Every once in a while the Universe tosses me a blog theme I can’t resist, and last week, Big Mama had something she wanted me to hear loud ‘n clear: Bad mothers can be pretty damn awesome.
Keep in mind that the word, “awesome,” has a dual meaning; it can be either most excellent or most terrifying.
I like words that swing both ways. Take for example “Bitch’in.” First off, I love reclaiming the word, “bitch,” because I am a feminist (and a dog lover). And then I really dig the next layer of meaning, when something or someone is a bitch, or tough to handle. On the other hand, when something’s really great (and if you are a Valley girl especially), it’s bitch’in.
I was thinking about all of this when the aforementioned Universe threw a bunch of dicey maternal characters my way, which I’ll now toss to you for consideration:
First, my son had an essay question about Charles Dickens’ classic, Great Expectations, and I paraphrase: There are several bad mothers in the novel. Explain why they are awful, as well as how the terrible consequences of their actions are wrought on their children.
Although I’m always a sucker for my kids spending time ruminating on bad mothers and drawing immediate parallels to me, this question made me squirm. Not because I couldn’t remember anything about the book besides the names “Pip” and “Miss Havisham,” (And for all you bad mamas out there who don’t remember the novel or haven’t read it, [Heaven’s NO!] you can get a quick Cliff Notes’ kind of recap here.) But because thinking about bad mothers can make anyone’s heart sink: even the Grinch would flinch at Miss Havisham avenging all men for being left at the altar by turning her adopted daughter Estella into an icy heartbreaker with no capacity to love.
Next I was invited to attend a screening of Hulu’s new original animated show, Mother Up! starring Eva Longoria. Her character, Rudi Wilson, is a big record exec and mother of two that makes a terrible career faux pas and as PR move, steps down from her power job to take on the power moms of suburbia. Think “Family Guy” and make that guy a gal, and that’s Mother Up! And although Eva had me at her cougar turn pouncing on her Desperate Housewives gardener, watching Rudi pounce on everyone around her (kids included) summoned some deeper, more uncomfortable emotions (not to mention a few real belly laughs) as I watched the first few episodes on Hulu.
And finally, I saw the move Enough Said, in which Julia Louis Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced mom who dates a man and inadvertently befriends his ex-wife. Yes, there are plenty of cringe-worthy moments in that, but actually the most potent piece of the film is how she takes her daughter’s wayward best friend under her wing while her college-bound daughter wistfully watches from the wings.
Bad parents abound, from the beginning of time through the Victorian era and onward to today, and yet we are still shocked when epic failures are presented by an X-chromosomal toting humans that are supposed to be wired for parenting perfection.
Take, for example, one of the reviews of Mother Up!; in it, the critic (a self-described, “unapologetically cranky mother of three”) objects to the use of “all those Haughty, Controlling and Generally Objectionable Mothers who seem to populate every fictitious school, neighborhood and coffee shop in America,” as the show’s antagonists.
Fictitious? Or bonafide reality? It’s been my experience that the moms who judge are always standing by to celebrate another mutha’s fuck-ups, no matter how minute. You’d think that everyone is a sister-in-arms, but you’d be wrong about that.
And don’t take my word for it; just last week the trending Internet sensation was what all around perfect chick Gwyneth Paltrow said in December’s Red Magazine:
“I personally think that the work-life balance for a woman should be exactly what she feels is right for her. And nobody else can set her time schedule… nobody else can tell her how many hours a week she needs to devote to this, that or the other… f*ck what anybody else says… It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. That’s what we’ve got to let go of. That idea of ‘Oh G-d, if I don’t show up to this concert, all the other mums are going to think I’m terrible.’ Well, so f*cking what.”
I posted this on my Bitch’in Suburbia Facebook page and it spread like wild-fire, with more than a couple hundred peeps checking it out, commenting, and liking it within an hour or so of posting.
So Gwenny drops a few f-bombs and takes down the “mums” who judge, and the rest of us are crowning her our patron saint. Shit, I’m even considering sending out her new Paperless Post cards for the holidaze. Because I believe if I support her in this new, raw, edgy light, then I will awaken Chanukah morn to find my new, goopy, Kabbalah-loving BBF clutching a lavishly wrapped pair of $112 luxe two tone terry sweat pants just for me. Later, as we lounge around in our matching outfits in front of a roaring, hellish fire, we will slurp raw miso soup, chug organic blood orange mimosas, and bag on Angelina Jolie.
Of course in reality, no woman is harder on a mom than herself. When I started this motherhood gig, I didn’t realize every little move I made would register on my internal, “will this thing I’m doing throw my kid into perma-therapy?” scale. I had no idea that parenting was such an active verb, nor did I know that my children’s successes and failures would often feel like my own — just amplified to an almost unbearable status.
And speaking of status, I also didn’t give much consideration to how hard it would be to take a face-first nosedive from big ass career woman (aka, chief ass kisser) into the well of being a big ass (thank you, pregnancies!) “at-home” mom (aka, chief ass wiper). I was shocked to find what smarted most was not my torn perineum, but my shredded ego.
I suppose that’s why so many “mums” take comfort in judging others; it’s a twisted kind of ego stroke. This, I submit, is a natural urge; so give it up to the lady, and hand over a little stroke as long as it doesn’t cramp your own style. After all, twisted sisters need lovin’ too!
So if you see me copping to be a “bad” mom, just know that while I’m no Miss Havisham, I do try to embrace my moments of ego and epic failures alike. And if having my own work, interests, and pursuits unrelated to anyone who shares my DNA is wrong, then I say color me bad and be done with it.
Because the last thing I’d ever want is to give my children the message that in order for them to matter, they have to forgo following their passions and avoid taking pride in themselves and their accomplishments.
Now pour yourself a hot toddy, you bad mom, you, and cozy up with me to the Mother Up! trailer —