is a spectre haunting the parenting community - the spectre of the Bad Mother...*

My name is Catherine, and I am a bad mother. I (mostly) do not have my tongue in my cheek when I say that. I am a Bad Mother.

I am a bad mother according to most measurements established by the popular Western understanding of what constitutes a good mother. I use disposable diapers. I let my children watch more television than I'd ever publicly admit. I let them have cookies for breakfast. I let them stay up too late. I don't follow a schedule. I don't go to playgroups. I stopped breastfeeding because I was tired of it. I co-slept with my son. I didn't co-sleep with my daughter. I have been treated for depression. I stopped my treatment for depression. I am entirely too attached to Ativan.

I have left my children alone in the bathtub. I have spanked my daughter. I have turned my back on my crying son. I have had intrusive thoughts. I drink. I curse. I have put my own needs first. I have thought that I love my husband more than my children. I have had moments of resenting my children. I have thought that motherhood is boring. I document all of these things and lay them bare for the world to see. I have been called an exploitative mother. I have wondered whether that might be true.

I have thought that perhaps I am not at all cut out for this motherhood thing.

I have thought that I am a bad mother. I know that I am bad mother, in so many of the ways that matter to the people who worry about how and why women should be good mothers, and in most of the ways that don't matter to anyone at all other than me at three o' clock in the morning after a particularly long, ego-smashing day.


I reject entirely the idea that I should be a good mother in any manner other than those that matter to me: that I take care of the basic needs of my children, that I love my children well, that I make certain that my children know that they are loved well, that I ensure that a day never passes in which I do not not hug or kiss my children or tell them that I love them, and that I ensure that a day never passes in which they - and I - laugh out loud at least once.

I reject entirely the idea that there can be any community consensus about what - beyond the provision of love and care - constitutes a good mother. I reject entirely the idea that we can or should judge each other as mothers, beyond the obvious and most basic standards of care, and even then, I reject entirely the idea that any one of us is so perfect that she could throw the first stone without hesitation.

I reject entirely the idea that mothers should worry about what it means to be a good mother in any respect beyond loving and protecting and providing for their children.

I reject entirely the idea I should worry, and yet worry I do. I worry because everywhere I look, at every turn, at every corner, in every magazine and on every television show and in every discussion, everywhere, about the what-why-how of motherhood, is the Good Mother.

The Good Mother - the idea of the Good Mother, the theoretical and aesthetic model of what it means to mother well - is the true spectre, the spectre that has haunted mothers since God first smacked our hands for being too graspy and ejected us from the Garden and hollered at us to go forward and to give birth in pain and alone and to mother in anxiety and alone and to basically just angst out for every second of our lives. The idea of the Good Mother has kept us in our place, has kept us cowering, alone, behind the veil; our important work - our critically important work - kept hidden behind the walls of the household; our lives and our stories and our history kept secret, kept quiet, because Good Mothers are private, are modest, are pudicae, because Good Mothers tell no tales. Devoted Good Mothers listen only to community edicts about what the Good Mother looks like and then devote themselves, silently, to the work of emulating the Good Mother. They do not share their failures. They do not share their struggles. They do not tell stories about the dark and the difficulty and the anxiety and the impossibility of keeping one's cool in the dead of night when the baby is shrieking and the toddler is crying and one hasn't slept in weeks. They do not talk about shutting the door and ignoring the cries. They do not talk about intrusive thoughts. They do not talk about repeating the words fuck I hate this fuck I hate this like so many Hail Marys, like a meditation upon frustration, like a mantra of failure. They do not talk about these things, out loud.

They keep their silence, and look to the Good Mother, hoping that she will provide guidance, hoping that in her lays the way of all maternal truth and happiness. They look in vain.

The Good Mother is everywhere, all at once, and she looks like everything, and nothing. She stays at home; she goes to work. She attachment-parents; she's Babywise. She home-schools; she Montessoris. She vaccinates; she doesn't vaccinate. She follows a schedule; she lets her kids run free-range. She co-sleeps; she wouldn't dare co-sleep. She would never spank; she's a strict disciplinarian. She's an Alpha Mom; she's a Slacker Mom; she's a Hipster Mom; she's a Christian Mom; she's a Hipster-Christian-Alpha Mom who slacks off in the summers. She's Everymom; She's NoMom. She brooks no disagreement: if you argue with her, you start a Mommy War. But the wars are futile and pointless because the combatants are all fighting on the same side, her side, which is no side, and in the end we just batter each other until we are dumb and we give up and retire to our camps, bloody and bruised and determined to just keep it to ourselves next time and so it ends as it always does, in silence, with none of us saying what we really want to say, what we really need to say, which is this: who the fuck cares?

Who is anybody to tell us whether we are good mothers? Who the fuck knows what a good mother is anyway? And why can't we say this out loud, why can't we just live our motherhood out loud and proclaim our diversity to ourselves and to each other and to the world and declare the idea of the Good Mother - the all-encompassing, do-no-wrong, one-size-fits-all perfect model of the Good Mother, the Uber-Mom who has been witnessed by none of us - dead? We do not need her, we don't, we really don't.

The only persons who can measure our mother-worthiness are our children, and even they are unreliable.

All that we have, then, is this: the measure of our hearts and the measure of our eyes and our ears and our good sense. Do we love our children as best we can? Do we keep them, as best we can, healthy in mind and body? Do we make sure that they laugh? Do they smile in our presence?

That is enough. That must be enough. And if that is not good enough - if there remain those who would insist that there is more to mothering well, that I must do more, that we must do more, that the community must do more to police, to enforce, to uphold the rule of the Good Mother - then, well, I shall remain - loudly, proudly, publicly - Bad.

Are you a Bad Mother? Which is to ask - regardless of whether or not you identify with, or struggle with, the idea of being 'Bad' - are you a regular old ordinary flawed-but-awesome REAL mom? Are you just tired of the pressure to be 'Good'? Then join me. We'll unite and take over.

*(with apologies to Karl Marx, and, parenthetically, to Friedrich Nietzsche and Niccolo Machiavelli, all of whom would doubtless regard my appropriation of their modes of argument for the purposes of defending the liberation of mothers from old modes and orders of virtue as terribly, terribly amusing and, I would hope, somewhat charming, in a contrary sort of way.)



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

well said!!

1:29 PM  
Blogger Jessie Weaver said...

You rock, Catherine.

We're all the best mother we can be. Those who don't talk about the struggles are probably going to slit the throats of their husbands in their sleep. :P

1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In complete agreement. I think I fall in the bad mother category, and I'm okay with it.

Especially after reading this.


1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In complete agreement. I think I fall in the bad mother category, and I'm okay with it.

Especially after reading this.


1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In complete agreement. I think I fall in the bad mother category, and I'm okay with it.

Especially after reading this.


1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently I agree with it so much I said it three times. Sigh.

1:33 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

wow-- that is one of the best manifestos I have ever read! (sorry, Karl).

You are exactly, perfectly, completely RIGHT.

Your children hug you, have fun with you and love you. Ipso facto, ergo sum: You are a good mother.

No matter how bad you are!

1:34 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

You know what, Cath?

With everything in me, EVERYTHING, I believe that a good mother is a good human, as in good at being such. If I know anything after 11 years of parenting, and I don't know much, but I KNOW that I do these children no good by giving myself up for them, to them, because of them. I am a fantastic mother because they know me. They know I hurt and I cry and I bleed. They know I laugh and I love and I yearn. They know I am flawed, and through that they learn that they can be, too. They know that I ache, and through that they learn that they will, too, and that they will survive it with grace. They know that I love gangster rap and chocolate for breakfast and through that they know how to bleep f-bombs in conversation and that a glass of milk makes the chocolate a little better.

Because I'm not teaching them to be perfect, I'm teaching them to be people. I'm teaching them to handle some dust and take a vacation day and scrub a toilet occasionally. I'm teaching them that a hug is the most important thing in the world, and the fucking laundry can wait. I'm teaching them that my husband is the most important person in my life, and that someday they'll want to find someone that completes them the way their father completed their mother.

I lead by example. My example isn't perfect, but it's real, and it's happy, and it's comfortable, and it's attainable.

You know what? SO IS YOURS.

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I agree with all of your post except for this:

"I reject entirely the idea that mothers should worry about what it means to be a good mother in any respect beyond loving and protecting and providing for their children."

Or maybe I don't disagree, maybe I just don't understand. I don't think that we can assume that everyone knows how to love, protect and provide. Love, yes, I think we all have that in our hearts. But I don't think that everyone can protect and provide without maybe worrying a little bit or thinking a little bit about how that is done.

I guess flying by the seat of your pants comes naturally to some people. For others, maybe a bit of research, thinking, talking, even worrying is necessary in order to not be a complete failure.

There are very few things I am naturally good at. I have to work at things.

And I don't think I should have to apologize for that.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Mr Lady wins for Best Comment EVAH.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Good people make good parents. That would be you.

Maybe what you're not is a perfect mother - and really, who is? I guarantee you that cloth diaperers lose their temper and pop Ativan too.

When there's a Her Perfect Mother blog, let me know so we can go and flame her and call her a liar.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally I strive to parent completely differently from my own mother... oh, and to live up to the standards of my own mother. Oy! The angst! I think perhaps the figure on the bridge in Munch's The Scream must have been a mother.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

Wow! well said.
The thing that hit me the most in what you said was the whole secrecy thing.
I'd rather be the imperfect mom that I am and admit it, than be perfect on the playground and a total bitch to my kids behind closed doors.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Annie, I meant that it IS reasonable to worry about how we love and protect and provide, but that we shouldn't stress about how/whether those things accord with some archetypal model of Good Parenting. Part of what makes me 'bad' is that I DO worry. But I believe that the solution to such worry is talking and sharing and telling our stories, not cleaving to ideals of what constitutes 'good'. I'm not saying that we shouldn't work at being the best mothers we can be - I'm saying reject dominant paradigms of what that should look like.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I know I am a bad mother. I could repeat your list and add some more. But above all my kids are loved and they know it. And they are good with a large twist of naughty and I am proud and disappointed and all that. And I am thankful that you are willing to be honest cause so many "mommy bloggers" aren't. And I can't tolerate to read them. Thanks for speaking the truth. More people need to.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Must Be Motherhood said...

