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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.
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
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