His pointer finger presses into my chest accusingly. A scowl darkens the face I love.
“Bad Mommy,” my 2-year-old shouts, his hand now slapping me. “Bad Mommy! Bad Mommy!”
It’s Owen’s new favorite phrase, hurled at me anytime I do anything he doesn’t like, including change his diaper, dress him, buckle him in his car seat or prevent him from killing himself.
It’s a relentless criticism, spouted morning, noon and night.
Early in the day, I defend myself against it. “I’m not a bad mommy,” I tell him. “I’m just doing something you don’t like.” As the hours pass, though, I feel myself get frazzled, my self-esteem dinged as a victim of toddler abuse.
On the other hand is 5-year-old Eve who shrieks that I’m the Best. Mom. Ever! when I give in to a pleaded request to watch another episode of “My Little Pony” or have ice cream for an afternoon snack instead of fruit or carrot sticks.
Somehow, her praising my parental weakness doesn’t help.
I begin to wonder if Owen’s right, noticing the pink marker I couldn’t scrub off his cheeks and that I forgot to slip a loving note into Eve’s lunch box. Again.
Then I remember, with rare exceptions typically involving criminal charges, there are no bad moms. There’s just us, exhausted, self-doubting, head over heels in love with this little person or persons, trying our best every darn day with spotty track records.
It’s a message I’ve been reminded of lately thanks to social media, a place where I can draw some resilience against the 87 “Bad Mommy!” shouts awaiting me after Owen’s nap.
I happily shared a meme that contrasted Pinterest-project mamas with my daily measuring stick of success: “I had a shower today and kept the kids alive – Go Me!”
To be honest, I can’t always claim the shower, but still I say, go me. That’s all we can do: Go on to the next day and try again.
Try is the operative word because not one of us is perfect. But being an imperfect mom is not the same as being a “Bad Mommy!”
A blog post shared recently by several Facebook friends reminded me of this. In it, Michelle of “So Wonderful, So Marvelous” chastises us moms to finally learn that no mom is super mom.
We all have different priorities, gifts and talents, so let’s stop judging other moms who don’t share the same skills and concerns, she writes. Let’s stop feeling guilty for the skills we lack, and for the areas where we excel. And for heaven’s sake, let’s stop feeling judged by a friend who’s probably not judging us at all, but just doing her own thing, mothering the way she sees fit.
And, please, please, don’t judge me based on my toddler’s “Bad Mommy!” screams or his face full of pink marker.
He might not be clean, but I’m showered.
Sherri Richards is mom to 5-year-old Eve and 2-year-old Owen and a reporter for The Forum. She blogs at topmom.areavoices.com