CNF: Bad Mom

by Elizabeth Amon


I was up in the night for a couple of hours with insomnia after you woke me asking for water, and I had to get up early to make your lunch and take you to school. So I was tired. But I shouldn’t have said it.

Your father was away on a work trip, and my boss asked me to do twice my usual load, which I had to finish before picking you up at school. So, I was stressed. But I shouldn’t have said it.

I spent an hour buying your favorite foods and cooking a nice meal that had no spices at all. And I made sure the different foods didn’t touch on the plate, and still, you refused to eat it. So, I was frustrated. But I shouldn’t have said it.

I was driving you to swim team practice or a friend’s house or helping you memorize lines for your fourth-grade play, but I was doing something for you, had been doing things for you every waking minute that I wasn’t working. I was trying to make you happy, but you were furious at me and complaining. So, I was resentful. But I shouldn’t have said it.

I try to remember exactly what you said to me that made me so angry, but like my childhood fights with my sister, I only remember the fury, not the facts. And your face afterward. You froze. Your eyes widened, and your lower lip trembled. “No one has ever called me that before,” you told me. You were too surprised by the terrible word to cry.

Bitch. I lost my temper and said, “Stop being such a bitch.” I instantly wished I could take it back. And I knew the moment I said it that it would be seared into you like a line in a YA novel. “The first person who ever called me a bitch was my mother.”

I said I was sorry, and we got past that terrible moment, and I buried the incident deep inside, but I was filled with shame. Who does that? Who calls their ten-year-old daughter a bitch?

Three years later, I ask you about it, and of course, you remember. You can’t remember either what you said just before I called you that word, but you remember that I started crying afterward. And you laugh, with a teenager’s glee, at an adult caught in a misdeed. And so do I.


Elizabeth Amon grew up in a one-stoplight town in New Jersey, longing to explore the wider world she read about in novels. Among other adventures, she’s traveled to the Soviet Union with a youth peace group, bartended in Paris, and followed in the footsteps of a cross-dressing 19th Century woman writer in Tunisia and Algeria. She’s worked as a journalist for nearly 20 years and currently lives in Seattle. She also writes fiction. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/elizabeth-amon/high-diveb/


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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Bad Mom”?

I’m from a large family, one of four siblings. We fought with each other. We played pranks on each other. We called each other names. And we made up. (Usually.) My daughter, an only child, has no older siblings to haze her or younger siblings to harass her. This essay was a moment when, without thinking, I responded as if I was a child too, not the grown-up. I carried that shame for many years. When I talked to my daughter about it recently, her laughter freed me. But I shouldn’t have said it.


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