Bad Mommy Moments

The honest truth is that sometimes I feel sorry for my children because they have me as a mother. I sometimes feel like I’m screwing up all the time, unable to keep on top of the everyday exigencies that other people have no trouble handling.

On the worst days I wish my children didn’t have to have me for a mom. Then I feel guilty for having such low self-esteem. But secretly I know they’d be happier, better adjusted, and have more confidence with a different mother. One who uses humor instead of temper to make a point, one who doesn’t use the f-word, ever, in front of or at her children, one who manages to keep the house clean and fold the laundry with a good attitude.

I have a friend with four children who is an attentive and loving mother but was the only parent to miss an event at her kids’ school where her son actually gave a speech (no one told her). This—and my own struggles lately—started me thinking about how, though we don’t often talk about them out loud, we all have bad parenting moments.

I asked some of my favorite writers and friends to share their worst moments.

My hope for moms, dads, caregivers, and friends without children who read this is we’ll all see something of ourselves in these stories, and that other people’s spectacular screw-ups will help us be a little kinder to ourselves.

Kristen Gough, who blogs at MyKidsEatSquid, with her two daughters

Kristen Gough, who blogs at MyKidsEatSquid, with her two daughters

Food Poisoning

Once I left yogurt that was past due in the fridge (the thought was that I didn’t want to stink up the garbage and I would toss it on trash day).

My hubby and my youngest daughter ate the whole thing—hubby had tummy pains, my daughter, who has a sensitive tummy, threw up all morning.

That was about a year ago but I still feel bad. Kristen Gough, My Kids Eat Squid.

Alisa Bowman, author of Project Happily Ever After, with her daughter

Alisa Bowman, author of Project Happily Ever After, with her daughter

The Wrong TV Show

I was struggling to meet a writing deadline. My husband was out for the evening. My daughter was home, but it wasn’t bedtime yet.

I said, “Hey, do you want to watch TV?” and turned on either the Learning Channel or the Discovery Channel.

One of them had a show about sharks, and my daughter—then age 5—loves sharks.

She starts watching. I start typing. She interrupts me a few times–for a drink of water, to pause the TV so she can go potty, and so on. I give her the “Mommy is working. Please don’t bother Mommy when she is working” talk. Now I’m really jamming away on my assignment. My daughter is saying quietly, “Mommy, come here please.” I say, “In a minute.” She says, “You said “in a minute a minute ago.” I say, “Really, I’m just trying to finish this up. Just a sec.” This goes on, her asking me to come over, me telling her in a sec.

Next thing I know she’s screaming, “Mommy! I need you now!” and she’s crying. On the TV there’s footage of a polar bear and it’s eating the rear end off a woman who somehow fell into the polar bear enclosure at the zoo. That’s when I realize that she was never watching the nice little show about sharks that was supposed to be on. No, that entire time she was watching something like “Zoo Animals Go Wild.”

It took me forever to calm her down. All the while she kept asking, “Why didn’t you come when I asked you to come?”

Now, even months later, she mentions that show and asks, “Why did you let me watch that show about the polar bears?” Alisa Bowman, Project Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters.

Tertia Albertyn at the aquarium without her laptop

Tertia Albertyn at the aquarium without her laptop

An Internet Addiction

I’ve accidentally knocked the baby’s head against the doorframe many times. And once, I insisted, against much protestation that my son STOP MOANING AND PUT HIS SHOE ON, only to discover quite a bit later that there was an old sock crumpled up in the toe of the shoe the entire time. But my real BAD MOMMY MOMENTS are much less obvious and much more insidious. Subtler than eating all the chocolate Easter eggs, fooling the children into thinking bedtime is 30 minutes earlier so I can get to my Chardonnay, hiding the vegetables so a 5 year old is tricked into eating something healthy. My BAD moments all involve my laptop/Blackberry/cellphone/INTERNET addiction. The need to be constantly online working/emailing/blogging/Facebooking and of course, my latest addiction, Twitter.

My lowest (highest) moment was when I found myself going round and round the Ferris wheel with the kids with my laptop on my lap, working! In my defense, I had to work (really, promise! It was actual work this time) and they wanted to go to the amusement park. So we decided to do both. I took my laptop on the rides with them. It was a win-win situation, although I did get quite a few horrified looks from the other (better, more focused) mothers. Hey, at least I made my deadline AND the kids had fun. Tertia Albertyn, So Close.

