Apr 14, 2023, 05:57AM

Mommy Guilt is Optional

Notes from a mother who never joined the PTA.

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There’s never really a light at the end of the tunnel of motherhood: once we’re a mother, we’re in to the end—it’s a life sentence with no parole; er, a joyous blessing that we are fortunate to experience forever.

There are women who are cut out to be mothers and women who aren’t on a broad spectrum of domesticity and maternal instinct. Say on a scale of Andrea Yates drowned-her-five-kids-in-a-bathtub mom to June Cleaver in full makeup and an apron presenting perfect Norman Rockwell meals nightly, we all fall somewhere in-between.

Over 10 years ago I wrote about Topper Moms, a phenomenon in which you encounter mothers on the playground, where another mother “brag hags” about her child. I suggested a passive-aggressive strategy of making an outrageous statement downplaying your child’s alleged lack of ability. I’ve also advocated a cord-cutting versus helicopter style of parenting over the years.


Topper Mom: “Hayleigh baked the most delicious gluten-free organic cranberry muffins; I ate one after I drove her to school!”

Me: “My kid only has a learner’s permit but had to pick me up at the bar last night, isn’t it great when they can finally be our designated drivers?!”

I’ve been a mother for nearly 30 years. I raised four pretty cool adults; the youngest will be 18 this year. On the spectrum, I’m more Peggy Bundy than Carol Brady, more of a Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin in Weeds than Marion Ross as Mrs. Cunningham in Happy Days. If my children were old enough to reach the kitchen counter, they were old enough to make their own sandwiches.

I’ve been judged for one thing or another so many times over the years it would be impossible to count. I never pretended to help the kids with their math or any other homework. From allowing “boy-girl parties” and Lunchables to the controversial practice of “harm reduction parenting” which is simply acknowledging the reality that our children will experiment with sex and drugs, so talking with them makes sense instead of acting like we are all church pastors/actors on the set of Footloose and forbidding everything. Forget give a mouse a cookie, Becky, give a kid a hallway of doors and tell them they can’t open that one, and guess which one they’ll open when your Lululemon ass isn’t around.

I’m positive my children, despite the therapy with which they were provided, resent me for certain things. Did I swing the pendulum of benign, loving-from-safe-distance approach versus toxic helicopter parenting too far in an effort not to live vicariously through them and their achievements like other parents do on the daily? Perhaps, but not intentionally. Should I have signed up to help for the Covid “drive-through pancakes” event instead of pointing out that the McGriddles at McDonalds drive-thru system wasn’t broken?

I’m not ashamed to say that in 30 years I've never joined a PTA. This doesn’t mean I didn’t support my children or their teachers. I sent in everything I was asked, even when classroom supply lists became more decked out with cleaning supply and bathroom décor finery than my own home. I figured out early on that teacher conferences for kids who had good grades were an unnecessary parental ego stroke that were a waste of teacher time better spent on kids and parents who needed it. I don’t need to sit in a hallway eating leftover Halloween candy to hear how smart my kids are, I’m not that insecure. I know they’re smart. If there was an issue, I'd hear about it.

Every one of my kids knows I’ll dust off and fly my broomstick to a school if and when necessary at any time, from pre-K all the way through medical school. It has rarely become necessary. Why? Because I raised independent children who know how to advocate for themselves, study on their own, handle bullies, make their own sandwiches, buy their own flowers and whatever else they need. Because I cut the cord. I’d kill or die for them and they know it. Am I perfect? No: they faced a lot of adversity having me for a mom. But my kids turned out okay: one is finishing a master’s degree in ecoforestry, one will be a doctor in a few weeks, one is studying environmental science at Johns Hopkins and is a lead singer of a band, and one is an honors student and two-sport athlete (yes, a brag hag moment on behalf of cord-cutting vs. helicopter mom statistics). 

So suck it, Becky. I have been in the game too long to accept mommy guilt or shaming. Take your judgy ass comments somewhere else. No mother should judge another mother. You don’t know her struggles or those of her kids. Stay in your fucking lane, fly your helicopter. In motherhood just like anywhere else, if you can’t say something nice, please just go bake a nice batch of organic, gluten-free shut the fuckupcakes


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