I’m really good at the bad mother talk. Any of you (fathers included) who have spent any time at all hanging out with other parents or inside your own brain likely know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes it’s the sarcastic, self-deprecating, but mildly humble-brag (as in, “hey, at least I’m not that super-uptight helicopter parent”) claim to bad motherhood.

“I’m such a bad mother. I gave my daughters mac ‘n cheese from the box three times last week.”

“I’m such a bad mother. I let them watch an entire hour of Dora last night.”

Other times, though, the bad mother talk is much darker and meaner. (These are the conversations that we generally reserve for the privacy of our own minds.) We judge ourselves so harshly for every real or perceived parenting infraction, from not bathing our children often enough (guilty!) to yelling at them (yup). We tell ourselves that we’re bad parents, that a better parent (of which there are so many, even if they only exist in our minds) is more patient or calmer, reads to her children more often, cooks healthier meals, and keeps her house clean, all with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.

But we’re not her, we tell ourselves every time we miss the mark. We’re bad mothers.

You can read more about my decision to stop using “bad mother” language, and what I’ve replaced it with, over at PsychCentral.com