Claudine Jalajas's daughter has a knack for getting stuck in small spaces

Claudine Jalajas’s daughter has a knack for getting stuck in small spaces

Daughter Gets Stuck While Mom Talks on the Phone

On our patio is a deck box which is supposed to hold all the outdoor toys.

Since our kids don’t actually put toys away, it’s usually empty.

One night we were having a bbq with family and the kids thought it was funny to go in the deck box and “hide” while we were all sitting there. My daughter was three years old.

One week later my mother calls me and I’m walking around the house cleaning and doing whatever as she rambles on, interjecting “oh my god.. you’re kidding! so it was on sale?” and just going about my business. The boys come in because my husband is about to mow the lawn and they turn on the TV to avoid helping. My mother is still talking, the lawn mower starts up, and I’m still walking around the house now straining to hear her over the mower and cartoons on TV.

My daughter is not in the house and so now I’m going from room to room to look for her in the yard assuming she’s either on the swingset, or sand box, or whatever.

I can hear her calling me but it sounds far away. My mother talks a LOT and it’s hard to interrupt her to say, “I’ll call you back” so I just keep “uh huh’ing” while looking for Annabelle.

Now I’m getting more annoyed at all the extra noises (mower, tv, my mother’s Walmart rant) and I say, “Have to go… no… I have to go… I’ll call you later.” Without waiting for the answer I hang up.

I can hear Annabelle crying, “Mama!” but she sounds so far. I suddenly turn my head and look at the deck box. I open it.

There she is, so small, all sweaty, clutching her blanky, tears streaming, crouched in corner. She went to hide in the box but when nobody came looking for her she wasn’t strong enough to open the top. Claudine Jalajas, Smirkworthy.

Jane Boursaw, writer and entertainment blogger

Jane Boursaw, writer and entertainment blogger

A Husband Slips and a Baby Goes Under

When our first-born, Will, was still a baby, we took him swimming in our wonderful bay. We live on the Old Mission Peninsula which juts 18 miles into Lake Michigan, just north of Traverse City, Michigan. So we have East Bay on one side (that’s the side we live on) and West Bay on the other side of the peninsula. Hubby Tim had Baby Will in his arms near the shore, and stepped wrong and fell over. I was on the beach—and they were just a few feet into the water, so they weren’t very far out or anything—but I almost passed out when I saw Tim start to fall over. I felt like I was moving in slow motion … trying to get to them before Will hit the water. When Tim was scrambling to his feet under the water trying to get to the baby, he looked over and saw Will happily swimming under the water, eyes wide open, like a little fish. So I can now confirm that babies really can swim when they’re born—at least in Will’s case. He loves the water to this day. Jane Boursaw, Reel Life with Jane.

Meagan Francis with her husband and four sons

Meagan Francis with her husband and four sons

The Only Mom Not at School

My sons (now 12 and 10, at the time 8 and 6) had just started at a brand-new school in a small town where we didn’t know many people yet. A note had come home about a special Thanksgiving lunch for the two oldest, but I had kind of blown it off—I was hugely pregnant (about a week from my due date), and at the school my sons had gone to previously it seemed there was always some big ‘event’ or other to sign up for. I was picturing a “special” dinner of cafeteria sliced turkey and cranberry sauce.

I happened to run into one of the other school moms in town that afternoon, and she said “Oh, I wish I had your cell phone number—I would have called to remind you about the Thanksgiving feast!” As it turned out, at this school, the Thanksgiving lunch is The Event Of The Year, with real home-cooked turkey, giveaways, games and a little concert from the kids—and my sons were literally the only children there who didn’t have a parent or some other special person with them. My oldest son had wandered around with tears in his eyes until this other mom felt sorry for him and “adopted” him for the afternoon.

The worst part of it was, I didn’t have any good reason for not going to the lunch. I just didn’t realize how important it was, and was feeling tired and uncomfortably pregnant and blew it off. Now I am so much more careful about carefully reading those notes that come home from school, and if I don’t know much about an event, I ask other parents to get a sense of how big a deal it is. Meagan Francis, The Happiest Mom.

