Margin to be a “Bad” Mom

Margin to be a "Bad" Mom | Paper Doll Tales

Trader Joes has my number on many things, but most recently, an evil temptress of a friend introduced me to Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows.  I’m okay at exorcising the sugar demon of a white blob of marshmallow.  But dip that sucker in dark chocolate, and I have guilt written all over my face in smeared black and sticky white tendrils.

I’ve got a running shopping list of all the things we need from Trader Joes, and I swear my urgent need to go.this.week is all about my kids and the great organic raisins that TJ sells (furtive swipe of napkin to mouth).

Living motherhood in 2015 is filled with a pressure to do it all AND love it all.  Even when we honest moms find ourselves stressed, hassled, unraveled, unslept, unkempt, and wept, we’re under enormous pressure to pull it all together with a wan smile, flip back the tendrils of baby-food encrusted hair that’s escaping from our Pinterest-inspired top knot, and say warmly, “It’s hard, but I wouldn’t trade THIS for anything!”

Say what?

I feel like I’m going out on a scary limb here, a limb I’m not supposed to acknowledge, at least not without a requisite sugar-coating qualifier, but can I just say, boldly and honestly and finally, “There are many minutes and many days when I would trade THIS for a mint green Vespa in Rome.”

[Currently cringing because I’m supposed to dip that big fat marshmallow of truth in some serious chocolate veneer.  If you’re the type of person who has never felt this way and can immediately sing out with sweet sincerity, “But I wouldn’t trade THIS for anything!”, please leave my bruised, cringing ego alone today.  Go read a different blog where someone has managed to stage a wildflower picnic, set up an invitation to play table for children and fairies, and created a capsule wardrobe for the next three months.  If you’re still with me, maybe it’s because you’ve felt the same way, and you can share my furtive dose of the ugly truth of motherhood.]

I’m all about the Vespa, because no hope of car seats tagging along on that particular set of wheels, and Rome because it’s not home, and mint green simply because everything is better with a dash of mint green (for the record, that’s not the same color as the regurgitated kale salad that rocks totally stellar reviews from my small family members’ tastebuds.)

Being a mom is hard. Full stop.

These children suck the life out of us, and we sometimes whimper that we’re human beings too–we once had dreams and ambitions and endeavors and people spoke politely to us without having to beg for a little please and thank you, but all of that has been put on hold in favor of wiping snot, poop, tears, and blood off of another human being’s body.  And that human being then forgot to say thank you.

Every so often, we need to sit down and indulge in a Mama Meltdown.  To let all the ugliness, selfishness, and sorrow flow out through our own trails of tears and snots.

Most days, I find I can rally toward the 2015 Super Mom level of equanimity (“It’s hard, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything!”) as long as I have some margin built into my life.  Quiet minutes in the morning to write, journal, or pray.  A cup of tea in the afternoon while children are miraculously and safely silent in their rooms.  A book to read before falling asleep at night.

The points when I lose my stuff and want to insert all the Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Marshmallows straight in my stomach without swallowing occur when the children invade my carefully cultivated margin.

They wake up, inexplicably, before 6 am.

They scribble over my journal pages for their own artwork.

They demand to share a cup of tea with me after refusing to nap.

They appear at my bedside as I reach the end of a chapter and say, “I just want to snuggle with you, Mama.”

You feel the pressure for what I’m supposed to write next, don’t you?  Keep waiting for me to say “it”.  I’m not going to.

Ugly truth is, some days I would gladly trade THIS for morning quiet, blank pages, an uninterrupted cup of tea, and a bed all to myself.  If this leaves me in the running for, at my most ambitious reach, World’s Okayest Mom status, so be it.  At least I’m being honest.

An essential part of surviving motherhood and waking up with the energy to say, in sincerity, “I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” is allowing ourselves a margin to speak the truth, sometimes an ugly truth, when it needs to be said.  We might just confess it to our own mom, or whisper it to our closest friends, or sing it out on the internet for all to read, but we need to give ourselves permission and forgiveness to say it:  we all have the Mint Green Vespa in Rome days.

When I hit my Mint Green Vespa point of honesty, I’m forced to concede a humbled, honest, I-give-up margin.  I give up the charade of perfection and find the world does not fall apart without my efforts to improve it.  I realize that God loves and even seeks out the ugly meltdown version of me.  And if He can give me some of that kind of genuine lovin’, I gather up some forgiveness to spill over on my kids at their ugliest moments.  (I also remember to thank Him for inventing the color mint green.)

We need to leave a margin where it’s okay to fall apart and be a bad mom.  The honesty and release will let us move mentally from Rome back to home.  Give the kids a hug.  Clean up the kitchen and throw some hot dogs on plates for dinner.  Because the beautiful side of the hard ugly truth is that even if we really and truly do want to trade THIS for anything else, we don’t.  We show up.  Even at motherhood’s hardest.  (Provided a box of Dark Chocolate-Covered Marshmallows are within reach.)


  1. CJ said:

    I’m not a mom, but thank you for this post — I sometimes need a reminder that it’s okay to maybe feel like I’m not the most successful human being :)

    July 22, 2015
  2. Jo said:

    If it makes you feel any better, this is not unique to 2015 moms. I went through the same emotions. I think it’s universal and timeless. For some reason so many of us moms push and judge ourselves with no mercy. And I’m not sure why but you’re right–it’s not healthy. Good for you for your bravery to speak out. Moms need to hear this.

    July 23, 2015
  3. Anna said:

    Oh girl…I’m not even a mom yet (well, not technically!) and I already know 100% I’ll be re-reading this and nodding in agreement in the next few years, with chocolate smears on my own mouth! You’re an amazing mom, and I love you all the more for your honesty. (And if you had Pinterest fairy parties and a capsule wardrobe – what is that anyway?! – and said “I wouldn’t trade this for anything!” … Well, I’m not sure we’d be friends. Ha!) Anyway hang in there, keep giving yourself margin to be YOU!, and I know your girls are going to grow up thanking their lucky stars they have you as a mama!! Xoxo

    July 23, 2015
  4. jes Beckman said:


    July 27, 2015

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