Why Celebrating Failure is the New Success
You seen it yet? The mother movie of the year? That raucous, hilarious tale of a try-hard mum and her band of misfit had-enough mummy mates? Bad Moms hit the screens in August and, quite rightly, won our hearts.
It’s funny, very funny, and you know why it’s so funny? Because it’s true. Every last exhausting, exasperating, incredulous and hilarious bit. Except it really shouldn’t be all that amusing, the whole ‘oh my god, that woman said no to running herself ragged and actually put herself first occasionally’ message. Neither should it be called ‘Bad’ Moms because… well… what’s so bad about having a fucking life?
Every decade we have a new definition of motherhood. We had the fifties ‘Stepford Housewife’, the eighties shoulder-padded ‘Career Mums’ and the ‘Perfectamums’ of the late noughties and now we are completely rebelling and 2016 sees us being the ‘Bad Mums’ and loving it. I should know, I fully embraced the movement. I have written for online magazines and blogs such as Selfish Mother, Blunt Mums, Scary Mommy and followed the crazy Facebook antics of the mums behind Unmumsy Mum, Hurrah For Gin and Mums Who Hide In The Loo. We are finally free to laugh at our shortcomings and admit that yes, goddammit, we do sometimes have a glass of wine before bath time because it saves us from losing our shit when we’re scooping out actual shit from three inches of bath water.
Celebrating our failures as mothers has become fashionable, amusing and rebellious. Like any movement, with every action you get an opposite and equal reaction. Goop and Pinterest, the holy shrines of organised perfection-seeking mothers everywhere, were launched in 2008 and 2009… then lo and behold five years later we have women everywhere saying ‘fuck that, when you combine the words wine and dinner you get winner’ and their Facebook feed is full of photos of their toddler rubbing Sudocrem into the carpet while mummy gets sloshed.
Well I have one thing to say to you kind of women – what you’re doing is not rebelling or making a point, you are just being normal. Because (newsflash) you were women before you were mothers. So this ‘Bad Mom’ bullshit is actually just us women being the women we want to be, the women we were before we pushed a few babies out, and the women that we can still be regardless of being mothers. Despite being mothers.
Imagine if men had to do this to feel like themselves again? Imagine if society’s pressure on fathers was so strong that they too felt the need to call themselves Selfish, Scary or Blunt… or to simply hide in the loo? Oh wait, they already do that.
Imagine what people would say…
“Bob is such a selfish dad, you know he said no to the PTA meeting and went to play darts tonight! He left his wife at home babysitting the kids. He’s so lucky she said she’d look after their children.”
“Mark is such a scary dad, he is meant to work part time and he actually told his boss that he was sticking to his contracted hours. Honestly, just because he’s a father how does he get away with only working the hours he gets paid for?”
“Mike is so unfatherly, he was home all weekend with the children while his wife was away and when I went round there Sunday the house was a tip. Lego everywhere and all he’d managed to make them for tea was fish fingers and chips. Honestly, what had he been doing all day?”
“Dave is such a blunt dad, he was asked if he would bake for the school fete and he went to the supermarket instead and bought a Victoria Sponge. Crazy! Surely he could have got up at 5am before work and baked some cupcakes? We all know he needs to spend quality time with his kids.”
Does all this sound strange to you? Do Bob, Mark, Mike and Dave sound like bad dads to you? Of course they don’t, they are busy blokes with a job, a social life, demanding children and a need to sleep just like, oh I don’t know, women.
Saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you a Bad Mum. Having to pick and choose where your priorities lie and where to focus your energy is a part of life, we did it before we had children and we still need to do it once they are in our lives. Men are great at compartmentalising their responsibilities, not because they are selfish but because they have the freedom to do so. No one is judging them and no one is putting demands on them – they get to be just ‘Dads’ without the precursor… while we have to either hate or laugh at ourselves for running late to pick the kids up with coffee stains all over our shirt having only just managed to eat half a bagel for lunch.
So for all those women who are embracing their Selfish, Scary, Blunt, Unmumsy sides… you don’t have to call yourself those words just to be who the fuck you are. You weren’t those things pre-kids and you aren’t any of those things now.
You are you, and you love your kids, and you chose to raise them the way you chose to raise them. Full stop.
You’re putting your life in the order it needs to go in to work.
And you can say no to whatever you want and join in with whatever you want, because giving birth does not magically make you into a superhuman. You are still a woman, just a busier one with other smaller humans to love and protect and care for. Just like their father does.
So, even though I loved the film and cursed my weak pelvic floor at the funny bits, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes that movie is the story of my life, but no I’m not a bad mum. In fact I’m a motherfucking badass mum. But first and foremost I’m a woman, a normal one, flawed and totally awesome.
I’m going to petition for a sequel of Bad Moms to be made… and call it Normal Women that happen to be Mums. Then I’m going to drink more wine and add the photo to Instagram, I presume my children are around here somewhere.