It is not easy being a mother. From the moment they are born, our children take full possession of our hearts and change our bodies and our identities forever. We can morph into a jellyfish or an elephant or a dolphin or a tiger mom but, at the end of the day, motherhood does not come with a set of instructions. It is truly priceless but there is a price to pay nevertheless; it is a world of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, high highs and low lows. It is no feat for the weak of heart, that’s for sure.
Sure, a mom’s heart will always beat to the tune of her child’s well-being and happiness but it is also important to realize when it is time to take a step back. Except, things are not so clear cut and making the right decision requires more than tired platitudes about selfless pluck and courage. It is not by chance that endless articles have been written about the pros and cons of parental interference going as far as parsing the finer differences between the quintessential helicopter mom and her upgraded 2.0 version, the snowplow mother.
As if being a guilt-ridden working mother or an equally guilt-ridden (of a different sort) stay at home mom is not hard enough, the vastly different ways we interpret child rearing practices as well as our first hand experiences with the societal pressures of motherhood have us all scratching our heads. Is there a parenting mode far superior to the rest? If not, how should one go about figuring out the best way to mother her brood? I, for one, have given this a lot of thought. Am I a tiger mom? I am, after all, very good at researching zoned schools for my kids, educational after-school activities, top rated private music teachers, most promising methods of second language acquisition. Does this make me a controlling authoritarian parent? I beg to differ. Family lore has it that I don't think twice before allowing my first and second graders to skip school for a day if they are engrossed in a new book series and request to spend the whole day reading in bed. Likewise, if they choose to work on that 70x70 canvas they “borrowed” from my studio before the paint dries and the creative spark falters away.
Does this mean I am a permissive over-indulging jellyfish mom after all? I must disagree. Many moms may indeed choose to prioritize test scores and perfect attendance but I believe that encouraging long-term goals of living a balanced life and having a sense of purpose is extremely important. More than anything else, I intent on raising confident children and granting them a sense of agency in planning their day is not an indulgence.
On the other hand, I am constantly monitoring myself not to turn into the kind of well meaning elephant mom that corners her children into a well cushioned position of unearned privilege kept in place by thick layers of (seemingly selfless) motherly devotion and protection. More often than not, I find myself taking a step back to watch what really goes on when my children play their way through sibling rivalry, break through their shyness and generally grapple with their complex emotions and erupting moods.
Does this mean I am a dolphin mom after all? One who has rules and expectations but also values creativity and independence? I sure like to think so.
Parenting is not easy. Overzealous parenting even less so. Motherhood, specifically, has been stripped away from its basic premise, a loving relationship between the mother and her child. Instead, it has been distilled into a maniacal focus on the children that is supposed to eclipse everything else in a mother’s life. It is no wonder that us mothers, famous or otherwise, can’t catch a break. Mamma Mia! as a wise one said.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.