So what you're saying is that when my kid takes his shoes off in the car and throws them at my head *while I'm driving* for the 20th time in one week and I feel like punching him in the face *and* myself in the face because I'm too tired from the baby's crap sleep to remember to take his shoes off every time we get in the car it's OKAY for me to feel so EFFING PISSED OFF?

Yes. I think that's what you just told me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

"They do not share their failures. They do not share their struggles...They do not talk about these things, out loud." Hell to the Yeah, Catherine.

I want to send this post to every mother I know. Thank you for posting the conversation that goes on in my head and encouraging me to have it out loud. You rock, Mama.


1:51 PM  
Blogger Mr Lady said...

Amy, if you know your kids are loved, and they know it, I think that means you're doing it right.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Redneck Mommy said...

I've been a parent now for thirteen years.

I have faced challenges most parents never have to, challenges that come from trying to balance raising healthy children and disabled children.

I have faced every parent's worse nightmare and buried a child.

My children, they have witnessed my walk through parenting and every stumble I have made.

Through it all I have never thought of myself as a good mother nor a bad mother. I am simply Tanis, mothering as it feels right to me, to my family. The idea that someone would label my style of parenting, try to define it and categorize it rather pisses me off.

Further more, this recent backlash against proclaimed 'bad mothers', women like you and I who poke fun of our failures and put our thoughts and fears out so as not to feel so isolated and alone; to build a community, just irritates me.

I am a bad mother. I am a good mother. I am a fantastic mother.

I am all of these things. But the the only thing that truly matters is the fact that my children love me and respect me and will carry on the legacy I created with my husband.

I'm in the trenches, doing the best I can every day. Just like most other mothers.

Bloggers like you make me feel less alone as I shovel the shit life throws at me. So thanks darling.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

by the way, Mr. Lady, you hit it right on the mark, too.

1:53 PM  
Blogger sweetsalty kate said...

There is indeed such a thing as a good mother. That would be my mother, for starters.

I was lucky, but daaamn. Big shoes to fill.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

sweetsalty - ah, there you go. Our own mothers can in some cases, I think, be worthy models of emulation. But even then, the key is to not feel as though we have failed if we don't measure up.

(My own mother? Bad, but in a very good way.)

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I don't worry about an "archetypal model of Good Parenting". I worry about what will be best for me, for my kids, for my family. I try to figure that out. And then I blog about what I figured out in case it might help someone else too. Just like in school when I loaned other people my study notes so that they wouldn't have to go through all the work I did.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Jennife said...

God do I go back and forth on this issue. I wrestle with the guilt and the feelings of inadequacy, and at the end of the day sometimes all I've accomplished is telling my children I love them, even when I haven't necessarily acted like it.

We each get what we get here, and some people's children are little angels who are easy to parent, and some people's are demon spawn (alright perfect mommies, don't get your panties in a wad - it's called hyperbole). I think living is hard, even when you don't have children, and feeling like you are isolated and are kept in the dark about what really goes on in people's homes is enough to make anybody want some ativan.
I do some things "good" and some things "bad," but all that means to me is there are areas I could do better in, IF I DECIDE THAT'S THE BEST USE OF WHATEVER RESOURCES I HAVE.
As the wife of a soldier, there have been many times when about all I could handle was putting food into mouths, and it was not always organic. It might have even come from *gasp* McDonalds. I know - I'm a sinner.
I have no idea if there's anything coherent in this. But basically what I'm saying is, please continue to share the bad mommy stories. If we all remain afraid and don't talk about our struggles, none of us might ever have the strength to keep going forward; believing one is alone in making mistakes is crippling.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell yeah.

I agree with Tanis -- bloggers like you help me feel that it's OK -- and help me feel less alone -- as I trudge through each day, trying to shrug off the label that the world wants to put on me. Thank you for your passion and sharing.

2:12 PM  
Blogger K.Line said...

This post is freakin' genius. I am decidedly, irredeemably bad. I aiming to reclaim the seventies with my parenting :-)

2:19 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Annie - sharing notes is awesome. Bloggers that do that have my deep respect. I'm not in any way saying that moms should stop striving to be better moms - I'm saying that they should do so according to their own lights, and hoping that we can all do in a discursive climate that celebrates different ways of doing that striving, that rejects absolutist models of good motherhood, and that encourages sharing of all the difficult stuff.

It's possible, I think, to celebrate good motherhood without recourse to ideals of 'Good Mothers' and without (this is important to me) rejecting the value of really being honest and accepting of what's 'bad'. (If I'd be been feeling more Nietzschean I'd have modeled this post more after Beyond Good And Evil than the Communist Manifesto, but there you go)

2:27 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

To me the archetypal Good Mother can sometimes be the worst kind of parent. Such high standards are an impossibility, therefore, the pushing for that "perfection" creates fake, frustrated, anal retentive, "just for the picture" kind of mothers that become so involved in what they're supposed to be that they forget to love their children.

Yet these moms are just trying to be good, right? So I'd be completely wrong in judging them.

So yeah, I agree with you 100% Catherine. I am a bad mother, pretty much every mother is, and we're all mostly awesome as well.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Aurelia said...

It's interesting, I completely agree with what you have written here, and also understand the little clarifications needed.

Because really, declarations of freedom from being forced to live a stereotype are needed, by the 90% or whatever of average, normal doing whatever they can to get by parents in the Western World.

We are the ones who are muddling through and getting crapped on by the media all the time and harped to raise our kids right and blamed if they don't turn out to be perfect little citizens, so yes, a little push back on our behalf is welcome.

Personally though--I know that there are truly awful hideous parents who don't give a damn, "The Real Bad Parents". My adoptive parents are exhibit one. I've spent years in therapy undoing all their damage, and years relearning what a real good parent is like and how to avoid repeating my past. (And yes, it can be done. I am a good mother, or maybe a bad one if we follow the manifesto! ;)

Funny thing is, all the media hype in the world, all the public pressure brought to bear, will never get through to the incompetent, or the abusive. All the media reports and raising alarms and hysterical parenting advice handed out never sinks in to jerks.

Instead average good/bad/muddling parents like us just feel guilty and question the hell out of our every action. Which then of course, makes me wonder why society keeps it up?

Do they really think they can change someone who is already an actual REAL bad mother? Or is this just another way of making sure that women fight amongst themselves and never fight the real enemy? I'm thinking it is....

2:52 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

long live cookies for breakfast!

proud to be a "bad" mother.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

My words will only pale in comparison to yours, so all I will say is HELL TO THE YEAH!

3:12 PM  
Blogger Rusti said...

Wow Catherine... once again you have inspired me... I've only been a mom for 5 months, but I'm positive I fit in the bad mother category (is it bad that I'm still co-sleeping with my baby girl and pick her up as soon as she starts crying whenever possible? oh well. guess I'm a bad mother...) and I'm proud of it if that puts me in the same category as you, because you are amazing and inspiring (and seriously, I'm only a little bit stalker-crushing on you right now) :) thanks for yet another brilliantly written post that speaks to me...

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Bella said...

You. Are. AWESOME.

I have never been cool enough to be a rebel. I've never really done anything dramatic enough to say "I don't care what anyone thinks of me." The STRANGEST thing is that the first time I ever started telling people to shut the fuck up with their judgments of me was when I became a mother. Of twins. So, yeah, I couldn't put 2 kids in a sling at the same time, couldn't get through the grocery store without at least 2 meltdowns (one was usually me), couldn't nurse in public like I always thought I would, couldn't sleep (co- or otherwise). Ever. Cloth diapers: haahahahhahhhahahahah. And yet... at the very same time that I feel more like a bad ass for being able to stand up for the parenting choices I've made and will make, at the same time that I'm ready to fight anyone who puts those choices down in a disrespectful way, I also feel more genuine compassion and connection to people (especially mothers) who are so very different than me. Because the vast, vast majority of us are muddling through the best we can with high hopes and fears of failure. Regardless of the petty "mommy war" issues, in the end, I suspect most of us are learning the same lessons our mothers learned and their mothers before them.

There are so many other thoughts that you've triggered with this post, but I'll stop for now.

Oh! Except to say that I have always loved Winnecott's idea of the "good enough mother". He's rather whacky to read if you're not steeped in psychoanalytic theory, but the core concept rocks.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Canuckedup mama said...

On a day that I am struggling to keep my tears and exhaustion at bay and my head above water, thank you. Thank you for this wonderful post, and thank you to you and all the "bad" mom bloggers for building a community so I don't feel so alone.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I don't blog for many reasons the first being, I cannot write as good as you or Redneck Mommy. BUT if I did, what the two of you write I could have written 17 years ago when I had my first child *gasp* out of wedlock. Thank goodness she was an easy baby. That being said I have stumbled as a parent many a times. I am now married and have an 8 year old who is a CHALLENGE, ADHD, learning disabilities and above all 100% boy into everything. My children have watched me make parenting mistakes, I have had to apologize to both of them for losing my mind a few times at them. We have all been "BAD" mothers, but we all learn. I love your blog and I have cried with you, laughed with you and felt your pain when Jasper JUST WOULD NOT SLEEP. My youngest wsa the same way. He has colic and would not sleep, he still doesn't. I give him melatonin to make him sleep. Bless you girl, Bless you for putting it out here for the public to read. I just wish I had your courage.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Jaden Paige said...


3:30 PM  
Blogger Della said...

Damn, Catherine. I just love you so much it crunches my gut sometimes.


3:30 PM  
Blogger Della said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refuse to associate or compare myself with a Good Mother. I am A mother, plain and simple. Not so long ago, I did try to attain the Good Mother status where my entire world revolved around nothing but my children and their well-being and happiness. And it damn near landed me into a padded room with a complete nervous breakdown. Nobody is capable of doing it all without making any mistakes. IT. IS. IMPOSSIBLE.

If I can go to bed at the end of the day and know that I have spent quality time with my children having fun and making them laugh, that I have given them the best meals I can with what I have and know they are not hungry, that I have corrected them with love when they have done something wrong, that I have kissed away the boo-boo and the pain, scrubbed them clean after a hard day playing and tucked them into bed with a huge hug and a kiss and a smile and promise to see them in the morning...


3:31 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

I just wrote about this a few days ago as you know and I agree with absolutely everything you have to say...


