Mentor or meddler? Is Mom the monkey in the middle?
By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
Has there ever been an endeavor at which more well-meaning, hard-working people have tried, and ultimately fallen short, than the fine art of parenting? Being a mom or dad is a tough job but, let’s be honest here, it’s Mummy who everyone expects to be perfect. I have to wonder how many paid hours of shrink time have been spent complaining about the shortfalls of mothers? She’s too controlling, she’s too critical, she’s not supportive enough, she didn’t spend enough time with time me, she spent too much time with me, she doesn’t have her own life, she’s too busy with her own life. The list goes on and on. Families are a messy business and at the center of it all is Mom – a human being charged with doing the impossible, putting aside all her own hopes, fears, dreams and neuroses, and devoting every fiber of her being to her family. Well, not exactly every fiber, just the exact fibers her family needs, when and where they need them. Of course, the family’s “emotional need schedule” isn’t exactly posted on the fridge, but must be intuited by the all-knowing mother who understands precisely when to nurture and when to stand back and let them find their own way. As best I can tell (apart from the nuts who beat their kids with wire hangers) there are two basic types of imperfect moms – the ones who mother too much and the ones who mother too little. If we’re not criticizing a woman for not being nurturing enough, we’re jumping all over her for being too over-protective. Rare is the mother who gets the balance right. You’re either ignoring your kids or you’re smothering them. I’m the first to admit that I err on the side of hands-off parenting. Nurturing is not one of my core skills. When my kids were little, I often felt like all the good mothers the ones who wore denim jumpers and played pat-a-cake 24/7 were sitting in judgment of my somewhat managerial approach to the job. However, now that my kids are older, I find myself easily critical of the hovering moms still fussing over their little Johnny’s every move, unaware that their 6-foot-2 high-school sophomore doesn’t need his mommy telling the soccer coach that “he gets easily winded.” It’s almost like we expect mothers to be two different people over the course of their children’s lives. A front-line protector who keeps her children safe from cold, fear, hunger and hurt feelings, and a back-stage mentor who skillfully teaches her offspring how to solve their own problems, and who is willing to watch them take a fall in the interest of their self-development. And woe to the woman who can’t master the switch as quickly as Jekyll and Hyde. Unfortunately, these two distinctly different roles require almost completely opposing skills and temperaments. And, as others are often quick to point out, while doing the mom job requires both, most of us are better suited to one role than the other. For every helicopter mom being criticized for hovering over her kids, swooping in to save them from any potential failure or hurt, there’s a manager mom like me trying to stop herself from barking “Suck it up, you little sissy” every time her kids whine. However, I’ve finally come to realize that, as hard as it is for me to respond to my children’s every crisis, it’s equally hard for some women not to. But at the end of the day, we’re all going for the same goal – raising loving productive adults who have the confidence and skills to solve their own problems. The sins of the mothers are many. But I have to believe that we all do the best we can with the skills we’ve got – even your mom.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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