Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bad Parenting Confessions

There was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the trend for parents to admit to acts of “imperfect parenting” on their blogs or websites. For instance, the article said, one mom admitted to giving her daughter Benadryl just to get her to sleep. Another mom used paper towels and tape on her child when she ran out of diapers because she didn’t feel like going to the store.

I really have mixed emotions about this propensity to “tell all.” On the pro side, none of us are perfect, so why not admit it? Most parents have let their kids consume too much candy, skipped giving them a bath or popped a pacifier that had fallen on the floor back into their baby’s mouth. Knowing that other parents do the same things helps us to feel better about our own “bad parenting.”

There’s also the relief we feel in confessing that we’re not perfect. It’s very hard to keep up the act that we’re always patient, remarkable cooks and housekeepers, and are raising the best-behaved children. It takes the pressure off when we admit that we’re just a regular, normal family with the usual crises, fights and meltdowns.

On the other hand, this “confess all” trend disturbs me. For one, the Internet is permanent. Whatever gets posted will be there forever. So, whatever we feel “in the moment” looks like how we feel all the time. For example, I certainly have moments when I wish I could run away and live a life free of responsibilities! Of course, I have these thoughts when the kids are being especially monstrous and I’ve reached the end of my rope. However, an hour later, things have calmed down, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to be apart from my children. But if I had posted my thoughts in the heat of a tense moment, it would have come across as my permanent state of mind instead of just a passing fancy.

Another negative of confessing to our “bad parenting” moments is that our kids will Google us when they get older. Do you really want your daughter to know that you read her diary? Or that you listen in on your son’s telephone conversations? And our kids aren’t the only ones who are Googling us. Perhaps you’re applying for a job or a committee position. Will the odds be in your favor if the interviewer reads that you don’t always buckle your child in the car or that you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your bathtub?

I still remember, as a child, overhearing my mother tell her friends on the phone some of the things that I thought had been private between the two of us. As an impressionable preteen, I considered it a serious breach of trust! But, at least with a phone call, it’s spoken to one person and often forgotten. With the Internet, it is broadcast to the world, and it never goes away!

That’s why, while I’m the first to admit that I’m far from a perfect parent, you won’t be getting every detail on this blog. Sure, it would be more interesting to tell you about my teenage boys’ interactions with girls or the moments when I really “lose it” with my twins. I certainly don’t want to give the appearance that I’m a better mom than anyone else. But, with these “true confessions,” it’s not all about me. My children are involved, and I respect their privacy and want their trust. By respecting my children, they’re more likely to respect me later. And that’s more important to me as a mother than airing my dirty laundry. What do you think?

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  1. I'm with you (and I read the article, and I write for Babble). While I will write about the nitty gritty of motherhood, I won't bare all. In this age it all comes back to haunt you.

  2. I have been trying to post as real as possible on our family blog but I'm with baring the naked truth for all to see might be just too much.

  3. I have a blog called "Coming Clean: Confessions of an Imperfect Parent" but I focus on what I've learned from my mistakes and how God is molding me through the process. I've promised both of my kids that I won't post anything about them without their permission and that the focus will primarily be on me and my journey, mistakes, etc. They are welcome -- and do -- read my blog. I was very concerned about the issues you bring up in your article and I think I've found a way to be honest and transparent without divulging things that will haunt or embarrass me or my children -- either now or in the future.
    I totally agree that it is a potentially damaging trend if not handled appropriately.


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