Readers, have you ever forgotten to pick your kids up at school or been the only mom (or dad) with spit-up on your shirt and unkempt hair at a fancy kid function? We’d love to hear about your bad parenting moment in the comments section below.

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24 thoughts on “Bad Mommy Moments”

  1. Let’s see … I didn’t go to my son’s soccer games, although he played on a local team for at least five years. Oh, maybe went once, but this was not enough. I did not take him to a professional soccer match either, nor badger my husband into doing so. I slapped my daughter once. Everyone told me I was such a good mom. But both my daughters did not agree as adults. I was too lenient, they said. Not enough guidance and imposed control. I explained they had grown up in the 1970s, when hippies reigned.

    But my absolute biggest bad mommy moment must be when I decided to get a divorce from their father, and for once put myself first. They still have not totally forgiven me for that.

    I didn’t work when my kids were young. I thought it was important to be there for them. My ex-husband earned a good salary. But I lived in a foreign country, France.

    I think any woman who raises children and manages to work and does both successfully, deserves a medal.
    .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..Fearsome Ocean =-.

  2. I’m trying to understand why the mom is taking the blame for her HUSBAND feeding the child expired yogurt. Why would this be the mom’s fault? Because she didn’t throw it away? Does her husband not go in the fridge? Can he not read a label?

    In fact, in almost every instance, the dad could have reacted – so why is this a “bad mommy” list instead of a “bad parent” list? Dads can step up and take some responsibility for their kids and their house.

  3. I can relate to all of these stories. I never in a million years imagined how hard (but worth it) being a mom is. I’m glad I got the chance to let my mom know this before I lost her.

    As for my worst moments…I can’t think of them. Not that I don’t have some…I just can’t think of what they are right this second. I do recall whacking heads into doorjams a few times. And my hubby, well he’s had issue with remembering early dismissal on Wednesday, thank god for good neighbors. (Note, I’m quite certain I’d have done the same if I were the one home and incharge of pick up)

    Oh and one just came to me. Last year my oldest was having issues with a kid he called his best friend. My son would here and there tell me things this kid did or said that i didn’t like and I tried talking to my son about how friends should treat each other and about not letting people mistreat him. But when we discovered a large mark this kid left on his upper arm from pinching him, my son disclosed that this kid had been punching him and stabbing him with pencils…total momma fail moment.

    Oh and another one was finding out that after putting off taking my kids to the eye dr until it was required by the school (they both passed preschool screenings) that they both needed glasses but the second one needed them VERY badly. Once he got glasses his reading took off like crazy!! Serious mom guilt on that one.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Timmy Time to Premier on Playhouse Disney =-.

  4. Totally agree with TheFeministBreeder.

    If anyone is going to eat expired yogurt in my home, it’s gonna be me. My husband reads the labels.

    And thankfully he also tries to make as many school & sporting events as I do. We share the load and the guilt.
    .-= Veronica´s last blog ..Summer of Feminista- Snobby feminists =-.

  5. Aaack, where to start? I forgot to make a treat for my daughter’s kindergarten classroom birthday party so we stopped by the Seven/11 (only place open at the time) and I bought out their entire supply of Hostess HoHos for her to take in. Another time, we were at our place in Maine and we stopped by our favorite candy shop that makes the best peanut brittle in the world. Since it was daughter #1’s birthday, we allowed her to have a large bag of this delicious crack-like substance. Well, that night I woke up and had a craving for peanut brittle and I ATE THE ENTIRE THING. So DD still likes to tell how I ate her peanut brittle. While she slept. On her birthday.

    I can’t tell you what a relief it is to read about all of your flubs! Sometimes I read the boards at and I have to stop because no one there is ever wrong and it makes me feel inadequate! lol

  6. I agree completely with TFB. I get that we all screw up as PARENTS at times, but why is the yogurt thing mom’s fault? Because she didn’t throw it out? Oh, and she also didn’t tutor her husband and teach him to read?

    I like that Mothering is giving people a place to commiserate. But let’s makes sure we put blame where it belongs…m’kay? Slightly anti-feminist.

    Oh–and I’m a single mama, so it’s ALL always my fault. But that’s much better that it always being my fault when with a disfunctional man! (And on the positive side, I am the one who is the Best Parent Ever to my 5yo.)

