Who Wants to Be a Sh*tty Mom?

Valerie Isakova, Shine Parenting Editor

I'm just going to be humorless for a second and say, No. I'm not a Sh*tty Mom, and I'm tired of the juvenile, wine-in-my-sippy-cup culture that celebrates parents behaving like teenagers into their 40s. I will drink wine, but probably not while I'm the adult responsible for watching my kids, and I will do it in a wine glass. And I don't, as the introductory quiz for Sh*tty Mom: A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us, IDs as qualities of the Sh*tty Mom, hate kids, hate other people's kids, send my daughter to school when she has a fever, employ terrible babysitters, think my own mom sucked or any of the above.

Sh*tty Mom, by NYC media professionals and moms Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alicia Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, is obviously trying to cash in on the (legitimately kind of funny) Go the F*ck to Sleep picture-book sensation from last year, asterix and all. And superficially, the concept of Sh*tty Mom could be appealing in the sense that it's supposed to be an antidote for over-parenting. It's supposed to empower parents to let their kids watch some television or use smartphone games in a pinch, or pick up the pacifier and pop it back in their child's mouth after it's fallen on the ground.

But here's the thing: Over-parenting is actually not a disorder of too-much-attention, it's a disorder of too little. Over-parenting is all about you, the parent, instead of being about the kid. The over-parenting parent is so busy being a "successful parent," impressing their peers, or pushing their child to hit status markers that will make the parent feel good about themselves, that they aren't giving the children the love and support children need. Read Madeline Levine's excellent Teach Your Children Well, for more about the mechanisms behind this.

So the antidote for over-parenting is not paying even less attention to your children and making everything in your family life even more about you, as the Sh*tty Moms recommend. There are chapters on how to sleep in while your children eat junk food and watch television, how to bribe your children with TV and sweets while you hide in your closet to make a conference call, how to lie to your children or distract them when they want to watch television and you don't want them to, and so on.

The theme, emerging, is that these so-called throw-it-all-to-the-wind moms are actually still stressing about craziness. Children and all human beings in the world these days watch some television and eat some candy. It's ok. No elaborate permission in the form of a humor book required. It would be nice if the moms' Sh*tty behavior included some relaxation in the areas of life that could conceivably build autonomy for their kids. Like, "I let my child choose her own clothes despite what other mothers may think of her fashion sense." Or "I let my child to play/build/practice/do something that had nothing to do with me." But tips of that nature are not forthcoming.

The book's few humorous moments are far outweighed by the depressingness of how these parents treat their children. The chapter "It Only Takes A Partial Village If You Have Just One Kid" extolls the convenience of having just one child and offers advice on how to resist grandparental pressure to have a second. The authors conclude: "Remember, one child is like a carry-on bag, portable and manageable. Two is like checked luggage--costly and likely to get lost."

Hopefully, the real moms behind this book are exaggerating for comedic effect, but the reader is left certain that with parents this self-absorbed, even the first child is probably getting lost. I would say, "It would be funny if it weren't so sad," but it's not even that funny.

Dear Sh*tty Moms: Why be moms at all?