“I’m such a bad mum.” Five words we tell ourselves, veiled in the feeling that we’re just not doing it right. The truth is, with the bar of motherhood set so impossibly high, there really is no doing it right, all the time, in every way. And now, in the throes of a global pandemic, the bar has shifted even higher. If you, too, are making meals out of old cereal, abandoning screen-time limits, and, you know, are occasionally terrified about what the future holds, you’re not alone. No Bad Moms is a series about not just lowering the bar, but ditching it completely. It’s about finding the good mom within all of us. And most of all, honouring that in each other, on Mother’s Day and EVERY day. So, please share your stories about what it’s like to be a mom right now with #nobadmoms, because we see you. And, no matter what, we think YOU are an inspiration.
Before the pandemic, I was dropping off my eight-year-old son, Luca, at school and I saw everyone in their normal, fun kid outfits instead of their uniforms. I had forgotten it was free dress day. Instantly it's like, Oh my God, you failed.
It’s a small thing in the grand scheme, but it sucks to let something slip through the cracks and then feel like your kid is going to miss out on something, or feel different. In reality, I picked him up from school and was like, I'm so sorry, I forgot that it was free dress day. Oh my God, I failed. Blah, blah, blah. He's like, No big deal, there are lots of kids in their uniforms. It didn't affect him that much, but it stuck with me.
There have been times when I've forgotten milk for my 18-month-old daughter, Banks. She'll be out with me all day and we're sitting in traffic and it's time for her to have her milk and she's hysterical. And I'm here digging through my bag like, How could I forget her milk? I manage to give her milk at the same time every day. How did I blow that?
Most of my parenting stress comes from the pressure I put on myself. Guilt makes me feel like a bad mum. If I'm shooting and I don't see my kids for two days because of that, or if I'm having early call times and working late, or I miss bedtime — it’s crazy how that guilt can stay with you all day and keep you up through the nights.
Nursing was a big thing for me — the second time around was actually harder, and that made me feel insecure all over again, like I just couldn't cut it and I couldn't keep up. There’s so much pressure to be able to nurse. For me it was harder than growing a baby for nine-and-a-half months and delivering. It totally consumes your brain, and it's the only thing you can think about all day long. I felt like I couldn't sit down for a moment. If I had my baby down for a nap and my son was busy doing something, I could not just be like, Okay, I'm going to sit down and do something for myself. I'd be like, Well, I have to pump right now.
I think I've always felt pretty confident in how I mother, but there's obviously times, or people, that make you question choices. There’s extra pressure not to fail when you’re in the public eye.
A few years ago, I posted a picture kissing my son on the lips at Disneyland, and I got so much flack. Luca was four-and-a-half, maybe almost five. And I remember being so confused. I had never thought twice about being affectionate with my child.
I love my kids more than anything. I cannot imagine not being a parent. But I don't always like them.
Another time, I remember walking by a magazine stand at the mall and I saw my picture on the front of a tabloid. It was like ‘A+ mum, Kate Middleton. A+ mum, Kim Kardashian.’ I was a C-minus. In the picture, I'm holding Luca and he's in a backbend hysterically crying. I'm sure it was because I told him he couldn't have a candy or a toy or whatever, and some paparazzi snapped a picture of it. I felt so terrible. Once you become a parent, you know that your biggest responsibility in life is to take care of your children, make sure they're happy and feel loved, and that they turn out to be good human beings. It’s hard to do that when everything you do is scrutinised and picked apart.
I love my kids more than anything. I cannot imagine not being a parent. But I don't always like them. I'm constantly cleaning up after them and they're both always running in two separate directions and it's absolutely exhausting. It's also the best, most rewarding thing.
Since the stay at home orders were put in place, I got Banks on such a wicked nap schedule, and I've been so proud of myself. She's always been a 30-minute napper, and that's a nightmare. You know what you can get done in 30 minutes? Basically nothing. And then today, she just screamed all the way through the first 45 minutes of her nap. Fuck, why? Why today?
I’m also a second-grade teacher right now. Luca starts school at 8:30 in the morning and we're not done till 3:00 p.m. He's giving it the best he can, and some days are a really big success and other days I want to pull my hair out. When you're sitting over your kid's shoulder, teaching them school all day, it highlights all the things that you see in yourself that have been a struggle for you, or that you don't like. The patience to not explode is something else.
I have a super involved husband, but there's always more pressure on the mom. My kids always just want me. They both want to play with me. They always want me to put them to bed. They always want me to make their food. The cooking and cleaning on top of all of it is insane. Luca has so much more energy, and even though I’m fried I try to say yes. Sure, we can go on the bike ride. Okay, we can go on the trampoline. Yes, I'll help you with those brake pads. And then also there’s the baby. I'm trying to incorporate things that she can do. Once the end of the day is nearing, and I'm not feeling friendly, more guilt sets in. Why am I getting irritated by everything that they do?
One thing that this pandemic has brought out in me is to be like, You know, today I'm just feeling really blue and I need to just chill. Let's put a movie on. Explaining that moms and parents sometimes get overwhelmed too is a good thing.
As for my relationship, we’re actually doing amazing. It's so nice to have him as a partner and be able to have this time together. I hate that it's under the circumstances of a world pandemic but we would never have this kind of family time. We've had a few explosive fights, but they have all been constructive, and at the end we always have a laugh and realise we are the only people we can take frustrations out on now. Matt is the first person I call when I'm like, I feel like I failed today. He always says, “Let's talk about all the ways that you didn't fail today.”
One thing that helps me is remembering that we're going to let our kids down, and we're going to mess up, and we're going to forget things.
Sometimes I see moms who have a really big social life or who don't feel like they have to be their kids’ everything, and I’m envious. I’ve also judged them unfairly. Maybe those people have found balance more easily, or it just doesn't concern them as much, but I don't think that they should be labeled as bad moms for that. After both of my children, it took me a second to find myself again, and realise that my desires outside of being a mother are important. I struggle with that, and I'm getting better at it.
One thing that helps me is remembering that we're going to let our kids down, and we're going to mess up, and we're going to forget things — and there are going to be days when we want to return them. All those feelings are valid and acceptable and normal. And none of them makes you a bad mom.
As told to Anne Cohen. This interview has been condensed from its original transcription.
Hilary Duff is Chief Brand Officer of Happy Little Camper, which offers third-party tested, dermatologically approved 100% natural cotton wipes, flushable wipes, and natural cotton diapers — so it’s one less worry to know that you’re using clean products on your kids. HLC made a donation of all readily available HLC items to various nonprofit organisations to help during the pandemic. See Hilary’s message about those efforts here.