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Why the Bad Mother Trend Is Not Good

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At the risk of appearing terribly outdated and completely out of step with what the media has apparently identified as the latest trend sweeping the mom crowd, I’d like to step up and declare something publicly.

I am a good mom.

Shocking isn’t it?

I don’t think so either, but having been inundated these last several months by the idea that the “in” thing is to declare yourself as a bad parent, the rebel in me just wanted to be clear about how I feel.

And, for the record, I feel really very irritated.

I’m irritated that once again the latest in how moms feel has been identified as a brand-new trend, ripe for the picking by a seemingly endless parade of parenting issues” reporters who fill ever-expanding lifestyle sections of media outlets with breathless prattle about new maternal archetypes.


There’s the news that a compilation of the popular Bad Parent columns over at Babble will be made into a book, there’s Ayelet Waldman’s much-publicized new book, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace and today there was this story in my local paper in which the director of the Association for Research on Mothering at York University (really!) cheerily quips “ “If you’re not a bad mom now, then you’re a bad mom.”

Double blech.

To be clear, I’m not taking issue with Her Bad Mother, the existence of which predates this latest frenzy to identify and make a buck off how moms are feeling. Catherine Connors is a real life friend and an astonishingly talented writer and I will consider any publicity she and her brilliant blog gets from this bandwagon to be the silver lining in a dark and sorry media cloud.

What I’m taking issue with is the endless push by the media to track, monitor and commodify trends among all segments in society and most especially the lucrative mommy crowd. It’s big business. Trends create controversy, trends sell stories and books and trends provide jobs for pundits. Identifying trends also allow us to peg whole segments of society, take their measure, sum them up, add a big, red bow, and walk away thinking we know how people tick.

But the thing is, we don’t. All we’ve done is helped a very few people figure out how to sell something to other people who pride themselves on chasing trends. And when we participate in this we participate in the attempt to turn every damn thing into a “trend” and to marginalize the voices of people with experiences that differ from what’s being reported.

Maybe I shouldn’t care what the latest lifestyle headlines read, but damnit this is my history too that’s being written and this bad mom trend is just another in a long line of trends that future generations will look back on and use to try and understand my experience and the experiences of my generation.

And it’s not my experience. I don’t think I’m alone in declaring that I’m not a bad mom and I have no desire to identify myself as a bad mom. In fact, I’m a very good mom and I’m proud of it. I have my struggles, like everyone, and while I might occasionally write about them in a humorous fashion, I’m not interested in endlessly tapping the vein of faux self-deprecation for shock value or cheap laughs or sympathy.

Or to be trendy.

I understand that the “bad mom” trend is meant to be a backlash against the old “perfect mom” trend or what the above-linked Toronto Star article calls “impossible standards” for parents but guess what?

I think the so-called “widespread pressure” to be a perfect mom and the old trend of “impossible parenting standards” are nothing but made-up media constructs too. I’ve never felt societal pressure to be a perfect mom and no one has ever asked or, to my knowledge ever expected, me to conform to impossible standards. And also? I’ve asked around and none of my friends have either. Instead we all just vaguely recall the media prattling on about some kind of supermom phenomenon.

Whatever. I’ve written about this media beast before with regards to the much-ballyhooed and, in my opinion largely made-up, “mommy wars.”

I think we owe it to the next generation of women to refuse to conform to the labels the media would stick on us, whether they say bad mom, supermom, helicopter mom, free-range mom, or whatever damn mom sells papers and books next week.

When I was coming of age as a woman I read the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan and The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Those books helped me find my way and establish my identity by providing thought-provoking, reasoned, philosophical discourse about the lives and struggles of women who had gone before me.

It bothers me that the next generation of women may well take my measure by studying media trends and reading a compilation of Bad Parent columns.


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