The last twenty-four hours have been a little bit surreal for me. I’m not sure why – as my husband said just this evening, weird events mixed with our usual day-to-day at-home nonsense is the norm. We did our homeschooling work. I do folders for each six-day period – yesterday was Day 2 (worksheet day), today was Day 3 (learning project and TAG pen time). As usual, we took our long walk around my father’s neighborhood, in the middle of the day when there aren’t a bunch of people and cars around. Breakfast-lunch-dinner-cleaning the house, working on redoing the kiddie bedroom …it was all pretty much the usual, with miscellaneous hilarity mixed in.
But the weird events were not as fun as they usually are.
First, yesterday afternoon my mother told me that I am a bad mother. She had called to give me the “big news” that another family member is having a baby, and rather than just express excitement she had to use it as another opportunity to cut me down. “…and I’m thrilled because now your grandmother will have another baby in the family, because God knows no one wants you to have any more kids. You aren’t very good at even handling what you have now.”
What the fuck? That’s what you should be thinking. I did too, then I remembered who I was talking to.
Par for the course.
In spite of that being par for the course, this morning I woke up feeling like I had been socked in the gut. And it only got worse as the morning drudged on.
As I was getting out of the shower – around 8:30 – I heard some noise outside and saw that a car was parked in the walkway between the parking lot and the walkway. It had a California Exempt license plate and two business-y-looking people were escorting two, young children from the townhome of one of our neighbors. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that someone had called Child Protective Services, and those children were being taken away from their parents.
It didn’t go as I always thought a visit like that would go. There were no dramatics. No one was screaming or crying. Even the kids seemed a little calm, vaguely as though they expected it. Immediately the neighbors began to congregate in the walkway, as they always do. The gossip began and the term “bad mother” was said so many times, I almost walked out and told them all to shut their filthy, judgmental mouths.
It was in these events of the last twenty-four hours – these unusual, weird, painful events – that I started to think about just who has a right to call someone a bad mom. And the answer I came to is simple:
Not a single goddamned person.
Every time I start to question the parenting of another person, I stop myself right in my tracks. Who am I to judge? Who am I to say what other people should do, in their time with their kids in their situation? What do I know? Nothing.
Sure, there are things that I would love to comment on. Like when friends let their infants watch TV. Or when iPads become the main focus of a child’s education. I have feelings about public school, just like a lot of people have feelings about the fact that we homeschool. And of breastfeeding. And of diet and exercise. And of a lot of things – we all have ideas on what we think is best for our families, as well as everyone (in some instances).
Do any of us have a right to call each other a bad anything for any of it, though?
Even the child support service people don’t call the parents they have the misfortune of interacting with “bad.” At least I don’t think so. Today I heard them give the mother of those two, poor children her card and said she hoped this would be resolved soon. Beyond that, it isn’t their judgment call to make – they are simply enforcing rules and doing their jobs.
But when I turned to Facebook to ask my blog followers if they have ever been called bad parents, or told how to be a parent, I got a resounding YES – to my utter shock and horror.
I don’t have kids. However. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I shouldn’t because I would be awful at it.
Well, my SIL tells everyone BUT me, LOL!
My son’s donor tells me that all the time.
Oh hell yes I’ve been told I suck as a mom, by my stepmother.
Both directly and indirectly. People will use your insecurities as a parent against you and to make themselves feel better about their short comings in their own situations.
My MIL said I was a bad mom and I neglected my child- because I didn’t bathe him 24/7 and I let him out of the house with unbrushed hair. He was 3.
I was a bad mother for homeschooling my son, for allowing him to roam the neighborhood without watching him every second of the day (or even knowing which of 3 possible streets he was actually on at any given time), for not allowing him to get a job while in school so he could focus on his grades, for refusing to medicate him as a kindergartner so he could stay in school…
Someone who was supposed to be my best friend sat and told me my son needed to talk to a psychologist because he was displaying behavior any typical 7-8 year old boy would display.
What the fuck? That’s what you should be thinking. I still am.
Now if Child Protective Services comes knocking on your door, that’s one thing. Maybe then it’s time to start evaluating – with your partner, if you have one; or any close and trusted people – how you are running the show. It still doesn’t mean you are a bad mother, though. It just means you may need more guidance or support, or to change some habits that are not in the best interest of your children.
But if anyone else – mom, dad, grandma, mother in law, sister in law, friends, cousins, strangers – tries to tell you how to be a parent, what you are doing wrong as a parent, or – God help them – that you are a bad parent, there is one thing and one thing only that you should do:
Tell them to shove it up their ass. Sideways. With a pitchfork to get it in their real good.
No seriously. No one has a right to say anything to you about your parenting, just as no one has a right to say anything to me. We are all in this together, whether anyone realizes it or not. But that doesn’t mean we are in this together, like we can tell each other what to do.
It means we are supposed to be supportive of each other. That’s it.
We are all entitled to our opinions, but opinions are like assholes. Just like I don’t want your asshole wide open in my presence, your mouth and the opinions that fly out of it should stay shut too.
To my mother and anyone else that thinks I’m a bad mom: shove it up your ass. Sideways. With a pitchfork to get it in their real good. To the rest of you: you are good mothers. You are good parents. No matter what happens, I know that your intentions are only in the best interest of your children. We may disagree on this or that aspect of parenting, but that we love our kids is the foundation we must look to in reminding ourselves that we are doing at least something right.