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The Bad Mother Baby Shower

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Why not get a dose of motherhood reality along with that pink onesie?

women laughing at a bad mother baby shower

Dr. Wendy Walsh: When I had my second child, the hostess, who loves international culture, gave me a book that described baby shower customs around the world. One theme stayed in my mind for a long time because of the psychological benefits to new mothers.

It's called the Bad Mother Shower, and if my memory serves me correctly, it originated in Mexico.

It goes like this: As each mother, aunt, or grandmother presents her gift to the pregnant woman, she shares the story of her worst mothering moment. The stories are so tragically hysterical that they provide great party entertainment. For example, the swaddled newborn who slid down between the bed and night table and couldn't be found for some frantic minute because she was sleeping so quietly. The mother who found herself telling her 8-year-old that she had to eat her French fries before she could have more salad. The mother who tuned out her tardy kid's protests and unknowingly sent her to school without shoes. And, my all-time favorite, the mother who tripped while carrying a 4-year-old and gave her a full-on concussion.

The stories are endless. I'm sure every momlogic reader has their own "bad mother" moment. But the healing power of shared failure is the true gift of a Bad Mother baby shower. An added "bonus" of new motherhood is the gift of guilt. New mothers fret and worry and carry more guilt than any human deserves. We all want to do what's best for our child, and fear that we will fail when this new bundle arrives without an owner's manual. Knowing that even seasoned mothers make mistakes can be quite healing.

This idea is underscored by the psychological theories of the English pediatrician and child psychiatrist Donald Winnicott (1896-1971). He was the one who coined the phrase of the "Good Enough" mother. According to Winnicott, "The good-enough mother ... starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant's needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant's growing ability to deal with her failure." In other words, the gaps in our parenting, our small failures and foibles, create space for the child to adapt to an imperfect world.

And, as the Bad Mother Shower can demonstrate through the community of shared experiences, motherhood is certainly an imperfect world. Wonder where I got the examples of bad mothering that I quoted here? Yep. You guessed it. They are my own bad mother tales. Hope they bring you some comfort. I comfort myself with the thought that the only people who can really decide that I'm a bad mother are my kids.

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63 comments so far | Post a comment now
jennifer October 4, 2009, 8:00 AM

i think the “bad mother shower” concept is a good one- but i think the examples used to illustrate “bad mom” moments were weak. i mean- a mom’s worst moment is sending her child to school without shoes? i would love to hear the real worst moments that mothers experience, and how they really cope with that shadow part of themselves

Secret Mommy October 4, 2009, 1:04 PM

This is great! I’m expecting my 2nd child right now and if any of my friends suggests throwing another shower (I just had a baby a year and a half ago…so I’m not counting on one) :) I’ll suggest this idea to them. And to the previous commenter who thought the no-shoes example was a weak one, couldn’t you pair that with the losing-the-baby-between-pieces-of-furniture example and call it even? :D Hahahahaaa! Thanks for a great article. :)

Romi October 4, 2009, 1:27 PM

We’ve given many a True Mom Confessions baby shower inspired by my book and website and I think it’s a great idea to give a mom to be a healthy dose of REALITY — not guilt per se, but why not share the real, not just the ideal. I wish we could move away from good and bad labels though…real shouldn’t be “bad” - and our ideal shouldn’t be all about “good.”

Kristin October 4, 2009, 6:01 PM

That’s AWESOME! There is an unnessesary amount of fear for new moms if a mom thinks she’s the only one to make her mistakes..

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Mandy March 1, 2010, 10:16 PM

I love it!!

My bad mother moment was recently… We live in a 12 floor apt building, and my 18month daughter and I were all bundled up ready to go to the car.

The elevator opened, I leaned down to grab the diaper bag. And THAT QUICK she was in the elevator and door shut. I of course panicked, and luckily, it opened shortly holding my smiling, waving child and 2 neighbors from a few floors above. I had no choice but to laugh.

Not my proudest moment, but as a mother, what more can you do but laugh? (Once your child is safe, that is!!) If that was the worst thing… I’d say I’m doing well!

I later got a nasty Facebook message from the one (childless) neighbor, about how my laughing and explaining it off is careless, ignorant and wreckless parenting… and all I could think was “Ohh, just wait until you are are a parent!!!”

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