• Tue, Sep 25 2012

Priding Yourself On Being ‘The Worst Mom’ Doesn’t Make You Cool

The worst mom in the world isn’t helping her kid with their homework. Or reading her a bedtime story. Or making sure she brushes her teeth. The worst mother in the world is letting her kid go to the park by themselves. She is feeding her kid cookies instead of dinner. The worst mother in the world is paying her kid’s private school tuition late in order to get her own hair highlighted and then posting an update about it on Twitter.  It’s a new breed of mom: the worst mother in the world. Women with children who dub themselves the “worst mom” in order to distance themselves from what they feel is an old-fashioned, boring, limiting descriptor, that of “good mom” or even just mom. Call it extreme detachment parenting.

The worst mom is usually a woman who hasn’t quite made peace with the idea of motherhood and what society has depicted as the image of motherhood: the soft laps and endless hugs scented with homemade cookies and the kisses placed upon skinned elbows. It’s like these women feel they have to parent from a distance;  by feeding their kids shitty food and letting them stay out late on school nights and not brushing their hair they are separating themselves from the earnest, responsible boring moms who follow all the usual mom rules.

When you feel the need to proclaim that you are a “bad” mom or the “worst mother in the world” you are looking for validation that you haven’t been sucked into some sensible mom vortex of a caricature of a housewife or worse, your own mother. You are cooler, more interesting, hipper, sexier than other moms. Other moms are putting their kids to bed on time and folding laundry. Fuck that. You are way too cool for that. Most moms, we aren’t high-five-ing each other over how badass it is that we didn’t feel like making dinner so we gave our kids a bowl of Lucky Charms and an apple. We aren’t posting Twitter or Facebook status updates about it. We just realize we were tired and do it differently tomorrow. There’s nothing revolutionary or edgy about this. It’s just being a parent.

You worst mothers in the world, you aren’t that different from any other mom, except it makes you feel better about your identity to label yourself in a negative way so you can enjoy motherhood with a wink and a smirk. It’s almost dangerous to call yourself the “good” mother, because that means you have fallen into the trap of being something you feel clashes with your notion of feminism or identity as a woman, because a “good” mom isn’t the cool mom.

Trying to distance yourself from the other moms at the playground by dubbing yourself the “worst mom” is just a way of reassuring yourself that you haven’t lost yourself, that you are separate from your child and the image of motherhood that society has forced down our throats via advertising and family-friendly sitcoms. You may love being a mom. You probably love your kid more than anything. But by using this moniker, you are expressing victimization by what you feel you are expected to be.

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  • MsTT

    Don’t hate on Jane.

  • BrendaKilgour

    Perhaps when we are finished with our “cool President” experiment, the imperative to be a “cool mom” will also pass. We can only hope.

    • quinn

      It’s amazing that people can segue EVERY problem or negative situation into being the President’s fault. This article had nothing to do with politics.

    • http://www.letsgetincharacter.blogspot.com/ Sarah

      Brenda didn’t say anything was the president’s fault. She was saying, I believe, that our current president is very concerned with being cool with celebrities and stuff like that, much in the same way this article was discussing how these “bad moms” are very concerned with being cool by not being the “perfect mom.”
      It made perfect sense to me.

    • LinZoo

      The president is an experiment?

    • Jen

      One can only hope

    • Rachael

      What does the President have to do with anything in this article?

  • xoMadeline

    Oh EVE.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Lol, MAD!

  • 1st-Time Mommy

    :cough: Echler! :cough:

  • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

    I just want to preface this by saying that I know you’re trying to be at least in some ways funny and I get that, but this portion of mothers is very, very small. Most mothers that I know don’t have the luxuries of private school or highlights every 6 weeks. I know I don’t. We’re just trying to get by and worried that one little misstep will get us labeled as a BAD MOM (dun dun dunn). I don’t know one woman in the real world that would ever want to be known as a bad mom (Lenore Skenazy included, she is actually a great mom with different parenting ideas who was labeled a bad mom).

    Another thing, you can be that mom with the tattoos who listens to edgy punk bands and still also be that fruit bringing PTA mom. And baking banana bread hardly makes one a good parent. You can do all of those ‘mom’things and still be a terrible parent who alienates your children and makes them feel like crap all the time (I know this from my own experiences).

