I used to view the world in strict absolutes, things were either black or white, of course such rigidness eventually loses its luster and thanks to living on this rock a while, I have come to conclude that much of life at least for me exists in the gray zone. Problem is we humans overall tend to like absolutes, for some reason absolutes are easier to deal with, hence our tendency to see people as either good or bad.
In the world of parenting, descriptors such as good and bad can trigger a war depending on who you are talking to. Some parents go ape shit if you ask even a simple question “Is the baby a good sleeper”, if you don’t believe me check out any online parenting forum.
Funny thing is while we are on the fence about whether words like good or bad should be thrown around when discussing or describing kids, the funny thing is we love such descriptors when it comes to adults more so if the adults in question are parents.
I have been guilty at times of saying I feel like a bad mother or joking that I am a bad mother because I occasionally feed my under 18 kiddo fast food, sometimes multiple times in a week. Hell, sometimes I even snap at her! Again, visit any gathering either online or offline where mothers gather and you can find a circle of folks talking about how “bad” we are, yet the reality is very few of us are bad.
Fifteen or so years ago I worked at a facility that treated women with addiction issues, and part of my job was to provide hospitality services to women in the program. There was one woman that I will call Bonnie who was pretty hard to be hospitable to, frankly she could be a bitch. Yet over the weeks and months that I was there, I noticed that the one thing that would make her smile and bring her out of her brittle shell were her kids. Over time I got to know her and frankly her life story was the stuff of bad fiction, Bonnie herself was the product of incest, born to a teenaged mother who had been raped by her own father. In the end I understood Bonnie well and she is one of the few people I have worked with over the years of working with people in need that I have prayed found the peace she needed to live the life she wanted. See, by the markers of society Bonnie was a “bad” mother but really she wasn’t, life circumstances created a woman who made less than stellar choices but from my view she was a good mother. Life dealt her a shitty hand and she played it the best she could.
Few people are “bad” most people that we deem bad are people dealing with addiction issues, undiagnosed or untreated mental illness, poverty and basically problems. Yet our need to live in absolutes takes away from our ability to see the rich tapestry that exists within individuals and see that even so-called “bad” people are far from bad.
When we joke and claim badness for ourselves we are selling ourselves and our circumstances short, so let’s abstain from calling ourselves and other adults especially other parents bad. Few of us are truly bad, we are simply living in the gray zone.