Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Over-Parenting" - and bad Mothering......

"They f--k you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to but they do," wrote the English poet Philip Larkin.

My friend Barb’s mid-20’s daughter proclaimed the other day that her friends all describe their childhoods as “over-parented”. I know my kids would also maintain that they had been "over-parented". Ironically, my friend Barb and I, and probably almost everyone our ages would all agree that when we were children, we were “under-parented”. I like to think that the reason I participated so eagerly in my childrens’ lives was because I thought that with a bit (ok, maybe more than a bit) of participation, their lives could be easier, happier and more well-adjusted than mine.

Now there is a new book to make mothers feel even more guilty – The Mother Factor: How Your Mother’s Emotional Legacy Impacts Your Life by Stephan Poulter.

Poulter establishes five mothering styles: the Perfectionist, the Unpredictable, the Best Friend, the Me First and the Complete Mother. The Perfectionist, for example, one of the more common parental types, is controlling, fearful, and anxious that her child succeed. She has an all-consuming desire to keep up appearances. Her children will have internalized some of her anxiety and may find it difficult to commit to relationships (no one is ever good enough), although professionally, they may be driven, highly productive people. "In the United States and Canada, a lot of mothers want their children to succeed so badly that they are over-involved," states Poulter. "Their self-esteem is so wrapped up in the child's success that their kids are afraid to fail." Because I’m a professed over-parenter, does that mean I’m a Perfectionist? (children of mine, if you are reading this, don’t answer that question).

The other types of Mothers described are equally as contemptible – and it is only if I can be a Complete Mother that I might feel better about all the damage I have inflicted. The Complete Mother is the best type of mother. I’m pretty sure I’m in this category (children of mine, if you are reading this, don’t comment on this statement) These paragons of motherhood strike a balance between mothering and smothering, loyalty and criticism, nurturing and overprotection: these are the mothers who just seem to get it. The bad news? There are only 10 per cent of children lucky enough to have a Complete Mother, says Poulter - 10 per cent.........

I'm wondering whether our "over-parented” children will “under-parent” their own progeny.........


Wendy said...

I'm wondering whether Poulter had anything to say about the fathers in our children's lives, or did he just focus his guilt-ray on mothers?

Anonymous said...

I am so tired right now (probably from over-mothering)but this Poulter really pisses me off.

Anything anybody would say against him would surely sound defensive and it is too thorny any issue to tackle this late at night.

Anyway, I like the sound of this other Wendy. Tomorrow, and its attendant over-mothering chores, will be here before I know it.


Anonymous said...

Mothers seem the focus of all ills. Fathers can just blissfully float around the edges of the relationships and do not receive the same doses of guilt.

What we all must remember is that our parents reacted to their situations and they certainly came from a time of challenges. Depending on the age, they experienced the Great Depression, WWII and then the social reaction of the 50's. Their expectations were also different because they did not come from a time of so many possibilities. Many of the parents that I knew were Eastern European and had not had the opportunity to attend post-secondary institutions. What we take for granted was not part of peoples' expectations at the time.
We are products of our families but also the social and historical experiences.
None of us are perfect and we hope to do our best.
You are all great parents and because children often want what others have, there is going to be a certain amount of questioning about how good our childhoods were.
Enjoy your children and parents and accept what is, no point in worrying about the past.