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      right, which is why I wrote “let’s leave the worst mom titles for those who truly deserve it” not for moms who are just… being… human.

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t knocking this at all and I certainly see this mother ‘archtype’ in the media and on television all the time, I just don’t know any in real life so I wonder if this is something that goes along with privilege. A woman from my neck of the woods (Far Rockaway NY) would have ACS at her door in a heart beat. I’ve seen it happen for less, which is unfortunate because you’re absolutely right, many of the things you mentioned in this won’t make you a candidate for ‘worst mom’. That being said, I really enjoy and look forward to your work on here.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      and I enjoy your comments so much, so I will always leave open ended ones just to bait you into commenting more. So, what’s the solution for moms and labeling and the mommy wars? ;)

    • http://fairlyodd.net Frances Bean

      I wish I knew, lol. My own personal solution is to try not to prejudge and label people (easier said than done when you grow up surrounded by it) and to try not to let other people’s opinions and judgments get to me (even more difficult, at least for me). I might be wrong, but wasn’t this less of an issue a generation ago? Hopefully it is an uncomfortable symptom of societal growing pains stemming from the information age where everyone is putting themselves out there in ways they didn’t before the internet. Forgive me, I don’t usually leave rambling comments, but I’m stuck in bed with the flu and feeling philosophical lol!

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      as I said, I LOVE your comments and I’m sorry you’re sick! Yes, you are right, mainly because our moms didn’t have the internet. They could be judgey, but yammering over their picket fences over coffee so it wasn’t as damaging as it is today.

  • Justme

    I love you. You’re my favorite.

    Less Eckler. More Vawter.

    • Andrea

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • LinZoo

    Some of it is women trying to maintain that they’re still cool. But some of it is a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the sanctimommies who can make you feel like you don’t care about your child if you’re not sacrificing all of your time and energy for them. I had a friend tell me that she makes her own baby-food because she cares about her children’s nutrition, and that made me feel like she thinks I don’t care about my children! I think people don’t really consider the impact of stating, “I parent a certain way because I love my children.” It’s a blanket judgement that everyone who does it differently doesn’t love their children as much. It can make you feel like poop if you don’t have the time or inclination to do things that I think are actually pretty far from the norm (cloth-diapering, baby-wearing, all meals homemade, even breastfeeding beyond a couple of months is not something the majority of Americans do).

    I like your idea that it’s not really helpful to joke that taking any time for yourself or taking any shortcuts makes someone a “bad” mom. It just makes you a mom! Like that Jane blogger, she seems funny, and the parenting she describes i think is just realistic, not bad. The women who say so with tongues in cheek may think they are striking a blow for feminism, but accepting the narrative that anything other than full self-sacrifice makes you a bad mom could actually be setting women back.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Oh I love the way you ended this comment especially, agree 100000%

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jes.watson Jes Watson

    It’s hard to deny that the “worst moms” aren’t actually the worst moms out there. But there’s something to be said for pushing back against constrictive norms.

    http://bunchfamily.ca/dont-sweat-the-bad-stuff-why-being-the-worst-mom-is-kind-of-the-best/

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Oh Brava! Weirdly, the notion of peer pressure rears its ugly head once again as a parent. That horrible, ugly herd mentality that permeates so many facets of adolescence dissipates in your 20s, only to come crashing back with a vengeance when you become a parent. Great article <3

  • CW

    This whole “slacker mom” thing baffles me. Why would somebody EMBRACE
    that and think it’s a GOOD thing???? Sure, I have my slacker mom
    moments. I’m not a perfect parent. Sometimes I get lazy, selfish, frazzled, absent-minded, what have you. Every mom does. But I definitely don’t take pride in those instances. I try not to beat myself up over them too much, but OTOH they aren’t things I go around “humblebragging” about any more than my non-parenting related mistakes.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      we can start a #boringmom trend! I’m going to pair socks fresh out of the dryer! #boringmombrag

    • Katia

      Lol.

  • Lx

    I loved this. I will make NO apologies for seeing to my own needs because I think becoming the “martyr mom” is actually more destructive than taking the time I need to feel human so I can give my child quality care.

