Take a look at any new movie about motherhood, popular parenting blog or, hell, just your Facebook feed, and you’d get the impression there are a whole lot of mediocre moms running around.
In fact, there’s an entire cottage industry of mom bloggers who make a living assuring their fellow parents that its OK to to be just an OK mom—bloggers who wholeheartedly embrace being a mediocre mom, an average mom, a remarkably average mom, a perfectly imperfect mom, a good enough mom, and of course, a crappy mom, a sh*tty mom and a scary mom.
I follow several of these “average” moms on Instagram, and all I see are smiling kids and impeccably designed—if somewhat cluttered—homes. I nod along to their thoughtful posts pondering the best way to teach our daughters about self-confidence and our sons about consent. I’m in awe of their entrepreneurial savvy. And I wonder: If they're mediocre moms, just who the hell are the good ones?
Here’s my theory: They are. You are. We all are.
Somehow we’ve all succumbed to a mass delusion: That the perfect mother exists, and she’s somewhere baking (low sugar) cookies, in (tasteful) heels, after a long day at a (fulfilling) job, while her (well-behaved) children play with (non-plastic) toys on her (just-mopped) kitchen floor.
Rationally, we all know this woman is a mirage. And yet, when we fall short of some absurd standard of modern motherhood, we feel a need to share our shame with the world, albeit humorously—to laugh at our “mistake” so as to lessen the sting. I am as guilty of this as the next woman. Witness this Instagram post wherein I declared myself a “bad mom” for eating cookies and watching Bubble Guppies with my son:
I get it. Parenting is hard, and we all fail to meet our own ideals from time to time. But there’s a vast difference between imperfect and mediocre. And there’s a big problem with calling ourselves "bad" or even just "average" moms: It’s nonsense. Here’s why:
1. The bar for being a “good” mom is entirely too high—and completely fictional.
Blogger and author Bunmi Latidan put it best in a Facebook post that compared parenting in 2017 (with a laundry list of tasks) to previous generations, when she jokes the only requirement for taking care of kids was to “feed them sometimes.”
While it’s clearly an exaggerated comparison, the point still stands. What makes for a “good” mom today is entirely unrealistic. As working moms, we’d never accept a job that came with unachievable goals. It would be a fast track to losing our mind—and employment. So why do we measure ourselves against sky-high and arbitrary standards for motherhood?
2. We’re spending more time parenting than ever.
Moms and dads alike are spending more time with their kids than parents of previous generations. According to data from the Pew Research Center, moms spent 15 hours a week caring for their children in 2015, compared to 10 hours in 1965, while dads spent 9 hours, as compared to four, respectively. Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Researchers found that working moms in 2000 spent more time with their kids than stay-at-home moms did in 1975. In fact, working moms spend a whopping 98 hours a week working at a job, and at home.
So ditch that guilt, mom. You’re spending plenty of time with your kid.
3. We’re more thoughtful than ever about how we’re raising kids.
Parenting books have been popular ever since Dr. Spock published The Common Sense Book of Baby and Childcare in 1946 and kicked off a giant new genre of self-help. But the scale of parenting advice available today would have been impossible for even Dr. Spock’s biggest fans to imagine. There are over 50,000 books available on Amazon specifically labeled under "parenting." Modern moms are thinking about parenting from many, many different angles—we’re not just trying to shepherd kids to adulthood. Looking at today’s titles, it’s clear we’re trying to raise responsible, compassionate, self-reliant kids who want to make a difference in the world.
That’s a wonderful goal—a sign of a pretty damn fine parent, if you ask me.
4. Our kids are taking more enriching activities than ever.
Ask any mom about her schedule, and she’ll explain a complex system that usually involves ferrying two to three kids to two to three various locations to complete two to three activities a night, spanning soccer to violin to art. In just one example, a 2014 survey found that 10 million children, or about 18 percent of the school-age population, were involved in after-school programs; that’s up from 6.5 million, or around 11 percent, in 2003.
Looks like we’re all working hard to raise well-rounded kids.
5. Our teens are some of the best-behaved on record.
Today’s teens are less likely to smoke cigarettes, binge drink, have sex and get in fights than teens in 1991 (that probably includes you, Mom), according to a Vox article analyzing the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey. Despite the alarmist headlines, today’s teens are pretty well behaved.
So, to recap: Moms today are busting our butts and spending more time and mental energy than ever to raise thoughtful, well-rounded and well-behaved kids. That doesn’t sound mediocre to me; it sounds exceptional. So let’s give ourselves a break.
The next time I’m tempted to call myself a "bad" mom, I’m going to reach for another, similar descriptor instead: badass. Say it with me, ladies: I’m a badass mom.