Can you think of anything worse coming out of your child’s mouth than the words, “You’re a bad mommy?”
Okay, if I worked on it, I could probably imagine worse, mostly things that would land my kid in jail or the grave, but “bad mommy” is pretty bad.
Last night, we got home from Girl Scouts around 8:00 pm. It had been a long day for all of us, a demanding day at work and painful commute for me and a full day of school and afterschool care for the girls. It had been an especially rough week for me personally. There was no downtime for any of us. In fact, I booked it down the school hallway at 6:30 pm from the afterschool care location to our Girl Scout meeting to let the other moms into our meeting space. I didn’t run, though. Running in the halls is against school rules. I’m just so grateful that the YMCA program and Girl Scouts are in the same building.
Once we got home, M and J had to finish their homework, even though I’d reminded them to finish up on Wednesday since Thursday was a Girl Scouts night and homework was due Friday. I didn’t master the art of procrastination until college! So precocious, these angels of mine.
They finished their homework around 8:15. I checked it and signed it and asked them to pack it away. Once the schoolbags were in their respective cubbies, I asked M to brush her hair and J to brush her teeth. While they did so, I figured I could scoop out the cat litter. I live a glamourous life, don’t I?
I walked past the living room to dispose of the litter and found M reading on the couch, hair and teeth unbrushed.
I raised my voice. I admit it. “M! I told you to brush you hair! Now!”
She jumped to attention and ran off sniffling. I crumpled into the couch and rubbed my suddenly sore temples.
J sat down on the couch next to me.
“You’re a bad mommy,” she said. “You yell. Yelling doesn’t teach us anything.”
I was hurt.
“Am I always a bad mommy?” I asked.
“Yes. You yell,” J said.
“All the time? Did I yell yesterday? Or the day before?”
“No,” she admitted.
“Do I do other bad mommy things?”
“I shouldn’t have yelled,” I confessed. “That was wrong of me. It wasn’t a good mommy thing to do and I’m sorry. I’m going to apologize to M too. But I hope that you can recognize that this was a mistake. I really do try to be a good mommy.”
“You are a good mommy,” J said, sounding unconvinced, “but you shouldn’t yell.”
I got over my hurt feelings. The fact that my raising my voice once counts as being a bad mommy in J’s book probably means I usually do a decent job of holding my temper and modulating my voice. The fact that J expects my responses to her poor behaviour or her sister’s to contain a lesson probably means I usually effectively convey larger lessons when I’m disciplining my daughters. The fact that J feels like she can criticize my parenting and help me do better means that I’m on the way to achieving my goal of raising confident, productively critical kids.
So J, go ahead and let me know when I’m being a bad mommy. I can take it.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.