I resist taking up the mantle of the BAD MOTHER label (even proudly as you suggest) because I don't believe in giving such labels power, in cementing them in anyone's psyche. I am NOT haunted by the spectre of the "good mother" and I don't need to label myself as BAD in order to rebel against it.

I'm a good mother because, like you and everyone else here has said, I'm a good person, I love my child to infinity and beyond and however imperfect I am, I do my best every day.

I proudly refuse to acknowledge ANY standard that characterizes that as BAD!!! or GOOD!!! in a manner that gives papers and the pundits something to chew over.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

DMDiva - totally understood. I would add this, though - that taking ownership of 'bad' is a means to undermining the power of the 'good' archetypes. Mothers have been silenced by the negative power of 'bad' and that has curtailed honest discourse about motherhood (by MOTHERS) for centuries, millenia. In saying that it's okay - even valuable - to discuss those things that have long been characterized as bad and to decide for ourselves what we want to do with them.

I agree wholeheartedly that ultimately, the best thing would be to do away with the value-loaded characterizations. But for my money, so long as there is still a Good Mother ideal (propagated in any media), there will be some tremendous and necessary force to countering it with a healthy dose of *Bad.*

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I have a wonderful friend who told me that we are each the best possible parent for our child. So the things I do, may not be right for your child. So, too, the things you do may not be right for mine.

I try to keep this in mind when my teenagers hate me. It's easier to remember when they love me.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Brooke said...

I love this post. Love it.

Since we had our first child and he was one colicky fit away from pushing me to jump in front of traffic, my husband and I have adopted the 'do what works for us' strategy of parenting. And honestly, since then I feel much less inclined to judge any other mothers, unless I know they are outright abusing their children - and even then I *try* not to judge - but I will pray.

Also? I don't often feel judged by other mothers/parents. I most often feel labeled and categorized by things I read in the media or by people that I know don't have children.

Just an observation.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Cid said...

Can we Bad Mothers get t-shirts made? Something along the lines of "I'm a bad mother and proud of it."

4:37 PM  
Blogger Minnie said...

Sheer, utter, and total brilliance!

4:39 PM  
Blogger Robbin said...

Oh, girl. If I go by prevailing parental models, I am a HORRIBLE mother.

And yet my son is the most self-posessed, socially outgoing, secure, and fearless child I have ever seen - in my completely biased opinion.

I think I entirely scandalized my knitting group this past week when I revealed that most mornings my son wakes up fully dressed, teeth brushed with a breakfast bar in one hand and a milk in the other while being strapped into his car seat.

And I congratulate myself at the fact that I don't actually put him to bed in the clothing he is going to wear the next day.

But - I love my child with an intensity that the sun itself could not match. Whatever the daily little neglects that he is subjected to - the only child of a vintage professional woman - there is no other mother that could love him as completely, or tell him that more often.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply brilliant post and most of the comments as well, I wish when my child was young I had the benefit of such a supportive community. I would have been less terrified of screwing up another human being. 16 years later- it looks like I did ok, he is on his way to being a fine man.

thanks for being brave enough to post your thoughts and sharing them with us.


4:43 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Cookies for breakfast are bad too? Even if I throw in some raisins with the chocolate chips? Well, damn - then I guess you better move over on the bench because everything else you said - yeah me too. But you know what? At the end of the day these kids know that I love them, they know that I'm a real person and I make mistakes. We grow and love and laugh and cry together and I really wouldn't trade any of those moments for the approval of those Mommy's at the baseball games who raise their eyebrows as I chase down my dusty footed 2yo in MY barefeet and we cheer on her brothers wildly. Hey - the grass feels better than those stuffy old shoes and where's the fun if you can't embarass your teen just a little by yelling like a crazy woman when he makes a great catch?

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I so needed this. Thank you, Catherine.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I just can't take these archetypes too seriously. How much do you want to bet that this is all just leading up to another round of "Bad Mama" tee shirts or other products to be sold?

I agree completely with you Catherine. I reject the "ideal" of the Good Mother just as much as the next person, but all this media hype and trying to get moms worked up into a frenzy is only meant to sell us something else. It's marketing and nothing more. Want to be an AP mama? Buy a SLING! Want to be a Bad Mother? Buy that stroller with the skull and crossbones! Want to be a Good Mother? Subscribe to Martha Stewart's catalogue. It's really just a system to put us into neat little boxes so that they can sell us more products.

Ahhh marketing.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Angela Fehr said...

determined to just keep it to ourselves next time and so it ends as it always does, in silence, with none of us saying what we really want to say

Yes. Yes. I got in trouble last week for a decision I made for my children.

A decision I was willing to stand by, though it made me unpopular, though it made me look like a Bad Mother. I want to refuse to keep silent. I want to proclaim to the world "I have made this decision! I have thought about it! It's MY family and it's OK!" But maybe it's not worth the backlash. When did honesty become so dangerous?

5:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oy, Catherine, you've got my name and you've got my number. I've been a bad mother of two for sixteen years next month. I only wish I had read this fifteen years ago. (And Karl, I think, would be proud.) At least you are still articulate. All I can do is blah blah blah and blubber. I respectfully bow down to your badness.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Michelle - by 'bad mother' I don't mean 'hipster mama' or 'rebel mama'. Which is part of the reason I said above - I'm not being tongue in cheek (mostly). I'm talking about resisting any label that purports to name what it is to be a 'good' parent.

So in part this means rejecting the current media interest in the quote-unquote Bad Mother as some sort of ironic archetype, because it ignores what is real and honest and serious about bad mother discourse.

There's no t-shirt for that. Although if there was, I might wear it ;)

6:30 PM  
Blogger GingerB said...

Oh I get you Baddie, and all your readers, else why would these words be on my blog: "The twin demons of guilt and self doubt have plagued me." And I was writing about grief for my baby not being 100% OK. Hoo-boy, we mommies love some self flagellation. I'd be lost without you bloggers to read and to listen to me, really, this helps me so much when self doubt comes calling. Thank you all

7:12 PM  
Blogger Brandie Weikle said...

Fabulous, gritty, honest. Thank you, Catherine. And for the record, I use my share of the F word under (and not-so-under) my breath with the kids. Perfectly patient is a joke.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I don't like using the words "bad" and "good" for mothers. And I think that worrying about this very subject, or worrying about what you are doing wrong or what you are doing right, in itself makes everyone a mother that is trying to do the right thing. Isn't that what's it's all about?

We ALL make mistakes. We ALL can be called bad AND good. That's what makes us and our children diverse and real.

On another note, nobody has the same definition of bad and good when it comes to motherhood. We only can hold ourselves accountable for the sake of our children. And isn't that really what it's all about?

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen - if I read that 5 months ago, I probably wouldn't have had "post partum anxiety".

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, united. Bad and good and mostly mediocre and everything in between...

Great, fantastic, wonderful post.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Jacquie said...

I am a Bad Mother.

8:46 PM  
Anonymous red pen mama said...

Thank you for writing this. I am so tired of the mommy labels. The only thing I will admit is: I put my children on a schedule for my own sanity. See? Even there, I did it for me, people. If it helps them out in life to have had routine or a schedule, that's great.


8:49 PM  
Blogger Jen at Semantically driven said...

Maybe instead of calling yourself a Bad Mother you could call yourself a Normal Mother. All of us mums have awful moments and that doesn't make us bad or good, just normal.

Sharing all this 'bad' stuff helps make other 'bad' mothers feel a bit more normal too. Thank goodness there's someone else out there who lets their kids watch a bit more telly than they'd like to admit.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Steph(anie) said...


8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's so weird you tweeted this in my moment of need. I am feeling like a complete failure today as a parent. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone when I feel like I am not a "good mom." When I really take stock of this situation now, I see I was so wrong.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Massachusetts Mom said...

Can I tell you that I love you?! THIS IS PERFECT!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thank You! Thank You! Thank you so much.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Josie said...


I am a bad mother and have been for over 19 years now.
I use to try to hide it and only in the last four years have I said screw it and stopped trying to be something I can't be.
I have the added label of being a never married single mom of a certain young age. You know "You could not possibly be old enough to have a son in University."
I applaud everything you so eloquently wrote and suggest more people embrace their inner badness.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Zoeyjane said...

There's no classier way to phrase it...

Fuck, yeah. You took (far better) words right from my heart.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Amy said...


I am a "good enough" mother. Good enough for me, good enough for my children. That is the best I can hope for.

That said, I long for the day when "mother" is no longer prefaced by any qualifying adjective.

9:12 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Frankly, no, I'm not a bad mother. I honestly think I'm a good mother, though not a Good Mother, if you see what I mean.

I tried and failed to make baby food so I gave up. I tried and failed to make breastfeeding work for me, so I'm pumping again and I feed my son bottles in public. Etc, etc. Fine.

But I choose my compromises well (ie. a brand of baby food with good and few ingredients, expressed breast milk, in these cases), and stick to the things I think are important, and I consider what I'm doing as a parent.

I think as long as we think about ourselves and our children and what is working and not, and we decide where we need to make changes and not, and we take the stands we consider important for forming the children we want to have, then we are doing a great job.

I do not think that I get to decide whether someone else's choices and priorities are Good ones or not, but as long as they are paying attention, they are doing well.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here here!

Fantastic post. I'm new to this mom thing (my babe is 4mo), but I'm already getting fed up with the pressure to always have my crap together. I can't wait to go back and read all the linked posts.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous melissa said...

i found myself nodding to everything.
i kept yelling...me too!!! me. too!!
and you know what!? my kids...are perfectly secure in the fact that their lousy mother...really loves them.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

kittenpie - "a good mother, though not a Good Mother"

EXACTLY, perfect. THAT kind of good mother I can get behind. That kind of mother I'll call myself. Sometimes ;)

9:20 PM  
Blogger Jenny Grace said...

I applaud you.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I used to worry about many of the "bad mother" behaviors you described. Then I had a daughter who threw tantrums that made me look like the worst mother in the world and I got over caring about how others viewed me.

I'm not a good or bad mother. I'm just a real mom, with everyday challenges that I try to do my best to face with patience, compassion, and love. And I often fail, but that's part of life, isn't it?

9:23 PM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I think I'm a good mother BUT I think there's probably a list of people who wouldn't think I am. I'm okay with that. My kids are healthy and happy and I don't think we're racking up too big of a therapy bill (except for that one f word incident).

