DO YOU think you’re a ‘bad’ mother? And, if so, are you even a teeny bit proud of it?
It's alright to admit that sometimes you don't actually like your kids very much
It’s a hot topic right now given the release of new movie Bad Moms, where a trio of overburdened mamas decide to go rogue.
Although there’s plenty of snappy dialogue and some properly hilarious moments in the film, I wasn’t a massive fan. Truth is, I just couldn’t get on board with the concept which drives the whole narrative (just a minor thing, then): that the poisonous practice of mums judging other mums is RIFE, and that there’s a massive stigma attached to being seen as a less-than-perfect parent.
In Bad Moms, the PTA supermoms/dictators set the benchmark for ‘good’ motherhood, insisting on impossible bake sale standards and dishing out thinly-veiled criticisms at the school gates. But I’ve never encountered this kind of malicious behaviour from fellow mamas. In fact, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. And I’m not the only one.
“I've had nothing but positive experiences with everyone I've met through my work,” says Helen Bryce-Kisby of The Guilty Mothers Club. “The Manchester mum community is really strong and definitely leading the way outside of London in terms of providing meet-ups and events that encourage women to support one another.”
“I'm not sure where all these ‘judgemental’ mamas are,” echoes Nicola Brook, a.k.a. MCR Mama, “because I've experienced nothing but kindness.”
And, frankly, us lot don’t need Mila Kunis (FYI: not that believable as a fraught working mother-of-two) to point out that it’s OK to want to take a solo shopping trip or enjoy the odd night out – because we already know it is.
Over the years, it seems like expectations and standards of what constitutes ‘good mumming’ have crept higher and higher – and consequently become less and less attainable. But as a handful of brave bloggers and Instamums like Mother Pukka and The Unmumsy Mum began charting their parenting lows, it became more acceptable for the rest of us to admit to frequently mucking up ourselves. In the process, we’re rejecting the guilt associated with not always acing this motherhood thing.
“The internet has given the average mum a voice, as well as the confidence to admit to things that they'd be less inclined to shout about at your average baby group,” says Brook. “I usually get more 'likes' when I expose my ‘fails’ online. Let’s face it, being a mother is comedy gold. Where's the fun in getting everything right all the time?”
Just like the trio of ‘bad moms’ in the movie who gain strength from each other’s shortcomings, the online world and real-life groups like Mamas Collective are enabling women to find solidarity with those who recognise that an occasional overreliance on TV time and Ella’s Kitchen pouches doesn’t actually make you a ‘bad mother’; it makes you a normal one.
“Some of the best mum friendships are formed over a sneaky afternoon wine,” says Tess Grindle, Co-founder of Our Kid. “We elevate each other to be brave, bring humour to even the darkest soft play moments and make it alright to admit that sometimes you don't actually like your kids very much.”
We aren’t striving for perfection; we’re happy with just doing the best we can. Sometimes we leave our little ones at home (with a responsible babysitter, of course) and take a night off to get drunk. Sometimes we forget to pack the rice cakes in the nappy bag – and sometimes we forget the nappy bag. When we’re struggling, we admit it. And instead of turning to the often-shame-inducing Netmums forum threads and Gina Ford, we seek solace in the much more helpful – and much more relevant – advice of each other.
We are fallible, frequently late, occasionally hungover and always exhausted. But we’re in this together. And I don’t reckon there’s anything bad about that.
Molly Whitehead-Jones is the founder of Mamas Collective, a mum's group with a difference that offers kid-friendly (but not kid-focussed) meet-ups, workshops & events for mothers. You can follow the group on Instagram at @mamasmcr.
Photography credit: Rebecca Royle