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Redefining Mom: Self-Confessed Bad Mommy Willow Yamauchi

Redefining Mom: Self-Confessed Bad Mommy Willow Yamauchi

Moms feel a lot of pressure to do the “right” thing for their kids. But what is the “right” thing? It turns out there’s no easy answer. No matter what decision you make, someone will tell you it’s the wrong one. From what you eat when you’re pregnant, to where and how you give birth, to how you feed your baby, to what school you send (or don’t send) your children to, there are no shortage of ways that moms can mess up. This is why Vancouver mom and author Willow Yamauchi has decided to just embrace the “bad mommy” label, which she writes about in her new book Bad Mommy. We recently got in touch with Willow to find out how she’s redefining motherhood on her own terms.

The False Image of the Good Mother

When we asked Willow about her own experiences as a mom she said, “When I had my kids I was 24 and 27, so pretty young, and I really wanted to be good. My whole thing was being good, because I was raised quite alternatively by hippies. I thought, ‘I’m gonna do this differently … I’m going to do everything by the book and be everything I never had.’ I really tried hard, and what I found is that I kept on messing up everywhere.” From getting in trouble from her doctor during pregnancy because her pee tests weren’t measuring up, to not having the natural childbirth she wanted, to difficulties breastfeeding, to sleep deprivation, Willow felt that she was struggling.

A conversation that Willow had with her grandmother changed her perspective. She shared, “I was in tears, because my child never slept. I was like, ‘Grandma, my kid never sleeps, all the other mommies’ kids sleep, what’s going on?’ And she said to me – this is amazing – she said, ‘Willow, they are lying.’ This was hugely monumental to me. This is no joke. I didn’t realize that I had been trying to live up to this unattainable goal. I thought I was the only one failing. But as I went back to Mommy Group Land and looked for the lies I didn’t really have to look very hard. The lie was there, it was like all over the place. I just hadn’t been looking for it.”

Redefining Motherhood on Your Own Terms

Redefining Mom Willow Yamauchi Bad MommyThis realization that motherhood wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows led to the creation of Bad Mommy. Willow wanted to create a safe space where a dialogue could happen. She interviewed 22 other moms for her book under deep cover of anonymity, each one redefining motherhood for herself. They shared everything, from pre-conception to their children leaving home … and then maybe coming back. Those interviews, along with Willow’s own wit and wisdom, became a book about redefining motherhood on your own terms.

Once Willow realized that there was no way to be the perfect mother, she found freedom. She expanded on this, saying, “No matter what you do you’ll be faulted. This is what I also found really ironic, is that regardless of what your choice was, someone would find fault with it. That was kind of liberating for me. I thought I might as well just follow my gut instead of being so obsessed with whatever the parental discourse of the day was telling me.”

Mom Guilt

There’s a lot of guilt involved in motherhood. We wanted to get Willow’s perspective on where that guilt comes from. She talked about all the difficult decisions we have to make as moms around work, family, and ourselves. She says, “Women have to make a choice, whatever that is, and these are difficult choices to make. It’s really hard to look at the women who made the opposite choice, because you think, ‘Is that what I should have done? Am I missing out because I’m taking the other road?'”

This maternal guilt, in return, can lead us to feel as if others are criticizing our choices. Willow explained,
“There’s this maternal guilt well, this almost untapped bottomless well of guilt, where we’re questioning our decisions. If someone says something that brings our decision into relief, I think that it just triggers that [defensiveness]. I think very few people are completely convinced that what they’re doing is the right thing – like 100%. Most people have some shred of doubt.” This is why going with your gut, and redefining motherhood for yourself, is so important.

Defining Bad Mommy

Redefining Mom Willow Yamauchi Bad MommyEmbracing your inner bad mommy doesn’t mean that you don’t care, though. Willow wanted to be very clear on that. “When I say bad mommy I’m not talking about someone who’s an abusing mommy. I’m just saying mommy who’s not being perfect. I’m just saying mommy who sometimes messes up. It’s real. It’s actually real.” Every mom can relate to that.

In spite of labeling herself as a bad mommy, Willow says she has many redeeming qualities as a parent. “The truth is, even though I do fail every day on every occasion with my children, I actually kick butt as a mom. I am a really amazingly fun mom, I think. My kids and I have a wonderful time.” Maybe that’s what redefining “mom” for yourself really means – it means letting go of the stuff that isn’t working for you, embracing what is, and enjoying yourself more in the process. And what mom couldn’t use a little more fun in her life?

Thank you so much, Willow, for sharing how you’re redefining the word “mom” for yourself and others!

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