9:34 PM  
Blogger Carolyn Margaret said...

I love the concept of REAL mothers!!! I think I may even get it put on a t-shirt. I am the mom who tells it all as it is, the good, the bad and the ugly it's just easier. I don't have to hide my flaws and I can be happy with my successes as small as they may be some days. I wish you all laughter and sleep in your mothering journeys :)

10:03 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth @claritychaos said...

Catherine, I've been thinking about this post all day. I think those of us who pre-kids were open and communicative and not the type to sweep things under the rug - I think we especially feel the need to be able to talk about the dark side and the struggles openly. But the guilt and the feeling of being a failure of a mother comes for me when I feel like those listening aren't open to hearing what I have to say.

Some people do not want to hear about anything but the sunny side of mommyhood. They want to pretend that's all that there is. I can say this here, because I'm on your blog and not mine, my inlaws are these types of people. And so I struggle when I try to be real and I express frustration with a baby who won't sleep or a toddler who is working my last nerve or a big kid who is being so disrespectful that it hurts or my fragile state of mind that's about to collapse into insanity and THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT.

And that's when I (and I'm sure a million other mothers) wonder, am I not *supposed* to be talking about this stuff? It obviously makes some people uncomfortable. Its like even though they know its not all sunshine and roses, they want us to pretend it is because then they don't have to acknowledge their own feelings of guilt or inadequacy. Or maybe they just don't like to hear people bitch about stuff, but whatever. My point is that it's a lot easier to be honest about our mistakes and failures and worries if we have a supportive audience. Thanks for providing that here.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Motherhood Uncensored said...

Truth is, the good mother stuff doesn't make compelling reading. We humans are driven by controversy, angst, strife, and dissent.

For all of us who write, share, and commiserate in our mothering challenges, we've got plenty of other goodness about us. That shit just isn't that interesting to read.

I tend to think that "bad" is subjective to your children (for some kids, bad is actually good, and vice versa - if we can get hugely technical about it).

And I usually insert "ass" after bad when it comes to you, at least. Her Bad-ass Mother seems to define who you are.

At least to me, anyway.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. I needed this today. Today, a day where I cried over 6 times because I don't know how I am going to buy my daughter bday presents or keep our electricity from being turned off on that day. A day where I didn't sleep and my kids needed so much. But yet a day where I helped them and hugged them and cuddled and watched a movie with them. They know I love them and will give up anything for them so while my almost 8 year old made her own breakfast and my 13 year old put her to bed, they think I am a "good" mother and that's all that counts. I believe seeing struggles and learning some self sufficience will benefit them as adults as opposed to the kids who were breastfed til 3 and who do nothing for themselves.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Hear hear! I must be a bad mummy too because I've done all those things you mention!

I really think we do each other a disservice when we don't talk about the reality, the sheer shittiness and despair that motherhood can be at times (often it seems!) Otherwise we just have guilt on top of shittiness for worrying we must be doing it all wrong...

I'm doing the best I can, and really, I can't do more than that.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Amo said...

I might not fit into the stereotype of a 'good mother' but to my sons, I'm the best mother.

And that's all I car about.

Thank you, Catherine, for shedding your light.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Al_Pal said...

I got a little misty eyed reading parts of this.
& yeah, Mr. Lady's comment is Made of Win.

I feel for y'all!

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

So, would you say that your husband is a good father?

Who would answer "YES!" in a heart-beat?

Weird question, eh? But it seems to me that we do not apply the same amount of judgement to fathers and fatherhood that you so firmly and rightfully reject when it is applied to mothers and motherhood. Which only emphasises to me how badly we need to reject the whole good/bad business.

I haven't read the (many!) comments yet so I don't know if there has been discussion of good and bad fathers. Does a good father Montessori or homeschool? The concepts within the question are nearly incongruous, no?

ramble... I've read a lot of quick declarations that a husband is a "good father," often as a preface to a complaint about the marriage. It seems that, barring abusive situations, just about any present father is quickly judged to be "good."

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...

Hm. I wish I had read all the comments (esp. kittenpie's) before I wrote that last one. It would have made it shorter.

Would you say that your husband is a good father? how about a Good Father? Well, there's hardly any such thing as a Good Father, now is there?

I'm also contemplating DMD's point. I can't decide whether "Bad Mother" proclamations fight or fuel the fire, do both, or which is more important.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't particularly like to think of myself as bad. But I also don't like to think of myself as good. It's all too loaded. I came to a place a number of years ago where I decided that people are neither 'good' nor 'bad'. We just are. We can do good or bad things, but mostly we're well-intentioned and trying our best and not always succeeding. And that's sufficient, and it gives me peace.

So I totally hear what you have to say, even if I can't bring myself to say I'm a bad mother.

(Although I will admit to being a touch smug about cloth diapering my second baby. Is smugness good or bad? I don't know or care anymore.)

11:52 PM  
Blogger michelle said...

I'm a GOOD mother, and I've done all those things that you do...except maybe for loving my husband more than my kids. And you know what? You're a good mother too.
Hate to break it to ya

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Kate @ UpsideBackwards said...

Sometimes I'm a bad mother, sometimes I'm The Worst Mother in Her Whole Entire Life, and sometimes I'm the Best Mummy in the World. All I do is my best, sometimes that's not so very good but it's all I've got to give and all anyone can ask. And it's good enough, and it will get us through. And I think we all have a lot of this in common.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone is just the best mother they know how to be. The End.

1:13 AM  
Blogger JChevais said...

Now I feel so much better about doing the "jazz hands" in frustration to my kids and asking them how many hands they see! When they say two and I respond that because I only have two I can only do so much, they usually go away.

If hugs, holding hands and giggles happen during the course of a day, it's all good.

Mr Lady's first comment? Instant Love.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Eden Riley said...

A truly bad mother would never question whether she is a bad mother or not.

There are some fucked up mothers out there ... my mum included. If I just parent the exact opposite to her, I know I'm on the right track.

I can see why you were nominated for Most Provocative. Please don't ever stop blogging.


5:31 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Mmmm ... thank you so much for this post.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Maria Melee said...

Just READING this took a weight off my chest, Catherine.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Heide said...

Bad to the bone, mama. Amen.

9:22 AM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

Well, because I like my gold stars and might have ended up a bit of a praise junkie, I give myself, and want others to give me, the Good Mother title.

However, the things that I think make me such a good mother? Many of them were in your list of the things that you think make you a bad mother. There you go.

I've seen your kids. You're a fantastic mama. Me too.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Thank you, Catherine, and every mother who admits to the truths. Until a friend told me that sometimes her kids have microwave popcorn for dinner, I harbored the deep-fear that someone would judge me on our occasional "Chips'n'Salsa" meals. Until someone confessed to all-day-marathon-tv I figured the tele-police would charge me with Failure to Stimulate Minds. The only thing I've never felt guilty about is my marital relationship taking priority over my parenting relationship. Now, maybe, I an stop feeling guilty about other "Bad Mommy" things I do and feel better about the "Great Mommy" stuff. Maybe I can start putting more value behind the great stuff.


9:28 AM  
Blogger Avitable said...

I just want to know where all the dirty mothers are.

9:35 AM  
Blogger mom2boy said...

I'm in! I'm good for my kid, that much I know (deep down with my fingers in my ears blocking out all the voices telling me otherwise), but I am by no means a Good Mom. He eats peanut butter off a spoon for way too many meals for me to ever qualify as Good. :)

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Megan {Velveteen Mind} said...

I was busy voting for myself for "Most Inspiring Blog" at the BlogLuxe awards yesterday (bad, bad) and immediately looked for your name in "Most Provocative," planning to nominate you if you weren't already.

Well done.

I just wrote a difficult post about how I feel about this new pregnancy. I can't even whole-heartedly call it "this new baby" yet and I feel like crap for it. Then I felt like crap for not doing some kind of goddess fertility dance out of gratitude, given that so many of our friends struggle with fertility. Then I felt like crap because I couldn't talk about it out of fear of so many things.

So I finally just wrote it. And wow. People are right there.

Catherine, I am right there. I have this meandering post in draft that is more or less a list of all the things I have done as a bad mom. Things that I just want to admit and be done with it.

I've had it for two years. And it keeps getting longer. Never shorter.

You just about wrote it for me. Thoroughly love you. And our children? They are going to be amazing to the depths of humanity, entertaining, loving, compassionate, independent, strong, and good. In a very bad way.

9:39 AM  
Blogger Miss Britt said...

Shit, Catherine.

I'm halfway through writing a book that you just summarized in one post.

No, seriously.

Son of a bitch.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Alli Worthington said...

{bows to the greatness of Her Bad Mother}

9:54 AM  
Anonymous angi said...

I am a bad mother...I've done all of those things...but I'm the only mother my kids know...and they love me unconditionally. That's the thing. We're all human, we all are flawed and make mistakes. If you love your kids despite their flaws, chances are they're going to love you right back. Good or bad.

10:02 AM  
Anonymous Jillian said...

Bravo for telling it like it is!!

We all struggle with being the best we can be while still retaining some semblance of self.

Nobody trained us or told us about how our lives would change so completely when we had children or about how lonely it would be.

We are superheroes and should be recorded in history as such!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Karen Bodkin said...

Never has your tagline in your header meant so very much. This ought to be shouted from rooftops and linked to from every corner of the world.
Very well said Catherine - simply awesome.
Bad is indeed the new good.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Krystle @snarkykisses said...

A.Freaking.MEN! You hit the nail on the head... and said all of what I believe.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Norine said...

Bravo! Well said. BTW, I love the idea of a T-shirt ... worn with pride.
Hopefully you've checked out Ayelet Waldman's "mumoir" Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace (Doubleday ... and on Kindle). I'm in the middle and it's a great read.
Don't Put Lizards In Your Ears

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


At a later age, I've recently become a mother, and due to a host of factors too intricate to unravel here or perhaps elsewhere without much thought and analysis, I fissured entirely.

Inundated by popular culture's view of "motherhood," of mom shows on television, parenting magazines, countless manuals and magazines, I was then recommended Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," a post apocalyptic tale of a man travelling the road to a more desireable locale with his son amidst the burning fires and ashes of a ravaged world.

