Being A ‘Good Mum’ (And Other Righteous BullSh*t).

by Lori Dwyer on April 26, 2013 · 33 comments

There’s been a thread of holier-than-thou judgement of my parenting in a few comments left of late.

It’s made me afraid of using my own space in the way that I find most therapeutic– spilling all my secrets into the digital Neverland. I don’t like being afraid. These are comments that pick and pluck at the spot where I am weakest– my own parenting skills, and the way I navigate life with two little people. The possible damage I may be inflicting on my children. 

I think it’s the soft spot of all parents. We’re all hyper-aware of the responsibility of raising little people. We know we will be judged. From the moment we reveal we’re carrying a baby, until long after we’ve passed away. Forty years from now, should our child break all social codes and do something terrible; one of the first places people will look for answers will be with us. Where did we fail? In what facet of parental responsibility where we so inept that it can explain what went wrong with our children?

And we are judged on the tiniest, most inconsequential endeavours. It seems so socially acceptable to comment on the parenting of other people and the probable fate of their children; and to do so with such casual study of their situation. There’s a self-justifying benevolence in the social sport of picking apart another mum because she works, or doesn’t; or smacks, or doesn’t; on whether her children are well-behaved and polite, or not. The behaviour of children is seen as an obvious manifestation of their parents child rearing skills, or lack of them. And we seem to encourage ‘keyhole judgements’– taking a tiny slice of a story and attributing it as the rule, when it just may be the exception.

I think, perhaps, that’s one of the elements that digs at me so much, in regard to comments left here lately. The arrogance of assumption of people feeling that because they’ve read my blog, they then have the right or the obligation to comment on my parenting; on the lives of myself, my mum, and my children.

You only know what I tell you here. Judging me on what I choose to share with you is the online equivalent of judging a parent at a local playground after watching them interact with their child for two minutes. It doesn’t give you enough information to make calls like you do, to look down on someone else because they’re not doing it the way you consider to be ‘right’.

I share a lot of my life on these web pages. I write without thinking much about how I’ll be perceived. I tell stories about my children and myself. That leaves me inherently open to judgement… that’s okay. It’s part of the give and take of blogging. People have every right to voice their opinion, particularly when there’s a comment section inviting that very thing.

But this isn’t so much about me, or my ‘emotional state’. This is about the bullsh*t judgements people feel they have a right to make, when you never know enough about a another’s person life to make that call. Whether you’re their best friend or they’re someone you see for thirty seconds in the local supermarket, or because you’ve read what they’ve chosen to share with you.

It’s about how we make parenting, mothering in particular, into some righteous, beautified social test. It’s about the way a mother and her actions are considered wholly objectified public property. It’s about the way women are expected to ‘embrace mothering’ and your children are supposed to be your ‘whole world’. The way mothers are crucified and shamed if they don’t hold up to other people’s ideals of what a ‘good mother’ should be.

It’s about the way we’re not allowed to say what sometimes might be the truth. That you can love your kids desperately, think they are the most awesome little people… and still not like being a mum very much at all.

My kids aren’t a burden. As I’ve said– they are awesome little people, and I’m honoured to be able to spend the bulk of my time with them. But changing dirty nappies, making school lunches, being yelled at, moderating temper tantrums, listening to whinging, and all the other stuff that comes with small children? That’s a burden. I’m not fond of it. Not at all. I don’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some bits of parenting that I thoroughly enjoy. Deep conversations and answering questions. Showing my kids new things, taking them places. Watching their face light up with new concepts my new knowledge. I love playing video games or curling up on the lounge watching movies with my son. I love playing with my daughter’s doll-house (sometimes I even let her help) and painting her fingernails. I like doing the fun stuff. But I find the hard stuff really difficult. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that.

I became a mother, not a martyr. Giving birth didn’t provide me with some selfless gene that made me suddenly enjoy being every aspect of raising kids. I’m inherently selfish. Most people are; we just find ways to temper that against the realities of life and the needs of the people we love.

My children are the most important people in my life. They always have been and probably always will be. But I allow myself to have a life, and a personality, outside of being their mum. I’m devoted to them, but I never want them to be responsible for my happiness. I want to teach them that all of us are responsible for finding our own. I’m happy to sacrifice things. But I keep things, too. And I want to teach my children– my daughter especially– that that’s an okay thing to do. Women are expected to give and give and give until there’s nothing left of themselves but a shell that functions, providing for people’s needs. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m the first to admit that I find spending time alone a necessity. I’m okay with that. I’m also quite happy to admit that I do spend whole weekends with my boyfriend. I’ve confessed to temporarily running away from my kids and wanting to leave for good. I’ve stated– and I stand by it– that some days I just cannot handle my five and three year old (which I’m fairly sure shocks absolutely no one) and everything falls down in a screaming heap.

