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Good Mommy, Bad Mommy  

Good Mommy coaches her children to use magic words. Bad Mommy trains her children to be mindless, insincere automatons 

I was that proverbial newlywed, the one who was an amazing parent until I had my first child. Honestly, even after becoming a mother, I reared my brood in a comfortable self-congratulatory haze, secure in the knowledge that I was Good Mommy. Until I eventually realized that I wasn’t.

Here I will let you in on a closely guarded state secret, if you promise not to tell: My kids are not perfect. This is a head-scratcher, because I believe in Doing Things Right, and I work hard at this parenting thing. And though I’m not sure where I’ve gone wrong, I’ll share with you some of the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years, and perhaps together we can sort it out.

To wit:

Good Mommy supervises her children closely when they are outside. Bad Mommy hovers and doesn’t let children exercise their own choices, depriving them of important experiential learning like Bad Stuff That Happens When You Eat Dirt.

Good Mommy makes sure everyone is eating wholesome meals, and junk only in moderation. Bad Mommy dictates food choices, thereby sapping her children’s freedom of choice, and silencing their natural hunger cues.

Good Mommy never talks on the phone while her children are home in the afternoon. Bad Mommy doesn’t teach her children that she is also a person and they need to be patient while she talks to Cousin Perel.

Good Mommy is closely focused on the kids’ chatter, painfully bad jokes, and assorted effluvia. Bad Mommy creates little tyrants who think the world waits on their every precocious utterance.

Good Mommy understands that kids will be kids, elbows will be on tables, and fingers will sometimes replace cutlery. Bad Mommy rears undisciplined ragamuffins whose dates will be horrified at their table manners.

Good Mommy lays out her children’s clothing and lovingly packs sandwiches. Bad Mommy keeps her children tied to her apron strings and pathetically dependent.

So what sets Good Mommy apart from her bad counterpart? Clearly, Good Mommy has spent hours taking parenting classes, reading up on the latest advances in educational technique, and Bad Mommy just kind of wings it. Or wait, is it the other way around?

Good Mommy appeals to rebbeim and morahs for help in sorting out unwholesome classroom dynamics. Bad Mommy is a helicopter parent, turning her children into delicate snowflakes with no resilience.

Good Mommy coaches her children to use magic words. Bad Mommy trains her children to be mindless, insincere automatons who parrot meaningless social niceties without ever internalizing gratitude.

Good Mommy makes sure her kids have access to enriching activities and extracurricular lessons. Bad Mommy never gives her kids a chance to develop their own inner resources and creativity.

Good Mommy shelters her children from pernicious influences. Bad Mommy cultivates tragically naive young adults who have no idea how to navigate the real world, and will ultimately turn their back on the standards of their upbringing.

Good Mommy lovingly sets safe boundaries for her children and enforces them with logical and relevant consequences. Bad Mommy teaches her children that if they smack their siblings and knock over the Monopoly board, they will be banished to the dark and unwholesome precincts of their room, which clearly conveys that they are precious only when they behave in adult-approved ways. And that Mommy’s love is conditional.

Good Mommy empathizes with her children’s sorrows, no matter how objectively small or patently ridiculous. Bad Mommy condones despair and rage when a sandwich is cut imprecisely.

Good Mommy is tired. Bad Mommy is confused.

Good Mommy’s kids turn out okay, except for the ones that don’t. Bad Mommy’s kids also turn out okay, except for the ones that don’t.

My children are sure I am Bad Mommy, but sometimes remember that I have Good Mommy intentions.

But I know the truth: I am Good Mommy, except for when I am Bad Mommy. Or maybe I’m neither: I am Trying-Hard Mommy. Which is the best type of Mommy.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 832)

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