Celebrating the imperfections of motherhood

By Ellie S. Grossman, Special to the Jewish Light

Some women hoard shoes, I collect more parenting books than I can read in my lifetime. The top drawer of my nightstand contains “Stop Struggling With Your Child,” “Raising a Thinking Child,” “Surrendering to Motherhood,” and “Why Do They Act That Way?” In the bottom drawer, for some reason, I keep every installment of “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” even though my kids are now teenagers.  When “What To Expect The Empty Nest Years” comes out, I’ll be the first to buy it.  

In my office, the bookshelves are crammed with everything from “The Jewish Parents Almanac” and “Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul,” and “Are You My Mother?” I’m a sucker for Dr. Seuss rhymes.

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However, no other book has inspired me more than “Sh*tty Mom. The Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us.” 

Don’t let the title fool you. This manual on imperfect parenting recently hit the coveted New York Times Best Seller List. The fulltime working mom authors are a cast of characters: Laurie Kilmartin is a stand-up comedian and Emmy-nominated writer for Conan O’Brien; Karen Moline is a journalist and bestselling novelist; Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner are both Emmy award–winning producers for the “Today” show.

This hilarious book is a must read for every mom, especially moms like me who don’t have time to read the “50 Shades” trilogy. In the 176 pages, it covers shortcuts on “parenting with 40 percent effort and doing a half-assed job, but doing it well enough so that no one but you notices.” In fact, I would go so far to say that “Sh*tty Mom” ranks right up there with the mother of all parenting books, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.” And the reason I say that is because the powerful message is the same: Sure we love our kids more than anything, but that doesn’t mean we have to like them all the time. Most importantly, good enough parenting is actually better for our children than “helicopter” or “lawn mower” parenting, which experts tell us lead to a self-entitled, narcissistic generation who can’t deal with boredom, failure or diversity, let alone knows how to use the washing machine, boil an egg, plunge a toilet, make a bed, or look for a job without mom or dad editing the resume.

I only wish this tongue-and-cheek book was written when my children were born. It would have saved me a lot of angst. In fact, with chapters like “Ten-Second Rule: Pacifier on the Ground” and “How to Sleep Until 9 am. Every Weekend” and “Yes, The Babysitter is Judging You,” and “How To Not Hear the Baby in the Middle of the Night,” I realize maybe I should have been a sh*ttier mom. 

After reading this book, I’m afraid that I used to be the type of parent that sh*tty moms resent. 

For example, I carried an apple peeler and corer in my diaper bag when I took my kids to the park so that they could munch on a nutritious snack instead of animals crackers and goldfish.  Then again, I used to sanitize their toys with rubbing alcohol after play dates.

Worse, when they were younger, I lived for sporting events on weekends (Chapter 12) and considered eating sunflower seeds on the bleachers the same thing as date night with my husband. 

I make other moms feel like I love my dog more than they love their children, unintentionally, of course. (Chapter 30). I have more professional portraits of my apricot toy poodle than I do my own kids. (Hey, maybe I am a sh*tty mom, after all!). 

“Sh*tty Mom is all about celebrating those less than perfect parenting moments,” says Alicia Ybarbo, who is Catholic and lives in New York with her “nice Jewish boy” husband. 

“Jewish moms and Catholic moms have one thing in common—lots of guilt!  There is more than enough guilt in this world to go around,” she says. “And regardless of the religion you had growing up or the religion you practice now, the one common denominator between all of us moms is humor.”      

Indeed this book is filled with sarcastic humor, and no topic is off limits, such as “He Wants Sex, You Want to Sew Your Legs Shut for Ten Years” (Chapter 42).

“We think our book has struck a chord with all those moms out there who might secretly fantasize about doing more with their kids or being “better” moms but they don’t have the time or the energy. Our books is helping moms laugh and release some of their mom guilt,” says Ybarbo.  

Jewish guilt, in my opinion, is the worst. 

“We just think a lot of moms feel guilty that they work and don’t spend every single moment with their kid. Moms tweet us asking if it’s bad that she has her child clip coupons while she’s in a time out… That to us is the ultimate in multitasking.  Another mom tweeted that if box tops came on wine labels our schools would be rich!  We can’t get enough of these stories, thoughts and anecdotes,” she adds.