Why do any of those things have an influence of the effectiveness of my parenting, anyway? Do you have to spend every second with your kids, to parent well? Or is it that you can’t have other focuses in your life? Do you have to enjoy every aspect of motherhood in order to ‘embrace’ it? Are you allowed to like parenting without being particularly enamoured with the really-little-kid phase of it? Can you love your kids without liking being a parent at all?

I’m predicting that even writing that last paragraph is enough to have me labelled as unfit mother– one who’s probably causing deep, awful emotional agony– in some people’s mental filing system.

Again, I’m (surprisingly) okay with that. If you’re that attached to the concept of martyred parent that it personally offends when someone else doesn’t live up to it… I kind of feel sorry for you.

To the commenter who wrote this one; and anyone who feels the same…

I originally had a few hundred words written here, defending myself and my parenting. Then I decided, f*ck it. I have no obligation to justify myself to anyone.

So all I really want to say is this.

Get f*cked.

And bite me.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Kris May 17, 2014 at 8:56 am

Reread this one today and now that I’m closer in my head to being ready to parent (as if you’re ever really ready) I think I need to print this out and save it. Because this–this is what I’m afraid of. That I’ll love my child of course!, but that there will be days that I wonder what I’ve done to my life by having a child. And that people will think that there’s something so terribly wrong with not liking it every single minute. And that I’ll have no one to talk to about it.

Thank you.


Lynda Halliger Otvos May 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Right On, Lori, there are aspects of parenting that I absolutely hate and when I went to a parenting class when my daughter was teen and I said that I didn’t like her at all right then, the other mothers could only say, “Wish I had the guts to say that.” Well, fucking Hello, it’s hard, they are jerks and there were times when if I could have run away I would have. And balls to anyone who would have given me shit about it.

It’s your blog, be yourself if ya wanna and whoever you care to be if You ain’t who you’re up to this week. Stop by my little place and smell the baby that I get to send home every afternoon. I adore him AND my night’s sleep; they’re quite compatible.


melissa April 30, 2013 at 5:42 am

I’m so glad you were able to see right through that commenter. What a hateful person. How dare s/he try to strip you of the pride you feel watching your children succeed. Especially after all you’ve been through. Just dispicable. Lots of love, Lori.
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Jill April 30, 2013 at 3:03 am

This post needs to go viral! Everyone needs to read this. The only reason we tear down others as parents is because we feel insecure about our own parenting skills. It is the whole “when you point one finger at someone you have three pointing back at yourself” type thing. So much easier to point out that one thing in others than to recognize and address the three in ourselves.

Bravo, Lori! Keep writing honestly. You are NOT alone in feeling this way :)


Name April 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I absolutely love your blog Lori and particularly this post. A wise person once told me ‘your kids will be screwed up no matter what you do’ and by screwed up I mean have their own issues, idiosyncrasies, behaviours and personality quirks. Like all of us. I think that as long as my children know I love them and accept that I will make mistakes (hopefully they’ll forgve me when they are older!) I’m ok with that. It’s hard to hold belief and faith that you are doing and being exactly what your children need in the face of criticism but I always find that in the end when I can forgive myself it makes me more compassionate towards the critics. Love Elissa.


Kazz April 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

The whole reason I haven’t blogged properly in a year or more… I am far too scared to put in writing to my friends and family that I actually detest chunks of my life as a mother. Parents with kids who disabilities…. We are meant to say things like “I wouldn’t change him for $1,000,000.” And “he brings me so much more joy because of his challenges. The little things mean so much more” Fuck. That. I would change him for $2 (not swap him for $2. Just to be clear) and he would bring me a gazillion times more joy if he would sleep more than 2 hours and if he could play by himself. I don’t resent him for being in a wheelchair or being fed through a tube, I resent the wheelchair and the feeding machine though. I detest them and even though we use each on a daily basis, it has not become “normal” or “accepted” to me, it still makes me feel like a nurse and it still screeches “FOREVER” so loudly, I could fall in a heap and cry for a solid 24 hours.
But I am not allowed to say any of that. The fact that we are grateful he is even with us (and truly we are!!!!) that’s meant to take away all those feelings.
Obviously I needed to get that out! Sorry! All I meant to say was: your honesty is refreshing, it’s real and its brave. I am jealous that I don’t feel strong enough to be truthful where people I know could see it …


Name April 29, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Totally get that. I hate support groups for parents of kids with disabilities. It’s mostly to force down my throat how amazing and inspiring our kids are. Gah!! It’s bloody hard work. It’s stressful. And it’s turned my life upside down. I too wish he was just like every other “normal” kid. Life is hard enough.


Lynda Halliger Otvos May 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Thank you, Kazz. I love your honesty. If you are near the SF Bay Area, please email me.