  7. I’ve got to say, none of this sounds like bad mothering to me. A bit guilt/cringe-inducing at times, maybe – but that makes sense with the societal pressures we face. Moms, love yourself more and let your kids know that you are not a perfect robot mom, omniscient or psychic, etc. It will actually be good for them! Bad mothering is neglecting your kid, abusing them, humiliating them, abandoning them. Every story I read so far shows me great moms who are trying to do their best. Now I’m going to play cheerleader and remind everyone what great mothers do…

    You didn’t throw out the yogurt, but I bet you bought a flavor you thought they’d enjoy before it went bad…

    You are working hard to help financially support your family and now your daughter knows to tell you more info when she’s upset…

    You took your kids to an amusement park and went on rides with them…

    You noticed your kid was gone and looked until you found her…

    You were ready to jump in and save a “drowning” child…

    You were about to deliver and were tired and now do things differently – for them – and they know it…

    You showed your kids not to stay in a marriage they no longer want…

    You got your kids glasses when you learned they needed them…

    You bought HoHos for your kids’ class (bet they liked them better than any homemade item in the classroom)…

    These are all great mommy moments to me!

  8. In our house, my husband and I each have responsibilities. If one of us falls down on one of our responsibilities, then that is our own fault. It doesn’t necessarily make us “bad” (that’s another whole discussion), but if something is my husband’s responsibility then I don’t expect to take the blame for it and vice versa.

    In our house, I’m generally in charge of the food. If there is something expired in the fridge and someone else in the house eats it, I would accept some (but not all) of the blame for that.

    However, my husband does most of the laundry, so if he accidentally shrinks the kids “hang to dry only” school sweater by putting it in the dryer, that would be his fault and not mine.

    All that to say, to the comments above about “what about the dad?”, I think it depends on how responsibilities are shared in each home. If we both tried to do 100% of every household task we would be overrun. That is why we divide things up and take responsibility for the ones that are on our own plates.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Babble

  9. Amen, TFB! To continue with the yogurt thing… that is so something my husband would do! It would never even dawn on him to check the expiration, whereas I look at the expiration of perishable products every time I use them. Totally his fault. But my husband definitely would have either blamed me for putting an expired product back into the fridge, or acted like I was unreasonable when I pointed out that he is a grown man and is perfectly capable of reading labels all by himself.

    Mothers receive the brunt of the blame far too often in society!

  10. Oh this turned out great, Jennifer. Thanks so much for posting, and for everyone who offered their own experiences – and everyone reading who’s nodding in agreement and solidarity.

    It just shows that no parent is perfect – things happen, and we do the best we can with what we’ve got under the current circumstances.

    We’re great parents!
    .-= Jane Boursaw´s last blog ..Family Movie Review- Flipped =-.

  11. I’m with Jane, there’s no perfection in parenting, but I love my kids–and for all those days we go hiking, read books together, there are those days when I feel like I’m just surviving. We all have those days. In fact, I was having one of those days when my hubby said, “Go take some time for yourself.” Which I did. Too bad he finished off the last of the yogurt while I was gone. And yes, it was my daughter’s favorite flavor, strawberry.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..

  12. What a fabulous idea for a post, Jennifer. Reading it made me laugh and (finally!) remember my own bad mommy moments. No matter how much you love your kids and try to be *perfect*, you make mistakes. And being able to talk/write/laugh about them helps you realize that it happens to all of us. And the best part? The kids get over it (probably far better than we do).
    .-= sheryl´s last blog ..Why Your Body Needs to S-T-R-E-T-C-H =-.

  13. Oh, these are great, Jennifer. I confess to being the friend you mention who was not at her son’s school when he made his speech. You didn’t tell the other part, which is that this is the second year in a row that I didn’t go to this event. My only excuse is that I forgot about the importance of this particular event (closing the swimming pool down for the year), since I didn’t grow up in the Japanese school system, and I deliberately chose to avoid having to sit still in the hot sun for an hour and a half with a newly walking baby (and I had another event (at another school) to rush to which would have been smack in the middle of that. So ironically I thought I was making a *good* parenting decision not to make myself and the baby stressed out by trying to do too much. Plus, I couldn’t figure out when else I was going to have time to get the groceries I needed that day.

