The Worst Mother

There are two gifts every new mother receives that she was not expecting: guilt and worry. In fact, if she is a “good” mother she will have guilt and worry by the bucket loads. Why? Because guilt and worry are indications of concern for another person, and “bad” mothers are uncaring and selfish, right? Or is because we are control freaks, and we think if we worry or feel guilty enough, our kids will be “O.K.” And no one will ever know how clueless we really are.

When I was in junior high, everyone was obsessed with the movie “Mommie Dearest.” It was just scary enough. As blooming adolescents, I think we all thought our mothers were almost as crazy and neurotic as Joan Crawford. We all swore we would never be like her: career driven, critical, wanting things hung up in closets, needing our children to look beautiful and put together, needing holidays and birthday parties to be perfect and in control. Oh. Wait.


It’s easy to throw mothers under the bus. Because we willingly go there. We so easily admit our limitations and failings. We take the blame for every missed spelled word, bad word, and awkward moment our children experience. Maybe if we had been at home, reviewed that television program, or had been there on the playground….Instead, they can’t spell, they know what rhymes with “witch,” and they need to change their pants. Again.

Mothers think that children, especially their daughters, are a reflection of themselves. I never got this until I became a mother.

The drop off-line on a Tuesday morning. In the car in front of me, two images are clearly having a disagreement. One has a headband and a hair brush. The other has a backpack and an attitude. The one carrying the headband will not let the backpack out of the car until the headband is on the head of the backpack carrier. The backpack is not interested.

“Let it go,” I whisper. “It’s not worth it.”

Finally, the backpack gets out, slams the door, and marches off to the classroom. The hair brush, rolls down the window and shouts, “I love you!”

The backpack doesn’t respond.

I pull up and see the headband peel off before it reaches the classroom.

How crazy.

You want to hear crazy? Ask me about the first time I dropped my 12 week old off at child care and went “back to work.” This little being had been part of my organs for nine months and glued to me for the past three and then suddenly I was dropping her, letting another woman, who chose to stay home, so clearly a better mom than I, take care of her. Clearly I was the worst mother in the world.

Or about the time I had to leave for a meeting and my son sat at the back door with his teddy bear and cried, “Don’t go Momma!” As alligator tears streamed down both of our faces.

Or about the time my daughter was injured and I didn’t believe she was hurt and I was annoyed that our Saturday plans has changed, and then I saw a bone protruding where it shouldn’t be and I rushed her to the hospital. “I should have ran over there faster when I saw her fall! I should have known she wasn’t just being dramatic. Oh my God, this is serious.”

Or about the time I lost my son in Barnes and Noble and they had to shut down the store and practice a new “lost child procedure,” until they found him, hiding in a book-case.

We mothers put an insane amount of pressure on ourselves and each other. We own our children’s problems and feel responsible for finding solutions. We want to read the book, give the bath, clean the sheets, tie the shoes and own the calendar. We want our children to know we are like the mother raccoon in “The Kissing Hand,” and only as far away as the hand on their cheek. We want them to know they are loved. We want them to know we are their biggest fan, without being accused of being a helicopter, or stage mother. When you get the balance figured out, let me know.


For Mothers Day, I would like to give all mothers a day when guilt and worry is replaced with joy and acceptance. A day when they let go of feeling responsible for their children’s successes and failures and instead accept things as they are. A day when they remember that they too are children. A day when they remember that their Mother God watches over them like a Mother Hen. Clucking around, gathering them in. That they too are hemmed in by One who is watching and knows every anxious thought, every sleepless night, every lifted prayer.

There is an Eternal Mother who guards and protects all mothers. She knows your day. She knows your heart, and holds you in the palm of Her large, callused, hardworking hands. Don’t mess with Her. She’s crazy in love with Her children.


  1. This third, grace-filled gift from you to mothers everywhere is exceptional, Shelly. Thanks, and God Bless – on Mother’s Day this Sunday, and every day. Love, Judy B.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s