Sarah April 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I love your honesty….It makes me feel normal :) I find it hard to believe that anyone with little ones at home has never had a ‘thank goodness I’m not being filmed’ moment! X


Karen April 27, 2013 at 11:14 pm

It seems like the old adages, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all,” and, “If you don’t know what you are talking about, keep your fool mouth shut,” have gone right out the window. People being righteous and uppity just for the sake of it need to stuff it where the sun don’t shine. We need to pause and think about our choice of response before we speak, and before we hit send/publish.


Carol April 27, 2013 at 7:39 pm

“I love playing with my daughter’s doll-house (sometimes I even let her help)”. :D
Nuf said xx


Sue April 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm

If you can look back on any given moment and say that “I did the best that I could right then” that’s all that matters.
Everybody has sh*t in life, some more than others.
Anybody that feels that the way they are raising their children is perfect, well they are just delusional! As long as your children have a soft place to fall, and no matter how far they fall they know that you love them unconditionally, they will be fine :)
Hang in there, and keep living your life in a way that suits you and your family.


Amy@New Adventures April 27, 2013 at 11:34 am

And to those last two sentences I say – brava. Indeed, go and get fucked…. Not every mother is the same, nor should they be, and to anyone who actually believes in the whole Stepford Wives ideal….you, my friends, are kidding yourselves.


carin April 27, 2013 at 7:43 am

Hi Lori. You are wonderful. Sending love. Xx


Lauren April 27, 2013 at 5:26 am

Walk in my shoes for a minute, and you’ll see how my shoes feel. Walk in my shoes for a mile, and you’d never judge me again.

You’re awesome Lori.


Mel G April 27, 2013 at 12:17 am

Well said.


Just Jess May 1, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Hi Lori,
I’ve been an avid reader of your blog since the ‘before’ but I rarely find a chance to comment. Plus, I’m too lazy to sign into my Google account.
But I just wanted to say although I don’t know you, I think you’re an amazing Mum and doing so well with the circumstances you’ve been handed.
You deserve every happiness.
Jess x


Drea B April 27, 2013 at 12:15 am

I don’t get people who make their kids their entire life. I just don’t understand how that works and what they will do once their children have grown up and created independent lives. There is more to my life than being “[insert child’s name here]‘s mother”. I think that would make me an exceptionally boring mother if all I can give my children is a reflection of their own existence, without adding anything of my own life for them to take on board. I still remember that moment of clarity when I realised my mother was a person, with her own wants, needs and goals in life. She had to raise us on her own, with help sure but no one else is there at 4am when your kids are sick. I didn’t always get on well with Mum growing up, but she did the best should could with what she had at the time, and what more can you ask of any parent?

If someone has the ability to feel blessed while cleaning up vomit at 11pm (my task last night) and then wrangling a disgruntled baby for 2 hours from 4am ( my very early morning), more power to them. Damned if I can. I love my children dearly, but I certainly don’t consider those mundane tasks a joy and a blessing. I generally get through it by thinking ‘well, this age doesn’t last forever, they grow up’.

It’s so very easy to sit back and condemn, rather than get stuck in and support someone without harping on about how that person is doing it wrong. It’s so very easy to spout on about the ‘joys’ of parenting. Really, there’s joy in dealing with a baby with diarrhea? (my week so far).

That’s like saying there’s joy in doing the laundry. It’s a task that has to be done to get to the meaningful fun stuff. Parenting has chores and not everyone loves doing them, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the time after those chores are ended, when the fun stuff happens.


Anonymous August 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Drea, I am one of those people who devote my entire life to my children…sadly to the point of feeling guilty if I go out to, and enjoy lunch while they are at school. I am a single mum too, not supported by an ex and my future, when they grow up and move on with their lives, scares me! I may be boring and I may just become a recluse, but for the time being, my life is devoted to them.


Lori Dwyer August 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Hey Anon, I think, if you enjoy it, then run with it- as long as it’s your thing, and it makes you happy. I kind of envy you, to be honest. You must be an awesome mum :) xx
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Fermi April 26, 2013 at 11:46 pm

I love your last two sentences. Hurrah for your post.


Dorothy April 26, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Boo yah!!!!


Miss Pink April 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

When will everyone realise parenting isn’t a one set mould. What works well for one family may not for the other even though apperances may be the same or similar, even if backgrounds may be the same or similar, even when goals are the same or similar.

You know what I ask myself before I give someone’s parenting a second thought? I ask myself “Are those children loved? Do they know they are so special and brilliant and loved? Are they safe?” If I can’t say a definite no to any of those three questions I move the fuck on.

It’s easy to judge when you look in people’s windows, but if you come inside you might just see a different scene entirely.
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Fiona April 26, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Wonderful writing as awlways my love



Bina April 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm

“I’m devoted to them, but I never want them to be responsible for my happiness.”
That statement alone makes you one hell of a mother, Lori. Not only will they grow up with a happy mom – which in and of itself is priceless – but by following your example they will grow up knowing that they are responsible for their own happiness. That is one of the most empowering and important lessons in life.
I’ll have to admit to judging mothers who hit their kids though. It comes with the territory of being raised by parents who swore by corporeal punishment. I know firsthand the kind of pain and longlasting damage it will cause. I’m convinced there are better ways to raise a child. And if that makes me a righteous cow, then so be it.


