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An Open Letter To All The Other Mean Moms Out There, Because You're Definitely Not Alone

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To My Fellow Mean Moms,

First of all, thank you for not making me feel alone. When my kid angrily shouts that I’m the worst mom ever, and I’ve successfully fought back the rage that makes me want storm out of the apartment in response, I take a deep breath and remind myself there are mothers out there just like me. That's why it's important that I send a letter to all the other Mean Moms who stand in solidarity with me, absent from my view in those trying bedtime moments when I happen to remind a child to shut the bathroom light after brushing her teeth for only the billionth consecutive time. They are with me in spirit, though, when said child hurls venomous insults at my character when I take issue with her disregard for saving electricity and, in turn, lowering that damn electric bill.

When I see a mom exhibiting any of that behavior, I try to catch her eye. I want her to know I’m with her.

It has taken me a while to admit that I'm a Mean Mom. It is only because I have seen others out there, stone-faced and unwilling to shell out a couple of bucks at the idling ice cream truck, that I have felt secure enough to own my true identity. All the Mean Moms who have come before me have paved the way, setting an example of how they serve our society and our future generations with little apology.

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I never knew how many of us there were out there. I wish we had a signifier, like if our messy buns are tilted to the left it means we swing “Mean.” However, until we establish some kind of easily identifiable marker, we’ll have to continue to size each other up on the playground, at the bus stop, and in the pediatrician’s waiting room. To find my people, I try to catch any of the usual Mean Mom clues, such as

  • Not smiling when her child knocks down another kid’s block tower
  • Saying “no” when her child wants to eat all of her bagel
  • Refusing to apologize for failing to bring snacks on a trip to the post office
  • Supervising her child’s clean-up task without doing any of the actual clean up herself

When I see a mom exhibiting any of that behavior, I try to catch her eye. I want her to know I’m with her.

Should we come up with a secret handshake? Or coffee order? We Mean Moms need to know there are others out there like us. The ones not serving up an elaborate menu of dinner options. The ones staunchly opposed to sleepovers for any kid under 12 years old. The ones who won’t buy their tweens phones. The ones, you know, like me.

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For years I butted up against the idea of being a Mean Mom. After all, I was raised by one and who wants to grow up to be their mother? I vowed I would allow my child sweets. I wouldn’t throw shade at the TV shows they watched. And, when the time came, I would even buy them a pair — just one — of name brand jeans. My intention was to cultivate a loving bond between myself and my children through these acts of motherly kindness, but what I was really trying to do was course correct the trajectory of my own childhood. It wasn’t my daughter who wanted these things, it was the 10-year-old me.

A Mean Mom knows it’s for the kid’s own good. We wouldn’t be doing our children any favors if we made so much of their lives so easy, to the point where they knew no hardships. Not even the struggle of pulling on a pair of tight socks.

Once I understood that, the perspective on my own Mean Mom snapped into focus. She wasn’t denying me sugar cereal and Guess jeans just to be a b*tch. She was imparting values, and she was doing it at any cost because she knew that, in the long run, her Mean Mom ways would pay off bigger than caving in to my pleas for Fruit Loops. The child I was might have hated her for it, but the adult I grew to be absolutely loves her for it.

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From my own mother I learned that a Mean Mom isn’t there to make friends, with her own kids at least. Mean Moms are there to set up guard rails, sometimes barricades (I have a climber), and hold the kids accountable for not stepping outside them. Being a Mean Mom means being crystal clear about what is allowed and what is not. A Mean Mom doesn’t lean on, “We’ll see” or, “Ask your other parent” in response to our kids’ constant queries, such as, “Can I watch another episode?” or, “Can I have a play date today?” or, my personal favorite, “Can you put my socks on?” (Seriously, if they are old enough to ask this in a complete sentence).

We need each other, us Mean Moms, to hold up the code of our unpopular methodology.

When Mean Moms get the hard questions, we give the hard answers. And then we steel ourselves for the aftermath, with almost always includes one or many of the following: the eye rolls, the groaning, the bursting into tears, the door slamming, the yelling and whining and stomping of feet, and the always uncreative “I hate you!” proclamation.

We’ve lived through it all, right?

Part of what makes me a Mean Mom is that I’ve stopped locking myself into the bathroom after bearing the brunt of these outbursts. I don’t take it personally anymore. A Mean Mom knows it’s for the kid’s own good. We wouldn’t be doing our children any favors if we made so much of their lives so easy, to the point where they knew no hardships. Not even the struggle of pulling on a pair of tight socks.

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We need each other, us Mean Moms, to hold up the code of our unpopular methodology. When Nice Mom “helps” with her kid’s homework, we Mean Moms must resist taking the vocabulary words into our own hands. When Second Chance Mom forgives her child for pushing, because she knows her kid didn’t mean it, we Mean Moms must follow our life’s purpose in showing our children the way to a hard bench to sit out the fun if their rough play has disrupted it. When I Want My Kid To Have All The Things I Didn’t Mom loads up her kid’s lunchbox with all the prepackaged foodstuffs of my children’s dreams, we Mean Moms don’t bat an eye as we pack the same nutritionally sound meals for our ungrateful children who would just find another reason to hate us even if we did throw a Twinkie in there.

Mean Moms, we share a purpose and I am honored to be counted among you.

Your Sister of No Mercy,

Liza