Monday, February 27, 2012

Bad Mom

Everyday there are a dozen or so things that make me feel like I’m a bad mom. At the pediatrician last week, after Lennon’s exam, he lay there on the rather large examining table shaped like a fire truck as I discussed next steps with the doctor. The bed was deep and wide and pushed against the wall. Lennon was in the middle of it and I stood about two feet away trying to understand what the doctor was telling me. Our pediatrician has only slightly more English than I have German so these appointments are always a full immersion language lesson for mommy and more than a little stressful. As we chatted, a nurse practitioner entered the room and went straight to Lennon. She began by playing with his toes and then tried bringing him to sitting. I knew what she was doing because, while I was speaking with the doctor, I had one eye on my child, as all Good Moms would. As the nurse attempted to pick Lennon up, he began to cry.

“Sehr müde,” I said to her referring to Lennon, which I understand to mean “very tired” from my developing German vocabulary.

As I went in for the rescue, she handed him to me with a look of concern and said something to me that I didn’t understand. The doctor then gave us the signal that all was well and we could go on about our day. Out in the waiting room gathering all of our things, I replayed the session in my mind, as I often do in foreign language situations, correcting my German post mortem. When I came to the bit about the nurse practitioner, it occurred to me that maybe what she was saying as Lennon was being handed over was that I was negligent: My son was on the big red table unattended. Perhaps that’s why she went to him in the first place. I was so preoccupied with understanding the German doctor that I neglected to monitor the goings on of my near six month old who could easily surprise us all and roll of the table. I consoled myself with the reminder that I have keen mommy instinct and at two feet away I can tell the next move my child will make. I’m also tuneful of his temperament and rolling is not customarily an option when a nap is in order, as it was this midmorning. But I suppose a good mom would never take chances such as these and would instead remain directly by the big red table, arms splayed, ready for the next milestone of danger. I felt a little sick as we left and I began cycling through all the other ways I was coming up short. I thought I’d been Good but maybe today I’d been a Bad Mom. Then I wondered: Did that really happen? Maybe the look the nurse gave me was apologetic for having made my baby cry. Maybe she said something like “I tried playing with him but he wasn’t into it. So sorry!” Maybe I am so hyper sensitive about my inadequacies at this job that I assume I’m always a step away from catastrophe and the judgment of far more experienced professionals.

It’s a bit of a transition time in Lennon and my relationship. When he was first born, he needed me twenty-four hours a day between feeding, sleeping, and changing. Even though we still sleep with him in our bed, he’s much more independent during the day. I take advantage of that independence. Several times a day I get out of his hair, let him play, and do housework, sew, or write this blog. Later that time will be spent working on my PhD. I wonder if a Good Mom plays with their baby full-time, save the occasional break to eat or go to the bathroom? I don’t live in Downtown Abbey so I have to tend to the cleaning and cooking myself, at least until my husband comes home. As I said, though, I do more than just the maintenance of life: I also enjoy activities that enhance it, frivolous stuff for fun. I know I feel recharged after I complete something solely for me, like a blog post or a braided rug. It’s important that Lennon has an enthusiastic and energetic mom. This has been fortified by new studies on the dangers of over-parenting and the importance of independent playtime. Still, I find it impossible on a day-to-day basis to determine if I’m doing it all correctly, if I’m a Good Mom. I usually let instinct be my guide, but as I found out in the doctor’s office, insecurity and the German language sometimes swoop in to mess up my game. When I relayed the nurse practitioner incident to Nicholas, he assured me that I’d committed no foul play. Looking back with time to reflect, regardless of what her German words translated to, I knew that my child was safe on that big red table. Good Mom.

Nonetheless, Mom Confidence for me is a struggle. I’m new here. As a new mom, I found the post following by Josette Crosby Plank comforting. You may be able to relate to this particularly if you’ve read anything about Pamela Druckerman’s new book, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. It’s funny because it’s true:

French Parents are Superior—Just Like All Other Parents


  1. I'm delighted that you were able to stare your mental critic in her judgmental eye and regain your ability to recognize and acknowledge your profound prescient connection with Lennon.
    p.s. your post has helped me to release myself (once again) from a pernicious and persistent "Bad Mom" life sentence.

    1. I love you, Cecile. I'm so touched that what I write speaks to you. Release, Mama! xox