Does Anyone Have “Clean Little Secrets”?

April 22, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Raves & Rants | 16 Comments

I’ve always wondered about that.

When MotherTalk offered up the chance to review Tricia Ashworth and Amy Nobile’s new book Dirty Little Secrets from Otherwise Perfect Moms, I jumped.

I envisioned Dirty Little Secrets as a “break glass in case of emergency” stash of those moments that remind you that you are not the worst mom in the world – or at least that the world is full of equally awful moms.

Along those lines, I will always treasure the memory of the time that the Good Mom at Daycare – y’know the one whose kid is never in the late room with P’ito and the other sniffling snuffling why-don’t-my-parents-love-me-enough-to-pick- me-up-on-time kids – confessed that she didn’t care if her son’s teeth rotted: his bedtime bottle of milk put him to sleep. Speaking of which… any tips for eliminating said bottle of milk and/or brushing the teeth of an almost 18 month old with FANGS would be much appreciated

And is there a parent alive who hasn’t seen a child howling in the supermarket and thought: “Thank g-d that’s not my kid.” Or: Oh shit. That IS my kid. (grab bagel from bakery section and shove in kid’s mouth. Endure look of scorn on cashier’s face as she rings up a sixpack of beer a gallon of milk, a package of wipes, a frozen pizza, and a well-masticated whole wheat bagel. Hey, it’s whole wheat…)

I think of the time that my colleague confessed that she sent her daughter to daycare on days when she didn’t have to go into work just to have time to catch up on stuff at home. And how she still feels a mixture of guilt and relief about having done that: SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER. And inside me a little window opened, a little breeze blew through me – it’s not just me.

In this book, Ashworth and Nobile set out to recapture that sensation of relief for moms everywhere. They write:

“Our goal is to puncture the overblown expectations we all have of ourselves to be “perfect,” and in the process make our generation of mothers feel less guilty, less burdened, more unified, and less alone.”

The book consists of pithy confessions from Real Live Moms – one per page. They range from the amusing – “We were in the grocery store and when we hit the wine aisle, she screamed, ‘That’s Mommy’s juice!'” – to the heart-wrenching “Sometimes I think my nanny does a better job than I do.” There were plenty of confessions that had me nodding my head in agreement and a few that had me shaking my head with irritation – the more dishes my husband does, the more likely he is to “get some” later? What does that have to do with making us feel less guilty or less burdened as moms? I hate the way my husband chews? Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Some of MotherTalk’s other reviewers think this book would be too scary for first time moms. As one, I beg to differ – I think that this is exactly when you need a book like this, because you will be utterly sleep deprived and a book like this, with just a sentence or two on each page, is the perfect antidote to the 16 partially read and utterly contradictory baby books on your nightstand. Plus, early motherhood is exactly when you need to know that

a) There is No Such Thing as the Perfect Mom,
b) It’s okay not to love your child every moment of every day, and um,
c) A bedtime bottle of milk at 18 months will not rot your child’s teeth out and if it does, they’re just baby teeth, righhhht?

And that’s why I will be passing this book along at a baby shower in a few weeks. If you’d like to win a copy for yourself – or an amazon gift card – check out the contest that MotherTalk is hosting.

p.s. On the subject of secrets dirty and clean. I have not done one of the following things. Can you guess which one it is?

  • Ignored stench of post-breakfast po-po in order to get out of the house and get child to daycare. Lied and told teacher that he went in the car on the way to school…
  • Served the same thing for breakfast (waffles and banana) four days in a row because a) he’ll eat it, and b) it doesn’t make (too much of a) mess when thrown on the floor
  • Ignored the fact that he is eating an apple dropped on the ground at the playground. By someone else.
  • Told my partner: “Don’t smile at him, he’s evil.”


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  1. Oh, I am looking into this book….I have just been noticing myself that even the perfect-seeming moms all seem to do stuff that makes me sigh in relief.

  2. re: toothbrushing. A few tricks that worked with our almost 2 year old:

    1) letting her “brush her own” teeth for several weeks before we “helped”

    2) Mom A: tickles vigorously so that mouth opens in laughter. Mom B: sneaks toothbrush in for a few scrubs of the fangs.

    That said…we are not always good about brushing by any stretch…and our kid one of the first in/ last out at daycare…

  3. What’s wrong with P’ito having the same thing for breakfast four days in a row? K has had Cheerios, yogurt, and milk for breakfast almost every single day since he’s come home. Sometimes we get sneaky and add in a banana, but only if he’s not eating banana yogurt already.

