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Good vs bad mothers - warning, disturbing content

(118 Posts)
TheMysticMasseuse Thu 23-Jul-09 21:31:30

I have seen this on another forum, and thought it's something mnetters may like:

Good Vs. Bad Mothering

I have been thinking a lot lately about this whole mothering thing. This somehow
sacred ideal that there is a perfect way to mother, and that women who deviate
from this method are somehow inferior.

No matter what your taste, you can read a study or a book by a self-proclaimed
expert who will back you up. Want to Attachment Parent? Read this book! Want to
CIO? Read this book! Want to use cloth diapers? Read this study! Want to use a
bottle? Here's what this doctor says!

The Latest Studies show. Talk about a phrase that should be removed from all
languages. 30 years ago The Latest Studies showed that bottle-feeding and
starting solids at 3 weeks and using disposable diapers was the best way to
raise your child. Today, The Latest Studies show that breastfeeding and starting
solids after 9 months and using cloth diapers are the best way to raise your
child. The Latest Studies don't ever agree with each other, because if they did,
there would be no more money given out to actually do studies, and there would
be no money made in writing books.

Most of us survive childhood intact. Sure, we bitch. Sure we trot out our
parents' mistakes and brandish them with a vengeance as proof of our suffering.
Sure we rant and rave, promising ourselves and anyone else that listens that we
will be different, that we will never be the same kind of mother as our own
second-rate one.

And yes, there is such a thing as bad mothering.


Bad mothering is not using disposable diapers. Bad mothering is not using
bottles and formula. Bad mothering is not putting a baby into a crib and letting
the baby cry until she learns to sleep on her own. Bad mothering is not giving
the baby a cookie to just shut up her whining, already.

Nor is bad mothering using cloth diapers. Or breastfeeding until the baby is 4.
Or letting the baby sleep in bed with her parents, even while they make love. Or
feeding the baby a vegetarian diet.

There are women out there who are bad mothers. There are mothers shooting up
while their children die of starvation and neglect in the next room. There are
mothers out there who stuff a pillow over their heads so they don't have to
listen to the whimpers from their 8 year olds while their fathers sodomize them.
There are mothers out there who abandon their children on the street because
they no longer wish to care for them. There are women who slowly twist their
children's limbs until they snap while their children cry and beg, promising to
be good.

Bad mothers.


But most of us are not.

At some point along the line, women in the Western world stopped trusting their
instincts. We began to listen to doctors. We eagerly read studies and books that
would confirm to us that yes, we were good mothers!

And worse, we began to betray each other. We began to gather in camps, and we
set up rules for what constituted good mothering. And any mother who strayed
outside those rules was a bad mother. We'd sit together over tea and discuss in
outraged tones the ignorant woman down the street who bottle-fed her child from
birth, smugly asserting our superiority in breastfeeding our own children for
years. We'd converse over a power lunch about the poor deluded woman who quit
her high-profile job so she could stay home and finger-paint, rolling our eyes
and congratulating ourselves on our excellent luck in nannies. We'd snipe over
email and on message boards, on blogs and over the phone.

Look at me! I am a better mother! And I can prove it to you by surrounding
myself with other mothers who think just like me! I can prove it by shoving
these books in your face! I can prove it by demeaning other mothers who have
made different choices than mine!

Why are we doing this?

Why can't we feel confident in our own mothering choices? Why do we feel such a
need to prove ourselves through book after book and scorn directed towards other

Ask yourself, and be honest. When was the last time you criticized another
mother in your mind? Was it today? Was it yesterday?

The next time you hear yourself making a nasty comment about another
mother…stop. Just stop. And ask yourself – is she really a bad mother? Does she
abuse her child? Does she neglect her child? Co-sleeping is not abuse.
Bottle-feeding is not neglect. Think about what is coming out of your mouth.

Do not diminish the pain of a child who sleeps chained in a closet, ribs cracked
from her latest beating by equating her to a child who has learned to sleep by
crying it out for a few nights in her crib. Do not diminish the pain of a child
who has been sexually abused by equating her to a child that sleeps peacefully
between her loving parents. Do not diminish the pain of a child who has not
eaten for days by equating her to a child who is not fed meat or who drinks

We are the none of us perfect. None of us are. And we will all make mistakes. We
will learn, we will revise our thinking; we will throw up our hands and let go
of a long cherished ideal because we have just got to do it or collapse.

