My name is Willow Yamauchi, and I am a Bad Mommy. I’m also an epic mommy, an awesome mommy, a funny mommy, a loving, caring over-functioning mommy. But the truth--the real truth--is that I am fundamentally Bad, and that’s OK with me.
I had my first child at the ridiculously young age of 24. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I had a degree, a career, a husband, a mortgage. All I needed was the baby to have the complete package. What I didn’t get was how all this mommy business actually worked. What I also didn’t get was how alone I would find myself in my mommy-life. None of my friends were actively breeding. I was isolated in a baffling world of Mommy with little guidance.
Being a bibliophile I turned to books for direction and devoured--with great avarice--the Mommy tomes of the day: What to Expect When You Are Expecting, the Baby Book and the related gang of Mommy bibles became my lifeline. I faithfully memorized developmental charts, documented poopies and pee-pees and followed these books to the letter. I’ve always been compliant with direction, that’s my thing. I was being GOOD. Alas, my infant daughter didn’t seem to be reading the same books I was reading. Despite my adherence to all Mommy instructions, things just weren’t working out the way they were supposed to.
She never slept. Like, never. The breast feeding was a nightmare. My boobs were either exploding with fevered milk or not working at all. My so-called friends abandoned me. They were still out partying and not interested in my fascinating tales of inoculations or introduction of solids. I was fat, sad and alone. I started to attend some local “Baby and Mommy” groups looking for someone to commiserate with me. All I found there was a bland group of smiling dumpy robots, proclaiming the wonderful joy of birth and motherhood. This Mommy thing was apparently the fulfillment of their life’s dreams. Each of them had a perfectly content baby who nursed and slept. Everyone except me. I couldn’t figure it out. I doubted myself--I must be doing something terribly wrong. Despite my earnest efforts to be a Good Mommy, I wasn’t one.
In desperation I turned to my grandmother for advice--she’s raised 6 kids and is wise in the way of the woman. “Why do all the other mommies say their baby sleeps through the night?” I asked her innocently one day, not realizing that her answer would change the course of my life. She replied flatly, “They don’t. Those women are lying. All women lie. They lie because they have to.” I don’t think I spoke for the rest of the day. This revelation was so profound it rendered me speechless.
And it turns out, grandma was telling the truth. We do lie to ourselves, and we do lie to each other. The more I got to know those mommies at mommy and baby group, the more I started to see the cracks in their veneer of perfection. A caustic comment here or there, swollen eyes from crying hidden behind sunglasses--these were their tells. I just needed to look for them.
The real truth, the venal evil truth, only came out late at night and far into a couple of bottles of wine. It was here that my new mommy friends finally let it spill. They were each tortured by the fact that they believed they were failing. Failing at being mothers. Failing at being women. Failing at the very thing they professed to love more than anything, at least during the daylight hours. These dark confessions over wine differed so completely from their daytime professions of perfection that it was suddenly clear to me that Grandma totally had it right. Women lie. They lie because they have to.
And it’s all just such a set up, isn’t it? If I had only known how challenging it was to be a “Good Mommy” (mythic creature, similar to Yeti or a unicorn) maybe I would have been just a little kinder to myself. Maybe we would just be a little kinder to each other. This conspiracy of perfection isn’t helping anyone. We all mess up all the time--we can’t help it. Regardless of what choice we make as a mommy, someone’s going to judge. Someone’s going to question, and most often that someone is going to be ourselves.
You know what they say about the truth, it shall set you free. So I’m coming out of the closet as a Bad Mommy. Yup, I’m flawed, terribly flawed. Look at me. Look at my foibles, here they are. I don’t care, I’ve already internally dissected them a million times. My name is Willow Yamauchi. I am a Bad Mommy, and that’s OK with me.
Willow Yamauchi is a Vancouver-based writer and artist. A self proclaimed Bad Mommy, Willow believes women need to stop lying to themselves and to others about the Mommy experience-only the truth shall set us free. Willow parents two children with her husband, Ron. Despite everything, they appear to have survived most of their childhood. Bad Mommy is her second book.
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