It’s been five years now since my first book, “Confessions of a Slacker Mom,” was published. And not only have my royalty checks diminished to the point where they’ll barely cover the cost of a double Frappucino, it seems the book itself has now outlived its usefulness. Because the more I read, the more I think the frenzied age of over-parenting might actually be coming to an end. Not only is it okay not to be a perfect mom, it’s encouraged. Writers, commentators and regular moms from all over the country seem to be practicing and recommending a more relaxed and less competitive style of raising our children.
Lisa Belkin, writing for The New York Times Magazine, said in an article published earlier this summer:
“Perhaps you know it by its other names: helicoptering, smothering mothering, alpha parenting, child-centered parenting. Or maybe there’s a description you’ve coined on your own but kept to yourself: Overly enmeshed parenting? Get-them-into-Harvard-or-bust parenting? … But whatever you call it, and however it began, its days may be numbered. … [because] the newest wave of mothers is saying no to prenatal Beethoven appreciation classes, homework tutors in kindergarten, or moving to a town near their child’s college campus so the darling can more easily have home-cooked meals.”
Partly in reaction to Belkin’s piece, Amy Benfer added more seriously on Salon.com in June: “The helicopter parents, whoever the hell they were, allowed parenting to become a competition between children, in which your child’s well-being was directly proportionate to how much advantage he or she could score over the next kid. … This trend is one that just can’t die fast enough.”
Add to these remarks popular memoirs like Ayelet’s Waldman’s currently best-selling “Bad Mother,” and the very funny (and helpful) book “The Idle Parent” by editor of The Idler Tom Hodgkinson, and the “free-range parenting” movement of columnist Lenore Skenazy, whose similarly-titled book was just released this spring.
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Even the American Academy of Pediatrics offers this, in reference to the folly of any attempt to be the perfect parent: “Parents who live for their children are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position, setting themselves up for possible disappointment, frustration and resentment.”
Over-parenting is so passé, it seems, that talking about why it should be passé is passé.
Writing in June for The New Yorker magazine, Harvard professor Jill Lepore says this of the new wave of “under-parenting” books: “I used to like that conversation. Lately, though, it’s been getting old … A few years back, in “Confessions of a Slacker Mom,” Muffy Mead-Ferro admitted that during her pregnancy she did not actually buy a gizmo that was supposed to pipe Mozart into her belly… Frankly, I’d just as soon stipulate that most baby gear is worthless, stupid junk and that eating dinner with your kids is really important. Then I’d like to get back to reading the paper.”
Ouch. At the time, I thought the silliness of gadgets like that needed to be pointed out. But I guess I have to be happy if it doesn’t need to be pointed out now. And I guess I’ll have to think of something else to complain about, too. But don’t worry; I already have, because I just received the multi-colored-stack-of-papers-from-hell our school sends out every summer to remind all the parents that this little break from forms to fill out, notices to attend to, instructions to follow, lists of stuff to buy and do, schedules to post on your refrigerator, etc, is shortly coming to a very rude end. I’ll cover that in my September column.
But I’ve probably been too hard on myself and my past publications, because I’m sure “Confessions of a Slacker Mom” hasn’t outlived its usefulness one-hundred percent. Not yet. I can tell you based on the service it’s providing me right now that it comes in very handy if your desk happens to have a short leg.