There aren't synopses I can produce, any I've really read, that capture the entire beauty and heartache of loving a child rendered here so eloquently. And it is the father who shelters and provides until he perishes along the road, the boy hesitant to leave without returning to pay his one, final respect to his father's corpse.

There are categories, adjectives, descriptions produced and reinforced by medical communities, advertisers, scholars, but ultimately, there is that one unconquerable bond between parent and child that transcends all else, including our own death.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous MissJ said...

I am often a bad mother but I don't think it's anything to be celebrated. And that, in my opinion, is what this wave of bad mother revelry is essentially doing. I think there's a fine line between pulling the curtain back and exposing the truth (which is good - in my opinion) and championing poor parenting (not so good).

11:17 AM  
Blogger Issa said...

Awesome post! I don't see how anyone can tell me what type of mother is okay. Everyone is different, just as every kid is different. Who gets to decide this stuff anyway?

I am a bad mother. My kids eat too much sugar, they watch too much TV, they have IPods, Nintendo DS's and rooms filled with that Disney crap. I didn't breastfeed, I don't do all organic, I am not always patient, I yell too much and some nights, I put them to bed early, just because I'm tired of listening to them talk. But every single day, I love them more than life itself. I'd move the moon for them. That (along with their needs always being met and me teaching them to be responsible human beings) has to be enough.

12:33 PM  
Blogger laurie said...

Just yesterday, I was thinking that I wanted my older son to suck it up and get better already (he has been sick with stomach pains and nausea) so that he could get back to school and stop cramping my style.
Then I felt so guilty...
Some days I proudly own my badmotherness more easily than others...

12:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The part that disturbs me the most is the good mother "PR" you are expected to produce about parenting. I feel guilty admitting that there are some weekends when the peace of my office is an absolute relief. I also feel guilty about working too much, not working enough, everything I eat, not calling my mother, etc.

I think the key to the "bad mother" ethos is transparently embracing motherhood - and your kids for that matter - for the truth of what they are. And not allowing yourself to fall for the hype of it being anything less than "good".

- Bad Mama Miracle

12:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I read your post yesterday. I had to read it again today. You know what? I think I'll read it every day for the rest of my life -- or at least until I have it memorized like I did with The Communist Manifesto over twenty years ago. The overwhelming response that your post has inspired (far, far more than the science blogs I usually read) is evidence that you have really struck a chord. Write a book.

By the way, we may have been cursed with the pain of childbirth, but we got multiple orgasms too.

Someone wise once told me that the best thing we can do for our children is to stay out of their way. Give them the raw materials they need to develop their talents/interests and let them have at it. Of course, this isn't helpful when you have a toddler and a newborn, each screaming for different reasons, and you're trying to get something done. But if you understand this advice in the context that it is not a maternal responsibility to nurture (suck) every bit of potential out of your offspring, then it frees both mother and child and allows for substantial, original growth.

Basically, if you love your children, keep them safe and share in the joy of living, then you've got your bases covered. The rest is commentary.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Really, aren't most of us just "good enough mothers." And isn't that OK?

Maybe it was when I finally accepted having a special needs son, that I "mostly" stopped worrying about being a "good" mother and what other people thought. Because damn it all, unless you ("you" as in everyone not me) are living my life, you have no clue.

And when I occasionally do forget that "good enough" really is "good enough" and let the dad at McD's get in my face and upset me. Well, then I remember how excited and proud of me my son is watching me take my first karate classes (fat, sweaty, awkward, struggling to keep up) and hear him yell out to me "Mom, you are awesome!"

And you know what? I am awesome! Because I'm good enough and that is what my kids need.

Great post as always Catherine! Like others though I wish we could get rid of good and bad completely.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Blog said...

Awesome, awesome post. I always like to say I do the best I can -- and that "best" is different every day. Today, my best is putting my daughter in front of a movie while my son naps -- so I can work to (ultimately) provide for her. Yesterday, it was hiding under my bed and leaving them to the care of the husband. The day before that, it was doing arts and crafts and going to the park with them. I do the best I can every day. And the best I can do is different every day. My mantra.

This isn't to say I don't loathe myself on those "fuck I hate this" days, unfortunately. I just try to remind myself of my mantra those days and that there are parents out there smoking crack in front of their kids.... The fact that WE CARE that WE QUESTION that we SHARE makes us damn good parents. It's just so damn HARD, and we can't POSSIBLY always be up to the task.

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm proud to say that I'm a bad mother, and I'm putting a link to this article on my blog - I really like what you have to say, and how you say it! Thank you.

2:40 PM  
Blogger abi's mom said...

Perhaps we'd all be better mothers if more of us shared what "bad" mothers we were.

I love reading your blog because it's real. Or at least it meshes with my experience of what motherhood is, and it makes me realize I'm not alone.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uhm, a little confused here. Could you direct me to one of those Good Mothers, I dont think I've ever seen one.

As for being a BAD mother- I always imagined you needed to have substance abuse issues, and teach your kids to be mean/lazy/ otherwise-sorry-specimens-of-humanity in order to be classified a bad parent. After your (non-tongue-in-cheek) post, I'm confused !

3:20 PM  
Blogger -K said...

I love you. I've been following your blog on and off for a while and have never commented. But here I am, pregnant with my second, parenting (BADLY...oh yes) my two-year-old, wondering why the hell I ever thought I could do this job and then I read your post. And I rejoiced. Badness SHALL reign, and I shall breathe again...(eventually, after I've ignored a crying toddler, cursed under my breath-or not-and neglected to do the dishes, I SHALL breathe). Thanks for that. Did I mention that I love you?

3:41 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I am an insufferable waffler— flagrantly swinging from fuck-it to what have I done? I need to check in more, with Mr. Lady and you and everyone in between. Damn! I'd cry for my mom, but fuck it all if that relationship isn't too complicated.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Amie Adams said...


*pumps fist*

4:01 PM  
Blogger ExtraordinaryMommy said...

I love this because I can relate.

I could add to the 'bad mothering list' again and again. But, like you, my kids know that I love them and they get dozens of kisses and hugs in a day - and we laugh all the time.

I think that more than makes up for some extra TV time, a few too many meals at McDonalds and my desire to occasionally lock myself in the bathroom - just to get a minute alone.

I know I am not perfect. I don't think the 'perfect mother' or the 'all-good mother' exists.

We are 'good' or extraordinary even because we keep trying. We definitely don't always succeed - but we try. And when I make a mistake, my kids are the first to let me know. I'm certain the guilt I feel is pennance enough for whatever 'bad mothering' I commit on a regular basis.

So, I'm thinking you are right: 'bad IS the new good."

4:56 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Miss J - proclaiming oneself to be a 'bad mother' is not (in my framing of it) a celebration of bad parenting - it's a celebrating of the reality of parenting, in all of its messy glory, and a rejection of narratives insist that there are good and bad ways of doing things (beyond basics of care and love). It also rejects the idea that we can know what a good parent is, beyond the obvious. Some would say that co-sleeping is bad parenting; others, good. Some would say that strict discipline is bad; others, good.

So, maybe this is celebrating 'bad parenting' - if we understand bad parenting to be the kind of parenting that most of us are doing anyway, regardless of what anyone thinks of it.

5:03 PM  
Blogger The_EmilyB said...

As a soon to be mother I'm watching the posts on this topic intently :) I think your post is great but I agree with DM Diva.

I understand the idea of embracing the label as a way of reducing its "power" or turning it around but I also think it takes the power away from the atrociousness of truly bad mothers - those that beat, abuse and neglect their children.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

check, check and check. I totally meet all the bad mother requirements.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous aqua said...

Superb, Catherine! I will print this out and put it on my fridge!

8:48 PM  
Blogger Carrie Ella said...

Bad mother?

I struggle with that question every single day.

Read this: http://maneuveringmotherhood.blogspot.com

10:24 PM  
Blogger Joy said...

I keep coming back, trying to frame an articulate response. And I can't. But thank you, very much for writing this.

I, too, am a Bad Mother.

11:03 PM  
Anonymous Usedtobeme said...

I could not have said it better myself. Well done.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Julie @ The Mom Slant said...

My badness is also well documented and laid bare for the world to see.

12:05 AM  
Blogger heather said...

Just tonight, I was thinking about what a bad mom I was for wishing for my pre-baby life back. Thanks for the permission to be a Bad Mother!

1:23 AM  
Blogger Ozma said...

To some degree.

I do think also that mothering is a skill, a talent, a vocation. Some people are truly amazing at it. There really are Olympian mothers.

I've seen them. They awe me. They are not alpha moms and all that crap. It's just...I can't explain it. Some people just have rad mothering skillz.

I know this is not a popular view on the mommynet. But I swear. I've seen it, I've seen them, I've seen their kids.

I had a bad mother in some really crucial ways. She could write a blog saying many of these things. And other things. It simply was not good to have a bad mother. It was bad. She wasn't the worst mother, not by a long shot. She was just bad enough to actually be bad.

I'm sure she loved us as best as she could. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Also, her mother loved her as best as she could. And that was *definitely* not enough, if you ask my mother. (Also, you could ask my grandmother, if she was still alive about what a bad mother she had. That might be where the disaster started. That's as far back as I can trace, of course, not knowing my great-great grandmother.) In a baseline way, we were and are all healthy in mind and body. It just takes more. Actually, with my mom that was one thing--she was so fixated on the form rather than the content.

I feel like I am shooting for kid and falling short right now. Mainly on attention and energy and distractedness. But I am lucky to be married to a good mother (who is a man). If you leave off cooking and cleaning, he is the archetypal good mother.

Yes, good mother is an ideology. Good mother is tied to an oppressive patriarchal system. Good mother is a lot of things. But there are some good mothers. And there are some bad ones. And I honestly don't know how else to keep myself striving in the way I want to without trying to be good.

I think when (some, not all--some are bullshit) the gender expectations traditionally placed on mothers are shared between two parents and the child and no one else puts them on the woman rather than the man--to me that is more liberating than to challenge the idea of standards itself.

Another option is to try and think of mothering as an art...If it is an art, then of course you are going to be freaking out about whether it is good enough. And there has to be a way to silence pointless critics, inside and out. But you have to be a critic of your own work--you just have to--to do good work.

It's hard to substitute something else for 'good' when I get down to brass tacks. Good is what I want to be.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Joy! said...

