On this past Friday, a dear friend, one who knows just how much I enjoy indulging in mindless fodder to get me through my work day, sent me an email with a title that read “Video of a bad mom.” Hmmmm….. It sounded interesting, so I opened it. There was no text in the email body, just a link to a YouTube video. Of course, I clicked, and off I went to see what thousands before me had seen: a “bad mom.”
Now, so as to not further sensationalize the actual video clip, it must suffice that I provide you with a brief description of what it displayed. Well, umm, it was of a “mom,” well she didn’t actually call herself a mom in the video, but her identity is referenced by the children, who are presumably hers, also in the video who call her, mom, mommy, or something of that sort.
So, anyway, in the video, she, the “mom” is dancing rather suggestively. “What do I mean by “suggestively”? Well, she was dancing as if the video was intended for a long-distance lover of some sort who asked her to “remind him (or her?) of what he (or she?) has at home.” Can you imagine that? No, not yet? Okay, well she dances wearing a cleavage bearing tank top and short skirt and, well, you get the point (or, at least, I hope you do).
Often, there are times in the video clip where her children, who may or may not know why mommy is dancing for a camera, stand in front of her, only to be moved aside by their “performing” mama or, at times, they are on the bed, where they “shower” her with dollar bills as if she were a stripper and they paying customers.
I know. I know. It sounds crazy, and it is crazy.
The title of the video likely was given by some viewer who found the video elsewhere and wanted to gain viewership by inspiring moms to comment on the “bad mom.” Judging by the fact that the video had hundreds of comments, the poster of the video did a good job.
While I could write a post in which I talk about mothers like her, mothers who “exercise” poor judgment in choosing to expose their children to too much, I will instead write about mom jeans. And, I’ll get back to that mom later.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, here is a definition.
Mom jeans (n): a term referring to an unflattering style of jeans worn by moms that attenuates, rather than hides, their wider hips, stomachs, and rear ends. While used privately in many households across America since the late eighties when the high waist, tapered cut, often pleated style became the “in” style for “comfort,” it was publicly introduced to audiences of Saturday Night Live in 2003 via a commercial with the tag line: “This Mother’s Day, don’t give Mom that bottle of perfume. Give her something that says, ‘I’m not a woman anymore. I’m a mom!’ “
Yep, I went from the “bad mom” to mom jeans, well not mom jeans specifically, but about perceptions of moms and their priorities. Because I am discussing mom jeans in this post, I should now, so as to not alienate any readers who do wear and prefer mom jeans, come out and say that I have nothing against mom-jeans wearing moms.
As my mom-jeans wearing mom attempted (you should know that she has, as a result of an “intervention” in 2002, stopped wearing mom-jeans and has been “sober” ever since) to convince me and my siblings when we would ask that she opt for another “look” when attending our school functions, mom jeans serve a great purpose for some (key word: some) women. The jeans are, I have heard, easy to care for. The denim withstands repeated washings, and, while I am hesitant to believe this, I have heard that the fit is comfortable, a detail important to any “active mom” on the go. These jeans are also reasonably priced and readily available in most mainstream department stores, a perfect solution for “practical” moms not interested in following the often pricey trends of fashion editors and designers.
While bashed by many, mom jeans and what they represent are a quintessential part of what many Americans, me included, know a mom to “look like.” Mom jeans fits into a larger “mom genre” that includes such things like minivans, Jif peanut butter, crock pots, and short, flippy, no-fuss haircuts.
She, we all know as moms ourselves, is not the only kind of mom; she nonetheless has a strong presence within our society as a sign of all things motherhood. She, in her disregard for what the rest of the world is doing, is rendered self-less, “it’s all about her children” and, sometimes, her husband, too. She (or her-self), as this ideal would seem to suggest, in the scheme of all the persons and happenings in her world (which consists of her husband and children), is unimportant.
No longer a woman, who as society tells us, should care about such small details as maintaining her figure, putting on lipstick before leaving the house, and wearing an anti-aging, wrinkle fighting moisturizes before bed, she has surrendered to motherhood. What has she surrendered? Well, as the humorous characterizations of that mom-jean wearing woman would seem to suggest, she has surrendered herself as a woman. In “giving little thought to” her beauty, livelihood, and financial wherewithal, she becomes self-less, not a woman but a mom.
Now, before you get the wrong idea about me, I should point out now that I do not agree with this portrayal of the mom-jeans wearing mom, but I bring it up here so as to expose that it (or she) exists and is real, very real, to many Americans.
Interestingly enough, on the flip side, the mom who goes against this image of the self-less, mom-jeans wearing mom is often cast as being the opposite, or selfish. Yes, I said it. Selfish, you know, it is only the dirtiest, most vile word in the mommy dictionary.
While thrown around in many mommy circles, there seems to be a consensus around the idea that the selfish mom is one who 1) “cares too much about herself,” 2) tries to live too much of her life apart from her children, 3) is not mindful enough of the fact that she is a mom, 4) disregards and thinks it laughable that she, as a grown woman, should have to schedule “mommy time.”
The selfish mom is the “bad” mom. And this brings me back to the “bad mom” of the YouTube video. She is “bad” because, as deemed by a public jury, her actions show that she cares too much about herself and too little about her children.
Of course, there are moms, like me (I would like to think), who exists between this spectrum. Moms who do care about how they look and maintaining what they believe to be their “womanly” identity while at the same at caring for and giving their all to their children. Nonetheless, it is these two moms, the self-less mom-jeans wearing mom and the selfish mom who “strip dances” for the camera that she, or the “balanced” mom has to define herself against. It is also these two moms who seem to receive the most press.
Instead of hailing the “balanced” mom for doing it all, which I may do in another post, I will instead say that I don’t agree with the idea that the mommy continuum (or the spectrum of good to bad moms) is that simple. In the short time that I have been a mom and before becoming a mom, I knew very well that every mom who, for instance, attempts to maintain an identity outside of that tied to her children, is not selfish. There are some who are selfish, but there are many more that are not.
Furthermore, not every mom who does not maintain an identity outside of that tied to her children, is selfless. It’s more complicated, I have come to realize, than that.
I’ll stop here as my head is still spinning from that video clip, but I want to hear your thoughts? How do you define a good mom? How do you define a bad mom? How do you think society, your peers, family, and friends judge you as a mom? What criteria do you think they are using to make that judgment?