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24 Nov

Confessions Of A Bad Mother

Yesterday, I took part in a televised discussion about so-called ‘bad parenting,’ shame and confession. I wore a lot of eyeshadow.

I never wear eyeshadow, so I was really kind of embarrassed by it. Later, when I asked my husband what he’d thought of the show, he said, ‘you had some really good things to say, but you looked like you were in pain.’ ‘That was the eyeshadow,’ I said.

I mention the eyeshadow because, in all seriousness, it’s really the only thing that I felt any kind of shame about yesterday. Was I a bad parent? the host asked me. Sure, I said, if only because so many of the choices that I make – choices that I’m pretty comfortable with – are choices that others would call bad. Am I ashamed of that? Hell no. When I ‘confess’ my badness here, in this space, or elsewhere, I’m not doing so out of a desire to expiate myself of some guilt, I’m doing it because I want to talk about the decisions that I’m making, reflect upon them, weave them into some kind of narrative picture of the kind of parent that I am. Also, because I am, like all writers, a narcissist.

That said, after the show – and after the delightful Vivian Rakoff declared, with all the high-pitched fervor of a squealing fangirl, his love for Ayelet Waldman’s husband – I did confess that there were one or two parenting issues about which I do feel guilt/shame. I also said, but I mostly never write about those.

I’m wondering if I dare rethink that. Because, can I really own my claims to honesty and authenticity if I’m holding some of the toughest stuff back? Or is it reasonable – and prudent – for me to calibrate my own shamelessness? Am I – justifiably – moderating the spectacle of my revealed parenthood – or am I just sincerely ashamed? Should we reveal our darkest secrets and fears about parenting – or is there virtue in keeping some things behind the veil?

What do you think? Wanna share?