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Are you a "bad parent"?

Posted by on Aug. 25, 2009 at 6:30 PM
  • 2 Replies

From The Wall Street Journal:  

When her two young sons first started walking, Lisa Moricoli-Latham, a mother in Pacific Palisades, Calif., would gently push them over. For the sake of their development, she thought it would be better for them to crawl first. A physical therapist had told her so. She kind of enjoyed it, she says. "It gave me this sort of nasty thrill..."

Ms. Moricoli-Latham is featured in a video promoting "True Mom Confessions," a compilation of admissions of imperfect parenting that arrived in bookstores last week. Landing next month are Ayelet Waldman's "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace" and Michael Lewis's "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood," two memoirs that focus on the parental failings of the authors. In the fall, parenting Web site Babble.com will publish a compilation of essays from its most popular feature: a column called "Bad Parent."

Critiquing other people's parenting has become a sport for many mothers and fathers, aided by the Internet and the sheer volume of available expert advice. Now some parents, hoping to quiet the chorus of opinions, judgments and criticism, are defiantly confessing to their own "bad parenting" moments. They say that sharing their foibles helps relieve the pressure to be a perfect parent -- and pokes fun at a culture where arguments over sleep-training methods and organic baby foods rage on. Critics say it's the latest form of oversharing online -- the equivalent of posting your every move on Twitter or Facebook -- and only reinforces parents' worst habits.

One mother on Babble.com admits to allowing her toddler to watch as much as six hours of TV a day. Another worries she's raising a bigoted baby. A third admits to hating her daughter's friend, who is 3 years old.

The publishing genre can also be lucrative. Thanks in part to the "Bad Parent" column, traffic on Babble more than tripled, to 1.8 million visitors a month, over the past year.

Patrick Price, an editor at Simon Spotlight Entertainment -- which last month published "It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita," the parenting memoir by popular mom blogger Heather Armstrong -- says he has been seeing a steady stream of confessional parenting submissions.

ABC is airing a new sitcom, "In the Motherhood," devoted to the foibles of three harried mothers. It grew out of a Web series that used the accounts of real women who submitted their stories online. In one show, a mother confesses she ran out of diapers and has been using paper towels and tape instead.

In real life, such parental confessions can backfire.

A mother in British Columbia wrote ironically on Twitter earlier this year that she wanted to smother her 3-year-old daughter because she wouldn't go to sleep, and a few hours later, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed up at her door. They checked on her child, who was safely tucked in bed, and left. "Maybe I should've put a little smiley face on it or followed it up with 'Just kidding,' " says the woman, who requested anonymity.

The anonymous tell-all site Truu Mom Confessions, on which the book "True Mom Confessions" is based, has compiled more than 500,000 confessions from women in two years. Its founder and the book's author, Romi Lassally, says she started the site after her son threw up and, dreading the cleanup, she confided to a friend that she hoped the dog would eat it. The friend countered with a story of giving her daughter the antihistamine Benadryl so she'd sleep on a plane. Ms. Lassally replied by admitting she'd read her own daughter's diary. "These are moments -- we're not necessarily proud of them but it felt good to share," she says.

"You seek these external affirmations," says Jennifer Baumgardner, a 38-year-old writer in Brooklyn, N.Y. "I think there's kind of a global insecurity about making choices that not everyone is making."

Ms. Baumgardner wrote a Babble column about herself and a friend, both of whom were nursing mothers; she breast-fed her friend's baby once to see what it was like. After the 2007 column ran, she received a flurry of criticism from readers, warning their children would end up in therapy. But Ms. Baumgardner says many readers defended her, including mothers who had done the same thing but kept quiet, fearing the contempt of other parents.

Ms. Waldman's book is partly inspired by the backlash she experienced after her New York Times essay four years ago in which she wrote that she loved her husband, writer Michael Chabon, more than she did their children. She calls her book an attempt to calm the "frenzy of maternal anxiety" among self-critical moms. "It's a step in the right direction to say, 'Yeah, I'm a bad mother, so what?' " says Ms. Waldman, who has four children in Berkeley, Calif. "If we all simply refused to engage and said, 'What we're doing is good enough,' I think we'd all be a lot happier."

As for dads, Mr. Lewis writes in "Home Game" about the "disturbing gap" between how he thought he should feel as a father and the less saintly way he actually felt. His book, based on his columns for the online magazine Slate, describes fathers experiencing a "long unhappy transition" from the casually disengaged style of their own dads to the evolved dads of the future.

Children aren't always prepared for such insight into their parents' private thoughts about the family. Last fall, Iris Morrell read her mother Carole Morrell's blog, "The Drunken Housewife," a darkly funny take on the foibles of child rearing, and learned that her parents were seeing a marriage counselor. "I'm so upset!" the 9-year-old wrote in an email to a friend. She didn't understand why her mother had told readers but didn't mention it to her children.

Since then, according to the mother, Iris's 6-year-old sister, Lola, has started weighing in on how much their mom can share. When she saw recently that her mother was quoting her word for word on the blog, she leaned over to Ms. Morrell's laptop and hit the delete key.

* * *

Your response?

Are you a "bad" mother?

Do you think mothers tend to judge other mothers too harshly?

 





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by on Aug. 25, 2009 at 6:30 PM
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Replies (1-2):
mamabeth4180
by on Aug. 25, 2009 at 6:53 PM

We all have our vices, and out moments. We are human, and any mom who says she is perfect is lying.

Hell yes we as moms, tend to judge way too quickly and harshly other parenting methods, you're damn right. It sucks, but it is what it is. I am guilty of doing it too, although i try to be very conscious about it seeing as my parenting style can be judged as well kwim??

I think this imperfect mom thing and admitting acts of imperfect parenting is very healthy, but i can see how it could backfire often...

JustCallMe_♥Bethy♥_. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr

Hurtnlostmom
by on Aug. 26, 2009 at 9:31 AM

The "PERFECT PARENT" theory whether a Mom or a Dad is false, there is no such thing. We all do our BEST as Parents to steer our children in the right direction and give it our all to raise them to be independent, confident, determined yet happy adults but there is no sure way to obtain the title of PERFECT PARENT we just have to give it our BEST, our BEST should be good enough for us to feel PROUD OF OURSELVES as parents. Sometimes however with the risk of achieving our best we live our own lifes through our children eyes and it can backfire on us.  I can only say that as a PARENT I gave it my BEST.

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