“I’m a bad mother”: The constant refrain of a good mother.

It’s been a bit of a rough few days in the (mal)Contented household. Bubs had a bit of a reaction to the MMR jab. Nothing major and a lot better than having measles, mumps or rubella. But still, there’s been some screaming. Quite a bit of screaming. In the night. Like, all night.

I suppose it’s a of a parental rite of passage to finally in give at 5.50am and take your poorly child downstairs to stare a blank television screen until CBeebies starts up (teletubbies is still on, who knew?). Anything to distract from the screamy fever! Thankful it worked; Bubs was transfixed and I could lie semi-conscious on the sofa. There was a lot of TV watched that day, A. LOT. Partly because he was too poorly to want to do much else and partly because I was too tired to be engaging in any way, shape or form. Bleurgh.

That afternoon, as I was carrying the boy upstairs for nap-attempt number 1,385, I thought to myself “hmm, I’ve been a bit of a bad mother today.”

Wait, what?

As I am carrying my fed, watered, talked to, cuddled child, I am simultaneously telling myself I’m a bad mum. Because we watched TV. Have I mentioned yet that I was also ill? I had one of those sore throats that makes your whole neck tender. But how dare I not lay on at least twenty stimulating, creative and educational activities? Someone call social services!!!

I have heard so many mums call themselves ‘bad mothers’. This is usually because they allow their children to eat biscuits, or they occasionally feed them from a jar, or they let the kids sleep in their bed, or never let the kids sleep in their bed, or they leave them to cry, or never leave them to cry, or they don’t own a ‘that’s not my…‘ book or a Sophie the Giraffe, or… Well, you get the picture.

What I think is happening here, people, is that we are getting being a ‘bad mother’ mixed up with being a human-being-who-is-also-a-mother. Easily done. In our weaker moments we think that the only way to be a good mum is to be a perfect one. Seeing as that’s impossible we should probably find a more logical approach.

When Bubs was just a few days old we had a midwife visit. True to new-parent form we bombarded her with a thousand questions. What temperature should the bath be again? Should I wrap him up more? How can I tell if he’s over-heating? Is this okay? Is that okay? She was very good natured and answered us patiently, often just saying what we were doing was fine. When we had finished our onslaught she said “If you’re worried whether you’re doing things right, then we’re not worried!’ Basically, we cared enough to worry, so we’d be fine. (obvs my particular worry grew into new and uncharted levels of bleurgh, but that’s another story)

If someone is actually a bad mother – like that woman in the news today who told her kids she was popping to the shops but actually flew to Australia for 6 weeks – I doubt they advertise it much, or feel guilty enough to categorise themselves in that way. You have to actually care to feel guilty; it seems to be a natural side effect of (good) motherhood.

So, what I am proposing isn’t some complete eradication of guilt. I mean, that would be awesome but I am just not sure it’s realistic. Instead, I reckon we could all stand to take our guilt a bit less seriously. Or even (pushing it?) see it as a good sign; a sign that we are thoughtful and caring mothers who want to do the best for our children at all times. Even if that is massively ambitious and unsustainable.

Dear Reader, have you thought or said that you are a bad mother/father in that past weeks? If so, congratulations, your parenting skills are more than adequate.


What do you think? Are you convinced you’re a bad parent? Do you compare yourself to others? Or maybe you don’t give a crap? Comment below, tweet me @aafew or share on my facebook page

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8 thoughts on ““I’m a bad mother”: The constant refrain of a good mother.

  1. My mother gave me one piece of advice when l was pregnant – that l would always feel guilty for something. It’s true, only yesterday l cried on the way to work thinking ‘l am a bad mother’. You are right, it is so hard to get perspective. My husband mostly thinks l am crazy and just says that as long as your child knows they are loved, is fed, cleaned, clothed and played with, then whether they watch tv or not is irrelevant. 🙂

  2. I spent 20 min expressing milk. Which I had in the fridge for my husband to use “just in case” while I dyed my roots. Seriously she was downstairs with food, nappies and HER DAD and i felt like a shallow neglectful mum, more interested in hair than child rearing.
    I used a 10 min dye to, burned my scalp like anything!

  3. Mother guilt is absolute self-indulgent garbage. it’s one of my pet hates, all these perfectly adequate mothers moaning about how terrible they are at motherhood. Seriously. Perspective is needed.

    • I don’t actually hear people moaning about it much at all. It’s more like a self-conscious thing, when someone gives their baby a chocolate biscuit but no one else is they’ll say ‘I’m a bad mother’ with a smile, almost as if to pre-empt judgement. I think, again, it’s due to one of my pat hates; parenting advice culture and parenting ‘philosophies’. You have to be very strong-minded as a new parent not to feel overwhelmed and worried as a new parent. But yes, obvs, perspective is needed!!

      Obviously wallowing in any negative emotion is self-indulgent, and yes I have met a couple of mums who would be guilty of that. But I reckon saying ‘mother guilt is absolute self-indulgent garbage’ is probs a bit harsh!

      • Harsh, yes. You might have me there and probably a bit more blunt than I usually am! But we’ve just had a really big news story here in Australia about a mother who threw her newborn baby down and drain and left it to die for several days (the baby lived, thank god). Leaving your baby with it’s father for 20 minutes while you have a shower isn’t neglect. It’s not even close. I honestly don’t understand this guilt. I do my best and know that it’s good enough for now.

      • Yes, that news made it over here too (think I briefly alluded to it in the post). I don’t think the other commenter really thinks she’s neglecting her baby, she’s just expressing the crazies!
        But no, it’s not even close to neglect, it’s actually more healthy than never leaving your baby in my opinion!
        My best is good enough is a motto to live by!x

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