Bad Mama: The Internal Struggle Between Choosing Time For Yourself and Time with Your Baby

Today I was a bad mama. No, I didn’t beat my child, or neglect him to the point where DCFS needs to come banging on my door. But I did neglect him. His calls to be picked up, anyway. His constant shrieks for attention. His tiny little arms flailing about, signaling to me that he wanted, yet again, to be taken out of his bouncer. His face scrunched up, looking at me with an expression that screamed I’m BORED! Nope, I pretended to ignore it all.

What kind of mother are you? If you are not asking me that question, let me assure you, I most certainly did. In truth, there were moments when I did peep over my computer, telling myself to stop acting so selfish and give my four-month-old son the attention he deserves. Although, at the same time, my inner rebel threw up her hands and said screw it, I’m calling in sick to the 24 hour mom job. I’m. Out.

That, of course, did not happen. (I mean, let’s be real. Any parent knows that won’t happen. It can’t happen.) No, the basics of childcare were not forsaken on my self-proclaimed mama-holiday (Theo was still fed, changed, and put down for naps like clockwork), but I did not, however, bond with him the ways I normally do.

We did not engage in our daily conversations about the state of political affairs, harp about the godawful humidity outside, or discuss who we think will be voted off on the next episode of Ink Master (Theo actually started using vowel sounds three days ago, which has greatly added to his repertoire of coos and gurgles). I did not grab a book from the nursery to explore fun new worlds or laugh with him at the goofy plot lines. (Who would not want to read about animals driving — and crashing — in the entertaining book “Sheep in a Jeep” by Nancy E. Shaw?) Nor did I provide him the opportunity for tummy time on the Boppy (although he may not have been too upset about that one).

Instead, I would analyze how much time I had until his next feeding or diaper change — hoping to squeeze in another ten minutes of reading and writing — all while rapidly bouncing him in his bouncer with my foot. (At least he seemed semi-entertained, bobbing up and down like a fishing float.)

Yes, today was a momma-first day. And while it did make me question my resolve as a “good” mother, it also made me consider why I devised that question in the first place.

Did I really think I was a bad mom? Well, no. I love my son dearly. I provide him with love and compassion, food and shelter, attention and patience (although that last one is sometimes tested). His development is on track and he is healthy. But there is something inside my being — a nagging, sickening sensation — a voice that tells me that I am not doing enough. That I chose this job as a mother and, by golly, I was going to be the best I could be…even if it breaks me. And that’s just it. Motherhood can break you.

I realize, of course, that motherhood is also something I would never exchange, and that I am extremely lucky to have it. (Others are not so lucky. After experiencing a miscarriage with my first child, I cannot emphasize how truly grateful I am for my son.) With that being said, I also realize that my expectations to perform at my best 24/7 is not realistic.

We cannot be Supermom all the time.

We are bound to crash, physically and mentally, if we do not take care of ourselves. Whether that means watching a movie while your precious is in the bouncer, meditating while he or she is lying on the ground next to you, or going for a walk with your little one strapped to your chest; it is important to do something that will help you reconnect with your inner self (you know, that person that somehow melted away with the changing seasons of parenthood).

Easier said than done, right? Trust me, I have said the same thing. Several times.

But just like it is a priority to care for my child, it must be a priority to care for myself. Choosing to make yourself a priority does not make you a bad mom: it makes you human. It makes you someone who recognizes that by trying to be your best self, you can also be your best mama.

So, ladies, it is okay to take a day to be a “bad mama”; it’ll make you a better one tomorrow.