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The first time someone told me they thought they were a bad mom I had no idea what to say. This friend of mine, who I was pretty close with, was a great mom. If good moms think they’re doing something wrong, how do you know if you’re a bad mom?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I feel like a bad mom all the time. Sometimes I work too much and don’t get to play with my kids as much as I’d like, and other times I don’t work enough to afford everything they want.
At times where my twins throw me for a loop with their behaviour or my older kids want to go to their dad’s, I sit and wonder what it is I’m doing wrong. And, as I pine for another baby that we can’t afford the IVF for, I wonder why I should have one at all.
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How to Tell if You’re a Bad Mom or Parent
I’m going to give you, me, and anyone else who comes along the exact same perspective I offered my friend who thought she was a bad mom: If you worry about being a bad mom, you’re probably a good one. It’s the good moms who care enough to worry.
So if you went on Pinterest or typed “how do you know if you’re a bad mom?” into Google, let’s let that rest right there. You’re not a bad mom.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a few more reasons.
Good moms can’t do it all, bad moms don’t want to do anything
I’m not talking about those moms who have good reasons for being unable to stuff (I know my depression gets me down sometimes, for example) but the ones who won’t do anything. While the good mom at least makes sure the kids (eventually) get tucked into bed, bad moms are ignoring their littles.
Even if you feel like you’re failing every day, at least you’re trying. That’s what separates the good moms from the bad.
Good moms are there for their kids, bad moms abandon them
Everyone has a different idea of what abandon means, but for me that’s leaving without having any contact with the kids at all. There’s different custody situations that mean moms aren’t always the primary caregiver, and those moms can still be good ones. That goes for moms who give up their children for adoption when they are unable to take care of them (or not ready), too.
Bad moms leave their kids and never look bad for selfish reasons. They don’t care, they don’t miss them, and they don’t make choices in the best interest of their kids.
Good moms care, bad moms don’t
Seriously, if you’re thinking about your parenting abilities then you’re already a good mom. Bad moms don’t care whether or not they’re bad moms, they only care about themselves. Anytime you’re worried about anything when it comes to your parenting, keep that in mind.
That goes for your kids’ emotional needs too. You know when your kid is upset and it hurts you as much as it hurts them? Look for those moments as reminders that you’re a good mom.
Things that don’t make you a bad mom
- Not being physically, mentally, or financially able to look after your children and getting help for their care that’s in their best interest
- Getting a divorce or raising them as a single parent
- Not being a mom at all, either because you’re a single man/parent or in a queer couple
- Taking care of your mental health
- Not buying them everything they want, or even not being able to provide for their needs (and getting help)
- Making some choices that are labelled “selfish” by society that make you a better mom in the long term (eg. choosing to formula feed, putting kids in daycare, getting a housekeeper, etc.)
- Not doing everything right/making mistakes
- Letting your kids watch TV/have screen time
- Wanting a break from your kids
- Not loving motherhood
How to stop feeling like a bad mom
You’re not a bad mom, but that doesn’t stop you (or me) from feeling like one every now and then. First of all, you need to really accept that you’re not a bad mom if you care about your kids and you’re doing your best. Everyone’s best is going to be different, and that’s OK!
If you’re really worried or upset, look for some outside validation. Whether it comes from blog posts like this one, your own family, or your spouse – seek it when you need to. Sometimes that bit of reassurance from my SO when I’m feeling down does more for me than anything else!
Lastly, change what you don’t like. Not everything is in your control, but are there some things that you do that you feel make you a bad mom? Can you change those things? For me, reading books to my kids makes me feel like I’m doing a good job. What makes you feel confident as a parent?
Think Like a Dad
The pressure of parenthood is starting to come down on men more than it ever has before, but overall society has lagged behind in this department. For the most part, men aren’t barraged with the responsibility of raising kids. It’s society (and marketing) that want you to feel like a bad mom, and men just don’t face this as dramatically.
That means that, most of the time, men don’t worry too much about their parenting. The societal bar is set a lot lower for what makes a good dad. Now, we could talk about the division of labour and how most mothers perform more physical and invisible labour for days, but that only lends more weight to what I’m about to say:
If dads don’t think of themselves as bad dads for doing less than you, why do you think you’re a bad mom? They might be bad husbands sometimes, but I doubt a dad who doesn’t vacuum is a bad dad. So why should a mom feel like she’s doing something wrong if she doesn’t want to do chores?
Try and hold yourself up to the standard set for men and see how that reflects on your parenting.
So how do you know if you’re a bad mom or bad parent?
If it’s not clear by now: you’re only a bad mom when you don’t care about your kids. There are struggling moms, there are poor moms, there are depressed moms… But there are very few bad moms out there.
I know someone who was raised by their dad after their mom accepted a job somewhere else, but still kept contact. Today, they don’t have a perfect relationship, but they still have one. That person doesn’t think they have a bad mom.
I know another someone who was the middle of three kids raised by their dad, too. That mom left for another guy and moved to a city hours away. They still saw each other, and now that person actually lives with their mom and step dad; you never know how things will turn out!
Motherhood comes in many forms. You’re not a bad mom.