I'm an ordinary mom too. When things get rough, I keep repeating to myself: I'm doing the best I can. Which over all is pretty good, it's just swaddled in the guilt of not living up to the Good Mom ideal or my better self. It's a particularly sharp stick with which to whack myself with when things are going badly. My DH, though, tells me I'm a fantastic parent, and that thank god we have each other to hand her back and forth in the middle of those late-night screaming fests.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Heidi Marie said...

Here here good WOMAN, I someday hope to be as "bad" a mother as you! (and Tanis LOL) My mother never really cared, nor did she provide the basic needs ie: food, shelter, clothing, medical attention. My grandmother did all that and she did it much the same as you, laughter, love, TV, cookies for breakfast, and sometimes putting herself first. It let me know as a child that adults have needs aswell and that even as a child sometimes I need to do without, nothing major but sometimes I really didnt need the newest shoes, and grandma DID need a haircut or a new food processer. Hey kick @$$ food doesnt make its self, ya gotta have tools! LOL

4:35 AM  
Blogger Geohde said...

Oh geepers.

Yes, I am appalling :)

I just put my children to bed, poured a glass of wine and hopped online because they were feral and had been screamingly so all day and I was out of other ideas.

I concur wholeheartedly.


4:55 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Ozma - one of very best friends in the world is one of those good moms. Not a sanctimommy, not an alpha mom, just a bona fide died-in-the-wool good mom. And I admire her and respect her to the ends of the earth. But if I hold her up as a model for myself, I'll fail and I'll feel that failure keenly. I can only be good in the ways that *I'm* good. And therein lays my point - I'm not saying to reject any of the markers of 'good', I'm saying reject hegemonic models of 'Good' with a capital G.

Which, for rhetorical purposes, I am calling 'bad' ;)

8:28 AM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Bravo. 'Real' mom here. I wish I'd have been able to express the same thoughts half as well.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Theresa said...

Bravo. 'Real' mom here. I wish I'd have been able to express the same thoughts half as well.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a bad mum. Not the feral, whack your kid in the street mum or the threaten to push your kid in front of a train mum (I have seriously witnessed this!) - but the mum that heaves and sighs and just cant handle too many hours of my toddlers screaming, nagging and tantrums.
And because of that - Ive smacked her - and felt HUGELY GUILTY for it - as my first was and is the "angel". Today I told her I loved her and she said "No, you love Sarah. Daddy loves me". My heart broke. Dont know how to be The Good Mother - as to her I am the monster mummy, the Bad Mother. Thankyou for your honesty and breaking down the walls of silence and shame for the majority of us Normal mums out there (Im from AUSTRALIA).

9:35 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Anonymous from Australia: My kids are both teenagers now and believe me, they go through phases of which parent they "like best." This is normal and no reflection of a booty whack in a weak moment. I used to work with abused children and it never mattered how monstrous their parents were (pimping them out, setting them on fire) the kids *always* wanted to be with their own parents rather than foster care (good foster care). Your children are going to adore you, no matter what. At least until they are teenagers.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous LAVANDULA said...

that was truly inspiring catherine.once again i bow down to your greatness.i try my best but sometimes i fail.dismally.i just do what i can each day.and each day is different.some things i am awesome at.some things i suck at.but i love my children and they know i do.some days i yell some days i have no patience some days i feel disconnected etc but i have some moments of truly awesome greatness too.we can only do our best and hope its enough.thanks for a honest thought provoking post. XO

12:10 PM  
Blogger Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

Look, you were the one who first posited that words, labels, and the values they imply about us, imbue us with, that these things matter, that these things are significant.

We write because we care what words get used to describe us, the world, injustice, beauty, etc.

I choose to call myself good. Humbly.

I am a good mother, a Good Mother. I'm not going to go around saying I'm bad just because some of things I do some people might consider make me a Bad Mother. I refuse to give up to the "Bad Mother" finger pointers a title that I feel I deserve.

(and glad we can move on to the Latin after the Greeks are exhausted.)

3:49 PM  
Blogger Patry Francis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Jane - it's because words matter that I think it's important to challenge their meanings, to deprive labels of their power. 'Bad' is powerfully negative to you because we've been schooled in binary moral oppositions. I'm choosing to reject those oppositions, to state, loudly and forcefully, that moral valuations of motherhood are necessarily fluid, and that if my mode of mothering is 'bad' to some, then I will celebrate and defend that badness. It's more defeatist, to my mind, to slink around insisting that others receive my style of mothering as 'good.' I don't CARE if anyone else thinks it's good - that's the point.

It may be that we simply have different views of how moral rhetoric and language should be used. I think that my rhetorical stance is the more powerful; you disagree. We'll probably just have to leave it at that.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Chaos Control said...

Where was this post six years ago when I was pregnant with my first child?

It certainly would have saved me quite a bit of time kicking myself for not being "the world's greatest mom". I now know I'm normal and my kids are going to turn out just fine ... no matter what those "competimommies" say!

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Chaos Control said...

Oops ... wrong blog link above ... should have been the one linked to my name here.

6:17 PM  
Blogger weberly said...

I don't think there is a such a thing as a "good mother" I think there is a difference in what we will admit to All the things that you mention being bad for ...all the mothers I know are bad too then including myself. You are neither good or bad you are a mother and an honest one and imho you are the best of us . Thanks for putting the truth out there.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Mad Mom said...

Well stated... I fall into the "bad mom" category as well as the lazy mom category...

depression, sleep disorder, new motherhood, full time college student, full time work... I think I deserve to be selfish sometimes.

More power to ya "bad mom"

10:23 PM  
Anonymous deblev said...

I call it "good 'nuff" parenting. I believe that perfection is not an option. But that said, this whole idea that if you have a drink or would rather be laying sweaty and naked with your partner instead of playing dress up with a bossy 3 year old makes you bad... you ain't seen bad. I used to work in a group home for emotionally disturbed kids and one (I had to work hard to pick the worst story) was there because his mother was a crack whore (not a figure of speech) and she would occasionally peddle her boy to johns to get a fix. He was taken away and had all sorts of PTSD from being abused and living in crack apartments. Now that is a bad mom. On 99.9% of the days, I know I'm so much better than that. I think most of us can take pride in that.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

I'm going to put this here because you didn't leave the option of commenting on today's post and I'll admit that I'm pretty miffed about that. You make a post about accepting the flaws while striving for better and then turn right around and chastise women for doing the same. Perhaps that's not what you meant to do, but your post today felt like a big finger pointing, wagging and whispering "I'm bad, but I'm not as bad as you people". You can't say "don't judge other mothers" and then come right back and judge them yourself.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Kelly - I'm sorry, who was I chastising? I'm not being snarky, I really don't get who you're referring to. Parents who abuse or neglect their children? I think that it's defensible to draw a line somewhere - I'm not a total relativist. Reclaiming bad doesn't mean actually trying to be BAD-bad - and I feel pretty comfortable saying that abusing or neglecting children is wrong.

Or do you mean that I was chastising mothers who don't choose to embrace the 'Bad' label? My point was that we should be free to call ourselves what we want. We shouldn't be free to abuse children. I don't see how that follows from my arguments.

Or maybe I'm missing your point?

(And I closed comments because a) I was only clarifying this post, not adding anything, and b) am very close to being talked out on all this and didn't want to actively push it futher.)

9:59 AM  
Anonymous marymac said...

Love.Your.Blog. After reading Tanis' post yesterday I (sorry in advance about the talked out thing..but had to chime in my $.02 on my own blog) posted on the topic as well. Come read - promise you don't have to debate anything!


10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just think the whole argument is flawed, in that it's not the 1950s and where is all this pressure to behave like a "Good Mother?" I have never seen it, felt it, or experienced it. I think the idea that there are impossible standards placed on mothers is pure fiction.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Anonymous: What planet are you from?!

12:09 PM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

Not a Good Mother, not a Bad Mother, just a mother.

And that's good enough for me.

12:40 PM  
Blogger realsarah said...

Absolutely beautiful article! Thank you for it :)

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

I'll admit that I didn't read every comment, but I don't think I read anything that mentioned abuse or neglect of children. That lead me to assume (wrongly?) that you felt some of the comments/confessions were on/over the line of abuse/neglect.

Maybe, too, I've misinterpreted your definition of "bad" since most of the time it seems tongue-in-cheek yet yesterday you stated you were being serious and then listed a bunch of things that I, personally, don't consider "serious bad" just "human". Of course, my definition of "serious bad" is where that abuse/neglect line is. The rest of us just live in the great grey area of "Doing our Best".

12:56 PM  
Blogger Marcy said...

AMEN! Thank you for this. I wholeheartedly adopt the idea of the "good enough" mother, because there's no way in hell that I'll ever be that perfect mom. I just don't have it in me. And I'm learning that that's okay.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Kelly - I AM mostly ironic. Which is I said "mostly" ;)

What is not ironic is the fact that I *do* do some things that others would consider bad, so the statement that my tongue was not in cheek was a nod to that. Some people WOULD call me a bad mother. I say booey to them.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Avasmommy said...

Ya know, I cannot agree with you more. I wonder when it became such a popular pastime for mothers to spend so much energy judging and condemning other mothers.

I feel like I spend an extraordinary amount of time justifying every single decision I make regarding my daughter's care and upbringing.

Just because something works for your kids, does not mean it will work for mine, and vice versa. Why the hell can't we just realize that and get on with the business of raising our kids? Our own way.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catharine (comment from above): I am from this planet, raising a toddler and working full time.

My comment was entirely serious. I do not understand where this "pressure" comes from. Do you feel it from family? Friends? "Society?" What exactly does that mean? Can you give me an example?

I agree with Don Mills Diva, who recently wrote on her blog:

I think the so-called "widespread pressure" to be a perfect mom and the old trend of "impossible parenting standards" are nothing but made-up media constructs too. I've never felt societal pressure to be a perfect mom and no one has ever asked or, to my knowledge ever expected, me to conform to impossible standards. And also? I've asked around and none of my friends have either. Instead we all just vaguely recall the media prattling on about some kind of supermom phenomenon.

4:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HBM: you seem to court controversy with some of your posts and then after a while shut off comments and claim that you're too tired/talked out and it all seems to positively overwhelm you.

What did you expect?