Dorothy @ Singular Insanity April 26, 2013 at 3:48 pm

I’m obviously an unfit mother, too, because I hate parenting. I do love my children, but all the parenting crap can go jump. I’d quite happily just take the good bits and let someone else deal with the crap.
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Whoa, Molly! April 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

People are so quick to judge.

I don’t get it. From different perspectives, the way people do anything can seem different to how THEY do it. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

I loved the paragraph in which you spoke about mothering and even just being a woman. That notion that women should give and give and mother and hold the family together until there’s nothing left…

It’s wrong. It’s so wrong that so many people think like that. Women should have their families, but not lose themselves in the process. That serves no one, and seems to me would eventually undermine the entire family dynamic.

There’s just so much judgement coming from all sides towards women, and mothers especially.

Though, after being told that “you don’t know what life is really about until you become a mother”, what would I, a ‘barren and selfish’ childless woman, know? Ha!


Wonder Woman April 26, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Those who criticize the loudest like to think they are part of the perfect parenting brigade but are most likely furthest from it. It frightens them that one day, just one day they will be caught out. You are doing a fine job Lori & I love your refreshing honesty. Xx


boodie April 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm

going by today’s standards my mum was a very unfit mother, she shoved me out of the house after breakfast and said “don’t come back till lunch time, or if you’re hurt and you better REALLY be hurt, if you’re thirsty there’s water from the tap” same thing after lunch and then after dinner, where sometimes it would be past 11 when the collective parents realised that us kids were still outside, having fun.

I was raised with benign neglect and I had a bloody wonderful childhood, Mum didn’t feel the need to be with me ALL the time, but i knew she was there if I needed her, I tried to raise my kids the same way and I think I did a bloody good job, I did it on my own after my marriage breakdown and my kids are happy, caring wonderful adults now.

At times I am sure that I got on my mum’s last nerve, because I know damn well that plenty of times my kids got on mine. There were days when I detested my children, I still loved them but boy I didn’t like them much.

If that makes me an unfit mother then all I can say is BITE ME.
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Salz April 26, 2013 at 11:56 am

You’re an unfit mother. I’m an unfit mother. My mother was an unfit mother. You can kind of label everyone an unfit mother by the different things they they do. They may sit there and spend every minute of everyday with their child and to them thats what matters. But what are they really teaching their children if they are judging other mothers.

NO one can judge anyone.

You are an awesome person by the way. We all need a break. I can’t wait to send my 2 yr old to child care next month. That will mean two days a week I am kid and husband FREE.


Kristy @ The Life She Made April 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

Wow, the audacity of some people. All I can deduce from the comments is that whoever left them probably knows you in real life and is just nasty and jealous of your newfound happiness. Somebody who hasn’t let go yet.

I’m pretty sure they are in the minority in their views of you.
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Chris Johnston April 26, 2013 at 10:55 am

I missed that whole other post. Those comments were disgusting.

I am a mum of a 3 year old and a 5 year old. We are very similar in our kids ages.

I am married to their dad and we share the load. Even then, every single word you wrote here resonated with me. If that makes me a bad mum for anyone else’s standards they can

It’s a bloody tough gig being a mum – sharing it with your husband even so I have total respect for the single mums who do it. I have one step more for you because you don’t have that respite that comes from either tagging your husband “it” when you need headspace, or sending them for a weekend at dad’s if you’re separated.

You need a village to help raise children in the best of circumstances. You aren’t a marathon runner – you’re a mum. You need breaks so you can be the best mumma you can.

And that comment that took a stab at Neil? Fuck em. You deserve a strong pair of arms to fall into whenever you need to and let him carry you at times. Since when did becoming a single mother mean you have no right to any pleasure in life?

Don’t let them get to you. I’m leaving in 47 days for 5 weeks away from my husband and kids for an overseas trip of a lifetime. It’ll make me a better mum because I’ll be rested and have had a month to focus on me and recharge. If that makes me a crap mum then I’ll take the criticism.

People need to learn to mind their own damn business


Toushka Lee (@Toushkalee) April 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

The comments on that post are hideous.
There is only one certainty in parenting and that is that we will fuck up our kids. Somehow. Each and every one of us. Whether we neglect or hover, they can gain independence or feel abandoned or feel secure or smothered. There is no instruction manual and those that leave the judging comments have not walked in your shoes and should shut the fuck up.
Much love to you Lori. Keep doing the awesome job you are doing. Your children will one day be in awe of your strength. I know I am.
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