We’ve all seen it — the judging that goes on with various types of moms. The healthy eaters judge the Mcdonald’s lovers, the exercise moms judge the iPod moms, the crafty moms judge the Walmart birthday party moms. No mom is perfect. But sometimes what you think is a bad mom habit might just be your claim to mom greatness. Here are 6 ways being a bad mom can actually make you a great mom.
1. Your house isn’t spotless
Rather than spending every spare minute picking up toys (for the millionth time) or shooing your kids away so you can finish the dishes (for the millionth time) or worrying about what the neighbors will think about your less than pristine windows, you are spending those moments doing homework with your fifth grader, reading to your kindergartner and cuddling with your baby. Having a clean and sanitary home is an important part of raising healthy kids, but having an immaculate home at the expense of fostering relationships with your children is a sure way to feel regret once your home isn’t full of giggles and handprints anymore. Consistently ignoring the dishes AND your kids might not be the best habit, but ignoring the dishes FOR your kids is a great mom quality.
2. You let your kids choose their own clothes
Anyone with kids knows there is a fine line between allowing them to creatively build self-esteem through choosing their clothes and also helping them look socially acceptable. Half the time my own kids choose their clothes they look like an army of bedraggled Disney princesses. It is important to make sure your kids are dressed appropriately for the weather and for certain events like school. However, allowing them room to experiment and express their creativity through clothes is an important confidence builder. Does it really matter if it matches? Does it really matter if your son wears his cape to the store or your daughter wears mismatched plastic heels to a play date? Are you making your kids change clothes because you’re concerned for their comfort or safety or because you are worried about what the neighbors, grocery store clerk or in-laws would think about you? Take personal inventory behind your motives for asking your kids to change clothes.
3. You get frustrated with them
Even the most put together mother out there will lose her cool and get frustrated with her children once in a while. Sometimes we yell, sometimes we say things we regret and sometimes we do things we wish we could take back. Losing our patience can make us feel like failures as mothers. But it is not all bad. You are not perfect, and your children are not perfect. When they make a mistake, they will respond how they have seen you respond. Being able to accept responsibility, say sorry, and ask for your children’s forgiveness is an invaluable lesson to instill in those precious soon-to-be adults.
4. You cry in front of them
It is ok for your children to see you cry. Be careful that you are not blubbering around them all the time, and you do not put adult burdens on their sweet spirits, but allowing your children to see you cry every once in a while is a good thing. It shows them that you have real feelings, just like they do. It shows them that life is hard, even as a grown up. Modeling for your children healthy ways to cope with difficulty can prepare them to handle their own heartache and disappointment in healthy ways.
5. You don’t force them to hug or kiss anyone they aren’t comfortable with, including relatives and close friends
We all know the scenario: Great Aunt Mildred hasn’t seen the kids in two years and wants to give your little rug-rats a snuggle. But your child doesn’t know Great Aunt Mildred and hides behind your legs shaking his head in obvious disapproval of this idea. The ever well-intentioned parent pushes the child forward commanding him to give his aunt a smooch. Bad moms don’t do this. Bad moms say, “I’m sorry Great Aunt Mildred. Maybe Johnny will feel more comfortable giving you a hug goodbye after he’s spent some time with you.” Bad moms like this may completely offend Aunt Mildred by not forcing her child to give Auntie a hug. And bad moms like this are teaching their kids a very, very good lesson. They are teaching their kids that sometimes it’s OK to say no to adults. They are teaching their kids that if an adult tries to force them to do something they are not comfortable with that they are allowed (and encouraged) to say no. Moms like this are teaching that their children’s bodies are their own. And that no one, not even Great Aunt Mildred, has the right to do anything to their body without their permission.
So the next time you see a mom with a tiny, mismatched human following her around, or with a sink full of dirty dishes, or getting frustrated with her child at the grocery store, do not judge her. Instead, remember that she is doing the best she can, and that even in her bad mom moments, she is accomplishing something great.
Nicole Harmon is a Marriage and Family Therapist. She is wife to a very patient man and mother to three crazy little girls. Read more from her at www.have-joy.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.