  • C.J.

    Great article! We all have our moments were we feel like the “worlds worst mom”. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to brag about it nevermind have that as their goal. Taking a few minutes for yourself isn’t being the “worlds worst mom”. Sometimes it is neccesary. Some people have a talent for baking banana bread or volunteering at the school. Some people have other talents to pass to their children. In 10 years of being a mom I have had my share of moments of feeling like the “worlds worst mom”. One thing I have learned is those moments are usually not as big a deal as I thought they were at the time. A few of them I can even laugh about now. Bragging about being a bad mom just seems like someone is trying to get attention.

  • eutie

    Well, I was right there with you until you tried to pin the whole thing on someone’s notion of feminism. Everyone’s favorite scapegoat, that is.

  • Lisa

    “…endless hugs scented with homemade cookies…” I think I just threw up in my mouth.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Thank you! It’s my new Hallmarkian descriptor for GOOD MOM. I need to TM it.

  • yep

    This reminds me of an online forum I was reading with a thread called mom confessions. Most of them were no big deal i.e. “I fed my kids mac and cheese for supper last night because I was exhausted” or “I let my kids watch disney movies and snuggle with me on the couch all day today because I was feeling sick” but then I read one that made me throw up in my mouth “I can’t remember the last time my 4 year old had a bath. it was probably 3 and a half weeks ago” Sick.

  • LiteBrite

    Once in awhile I think I’m cool because I have funky hair, a tattoo, throw back cocktails, and listen to edgy bands. Then my husband points out that I’m still a white suburbanite driving a Nissen Altima with a booster seat in the back.

    Roger that.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      You are so cool! Haha but I know the feeling :( lol

    • Justme

      I do the same thing. Blasting Jay-Z and Kanye does nothing for my street cred while I’m cruising in the suburbs in my SUV with the carseat in the back. Sigh.

  • http://twitter.com/baristakids Barista Kids

    “Bragging about how shitty you are as a mom has taken the place of – and it just as annoying as -bragging about how great you are as a mom.”

    I wish I had written this myself. So well said.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      TY! But you did! remember, we were discussing this and you said that, I just didn’t quote you :( hee hee

  • alice

    So this was an article about how all moms are essentially the same, but you just can’t stand when one of them publicly refers to herself as a “bad mom” ? And then you did a psychological profile on these types of moms, why they would feel the need to ever joke about such a thing, and then you labeled them all hipsters?

    I saw you post in a comment below: “so what’s the solution for moms and labeling and the mommy wars?”

    I would start with maybe NOT writing and publishing articles that nothing but broad judgements, criticisms, and labels about something that really has zero impact on anyone’s life.

    • alice

      EDIT: “…writing and publishing articles that CONTAIN nothing”…

  • Beth

    this rocks!

  • birdie

    I just want to say thank you! I’ve been dealing with a situation with a friend of mine who always says that she’s just the world’s worst mom. It’s not a joke to her, She really isn’t the world’s best mom and sometimes, I could smack her for how stinky at it she is. I’ve been approaching the situation as “she must have really low self esteem” and other tactics but it’s never felt right. As soon as I read this article, I KNEW this is what she’s going through and I’m going to change my approach. I wish I’d thought of this sooner.
    btw, I can’t stand when mom’s talk about how “bad” they are but really are just bragging-watching disney movies and cuddling? Please. Letting their precious little ones have cookies that weren’t gluten free? The horror.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Antoinettecab1 Marie Caballero

    A effing men!!!!!!

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  • Kelly

    About five years ago I wrote a blog called Don Mills Diva on which I articulated (not nearly as well as you have here) similar reasons why I despised, the Bad Mother trend. I was thoroughly and roundly attacked across the momosphere in a way that still pisses me off. I think my article may have even been the catalyst to the Bad Mother manifesto on Her Bad Mother. At any rate, thank you for this. I have always thought identifying yourself as a bad mother or a slacker mom, is just a way to try and make yourself seem cooler than normal, old earnest moms who strive to do their best.

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  • Cheesehead

    Some moms are just plain lazy and don’t care because they were spoiled as children.