I've been thinking some more about good mothers, bad mothers and how you tell them apart. And why "bad mothering" gets a better rap in some circles than parents who are doing their level best.
The Boring Mother
She will not play trains (despite having done so for hours this morning), she will not fill up the sand table with water and she insists that paint needs to be applied to paint brushes and to paper only. She sits at the kitchen table sorting papers that have NO pictures, taps at that TV thing that doesn't even make sounds and her pens are boring colours like black and blue. Her children have to make their own fun, apparently - no playful parenting here.
The Angry Mother
She has a short fuse - but no one knows which spark is going to set it off. Transgressions are dealt with harshly and not quickly forgotten. There is yelling. There is intolerance. There is no allowance made for mitigating factors (such as being 2). Stay out of the way, play quietly and neatly and certainly, most certainly, do not whine. Whining around Angry Mother is like waving a bright red flag in front of an enormous, sharp-horned bull - very unwise.
The Worried Mother
With a vague sense that something is amiss, she frets over every detail. She watches her kids like a hawk for any symptom of whatever the diagnosis of the hour might be. She carefully weeds out undesirable toxins from foods, body care products and clothes - and scares off undesirable playmates too. Every new study is taken as the new truth - as long as it includes something new to be worried about. She spends more time researching than playing and certainly more time worrying than nuturing. Eye rolls commonly shadow her at playgroups.
The Devil-May-Care Mother
The other side of the Worried Mother coin is this mother. She knows all the same things as Worried Mother (well, many of them - Worried Mother does a lot of reading), but she's burnt out worrying about them all. And while Worried Mother sees headlines that show risk reduction in %, Devil-May-Care wonders how high the risk really is if everyone is doing it and their kids are just fine. Rather than try to figure out what's important and what's not, she passes the cheesies to the 8-month-old and sips her red wine anytime.
The Lazy Mother
Her kids do nothing but watch TV all day, eating prepackaged foods on paper plates as they sip drink boxes. Their clothes are mismatched and unironed, their hair isn't brushed and no one is checking their teeth either. Her threats of discipline (if any) are as empty as the drawers as the laundry piles up. Plan your own crafts because she's certainly not getting the paint out for you.
There are more: the Self Absorbed Mother, the Tired Mother, the Overindulgent Mother.... but I think you get the point. Any parent who is honest enough could probably write a few of these - or see themselves in the ones I have. Just because we're all there at some point and it doesn't kill our kids, doesn't mean it's good for them or for us. Kids are resilient and they're built to thrive - but mothering matters, too.
A very wise friend responded this:
"I think I'm an ordinary human mother, who like all of us has good and bad moments. I don't think other mammals worry about whether they are good mothers or bad mothers, they just take care of their babies the best they can."