So how about instead of attacking other mothers, we start feeling confident
about ourselves? How about we look to our own children instead of spending time
self-righteously judging everyone else's? Throw away your parenting books. Think
about what your doctor tells you and evaluate what it means. When other mothers
criticize you, shake it off and ignore the temptation to turn around and attack

Let's try supporting each other for a change. I think it would make all of us
better mothers to do so.

yogabird Thu 23-Jul-09 21:39:12

Wow! Agreed! Hated the bit about twisting the child's arm until it snapped, what an awful world some children ahve to inhabit sad

clemette Thu 23-Jul-09 21:44:53

Any chance there could be a warning attached to this in some way. Whilst I understand the message I feel a bit sick that whilst browsing I have had to think about child rape and extreme abuse.
Sorry for being precious - just wasn't expecting it.

TheMysticMasseuse Thu 23-Jul-09 21:55:14

clemette- it shocked me too. and yes probably i should have put a warning. but the shock, i think, is good. too often we use extreme language on here (and sometimes extreme thinking) without realising just how OTT and out of proportion it is...

TheMysticMasseuse Thu 23-Jul-09 22:01:52

eh? how did the warning get in the title?

MilaMae Fri 24-Jul-09 07:09:11

I agree (shocking content aside which I did find really upsetting) whole heartedly with what this piece is trying to say. I really do.

piscesmoon Fri 24-Jul-09 07:28:49

I agree entirely.
Most mothers are love their DCs and are doing their best. For many reasons they fail but I would say that everyone who posts on mumsnet is a good mother because their intentions are good and if they feel they have failed, e.g. bitten their toddler because he bit the baby,they are not happy and asking advice for a better solution.
Bad parents wouldn't ask or even be bothered.
It is sad that mothers get polarised and anything to do with SAHM/WOHM ,bf/ff, private/state education etc etc gets very critical. It is as if mothers have to justify their choices and be proved to be the best and only way. I think that it is because motherhood defines then as a person these days and good enough doesn't do, they want to be outstanding!
Books don't take into account the different personalities. I can't leave a baby to cry to sleep, I wouldn't want to co sleep, I breast fed my babies but I wouldn't breast fed a toddler. This isn't right or wrong, it is right for me. I dislike the attitude that says 'my methods make my baby grow up a secure,emotionally healthy adult-they are superior to your methods'. They might-or they might not.
I think that people should trust their instincts, if you do something because it is the 'in thing',but it doesn't feel right you won't do it particularly well. I would throw all books away!

piscesmoon Fri 24-Jul-09 07:30:52

Sorry early morning-I seem to have extra words and bad grammar-should proof read.

belgo Fri 24-Jul-09 07:44:40

It's not saying anything new. I think most of us are sensible enough to know the difference between good and bad parenting and to know there there are gray areas in between without having to read graphic descriptions of child abuse.

ShannaraTiger Fri 24-Jul-09 07:56:39

Thank you mystic, I was about to go and buy another parenting book, I keep looking around a t everyone else and thinking they are doing I good job and I'm being a rubbish mum. -my god I'm crying now!!
I guess I just need to llok at my two lovely kids, they're not perfect but they are happy most of the time. I know they watch too much tv, are really fussy eaters but they do say please and thank you and smile alot.

ShannaraTiger Fri 24-Jul-09 07:58:05

Sorry that was a really emotional rubbish post but I am feeling abit depressed at the moment and everything is getting on top of me abit.

BonsoirAnna Fri 24-Jul-09 08:04:57

Agree with belgo.

And I also think that parenting is like any other subject known to humankind: science has made huge progress in recent years and we do have more empirical evidence at our disposal these days about what constitutes better or worse parenting practice.