    But oh – the feeling I had when a friend caught me later in the day and asked why I wasn’t there!

    I think I have bad mommy moments just about every day! Reading about all these makes me feel better.
    .-= Christine @ Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Gather- pleat- smock- and sew =-.

  14. This being a blog on a mom-oriented website written by a mom, I can see why Jennifer chose to focus on “bad” MOM moments (of course we all know dads have bad moments too, right?). And I like to think she meant the phrase” bad mommy” to be a bit tongue-in-cheek…none of the examples above are that atrocious (likely by design–the point is to make us all feel better about our comparatively small foibles, not “out” any of us as really bad so the rest feel better by comparison.) And I include my own story (the Thanksgiving lunch one) in there–sure, I FELT like a bad mommy, but objectively, no, I don’t think it was actually a case of particularly bad parenting. Of course, it was a big enough error that I used it as incentive to do differently the next time around. Having a “bad” mom moment doesn’t make me a “bad mom”.

    As for the yogurt story–I think it depends a lot on the dynamics in the family. Like Annie of PHD in Parenting points out, responsibilities are shared differently in every home.

  15. It’s nice to see that other moms have moments where they struggle, too. Intellectually, I know that no one is the perfect parent and that we all have our struggles and foibles. But it’s hard not to compare myself to the moms that *seem* to have it all together; I think it’s human nature to compare ourselves to other humans, be it favorably or unfavorably. This is a fun and humorous way to have the discussion, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Breastmilk Sugars Enable Healthy Bacteria =-.

  16. Sure, were I that dad, I’d feel myself to be the guilty one, and I’d be right. In fact, I’m always right about guilt. But aren’t you missing the point? She felt guilty because she could have prevented it….and we as parents arrogate the guilt to ourselves.

  17. And for the record, I never feed my kids anything that’s even slightly dodgy–I throw that crap right where it belongs, in the back of the fridge so it doesn’t stink up the compost!

  18. It doesn’t matter how household duties are split – if a grown man sits down and eats rotten yogurt, it’s nobody’s fault but his own.

    I’m still trying to figure out how a dad slipping into water with his baby is a “bad mommy moment.” How could that responsibility have been delegated to her?

    We’re far too eager to paint this over as “oh, it’s a mothering site, therefore we’re only talking about mothering.” The fact is that the language is problematic at its core, it degrades mothers, and I’d expect Mothering to less dim to this kind of speak than, say, Parenting magazine is.

  19. I love this post. Every mom has moments that she personally considers “bad mommy” moments. I know I do! In my personal opinion we’re all probably screwing up our kids just a little, but the odds are in our/their favor that they will turn out okay. Thank goodness for resiliency.

  20. Wow, I’m not even a mom and these stories made me squirm. I smashed my nephew in the face with a basketball once and almost knocked the other one through a french door while he was waving his dad’s butcher knife at his brother. Do bad auntie stories count? 😉
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..The Herbfarm

  21. This being a blog on a mom-oriented website written by a mom, I can see why Jennifer chose to focus on “bad” MOM moments (of course we all know dads have bad moments too, right?). And I like to think she meant the phrase” bad mommy” to be a bit tongue-in-cheek…none of the examples above are that atrocious (likely by design–the point is to make us all feel better about our comparatively small foibles, not “out” any of us as really bad so the rest feel better by comparison.) And I include my own story (the Thanksgiving lunch one) in there–sure, I FELT like a bad mommy, but objectively, no, I don’t think it was actually a case of particularly bad parenting. Of course, it was a big enough error that I used it as incentive to do differently the next time around. Having a “bad” mom moment doesn’t make me a “bad mom”.

    As for the yogurt story–I think it depends a lot on the dynamics in the family. Like Annie of PHD in Parenting points out, responsibilities are shared differently in every home.

  22. These are all mild. And not bad. Bad is leaving your kid in a hot car and he dies. Bad is shaking your baby till he dies. Bad is demeaning and yelling and hitting your kid every day until he no longer knows what is safe or good.

    These are all natural flubs done by human beings who actually care a whole lot about their kids and doing the right things by them. Let’s all cut ourselves some slack.

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