My name is Rachel, and I have a list. It’s called Good Moms Don’t. You have one, too.
In full disclosure, I will share my list with you. It’s not something I’m proud of sharing, but in good faith, I’m going to.
Here it goes:
- Good moms don’t ever leave their children in the car alone for any reason.
- Good moms don’t leave their kids with babysitters who are under the age of eighteen.
- Good moms don’t smoke cigarettes.
- Good moms don’t regularly feed their children fast food or boxed frozen food.
- Good moms don’t talk or text while driving, no matter how important the incoming or outgoing message is.
- Good moms don’t put their kids in multiple extracurricular activities just to keep their kids “busy”.
- Good moms don’t let their kids sass-talk them or other adults.
I’m embarrassed just typing these things, but the truth is, I’ve thought them many times: when I’m at the park, when I’m waiting in a crowd of parents to pick up a child from school, when I’m at Target. And then I get mad at myself because just when I get all sanctimonious, I break one of the “good moms don’t” rules I’ve created.
For example, the other day was one of those days when you just say, “Are you kidding me?!?” out loud, loudly, to no one in particular. My toddler had removed his diaper during what was supposed to be nap time. Not only was the diaper off, but there was poop on the carpet, floor, and walls. Meanwhile, my daughters were arguing about who had more clean laundry to sort, I had raging menstrual cramps, and my blood sugar (thank you, chronic disease) was sky-high. I also had a lingering case of pink eye and had spent two weeks wearing my five-year-old pair of glasses while putting oily drops into my eye every four hours.
After I cleaned up my toddler and his bedroom, started the washing machine full of bedding, took some insulin, and guzzled some water, I shuttled my girls outside so they could ride bikes and expend some of their pent-up energy.
It was also a 93 degree and sunny day in the Midwest. Sweltering. Sticky. My girls asked to get water bottles from the refrigerator in the garage. I looked up from checking e-mails from my lawn chair (while wearing some very unflattering dragonfly boxer shorts and a torn t-shirt) to see that my 4-year-old had discovered her dad’s stash of soda. I saw her eyes light up.
“Can we have a soda, mom? Pul-eeze? Pul-eeze?”
I never, repeat, never let my children have soda — that is something good mothers do not do.
But, exhausted and frustrated, an idea popped into my head: Why not? The day was already a bust. Nothing great had happened. We were all in bad moods.
I drew in a breath and said, “Sure.”
My girls were shocked, standing motionless with their mouths gaping open. I could practically hear their thoughts: Did mom just say we could have a soda?
My oldest, one hand on her hip, replied, “You’re just joking us.”
Me: “No. No I’m not joking. Just get a soda. I don’t care.”
The girls were giddy, grabbing plastic twenty ounce bottles, giggling, and dashing away to find a shady spot under one of our huge trees. I knew they were either thinking, “Jackpot!” or “Mom’s really lost it this time!”
Now perhaps you are laughing at me right now. Perhaps you are thinking, “It’s just one soda, girlfriend. Calm the hell down!” But what you need to know is this: as a Type 1 diabetic, I don’t drink soda, and for very good reason. Even with just a few sips of the sugary drink, my blood sugar could sky rocket, making me feel like I have a bad case of the flu that lasts for hours. Too many high blood sugars lead to serious diabetic complications like kidney failure, certain types of cancers, amputation of lower limbs, blindness. You get the point.
We all have our “good moms don’t” lists. They often involve formula or breastmilk, potty training, schooling choices, dress codes, employment, spouses, vaccines, dietary choices, spending habits, and much more. There’s no use in denying that you have a list. You have a list. WE all have a list. We discuss our lists passive-aggressively, bluntly, or under our breath. We gossip about our lists or even share them in the form of a “prayer request.” (“We need to pray for Jennifer. She’s really struggling to breastfeed even though we all know it’s the best thing for the baby.”)
The truth is, the list is terrible. We need to write it out and burn it, because lists like these set up impossible standards. They seek to bring down rather than lift up. They are exclusive and prideful and judgmental. They assume that one-size-fits-all. They assume moms who do the things on the “don’t” list are incapable of parenting properly and their children are doomed.
And most of all, the “good moms don’t” lists bring the list-maker down. They make us feel guilty when we break our own rules. They make us feel shameful for making a list in the first place. They push us to try harder when really the best thing we can do is take on the “less is more” mentality. They push us to self-blame and self-shame. They bring down our self-esteem and strip our confidence.
After the soda incident, it dawned on me that instead of scolding myself for breaking one of the rules on my “don’t” list, I should be applauding myself. Because you know what good moms do? They know when to chill out, smile, and say yes.