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Bad Mothers. They're Everywhere.

“Claiming ‘I’m a bad mom’ is the new skinny girl calling herself fat.”

One of the first blog posts I ever read carried something along that line. It was curious to me, this exhaustion, as I was a novice to blogging and still actively marveling at the balls it must have taken for some Canadian woman to name her blog “Her Bad Mother.”

I mean, how cute is that? And daring? And daring.

This was 2007.

Four years later, presenting yourself as a “bad mom” is not groundbreaking. It is nearly the norm. I’ll go ahead and say it’s hip. But do we understand why?

Her Bad Mother, Bad Moms Club, Aiming Low — all run the same overt theme… but what is the underlying theme? It’s hinted at in Her Bad Mother’s “bad is the new good” tagline, but are readers differentiating between complaining as hip vs sharing as catharsis and communal growth?

I asked Catherine from Her Bad Mother, patron saint of Bad Moms, for her perspective. I prefaced it with my assumptions that the cultural shift among writing mothers has to do with disarming defenses and opening communication. Village stuff. “But you tell me.”

Catherine:

Well, conveniently, this is one of my favorite topics EVER. And I’ve written about it a lot. The most comprehensive post is probably The Bad Mother Manifesto. (Megan’s note: ya’ll go read that. quick. scoot.)

The gist is, I call myself a bad mother in part because I want to challenge the idea of the Good Mother as an universalizable ideal. And in part because I am a bad mother, according to somebody it’s impossible for any woman to conform to every idea of what a good mother is, because those ideas conflict (try putting a helicopter parent and a free range parent in the same room and see how they judge each other.)

And in part because I am, simply, flawed as a mother by anyone’s standard, because I am by my human nature flawed. And also because ‘bad’ can mean ‘bad ass’, and I am also that. And also because my mother identified herself as a bad mother, with tongue firmly in cheek, and she’s my parenting idol (there’s a post about that, somewhere. I can find it if you like.)

I wasn’t satisfied with her answer (we’re friends and I push my friends.) I have scrunchy eyes on this trend. Pursed lips. Scrunchy eyebrows. General judgy face. On one level, I believe that open discussion of the challenges of parenting is empowering. On another level, I believe that some new writing mothers see it as what the cool kids do and so they jump on board, not really understanding why. Again, damn hipsters. So I kept pushing Catherine, perhaps trying to get her to say that it was a lame copycatting trend. I should have known better.

Catherine:

I don’t know if I’ve seen an upswing [in self-professed “bad moms.”] I actually think that MOST mom blogs are in some respects ‘bad’ mom blogs, if we take the measure of ‘bad’ to be openness about one’s struggles and challenges and flaws as a mother.

Are bloggers doing that more? I don’t know. I mean, mom blogging got its legs through ‘bad’ mom bloggers – Heather Armstrong originally, and then Amy Storch, and me and Rebecca Woolf and Kristen Chase and Liz Gumbinner, establishing ourselves (and professing ourselves) as ‘bad moms’ waaaay back at the beginning of 2006.

So maybe what we’re seeing is just more honesty and authenticity about how hard this gig is.

Okay, I am satisfied with Catherine’s answers. A little bit. Then I get all judgy face and still wince when I hear yet another blogger introduce herself as a “bad mom.” Wink wink nudge nudge. “Where’s my wine?!” Sigh.

My personal opinion is that when expressed genuinely as catharsis as a means to communal discussion and therefore growth, I’m supportive of the “bad mom” movement. But I’m still not convinced that a wave of it doesn’t ring false.

Today alone, at a women’s writing conference, I have heard three women introduce their blogs as some form of “bad mom” genre.

I am fascinated. Utterly transfixed by the psychology of it. This village of writing mothers can be poignantly empowering, particularly when they expose their vulnerabilities. Hell, I do it myself as a self-deprecating method of disarming my audience.

And yet I’m still skeptical.

Explain this to me. What are you seeing? Do you see an upswing in self-professed “bad moms?” Am I looking too closely?

PS- The “Good Father” movement is up next. I see you there.

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