The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

08 June 2007

Be a Bad Mum (or a Bad Dad)

Bringing up the next generation is one of the most important tasks of any society; yet by and large the job goes unrecognized and does not earn an income (despite the efforts of the Wages for Housework campaign). Most of us do our best. So here’s a way of celebrating the job of bringing up children, sharing experiences and ideas, whilst at the same time making a bit of a joke about the fact that we are not perfect. This is the story of the Bad Mothers Club

Stephanie Calman writes:
The Bad Mothers Club seeks to provide a genuine alternative to the content of mainstream websites and women's magazines, much of which contributes to women's fear that they are somehow inadequate as mothers and as people. The BMC is designed to be a place where people can express their true feelings about parenting, families, relationships and “Life” in general.

A lot of women are fed up with the current pressure on them to achieve. Whether it's trying to keep a tidy home, manage a marvellous appearance or feel fulfilled 24 hours a day, many of us feel we're attempting the impossible. But when we start sharing, we discover we're all compromising, taking short cuts and imagining that everyone else is 'doing it properly'. And even though the state of our children generally proves that we're doing fine, we give ourselves almost no credit at all.

The BMC is here to lighten that load. It offers writing of quality that takes a fresh look at this strange job of ours, inspiring us to stop the constant nurturing and providing for a moment, and find some clear space for ourselves.

Mothers may wipe up most of the sick and shoulder most of the guilt, but in reality our children are parented by many people. So the BMC is also for fathers, step-parents, teachers, nannies, childminders, donor dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone who enjoys funny and outspoken writing.

“Retell Therapy”
 is a moderated forum where members can exchange information, seek and offer help with parenting dilemmas or simply have fun. Whether you have a question, an important message for humanity or a harmless observation about life, you are welcome, regardless of your gender, parental status or creed.

Stephanie Calman is the author of “Confessions of a bad Mother” and founder of the Bad Mothers Club in the UK.

Janet Alfieri writes:
As I recall, the concept of the Bad Mothers' Club began one weekday morning in the spring of 1986. I was rushing to get my two elementary-school-aged kids clothed, fed, and on the school bus so that I could shower, dress, and make it to the Annual Senior Citizens' Olympics in time to cover the egg-on-a-spoon race for the local paper.

As I tossed a slab of toast and a glass of apple juice in front of each child, my then-nine-year-old daughter, a stickler for routine, asked why she and her brother weren't having their usual cereal. "Because there's no milk," I said, handing her a banana and looking at my watch.
 "Why?" she countered.
 "Because it turned sour," I said.
 "Why didn't you get new milk?" she said, accusingly.
 "Because I . . ."

Here, I would previously have launched into a self-righteous accounting of a gazillion really good excuses for why I had failed to keep my family's cupboard stocked with fresh supplies. But I stopped myself in mid-excuse. "Because I'm a bad mother, honey," I said. "Now hurry up and eat your gruel. The bus will be here in five minutes."

My daughter seemed totally satisfied by my answer: there were no counter arguments or sulking. Later, at my friend Ruthy's apartment, while our kids were in the next room watching who-knows-what on television, I shared my latest child-rearing tip with her and our friend Annie, also a mother. I described the giddy sense of freedom I'd felt admitting I was a Bad Mother. It was like I had officially withdrawn from a competition I didn't even know I was in.

Since Bad Mothers are typically disorganized, we held no regular meetings, had no national headquarters, and compiled no membership lists. Anyone was free to join as long as she was not a perfect mother and had no desire to become one. In fact, aside from slightly messy houses, the only outward sign that we, the founding Bad Mothers, even belonged to a club was the group recitation of our slogan. When one of our six kids questioned our maternal shortcomings in public, we would all turn and say, in unison: "Why? Because we're Ba-a-a-a-a-ad Mothers!"

Next stop: the Bad Grandmothers Club!

Take action:
1. If you’re a parent with young kids, admit that you are not perfect, but that you are doing your best juggling a career (possibly), a home and child rearing. You may not be Superwoman or Superman, but you’re probably doing a pretty good job. You’ll do it even better if you join the Bad Mothers Club. So join today. Relax and get on with ensuring that everyone at least is happy.
2. If you are a kid, then sign up your parent to the Bad Mothers Club (incorporating Bad Dads) and give it them as a thank you or a birthday present. Tell them that you don’t expect them to be perfect, and having a Bad Mother (or Dad) like they are is just fine… and that you won’t tell anybody if they give you a raise for your weekly pocket money.

The Bad Mothers Club:

Read about Selma James's Wages for Housework campaign at:

Watch "Honey, we're killing the kids" presented by child psychologist Kris Murrin, who is also a founder of the What If? innovations consultancy. This programme is screened on BBC3 in the UK, and aims to provide make-overs for parents who are not perfect: