No woman wants to be a bad mum – but there may be times when she hankers after life before motherhood, when being ‘bad’ was at least an option.
And as the new film Bad Moms is released, the founders of a new app for mums have asked about their ‘Bad Mom’ moments, and what they’d like to do if they didn’t have to be responsible mums.
The film, in cinemas now, tells the story of Amy Mitchell (Mila Kunis), who constantly puts her family first, but feels it’s never enough. When the ‘alpha moms’ at her children’s school push her too far, Amy finally snaps and becomes ‘Bad Amy’ with two other misfit mums, getting a jolt of freedom that shakes up her life and might even make her a better mother.
Let your hair down
In real-life, a survey by the new app Mush, which puts mums in touch with like-minded mums in their local area, found that 55% of mums crave a night out to let their hair down and have a break.
Half of mums fantasise about just being themselves for a day rather than a mum – although Mush stresses that the mums only want a day: “Just enough to make you miss them horribly and forget the fact they wiped your lipstick all over the sofa.”
And possibly thanks to media images of mums ‘having it all’, half of the mums surveyed felt pressure to be a perfect mum.
Katie Massie-Taylor, mum of a three-year-old and a one-year-old, who recently launched the Mush app with her mum friend Sarah Hesz, says: “The film Bad Moms is about mums having to live up to this perfect stereotype and juggling hundreds of things daily, but realising that sometimes they’re not perfect and need time for themselves.
“We love that – we’re all trying to do our best, but sometimes we can slip up, and sometimes we might put ourselves first for once.”
Eye off the ball
Massie-Taylor, 33, agrees that mums are probably reluctant to admit to the very worst things they’ve done as a mother – the worst she can personally recall, for example, isn’t so bad – she took her young child on a long journey without fastening the child car seat.
“I think a lot of mums have done things that are serious and could have gone badly wrong – there are plenty of times when mums get distracted and forget to do something for their child, usually little things that won’t put their child in any danger.
“There are so many occasions when you think, ‘I got away with it that time’. We’ve all got plenty of stories where we took our eyes off the ball.”
Massie-Taylor points out that the American version of ‘bad’ portrayed in Bad Moms is more like ‘naughty’, than something mums ought to be under a restraining order for.
However, she stresses what a shock becoming a mum can be, and says: “You go from being this independent person with lots of friends, to being at home for really long days with this little creature that doesn’t give much back.
“The day becomes monotonous and many mums say they miss the spontaneity, going out with their friends and doing cool and crazy new stuff. That sense of freedom doesn’t come back for quite some time after having a baby.”
At a stage in life when mums are the most busy and tired, the survey found 80% of mums agree it’s important to have other mums around to share the experience.
Massie-Taylor says mums may see other ‘perfect’ mums who seem to be doing a far better job than they are, but she points out: “All of them are putting a shiny veneer on top of the struggle they’re also going through.
“We’re trying to encourage mums to admit to that – it’s meant to be the best time in your life, but it can also be the hardest, most challenging and lonely time when you’re trying to live up to an unreachable ideal.
“We hear a lot of stories about mums letting their hair down and putting themselves first for once, and then suffering the consequences the next day and putting the TV on for the kids all day.”
She adds: “Mums shouldn’t beat themselves up if they’re not perfect, shouldn’t put too much pressure on themselves, and remember that this should be fun.”
‘Good enough’ mums
Suzie Hayman, a parenting expert from the parent support charity Family Lives, points out that if children see their parents having an independent life where they’re free to pursue hobbies and leisure activities, it’ll help them to have their own friendships and strong, respectful relationships with friends and family.
“Parents don’t need to be perfect – simply being ‘good enough’ will do,” she says.
“Parents having some of their own freedom is actually good for their children to see. It’s important that children observe a parent not just as ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ but equally as individuals in their own right.”
Ask the expert
Q: “Why is skin-to-skin contact so important after my baby’s born? Is there any particular way I need to hold my baby?”
A: Paediatric nursing professor Dr Susan Ludington, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, USA, says: “Skin-to-skin contact is so important after birth because when mum and baby are together in this way, a mum’s body has the incredible ability to regulate baby’s biology, including its temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels and breathing.
“Babies can benefit from skin-to-skin many months following birth, making it a wonderful way to feel close to your baby while your body does amazing things to support baby’s vitals.
“In a recent experiment, we showed for the first time the benefits of skin-to-skin with three new mothers where we recorded baby’s vital signs when held this way. After a few minutes, all the mums were astonished at how well their bodies had helped regulate their babies’ biology by using this simple technique.
“Skin-to-skin is a superpower every mum has. All a new mum needs to do is remember two simple steps. Firstly, place the baby (naked or wearing just a nappy) on their sternum so baby’s head is nestled between mum’s breasts. Make sure baby’s face is turned to the side to ensure it can breathe easily, and then relax and let your body do the rest.”