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I have been watching the furore that Amy Chua’s ‘Why Chinese mothers are superior’ article created in the last month or so. And been trying to decide where I stand on the issue. I see Amy’s point in pushing the children for their own good but her own admission of how (much) she pushed her kids left me bewildered. But immediately after reading her article, I read a couple more articles on the topic and one of them mentioned that this article of Amy’s is just an excerpt from her book, Battle hymn of the tiger mother and that WSJ presented it in the entirely wrong light. I understand it was a tactic on WSJ’s behalf, to publicize the book.
What amazed me is our reaction to this article. Many people criticized Amy (understandable), wrote posts about their own parenting style (again, understandable), compared her parenting to their own, establishing the superiority of their own methods (I have to accept – I had the urge too). I am amazed at the insecurity this article has brought out in all of us. Am I as bad a parent as Amy Chua? Are my kids as suppressed as hers? I could almost hear everyone asking themselves these questions. I could remember at least one “Amy-ish” incident which still makes me cringe whenever I think about what kind of a parent I used to be.
But the thing is that I have changed. I am not that parent any more. And I am sure none of us are the parents we were a decade, five years or even two years ago. We evolve with our kids. One can’t, and doesn’t, parent in a vacuum. We do something a particular way and depending on how things turn out, how successful that “way” is, we modify or maintain our parenting style. And I am sure the same thing must have happened with Amy Chua. She did say in one interview that that IS what happened to her and that is what her book is about. I am reserving comment on her book and the article published in WSJ until I read the book. But I kind of believe her. I even admire her courage in accepting this.
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Another thought that came to my mind is how I have changed in the past 2 years. Earlier, any such debate would have me itching to jump in with my two cents and elaborating on how I am doing things differently. This time I find I am a much calmer, grounded mom. I don’t feel the urge to justify MY way, or to shoot down someone else’s. I find myself saying (more and more) “I am not that mother”. Which means, I cannot evaluate my performance based on her criteria. AND I don’t evaluate her performance based on mine either.
I have been through too many “mommy debates”. First it was WOHM against SAHM. Then other, countless arguments over “Americanized” vs. Indian parenting, helicopter vs. permissive vs. attachment vs. authoritarian parenting, parenting of boys against that of girls, parenting of older kids vs. that of younger kids. You name it, I have seen it! Has anyone noticed that all these articles (and the researches too) are mostly directed at mothers and not at fathers? Has anyone ever wondered why it is so? I believe it is because we, the mothers, are an insecure lot. The article writers and researchers cash in on that. What would be better than targeting your article/research at a group that will go into a tizzy as soon as you hit “publish”? Word would spread like fire, your article/research gets the attention that you want it to get. Mission accomplished!!
We are constantly evaluating ourselves. We forget to evaluate ourselves based on OUR “job description” (kids’ personalities, family dynamics, our own personalities, circumstances etc.) and assess ourselves silly over someone else’s idea of the ever-elusive “perfect”. WHY? What we need to do, when we read such articles is to remind ourselves “I am not that mother”!
Cee Kay is a mother of two girls, a networking professional, a cooking enthusiast and
Lovely post, Cee Kay. My own parents were somewhere around the middle, so I find it difficult to empathise with either extreme…but reg your point abt insecurity, why do you think it is that only mums are insecure? is it because childcare is mainly their responsibility or is it because they are usually held responsible for the child’s behaviour? (while dad might be responsible for bringing in the money and making sure kid has everything he/she needs?)
Ritika, I definitely think that is the main reason for our insecurity. Society, at large, does not see motherhood as a position of strength – just as that of servitude, if you will. My personal experiences from long ago seem to hold this observation up. My inlaws saw me as an inexperienced new mother and refused to accept my decisions or concerns based on that reason alone. I had to dig my heels in and fight! Boy, did that take a toll on my self esteem! It took me a long, long time to come to this stage where I am confident of my own parenting.
Yes very true, it is so obvious that each parenting article are targeted to the mothers and not fathers, as they don’t think that much, they do what they want to do, or mostly what they need to do in most circumstances. Also it is almost every mothers nature to compare, judge and compete in the mode of parenting they are following, the evolution of new social systems where you leave your parents and immediate family members and come to a foreign land and then become a mother, the advices you get from your distant mother on phone and what you see other mothers are doing in the place where you are living are very different and you the most insecure and lonely one keep thinking of your child’s welfare and safety eventually get into a dilemma. Only with experience and time can we find our own way which of course might be suitable for only us and other mother can find this way absolutely absurd.
[quote name=”Chandrima Pal”]Yes very true, it is so obvious that each parenting article are targeted to the mothers and not fathers, as they don’t think that much, they do what they want to do, or mostly what they need to do in most circumstances. Also it is almost every mothers nature to compare, judge and compete in the mode of parenting they are following, the evolution of new social systems where you leave your parents and immediate family members and come to a foreign land and then become a mother, the advices you get from your distant mother on phone and what you see other mothers are doing in the place where you are living are very different and you the most insecure and lonely one keep thinking of your child’s welfare and safety eventually get into a dilemma. Only with experience and time can we find our own way which of course might be suitable for only us and other mother can find this way absolutely absurd.[/quote]
Chandrima, very true!! The lack of support, the loneliness and distance from one’s parents and support group – they all become factors in lowering our self esteem. As I mentioned above – I didn’t get much support during the first few months after I had my older daughter. Took me a long time to overcome the damage.
And as for mothers comparing, judging and competing – I see three factors for that. The first two are immaturity and human nature. It is very natural to speak up about something that we feel confident about. The immaturity part is where we judge. And the third is that this is just like a job for us and everyone likes a performance appraisal so obviously we try to compare others’ parenting with our own.
I personally think comparing is not bad in itself – it can help us improve/modify our own approach. Problem arises when we try to judge others based on what worked for us. Like you said – our own way might only be suitable for us.
Very well said, Cee Kay. Your point about evolution in ones parenting is so valid.It is a dynamic process indeed!
Thanks Dipali! You know I am not even the same parent for M that I was for S, I have changed in so many respects. Of course, there are many parents who go through life without giving a second thought to what they are doing but then that is another post!
I read the review of Amy Chua’s book in the Hindustan Times and it did disturb me a lot. I recently had to do a lot of introspection on my style of parenting and felt that like many others I was also not the best mother. The intention was good but the method was questionable. But my days of parenting are over and I cannot undo several things that I ought not have done. I may as well live with it i feel.
Hip Grandma, we all make many mistakes during our parenting years. I have too. I have been doing this introspection for many years now and have come to accept what I did. Some things I don’t have the courage to accept even now – and they don’t even compare to what Amy says she did.
Her article did disturb me a lot too. Coming back to your comment – no matter how many mistakes you made, whats important is your kids are happy and turned out well. There are so many things I wish my parents had done differently but in the end they gave me their best possible and I have no regrets. I am sure your kids feel the same way.
Well put, Cee. I have my moments of serious self doubt, but I find I am far more confident of my mothering these days. I get feedback on whether my methods work or not from my son himself, so everybody else’s opinions have become a little less important.
Very true Sue! Our parenting style only needs to fit our own kid(s).
Ha! I have not made a single parenting mistake in my life. Take that.
Ha ha! Don’t you need to be a parent first, to make any of those mistakes?
Okay, I’ll send you my younger one – lets see how you do with that, eh?
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