4:12 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

You called yourself a bad mother, said you were proud of it, lay it out as a manifesto and feel rebuked when some people say they don't agree and give reasons such as it's just another label to weild against one another. I read in one comment somewhere that you felt "admonished" for your choice.

Which, from my perspective at least, isn't what I saw people doing. I saw people respectfully and thoughtfully disagreeing with your solution, not your point.

Isn't that what the sharing of ideas is about?

5:05 PM  
Blogger ET said...

The search for Bad Motherdom is actually what led me to the world of bloggers. My son is a achingly sweet, whipsmart, but not neurotypical, little boy and I felt I couldn't live another moment without having my anguish and terror and fury validated. The sanctimony and holiness with which my role was regarded confined me and made me feel emotionally dishonest. I am truly grateful for you and the others living Out lives in Bad Motherdom. Without your words, it would be that much harder for the rest of us to own our Badness!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

I'm so glad I learned before I became a mother that none of us can be 'good mothers', and the best we can be is 'good enough'. And most of us didn't even get that.

I'm with you.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Toyfoto - I said that I felt admonished by posts and comments that suggested that a) I was willfully encouraging mothers to be truly (abusively, neglectfully) bad, and/or b) that my 'bad mother' stance was just a marketing ploy. And, too, when it was suggested that there must something wrong with me (that I must be in pain or terribly angry or "spiritually immature") to take such a position. I welcome and enjoy debate, as anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows, but I get testy when people take personal shots or question my authenticity or my good intentions.

Of course, sometimes I get overly sensitive and the lines blur, but I am, after all, flawed, imperfect, and so prone to imperfect reactions ;)

7:33 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous 4:12 - I don't actually court controversy. I just write what I think. Which, in some cases, I certainly do realize that responses might be mixed, but I'm not setting out to stir up controversy. And in any case, it's my space here, and I should, I think, be free to decide when I want to step back from discussions. (Also, seriously, it sometimes just becomes an issue of volume - I get e-mails and messages in addition to comments, which stream through one of my e-mail accounts, and sometimes the volume just gets to be a bit much. If I can't actually read it all - and certainly if I need to walk away from the computer for a day - I turn off comments, just to maintain a balance. Turn off the taps, so to speak.)

7:49 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While nobody is expected to attain what you deem to be perfection, to abandon the quest to better ourself, our world and the lives of our children is to wallow in self indulgent behaviour. It is selfish to prioritize ones own desires over those we love. You may remember this when your child finds you boring in your old age, or posts on their blog they love their spouse, children or dog more than you. Even if true, there is little benefit in sharing it to the world. Bad mothers train bad children, citizens and future parents who embrace mediocracy. But there is nothing noble about embracing complacency and mediocracy. It is a sad state of affairs if our criteria drops to the "most basic standards of care". I would not celebrate a hospital with such standards. I would not advocate travel an airline with that mantra. I do not see the benefit in your attempt to lower the bar for parenthood. Letting your child cry without reason or purpose then kissing them at least once a day is inconsistent and insensitive. I would reject a kiss from someone who turned their back on my cries of pain... our children just don't know any better to do the same.

We should strive to be better parents not to meet "community edicts" but because, in answer to your question of who the *&%* cares..... it is our kids who care, until that day they will learn to stop caring at all. A good mother is not one who spanks or does not spank, but one who establishes clear guidelines... and yes schedules. We ask no less of our banks, government offices and friends. Arbitrary and inconsistent timelines and rules are nothing to be proud of. We have thrown out political leaders and fired employees for less. A good mother is not one without flaws, but one who does not seek praise for those flaws or mistakes

For those who think this might be too judgement, I pray your position does NOT take over, lest we live in a world of bad doctor who oppose too harsh standards of care, bad pilot who abide by basic standard, where we turn our backs on the cries of strangers and we all put our own needs first. You can keep your cookies for breakfast.

Written by the husband of a good mother.

p.s. you also misread Machiavelli, Nietzsche and Marx.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Karishma said...

i'm late to this, but i had to say something. i just posted this for tanis, and the same thing applies right here, so here goes:

i have to say, i disagree. i do think this is a fad. and quite a ridiculous one, for a simple reason: every blogger i have seen so far who has declared herself a ‘bad’ mother is one who i would consider an amazing mother. i think the success of parenting is measured by just that - its success. obviously there are exceptions, kids who went the opposite direction despite the best efforts of their parents, but for nearly everyone, success is measured by that exact description of your children: “well-adjusted, emotionally happy and highly functional children.” bad mothering would result in the exact opposite.

i refuse to call ANY parenting that results in happy, well adjusted children ‘bad’ parenting, NO MATTER how different the parenting style is from the traditional standard. it degrades your success, it degrades the integrity of your parenting, and diminishes the love and effort you have poured into your offspring. it may be ‘different’ parenting, it might be ‘unique’ or ‘offbeat,’ or called ‘tanis parenting’ if necessary, but NEVER should it be called ‘bad.’ to call it bad is to embrace rebellion, to give up fighting against the negativity and judgment that is rampant in these hot button issues. i would never call anyone like you or catherine a bad mother, because you AREN’T bad mothers. you are amazing mothers, with unique, maybe sometimes controversial, ways of accomplishing the very same thing - parenting your children in a way that best fits both yours and their needs. in my book, that’s called ‘good’ parenting.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're a total retard bitch and should choke on your Ativan, you dumb slut.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Anonymous: "All that we have, then, is this: the measure of our hearts and the measure of our eyes and our ears and our good sense. Do we love our children as best we can? Do we keep them, as best we can, healthy in mind and body? Do we make sure that they laugh? Do they smile in our presence?"

I am in no way suggesting that mothers not strive to be the best we can. *I* strive to be the best I can. What I am saying is, we should be able to determine for ourselves what the right models of 'best' are, and not feel that we have to live up to what the media, or whomever else, says is 'Good (capital G!) Mothering'. After all, as I say - there's no consistency in those models, anyway. I'm saying, let's be our own arbiters of what is 'good' - which as I say above, is something that lays above a baseline of loving and caring for our children well.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Karishma - thanks for saying that you think I'm amazing mother. I think so, too - I really do. I just insist upon making that definition for myself.

And - there may be a media fad of talking about bad mothers, but Tanis and I - and Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored, and Dooce, among quite a few others - have been writing this way and talking about 'bad' motherhood for YEARS. That's a long fad.

8:59 AM  
Blogger L~ said...

guilt is overrated, and so is the fear of judgment about the kind of mother i am or am not. I will join your movement!! With all of my heart.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

"there's no consistency in those models, anyway" Thank you! There IS NOT. Every individual/institution has a different opinion of what good mothering is but the problem is that it's been all wrapped up in this mutating, judgmental, mommy-war starting monster. "This is the way you should do it because that other way, oh no! that's just wrong."

Unless there is abuse or neglect, there is no wrong.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Jennie said...

I am "bad" and proud of it! I simply could not agree more. Some days we are the model of the (supposed) perfect mommy, with all the rules of bedtimes and manners and square meals. And sometimes we are slack-ass chicks who don't care that the TV has been running Noggin all day & that the best meal anyone had came from McDonald's. No apologies as long as you love and support and care for them with your whole heart. We should be allowed to be human and imperfect sometimes and not feel guilty! After all, isn't that how we want our children to be too? I know I do.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"I think you're a total retard bitch and should choke on your Ativan, you dumb slut."

The unfortunate person who wrote these words is exactly the kind of person who produces really fucked up kids. How violent, how full of rage (not to mention misogyny) is this person? I don't have to ask "how stupid" because that is painfully obvious.

You see, Catherine, as Philosophers have always known, it is dangerous to speak the truth. Kudos to your chutzpah. I say, don't apologize or try to explain anything. Because you are more or less in the category of "Mommy blog," you are necessarily going to get a bunch of wackaloon asshat readers/responses. These people live in fear of the truth and your honesty is clearly felt as a threat to them.

By the way, an earlier comment written by a man (who seems to feel threatened by Real women - women who are more than walking, talking reproductive machines) accuses you of not "getting" Marx, Nietzsche and Machiavelli. Well, this reminds me of a pseudonymous science blogger that I know who is a high level official at the CDC who's readers are forever "correcting" him on scientific/policy matters. Feh!

FYI: It is clear to anyone who knows Marx & co. from a rabbits ass that you totally grok the above mentioned thinkers -- and many more who are not mentioned.

You are a first rate thinker, a first rate mother (in all of your glorious badness) and a first rate human being. Keep fighting the good fight.

(By the way, a friend of mine used your essay in the freshman English classes he teaches at a community college in Philly (credit given to you, of course) and your essay was very well received and sparked enthusiastic discussions.)

11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not see any empowerment to any Mother in adopting this "Bad Mother" philosophy. Does calling yourself a "bad mother" make it ok to "sometimes" hit? abuse? I feel like you are saying, "it is ok because we are all bad mothers sometimes". Not acceptable.

Also, you seem to be very critical of the media, but in the last few months I have seen you quoted twice in the Toronto Star (with full color pictorial articles) and also a Canadian magazine. I think perhaps you are beginning to believe your own hype!

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Tanis Miller said...

You know all you lovely anonymous commenters, if you are feeling the need to anonymously heckle my best friend and call her names (especially the R-word which I hold near and dear to my heart) why don't you come on over to my place. theredneckmommy.com.

Better yet, send me an email: talesfromtATyahoo.ca

You want a chance to pick on someone?

Come on over and see me.

I'll give you something to pick on.

Your own ass as I hand it to you for being such a twat.

If you have to hide behind the veil of anonymity to drop your nastiness on a blog though, I don't really expect you to have the courage to take on someone who wants to play.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Alicia D said...

Good lord, some of these "anonymouses" are MEAN as heck!! WTF?? Are they not "getting" it?!?!? Im so sorry you guys needed to be exposed to all that. Totally wrong in so many ways.

I SAW you (well, your blog) on CNN this morning!!!! I was all like "I FOLLOW her bad mother!!!" like, i actually KNOW you and was so excited that you were on tv. :) anyway - big stuff. Awesome!

But, now ive been buzzkilled by these meanies that were commenting on this. the world is full of jerky people...

1:14 PM  
Blogger Rusti said...

GO TANIS GO!!! woo-hoo!!

