Are You A "Bad Mother"? You're Not Alone

Mother's Day is a day for raising our voices in praise of all they do. Yet, for many moms, the most insistent voice they hear is an INNER voice ... a reproachful voice … that says whatever you're doing is just not good enough. Now a growing number of women are trying to ease that load of motherly guilt. Tracy Smith reports our Cover Story:

Maybe it's something our mothers should have told us, but how could they?
Of the many burdens of motherhood, the biggest just might be self doubt.

It's those nagging little voices asking vexing little questions: Am I doing this right? Could I have done that better? Am I a good mother?

In the past, it was something no one ever wanted to admit. But now, mothers everywhere are 'fessing up to being, well, bad.

Truuconfessions.com is a Web site where woman can admit their feelings of inadequacy, failure, guilt, shame … or lack thereof. Romi Lassally is the mother of three who started it all.

"Nobody's talking about tying their kids up and leaving them in the kitchen alone," Lassally said. "We really don't get those kinds of confessions. We get, 'I didn't teach my kids to tell time so they could tell them it was bedtime whenever they want.' We get those crafty resourceful things women do just to get through the day."

There's the mom who admitted that she bites her baby daughter's nails off rather than use clippers, and the one who says she longed to hear her kids call her "Mommy" … and now is tired of hearing it.

Lassally said she has confessed online to "everything," including stalking her daughter on Facebook. "I've confessed to putting fake breast milk in the refrigerator. I had a fairly judgmental group of friends who I wasn't ready to 'fess up to having stopped nursing."

"And what were you doing when your friends thought you were pumping?" Smith asked.

"Reading a magazine, taking a break," Lassally said.

"And they'd open up this freezer and see all this breast milk?"

"Oh yeah, 'So much milk!' Lucky me. It was terrible but I didn't think I had a choice at the time."

Lassally says truuconfessions.com has drawn more than 600,000 entries, some of which have been compiled into a book.

Smith asked if the confessions will help make women better mothers.

"I have no doubt," Lassally said. "I don't think there's anything positive from keeping a secret. I think it eats away at you. You're waiting to be found out. I don't think there's anything good that comes from it. So as long as nobody's getting hurt, as long as no names are attached to it, I think it's helping people."

"You don't think it's a little bit whiny?" Smith asked.

Lassally offered a response: "Don't listen!"
Whiny or not, most people agree that motherhood is a tough job.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll found that 73% of Americans, including most mothers, think being a mom is harder today than when they were young.

It always looked so easy on TV, like in the '50s series "Ozzie and Harriet."

But it's hard to be supermom after a full day at an outside job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71 percent of American moms now work outside the home, and opinions about that are changing: Only half of Americans say children are better off with their mom at home rather than working, down from 61% who said that in 2003.

By 1988, the idealized image of TV motherhood had been replaced by one of a working mom, the multiple-Emmy Award-winning "Roseanne."

"When your show started saying this is how real mothers are, what was the reaction of the audience? Did you get a big, collective 'Thanks' from moms out there?" Smith asked the star, comedian Roseanne Barr.

"Yeah, I did, and not just from moms; from dads, too, and grandpas and kids and everyone who wasn't the one percent perfection that was sold to them on television."

"Did you ever actually say to your kids, 'This is why animals eat their young'?"

"I've said way funnier things to my kids, way worse!'" laughed Barr,

The title character on the show, Roseanne Connor, raised four kids. In real life, Roseanne Barr had five.

"Having a sense of humor about being a mom is a great thing," she said.

"Is that part of motherhood, that there's this constant feeling of, 'Am I a good mom? Am I a bad mom?'" asked Smith.

"Just questioning yourself - am I doing this right - that's part of it," Barr said. "In fact, that might be the heart of it. If you don't have that self doubt, you shouldn't be a mom.

"So we as moms are always going to feel a little bit guilty, yeah, because sometimes you feel guilty 'cause you're doing wrong. It's about being honest, too. In fact sometimes you feel - maybe 100 percent of the time - you feel guilty … because you have a reason to feel guilty."

And perhaps the best antidote for guilt is to find another mom who seems even worse. And what is the definition of a bad mom to people today?

"Well, you know, everybody has their own special bugaboo," said writer Ayelet Waldman. "And that's why we need these images, right? So we get an image like Britney Spears and we just go crazy. 'Cause here she is, you know, this is what a mom is. Her kid doesn't ride in a car seat; he rides in her lap. And that is very obviously a bad mom to all of us. And then we can feel good. 'Cause, you know, 'Hey, I'm not that!'"

Waldman knows all about judgment: In 2005 Waldman wrote an essay, later published in The New York Times, about how she loved her husband, novelist Michael Chabon, more than her four children.

"I love my kids, I love my kids like crazy, but I'm not in love with them," Waldman told Smith. "I'm in love with their father. And I've always been in love with their father. And I started to feel like that was the problem. I never made that transition. And I was a terrible mom for doing it.

"And I wrote the line that set people's hair on fire: that if a good mother is a woman who loves her children more than anybody else in the world, then I'm not a good mother. I'm a bad mother because I love my husband more than my children."

Scandal.

Waldman survived … and went on to write a book about it: "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace" (Doubleday).

"When I'm at my lowest as a mom, knowing there's someone else out there who has done the same thing, who feels the same way, is so comforting," Waldman said. "So for every letter that I get that says, 'You're the most terrible mom in the world, I can't believe it,' or 'You know, your children should be taken away from you,' I get ten letters from someone saying, 'Thank you for saying that. Thank you for admitting that thing that I wasn't gonna admit to anyone.'"

Truuconfessions.com's Romi Lassally agrees.

"I have two daughters. I don't want them to think they have to be superwoman," Lassally said. "You're just going to drop the balls every now and then. And that's reality. It's not good or bad. It just is."

Thanks to our visit, Lassally wound up with another true mom confession: She sent her son off to Little League without a crucial part of his uniform.

"Totally forgot the hat," Lassally said. "So I'll be going home to get that.

"It happens. It happens."

Maybe a good mother isn't perfect: she's just the person who'll come to the rescue, whether you're hopeless … or just hatless.


For more info:
  • Ayeletwaldman.com
  • truuconfessions.com
  • Roseanne Barr's roseanneworld.com
    • CBSNews

    Comments

    Follow Us

    Watch CBSN Live

    Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

    On Twitter