I am not an "anything goes" person about parenting anymore than I am an "anything goes" person about life in general. I like to make informed decisions based on all the evidence-based data at my disposal.

suis Fri 24-Jul-09 09:06:45

Thank you very very much Mystic for bringing a sense of proportion to all the discussions on Mumsnet. You are spot on about how we turn on each other and become judgemental over the wrong issues.

You are right to use shocking images in what you say, because the horror of these situations is what people should be getting angry about, not whether some else chooses bottle or breast, cloth or disposable, baby led or Annabel Karmel.

Too often discussions on here get really out of hand about stuff that is pretty unimportant in the big scheme of things and we would all do well to remember it and spend more effort on those who really need help.

Thank you for the reality check for us all.

Goblinchild Fri 24-Jul-09 09:08:12

I'd like to see more tolerance and kindness between mothers about other mother's choice of parenting styles though. Instead of the dreadful point scoring and judging that goes on, making people worry or feel rubbish about tiny details.
There is a huge difference between good and bad parenting, between abusive and harmful and just different choices. So why fuss about clothing, hairstyles or all the irrelevant nonsense that has little impact on the happiness and safety of the children?

Jux Fri 24-Jul-09 09:24:59

We need more tolerance and kindness full stop. It's not just needed between and among mothers, it's needed in the whole of society. Mothers is a good place to start, though.

Mystic that's a wonderful post. Thank you.

TheMysticMasseuse Fri 24-Jul-09 10:33:29

I am sorry if some of you found it upsetting- as I said i saw it on another forum and it really made me think and while my first reaction was- how distasteful and unnecessarily graphic- it has stayed with me and made me think long and hard about how hard i sometimes am on myself, chiefly, and on others.

i think being tolerant doesn't mean being "anything goes', but equally many of us, esp first time mothers, tend to be victims to extreme insecurity and its bedfellow, dogmatic belief that there is one way of doing things and everything else is "wrong". and there's a whole industry of parenting gurus that thrives on this...

LotsOfOtters Fri 24-Jul-09 10:48:32

Oh God that's made me cry. What a brilliant post. I just can't stand all this stupid, stupid mother-bashing that we all engage in.

Can I ask where you found it Mystic?

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Jul-09 10:57:24

I don't think it is helpful at all, sorry. We can all congratulate ourselves on being fantastic mothers because we aren't breaking our children's limbs, I'm sure. But the little, day to day decisions do make a difference and it is no good pretending they don't.

I do agree that there is a parenting industry that thrives on our guilt and existing beliefs, and that we should be more supportive of one another.

Tortington Fri 24-Jul-09 11:00:39

that post just wiped out the need for mumsnet

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Jul-09 11:02:31

I didn't see anything about bumsex?

TheMysticMasseuse Fri 24-Jul-09 11:04:22

provincial lady, i don't think that's the spirit though. it isn't really about congratulating ourselves for being great- more about realising that there isn't a right or wrong way to be a good mother, and that it certainly doesn't depend on whether you bfeed or not, blw or not, work outside the home or stay at home, let them watch dvds for hours or ban all tv... of course our parenting choices matter, but in the grand scheme of things it is not that small stuff that makes the difference.

lotsofotters, found it on forum for expat mums in switzerland (as i am soon to be joining that category...)

Mumcentreplus Fri 24-Jul-09 11:09:46

Completely agree...

TheProvincialLady Fri 24-Jul-09 11:10:02

I suppose it depends on what you deem to be small stuff. For me, CIO is neglecting emotional needs. I don't consider it a small matter. And some of the examples given are things that are absolutely fine on occasion, but not so if they are daily occurrences.

But of course I agree that there is not one way to be a good or good enough mother.

LotsOfOtters Fri 24-Jul-09 11:12:56

Maybe the abuse scenarios are too extreme - you don't have to allow your child to be raped to be a bad mother. I agree that little things have a cumulative effect but there's a world of difference between choosing not to bf and, for example, taking the piss out of your child for doing well at school (something a friend of mine tells me happens regularly at the secondary school she teaches in, where a lot of the kids do well despite their parents)

OrmIrian Fri 24-Jul-09 11:13:27

God how horrible hmm

I agree 100% with the sentiment however.

But now I feel sick and want to cry.

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