Monday, December 8, 2008


I've been reading a lot, lately, about over-zealous parenting. Sometimes called "helicoptering" or "hovering parent" I believe what it signifies is the over-anxious, all-controlling, well-meaning, hyper-involved mother or father who overschedules and believes, implicitly, that their parenting is literally shaping the child in every which way.

Sigh. I'm bored with this topic, just like I was bored with the working versus non-working mom thing that seemed to go on FOREVER, a conflict debated ad nauseum in magazines, newspapers, NPR, radio talk shows, Facebook, book groups, Oprah. You name it, the debate's been on it.

I don't know if this stuff bores me so because I'm just not that conflicted about parenting and working and non-working or because I'm so conflicted that I've decided to just shut it all down (sort of like my son's decision to believe in Santa Claus despite already knowing that there isn't one).

In any case, I've been longing to write about this and suddenly realized (for lack of anything else to note) that I can do it on my blog.

This is what I think: Helicopter Parenting and the Debate Between Working and Non-Working Mothers (and I'm not talking about the economic necessity of working, just the debate about what is "better for the child" and the mother) is really a bourgeois luxury. Or not even bourgeois -- it's about privilege. It's about having nothing else to worry about.

What do you think? But don't bore me.


  1. Many affluent women have active social lives but few real friends. Rates of marital dissatisfaction are high, affected by the same forces that burden our kids: too much pressure and too little real intimacy. Without a close friend to share our problems with, we are likely to turn to our children for solace. This leads to "enmeshment," when the boundaries between parent and child have collapsed. When we "bleed" onto our children, share our hurt and disappointment and anger, often about their other parent, then we make it impossible for them to get on with the business of growing up. Supporting an unhappy parent, being our confidants and advisors, saps children of the emotional energy and the sense of security they need to work on their own development. Warmth protects our children from psychological trouble; enmeshment and intrusion invite trouble into our homes.

    Children can read the needs of their parents remarkably well. They know that the mother who spends a disproportionate amount of time and energy inserting herself into her child's life is likely to be fending off her own unhappiness. She needs to be overinvolved, and, in an unfortunately common psychological drama, her child is willing to sacrifice his own needs to meet hers. Parental overinvolvement and intrusion are typically indications that a parent's own needs are not being adequately met. The more we pour ourselves, our talents, concerns and aspirations into our children, the less room they have to develop their own talents, concerns and aspirations. Autonomy, not dependency, is always the goal of good parenting. Mother birds know the value of nudging their fledglings out of the nest so that they learn how to soar on their own wings. Overinvolved parents are clipping their children's wings.

    From the forthcoming book "The Price of Privilege" by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. Copyright © 2006 by Madeline Levine. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.

  2. At the risk of sounding terribly judgmental...YES YES YES.

    Having come from a single parent home, I can tell you that my mother didn't have the luxury of wondering whether it might be better if she were a stay at home Mom.

    Affluence/semi-affluence and the additional time that it affords have led many of us to develop worries, neuroses and problems that poor people (I'd say lower income, but come on, let's not sugar coat reality) don't have the luxury of obsessing over.

    It's not just parents either. I've spent an incredible amount of time making myself miserable thinking that rather than staying in the job I now have where I am extremely fortunate because I'm well compensated, I should be doing something I want to be doing -- something that makes me happy and gives me more personal satisfaction. Lots of us do that, but honestly, many more don't have the luxury of thinking that maybe they'd rather raise goats or paint than stay in the crappy job they've got that barely allows them to keep the lights on and the rent paid.

    Yeah, I'd say we have too much time on our hands.

  3. Great comments here--I won't bore you, but maybe we can find a valuable use of our time. Like lunch ;)



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