The internet just loves to label people as bad mothers. We do it all the time for parenting choices big and small. Your child watches television? Bad! You let your kid eat fast food? Worse! You let your young girl wear make-up? Absolutely the worst!
In the comments sections of our website and every other parenting site on the internet you’ll find moms arguing over co-sleeping, breastfeeding and screen time. We talk education, diet, and development delays. We evaluate what media is appropriate, what techniques are most effective, and what discipline structure is most fair.
Why do parents spend so much time debating and discussing every parenting choice we make? Well, it’s because we care about our children and we want to raise them to the best of our ability. We want them to be successful, happy, saint-like human beings for the rest of their lives. We’re willing to argue with total strangers to prove that our personal choices are the very best, because we want to do the very best for our kids.
The funny thing about all of this debate is that the very drive to do what’s best for our children that brings us to mommy forums in droves is the same one that makes us pretty good parents to start with. The very fact that we’re willing to put time and energy into discussing parenthood, thinking critically about the different approaches, and arguing in defense of our own beliefs indicates that we care a whole lot about raising good kids. And that care is the important part in this big parenting experiment, not the actual techniques or styles that we adopt.
Free-range and helicopter parents might not seem to have a whole lot in common, but I think you’ll find that both groups of people are actively engaged in doing the best for their kids. Lenore Skenazy is doing every in her power to raise a great son. Dr. Sears is committed to doing what he thinks is best for kids. They might have different approaches, but they’re both thoughtful when it comes to parenting. They’re both looking at the children around them and trying to assess their needs.
Recently, I interviewed Dr. George Drinka about media influence on children. We argued just a bit about Scooby Doo and other cartoons that might have a negative effect on children. When I explained why I thought that the cartoon had helped my daughter understand that people or situations that seem scary aren’t always as fear-inducing as they first appear, he said that because I approached the cartoon thoughtfully and spoke about it with my daughter, I might have turned a negative into a positive. He warned that most parents don’t put that much thought into their kids’ media consumption. I asked him, “Wouldn’t every parent who reads a book about media influence on children put that much thought into their kids’ media consumption?”
At that point, I thought about all the parents I know who really care about what their kids see on television. I thought about all the parenting books lining the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I know I am not alone in hoarding an insane about of mommy advice books. I thought about all of our readers who obviously care quite a bit about parenting, mommyhood, and the choices that go along with it. Whatever answer we come up with, don’t you think that all of our children will turn out alright? If we’re all talking about and analyzing how we parent, doesn’t that show that we care enough to be pretty decent parents, no matter what?
Moms online are so hard on each other. And yet, the fact that we’re discussing mothering at all shows that we’re competent ones. It’s not like we couldn’t spend our internet hours debating The Real Housewives or politics. We have plenty of things to talk about outside of the minors we’re responsible for. We discuss our kids because they’re important to us. And by virtue of being a priority in our lives, those kids are going to get the best we have to offer on most occasions.
The Atlantic recently ran a piece called, “The Real Problem With Helicopter Parents: There Aren’t Enough Of Them.” It discussed a parenting engagement gap between those who care very much about parenthood and those who choose to sit back and simply provide basic necessities to children and let them grow naturally. The divide between these parents was evident not just in their approach, but in the time the family spent together. It broke down mostly along parental education lines. College graduates spent more time with their kids and “made a deliberate and sustained effort to stimulate children’s development and to cultivate their cognitive and social skills.”
This piece isn’t about helicopter parenting. It was simply about being an involved and thoughtful parent, no matter what specific ideology you ascribe to. And even more than that, the people who are reading books by Dr. Drinka or Atlantic articles about parenting, they’re the parents who are engaged. They’re the parents who are active. They’re the parents commenting online and engaging in debate.
The very act of reading about and debating parenthood tends to show that this mother or father cares. So maybe we should all stop throwing around the “bad parent” labels so easily. No matter what hot button parenting topic you come across, the proponents on both sides are arguing because they care. That care goes a really long way towards raising great kids.
When it comes to motherhood, I think there really is an “A” for “Effort.” We should remember that next time we start talking about parenting fails.