Catherine - I sincerely hope you're ignoring the idiots who say stupid shit... seriously. Idiots.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I too am a 'bad' mother. I answer my kids with non-sugar coated answers, I let them watch violent TV while giving them values that will NOT enable them to copy it, I've smacked, I've sworn, I've name called, I stopped breatfeeding with #1 after 3 days and didn't even try with #2 (guess what...they have been sick maybe 4 or 5 times in a DECADE! Essential for immunity my ASS), and you know what....I don't regret any of it. I have great kids, with personalities, and values. And they know they will always get truth from me (unless I'm lying to them about the cookie I've just eaten...I do that).

3:45 PM  
Blogger Avonlea said...

"learning some self sufficience will benefit them as adults as opposed to the kids who were breastfed til 3 and who do nothing for themselves." - Anonymous, way up above

*big sigh* Judge much? My child just turned 3, and he still breastfeeds. He's also the most active, inquisitive, outgoing, and take-charge little boy you'll meet.

It seems that this is the kind of judgemental crap that HBM is talking about.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Susan Getgood said...

A good mother? It's a woman who parents her children in a way that is comfortable for her. That fits the way she is, not a model Good Mother. One size doesn't fit all in this either :-)

You've got to be happy as a person, because that bleeds through to your kids more than anything else. That means finding your own parenting style.

And letting your kids find their own kid-style too.

That's what I try to do, and I think you do too Catherine. You can call it bad if you want, but I'm pretty damn sure it's good.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Loralee Choate said...

Some of these people in this comment section are disgusting as hell.

The anonymous asshats of the internet can just suck it and go back to whatever cesspool they crawled out of.

And for the (slightly) less offensive people who are TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT OF THIS POST??! Get your damn knickers out of a twist, already.

11:45 PM  
Blogger kristeneileen said...

Anonymous, insulting blogtrolls DO NOT participate in a meaningful exchange of ideas. People like you, who openly admit your feelings and then engage other peoples' feelings and comments, are involved. Let those people who are such cowards roll off your back like the bullshit they are serving up - and then hiding from.

Your Twerp,

12:14 AM  
Blogger Kristen Howerton said...

THANK YOU for writing this. I stumbled on this today from MamaPop and I needed to see this tonight. I am also a bad mom. I don't even like being a mom sometimes. I also love me some Ativan. But I also love my kids like nothing else in the world.

Good words. Thanks for sharing.

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Tangsongshan said...

This was on one of my local news station's website today:


They seem to think your blog is written by Ayelet Waldman! And they are quoting her as if it was said on your blog. Be prepared for visitors asking why you spank your children and leave them in the bathtub alone.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Amanda Hill of Shamelessly Sassy said...

I started reading blog posts in 1999. In ten years, this is one of the best posts that I've read. Perhaps because I can relate to it so well.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Binky said...

This resonates with me both in the word-play way and in everday way.

Words are made to be taken and retaken and mistaken. That's how language evolves, and how people come to common understanding. It's also through words that we feed the divide. Words are good and bad. Like mothers.

This post appeals to me for its content and for the debate. I admire your vocabulary of philosophy. I admire, aside from linguistics, the specifics: the list of bad things. It resonates. It really does.

The debate supports what I perceive to be the underlying premise of this post and your blog in general. Words have meaning. More than almost anything else in this world, words mean something. What keeps it turning is how we use them to define ourselves.

2:43 PM  
Blogger MonaBookGirl said...

I wish someone had been brave enough to say this 9 1/2 years ago when I first had my son. I think we both would have had a much more relaxed time of it. But I applaud you. You have said everything in my heart I have never really had the guts to say except to my most close friends who feel the same way.

3:43 AM  
Blogger DM'sMommy said...

I read this and loved it! Some days I feel as if I'm a bad mommy and I feel guilty about it but then my son smiles or my daughter laughs and I realize I'm the best mom that I can be to them, and not the best mom someone else thinks I should be, and they're loved unconditionally and are healthy and happy and that's all that matters.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw your blog in a news article on CNN today! They quoted your blog and showed pictures but then showed an interview for another "bad mother." I was so confused! I knew that wasn't you nor your children in the interview. CNN needs to work on their production skills.


12:46 PM  
Anonymous Stay at Home Dad said...

Sounds to me like alot of women have mental issues. I realize this new selfish parenting kick has cause seriously ill behaved children and I'm not suprised that so many bloggers have given their support to someone who can justify narcissim and selfishness. I've noticed that mothers either give whatever to their children to keep them from crying or schedule the children to death with activities, but the most important thing of talking and guiding children has completely been taken out of the picture. People with your sense of parenting believe in making yourself happy first and making your children happy is more important thant instilling discipline and respect, this sickens me and makes me fearfull for the future. But of course what do I know, after spending several years in the military I am now a stay at home dad with well behaved and well adjusted children who display good manners when no one is watching and excell in school but are not overloaded with activities. But I am not a mother, I'm a father, and have raised my children with logic, love, and understanding...maybe mothers havent quite caught up to that level of thinking yet, I've noticed most of the thought processes on here focussed through "Me First" then love etc if there is time.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous RowanMama said...

Is motherhood really no different than high school popularity contest? Constantly comparing yourself to imaginary standards and reveling in the social melodrama? Because that is what you are "selling" here. You wanted/needed to pat yourself on the back for your own self-measured inadequacies to be proud of your self-created label?

How about simply doing what is best for your own kids and quit worrying about what everyone else is doing? Wait, that would not allow you to compare yourself to others so you can live up to your cool new label of "bad". How ironic.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Well obviously lots of people have lots to say about your post. I'll admit I didn't read them all so this might be a repeat but so be it Bad Mother's also let their babies cry it out or don't let them cry it out and jump at a babies every whim.

On another note, whatever you do, NEVER, EVER call yourself a Bad Mother to your children as your excuse for letting them eat cookies for breakfast or not letting them when they are begging you for one. Take it from my experience it will come back and bite you in the butt. They will tell their teacher, the pediatritian or just anyone who wants to listen. You get some crazy accusations going after that.

12:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I know I shouldn't bother, but I have to say something, even though it echoes many previous posts.

The ONLY POINT HBM was trying to make with her manifesto is that NOBODY IS PERFECT - no matter how much your love your kids, how much time you spend with them, how much effort you put into providing them a loving, stable, well-ordered environment, you will at some time feel like you have failed or like you aren't doing something right. But it's OKAY; failing sometimes doesn't make you a bad mother, it makes you a Bad Mother (ie a HUMAN BEING, who is fallen and imperfect). Maybe some of you out there have never lost patience with your child, never worried that something you did or didn't was (or wasn't) enough. Kudos to you! It must be great to never worry that you've made a mistake! But the rest of us sometimes feel overwhelmed and guilty, particularly by strong and mixed messages we get from Society and from Judgmental Parents (hey, that might be YOU, perfect parents!). What this means is that being a good mother does NOT derive from whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, whether you work at home or in an office, whether you co-sleep or crib sleep, soothe or CIO, spank or time-out, never give sugar/processed food to your kids or occasionally let them eat ice cream or a happy meal. Sometimes people make us feel like we have "chosen wrong" on any of these issues, and more. HMB's manifesto is a way of standing up to Judgmental Jerks who think they are perfect and their style of parenting is perfect. Am I a better mother than my friend because I put my baby to sleep at 6:30 and she puts hers to sleep at 10:30? Who decides? If everybody is happy and healthy and loved then this is what matters.

It's actually kind of nice that posters like stay-at-home-dad have written in, because he underscores PERFECTLY why we need HBM's manifesto. He's basically saying "if you don't parent exactly the way I do, and if your children aren't perfectly behaved at all times in an extremely disciplined fashion every moment, then you are a BAD MOTHER. And don't even think about doing anything for yourself ever. You aren't just a BAD MOTHER, you have MENTAL PROBLEMS and are LAZY and SELFISH, and destroying the FUTURE OF OUR NATION." (flavored with a hearty and heartening dose of misogyny since the women haven't been able to "catch up" with the men, even after being in almost sole charge of childrearing for the PAST MILLION YEARS!) (and PS SAHD - you don't actually KNOW HBM OR her children - so unless you know for a fact that they are not polite, well-behaved, happy children then you are just projecting in a deeply offensive way. And if they ARE happy, polite, delightful children, then you've got no point, really.) This is exactly the mentality that HBM is rejecting.

My family is the most important thing in the world to me. My son is well-mannered and disciplined, because these are traits and values my husband & I take very seriously (particularly the idea that happiness does not come from self-indulgence, but from self-discipline and independence), as well as traits we MODEL. I hope he will also be compassionate and non-judgmental of other people, with the full knowledge that HE IS NOT PERFECT and neither is anybody else. To me, this is the essence of the manifesto: Do your best, and stop trying to force yourself to conform to somebody else's definition of what that means.

(PS I know there were many posters who were troubled by HBMs manifesto and put forward some important and interesting challenges - I don't mean my response to be directed at you just for disagreeing with the idea of being Bad.)

7:59 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Love the post!
First time reader, and I am hooked!

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Annie @ Cookies said...

Ahhh.....honesty! I appreciate it and applaud you!

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Rita said...

I feel so much better after reading this.I thought I was a good mom I love my children more than life ,but my oldest daughter seems to think I didn't fill the good mother profile.I was beating myself up you made me fel better, I am glad I am not the only one who isn't in the good mom profile.This is one of the best posts I have ever read Thanks again

9:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Fuck yeah. Does anything else really need to be said?

I've found some of the most vocal, judgemental, and aggressive pushers of the Good Mother are, in fact, men. Good Enough really is good enough.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I'm late with this, and I haven't read the other comments, but I just wanted to say that I LOVE how you made the "Good Mother" both spank and never spank and co sleep and never co sleep and stay at home and go to work. YES! I so don't get the "mommy wars." I think they arise from the deep insecurity of knowing that we're all making mistakes and saddling our kids with baggage in spite of all our efforts, but from a strange unwillingness to admit this. It's a way of distancing ourselves, the way when we read of some kid going to a school and shooting his classmates, we look for clues of a trouble home-life--it helps us sleep at night cuz it won't happen to us. But all the "mommywars" do is derive us of much-needed support.
Anyway, rambling here, but I really enjoyed your post. I guess I'm a Bad Mother too--my daughter would certainly agree!

5:35 PM  
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