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March 25 2013

Why Are There So Many Helicopter Moms?

Charlotte Hays

One of the gnawing fears of ambitious mothers is that they will slight their children by working hard enough to achieve their professional goals. This was an unlikely theme in Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, who probably never gave the matter a thought. The Iron Lady just wasn’t a frustrated helicopter mom.

Lenore Skenazy notices in an article in today's Wall Street Journal that in her new book Lean In  Sheryl Sandberg counsels a worried woman on this matter—even though the woman didn’t yet have a boyfriend! “Why does the worry loom so large?” Skenazy asks. Skenazy blames modern beliefs about what being a good mother entails:

Blame the modern-day, mom-guilting belief that being a good mother means devoting every waking moment (give or take 30 minutes for yoga or Pinterest) to child-rearing.

  Thanks to that delusion, college-educated mothers are spending more time with their kids than ever: an extra nine hours a week since 1995, according to a University of California at San Diego study. That's the equivalent of an entire extra workday women spend as their children's soccer-watchers, snack-selecters, flashcard-flashers, all-seven-volumes-of-Harry-Potter readers, college-essay editors and Candyland rivals (not necessarily in that order). …

Helicopter-parented children tend to be sadder, fatter and less resilient than kids given more independence. A 2011 North Carolina State University study found that children play less actively when their (loving, worried) parents hover over them, even as another study, at the University of Missouri published this winter, found that the more time spent by mothers directing their children's play—do this! try that!—the more "negative emotion" is displayed by the little ingrates.

Skenazy notes that this obsessive compulsive form of parenting begins before birth. Mothers are now urged to “establish an auditory bond” with their children by reading to them in the womb. (Talk about a captive audience!) Skenazy thinks that the reason behind this is that, if mom is inconvenienced, she can then feel noble: “Mom earns a chit.” In other words, being constantly inconvenienced is a sign that one is a good mother.   

Eureka! I now understand a mystifying phenomenon: the kind of overly-involved parenting one sees everywhere today.

This article also sheds light on why so many younger people are passive.

They’ve been talked at since they were in the womb!

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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