    I am so NOT a perfect mom, and it makes me laugh every time people tell me that they think I am. For example, I just told P that quiet time wasn’t over and sent him back up because I wanted to finish catching up on blogs. G-d help me when he learns to tell time…

  4. We use an electric toothbrush on his teeth. The first month was HELL. We had to hold him down and force it, but once we got over that, we can do it pretty easily. I also don’t care if his teeth rot out because I have no idea how else to get him down. He’s 30 months old and still nurses at night. Gah!

    Also, I’m not sure what’s wrong with having the same thing for breakfast every day *lol*. Erik has had the same thing for breakfast every day for months.

  5. […] Artificially Sweetened wants to know if anyone has secrets other than the dirty variety and adds: “I envisioned Dirty Little Secrets as a “break glass in case of emergency” stash of those moments that remind you that you are not the worst mom in the world – or at least that the world is full of equally awful moms.” […]

  6. great review. I saw the writers on the Today show and they looked SO put together that I couldn’t imagine the book being so down to earth. But I see that I was wrong.

    And I am SO happy for a post from you!

  7. My kid is 20 months and has a bottle at bedtime and then we brush her teeth (largely against her will).

    So, with the toothbrushing. I got a motorized one, whateveryoucallit, so that I just have to get the brush IN THERE and don’t have to worry about also moving it around. And we’ve gotten her to think it is semi-funny to open her mouth and say AHHH and then she gets a turn when we are done. So her teeth are a little cleaner, anyway. I don’t care about the bottle.

  8. On the bagel at the grocery front: we used to pop MM into the cart, go straight over to the organic strawberries, take a container of them (the kind that’s already weighed and priced), open it up, and proceed to let him eat the entire container as we shopped. It kept him quiet and we paid for the strawberries on the way out.

    We’d also pay for the strawberries the next day…do you have any idea what a pound of strawberries looks like coming out? Yah.

  9. I have a cautionary side note to add to Art-Sweet’s largely positive review of Dirty Little Secrets – the book sucks! Indeed, to call this string of quotations a “book” is too generous. I mean, what effort did these authors put into writing it? They didn’t compose the quotes, they simply collected them and then laid them out artfully one per page. For me, the grim un-funny lines laid out against a stylish pink background don’t make me feel relief, they creep me out. It was more depressing than cathartic to read confession after confession about loveless marriage and feelings of rage or indifference towards one’s children. Not that I’m a perfect mom, by any stretch of the imagination, but maybe I’m a Puritan, or a Puritanical Buddhist. I don’t think we should indulge the darker, more aggressive and angry parts of ourselves – recognize them, yes – but maybe we should spend more effort actively trying to cultivate the positive sides.

    On that note, Art-Sweet says I should try not to be so negative, so let me take her and my own medicine for a second and think of something positive to say about this book: hmmmm…. I’m thinking…. I guess if you really take these women at their word they are trying to “puncture the myth” of perfect motherhood then their effort is definitely to be commended. We all could probably stand to cut ourselves a whole lot more slack.

  10. RE: toothbrushing: have you tried with him upside-down? J. at that age would always open her mouth and laugh in that position and I could see her teeth (not a 2-parent family, here, so I would sit her on my lap facing me and then have her lie back so that her head was by my knees, but you could probably accomplish more secure upside-downness with 2 parents. We also have a toothbrushing song, which is just about brushing the top teeth and the bottom teeth and the front and sides, etc. but it passes the time and lets me keep getting the brush in there to do another little part. She has gone through phases of resisting it and being fine with it.

    I have been wondering what age I could start using a battery toothbrush and am enlightened by these comments, so thanks!

    RE: night bottles. I was lucky, because it suddenly dawned on me when J. was about 13 months old that she wasn’t really using the bottle to fall asleep. She would finish the bottle and then walk around the crib for a little while and then lie down and go to sleep. So I just moved the final bottle earlier in the nighttime routine, and now brushing teeth is the last thing before bed.

    So my suggestions (I almost deleted this part, but then reread your post and realized you DID ask for suggestions) would be: try to move the night bottle earlier in the bedtime routine (it sounds like one of your earlier commenters does that too.) Or if there must be a nighttime bottle, let it be water only. Which he will hate, but not as much as he would hate having to go to the dentist for lots of fillings/extractions at age 2-3, anyway. Good luck.


  11. Um, I’ve done all those things at the end of your post. Sometimes in the same day. Bad, bad mommy.

  12. OH mercy me! I love the new pics – he is growing so fast – looks like a miniature adult.

  13. I can not pick which one you did not do, because I have done all of them myself !!!
    What awesome pics of your kid!

  14. Lordy, I have missed you.

  15. And also, Pili’s comment made me choke on and very nearly blow diet coke out my nose.

  16. so I give my kid my own electric toothbrush and open my mouth for him to brush my teeth. this distracts him enough to let me brush his.

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