Vt. mother blogs Bad Parenting Moments’
By Kevin O’Connor
Staff Writer | May 11,2014
Thies family photo
Vermonter Bethany Thies, creator of the website badparentingmoments.com, smiles with her children last Mother’s Day.
Yes, Bethany Thies has a mortgage and a wedding ring. But, no, that doesn’t make her a housewife.
“I hate the term,” the 34-year-old Vermonter says. “I did not marry my house.”
Likewise, Thies may fence herself in a backyard with four young children, but she’s not a “stay-at-home mom.”
“Most days, I feel less like a SAHMom and more like a SAHMaid,” says the former labor relations manager. “I’m going to refer to SAHMs as Directors of the Societal Development of Quality Humans. That is a working title. It has not yet been approved by Compensation.”
To spread the word, the Brattleboro resident began posting such comments on a public blog. Then a funny thing happened — on Aug. 24, 2012, for example, when she took to her computer after her 6-year-old asked, “Why do you drink wine every day?”
“She said this in the wine aisle. At the grocery store. In the middle of the day. As loudly as humanly possible. This is why. This is most definitely why I drink wine every day.”
And Feb. 11, 2013, when Thies and her husband took the family out to a restaurant.
“Why yes, I’d love a refill of Diet Coke. I’ll just toss the empty cup to you over the throngs of children wearing macaroni tribal face art and eating straw wrappers. Yes, you can also bring the check. Yes, please add the customary 40 percent for not calling the authorities to have us physically removed.”
And Sept. 14, 2013, when her children asked who cooked and cleaned when they were at school.
“There is one foolproof way to get your children to notice you. Simply don’t do one of the things they never notice and they will immediately notice.”
So, slowly but surely, did adults who stumbled over her website, badparentingmoments.com. A local weekly newspaper asked to reprint several of her posts. A radio talk show booked her as a monthly guest. A publisher included her work in a parenting anthology that led to her own Amazon.com author page.
“Sometimes, I introduce myself like this: Bethany is a writer and the proud mother to four, young Vikings,” she begins her biography. “And, most often, like this: That lady with the screaming kids throwing grapes, hitting each other and tossing magazines in the grocery store aisles is me. Nice to meet you.”
This from a woman too modest to mention her periodic after-hours not-tonight-dear diversion (yes, she has written about that, too) now boasts 172,889 Facebook followers.
Some background: Born in California, the former Bethany Kriger grew up with her mother and naval pilot stepfather at bases as far-flung as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then enrolled at the University of Georgia, traded pre-law for a Los Angeles human resources job, and met and married Vermonter Bob Thies.
Soon came their 8-year-old. Then their 6-year-old. Then their 4-year-old. Then their 2-year-old.
“You think you know what parenthood is going to be like before you have kids, but you have no idea,” the mother says in an interview. “I needed to talk about this — how wonderful and terrible it is at the same time.”
And so Thies began her blog.
“I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do applaud efforts from my sideline Barcalounger,” she wrote in one January post titled “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Come Sit Next to Me.” “I’ll lean forward just enough to hand you a Dixie cup as you, a more motivated person, run by.”
People smiled at her humor. Then a local editor saw the heart pulsing underneath.
“It’s not that I don’t care; I do, deeply,” she wrote in that January post. “I make resolutions every night. Before my eyes close, I resolve to yell less, to read more, to be more sensitive to my children’s needs, to be less judgmental, to be more honest, to be less impatient, to be a better fill-in-the-blank. I do this to the point of self-shaming. Wanting my vices to roll away, becoming the wheels that lead me to success. Desperately hoping my weaknesses transform into strengths. Expecting rebirth, every morning, caterpillar to butterfly.”
Windham County’s weekly Commons published her “Snow day” post Feb. 27, 2013.
“The snow is falling softly, then wildly. At times, a tornado of flakes beats against the windows, making its presence known. It has nothing on the storm inside these walls. Surrender. My littlest snowflakes are the only real major force of nature to be reckoned with today.”
The newspaper followed with her “Kindergarten Registration Horror” May 29, 2013.
“I’m a mom, and we don’t have the luxury of paying attention to the universe’s very clear signs that things will go devastatingly wrong. We know they will, and we still load everyone in, because sometimes the prince finds your glass slipper and sometimes your toddler does and then uses it to make a glass kite and then yells at you, as you pick up the pieces of the shattered shoe, because it didn’t fly.”
Thies sparked a bigger explosion with her “Shop locally? We do the best we can” essay of Dec. 11, 2013, in which she described how her “working-class family on a budget” bought all its groceries in neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“We sprinkle our dimes and dollars about town when dimes and dollars are available, but we cannot commit to a purely local lifestyle. It is not feasible, and that’s OK. It has to be OK because dinners need to be made and healthy lunches packed and dishes washed, because oil must be paid for to heat the home with its local mortgage and its taxes paid on time. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have. I like to believe that counts for something.”
On opinion pages screaming with “I’m right, you’re wrong” letters, Thies speaks a more complicated yet compassionate truth. So many readers responded to that last essay (“there are many, many families in our area in the same boat,” one wrote) the paper offered a full column of comments in its next issue.
“Every time I post something, people say, ‘I’m so happy I’m not the only one.’”
Same when Thies appears on Brattleboro radio station WKVT’s “Live and Local” show.
“I don’t get many opportunities as a mom to wear headphones, ignore ambient noise and have people actually listen to the words coming out of my mouth.”
Those monthly appearances are seemingly the only thing she can schedule. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene flooded the family car and washed away the backyard grass and garage. Last fall, when a nearby apartment building burned, she decided to organize meal delivery for five displaced families.
(Better than eating out with children, she reasoned. “That was so nice,” she thought after one of her family’s restaurant excursions. “Let’s never do that again.”)
This Mother’s Day, Thies will celebrate the fact she is one.
“My biggest fear is that someone mistakes my humor for hatred of the job,” she says. “I love being a parent. It’s the greatest and most difficult journey. Laughter is my salve.”
She’s simply the rare mother happy to point out the spills, let alone publicize them on the World Wide Web.
“Talking about them is more helpful than feeling embarrassed or guilty about them.”
But that doesn’t mean the blogger wants everyone else to join in.
“Perhaps we should take a cue from the days of Old-Timey Parenting,” she ended one post, “the days when you would walk out on your back porch, see the children barefoot and muddy, wave to the mother next to the clothesline, and just meander back inside to your own world of individualized chaos. Showing support through friendly gestures — and by keeping our opinions to ourselves.”