We live in a world that glorifies chaos under the pretense of reassurance and inclusivity. Your house is a mess? Totally OK. Your kids are a mess? So are everyone else’s. You’re a mess? It’s all OK. Bring on the mess. Yay for hot mess mom.
And it is OK if you’re genuinely OK with it, and not because popular culture tells you hot mess mom is the most “normal” type of mom to be. Because she’s not the only type of mom, and they’re all equally “normal.”
The danger is that hot mess mom inadvertently leads to just as much exclusion as perfect mom. It’s cool to be a “bad mom” — and if you’re not in that club, you can get hit with all sorts of labels that go way beyond “uncool.” You’re smug. You’re a show-off. You’re dishonest — because who can possibly have the time or energy to feed their kids homemade meals every night — or you’re just plain weird.
It’s not about being perfect, because none of us are. We all let the TV babysit the kids now and again. We all reach for the takeout menu instead of making a nutritious meal. We all feel like we’re half-assing parenthood on a regular basis. And it is a comfort to know that we’re not alone, that we have permission not to be perfect mom.
But it’s time for hot mess mom to retire — or at least take a sabbatical. She’s everywhere: on YouTube, on TV, on the big screen (Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell have a lot to answer for), on our social media feeds all the fucking time. The memes and musical parodies were funny at first — hot mess mom taking the kids to school in her pajamas with last night’s mascara running down her cheeks, hot mess mom drinking cocktails at 3 p.m. while the kids draw on the walls, hot mess mom taking the kids to McDonald’s for dinner (again).
Funny at first, but now, maybe not so much. By celebrating hot mess mom, we’re shaming the mom who actually holds it all together. What we should be doing is celebrating — and accepting — motherhood in all its incarnations. The reality is that we’re all a little bit of everything in varying degrees. We have hot mess days and holding-it-together days and sometimes even perfect days.
Hot mess mom may be hilarious and relatable (her standards are pretty low, after all) but she’s no role model. I don’t say this because she messes up, but because she paints motherhood in a negative light. If you look at hot mess mom’s life, you’ll get the impression that motherhood is constantly overwhelming, exhausting, messy and joyless. Yes, it can be all of those things, but it can also be fun, stress-free, comforting, exciting and rewarding.
The fact that I don’t identify as a hot mess mom doesn’t mean I don’t shut myself in the bathroom and cry when the kids won’t do their homework and I’ve burned the dinner. It doesn’t mean I don’t yell at my kids when they’re yelling at each other, resulting in nothing but a houseful of yellers. It doesn’t mean I don’t let them have more time on their iPads than they should because a quiet home is just too beautiful to disrupt.
But for the most part, I keep it all together because I don’t want to be hot mess mom. She comes with stress and uncertainty and feeling overwhelmed, and if I’ve learned one thing throughout my parenting journey, it’s that my mental health needs to be a priority. Being hot mess mom makes me feel worse, not better.
I don’t beat myself up over my hot mess mom days or mothering failures, but I don’t let them define me as a parent either. I’m aware of when I mess up, but also of when I’m winning. That doesn’t make me smug or dishonest or weird — I’ve just worked hard to gain a healthy perspective on the incredible, life-changing, crazy experience that is motherhood.
I don’t want to feel so stressed out by parenting that I forget to enjoy it, so I choose not to be that way.
If we have to pigeonhole moms into “types” at all — and this isn’t likely to change, because it’s what Facebook memes and YouTube parodies and entire blogs are built on — can we at least acknowledge that all types of moms can be great moms? That way, some of the pressure is off everyone, and we can all get on with the important job of raising our kids.