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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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