I was in the check out line at the grocery store, pre holiday pandemonium, waiting in a long line of people stocking up on hams. I glanced over to the tabloids, distracted because I saw something about the royals and god knows I love anything to do with the royal family, and was drawn to a tabloid cover right below aforementioned magazine with the latest updates on the next royal baby. The cover was graced with pictures of celebrity moms comforting their crying children, scolding their children, and children running rampant. Front and center in giant letters were words to the tune of “best and worst celebrity mothers”.
Uhm, excuse me?
I felt my heart start pounding and my skin start flushing and I had to fight every urge in my body to not rip that piece of trash off the rack, hold it up in the air, and declare “are you FREAKING KIDDING ME”?
You may be wondering why this got me all riled up. I mean, as my husband so expertly added when I told him about this, what do I expect from a tabloid.
I don’t know what I expect, but it’s just something about mom shaming that really gets me going.
Listen people, its hard enough doing this job of raising tiny humans, and while I believe that there are very real and harmful decisions in parenting (*clearly abuse and neglect ) I do not believe that for most of us we fall into “good” or “bad” parenting categories.
I honestly believe that most of us are doing the best that we can with what we have at our disposal. Sometimes we rock it, and make some stand up decisions. Other times we are at our absolute worst, react terribly, then beat ourselves up after for the way we acted.
I do not think that it is fair to judge anyone by what you are seeing on the surface, celebrities included. Think about the last time you were in the grocery store and you heard a screaming child, or maybe it was YOUR child that was the screaming child. People judge this. They give looks, some supportive, others disdainful and accusing. But really, they don’t know whats going on.
They don’t know you and they don’t know your child. Maybe your kid is hungry or tired. Maybe this is the last of a long list of errands that you have been running and you will do anything for that kid who has been as patient as a 3-year-old can be to avoid an all out meltdown. Maybe you are so exhausted because you have been up with this child all night and you just don’t have the energy today to do anything other than push your cart and get your groceries.
I think about moments in parenting that I have been at my worst. Moments where even now I feel shame, slick and oozing, coiling in the pit of my stomach. I have been fortunate that these moments have happened at home, in privacy. That I’ve been able to cry and talk about them with my partner and do what I needed to do to make amends or take better care of myself the next time.
But what if it was in public. What if it was at the park, or the grocery store, or a playdate?
Would I be judged? Probably.
But it’s not fair. Because I am not a bad parent. I have made bad choices, but I have learned from them. And to publish an article in a magazine labeling women as good or bad mothers just gives permission for us to judge and label each other and ourselves.
I cannot tell you how many mothers have sat on my couch crying because they have convinced themselves that they are bad mothers. Have they made bad choices? Sure. But in the context of their lives and what they are dealing with it makes sense to me. I don’t condone the bad choices, because you can’t condone something that hurts someone else’s feelings of hurt’s them physically, but I can normalize it.
None of us are perfect. We are all dealing with something and we react in our environments accordingly. What matters is how we grow from those reactions, what we learn from those responses, and that we get support where and when we need it.
Can we please just eliminate this kind of language? The labeling of good and bad parents? Because really it is just hurting the parents that ARE doing the best that they can and for the majority of the time are making good and healthy decisions for their children.
So to all the moms (and dads) out there who have been labeled, who have been made to feel less than – You are good enough. You are a good parent, yes you may make bad choices sometimes, but you are a good parent and you learn and grow from your mistakes.
*Just to be clear, I do not condone in any way systematic or sporadic abuse of a child. the parenting decisions I am talking about in this piece are very different from the cases of abuse (emotional or physical) and neglect that have long-lasting and serious impacts on children.