I’m a Mean Mom. No, I don’t make my kids work in a coal mine after the third grade. (It’s illegal plus, there aren’t any coal mines in my area.) And I do smother them with physical affection. (More than they seem to want particularly my 7-year-old, who has become accustomed to diving out of the way of direct kisses.) Im mean because I stick to rules; because I believe in order and schedules; because I buck the my kids are my best friends trend; because I honestly don’t care if every other second-grader has an iPod (kiddo, you’re not getting one). My kids are not perfect (and neither am I), but I believe were on the best path for us. I believe my sons will grow up to be good men and good citizens of the world. I believe in their strength, rather than assume their fragility. So yes, Im one of those Mean Moms. Ive even written a book about it — Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later.
And here are 7 reasons why we rule:
1. Mean Moms retain their sense of self
You may have seen this making its viral way around Facebook: I traded eyeliner for dark circles, salon haircuts for ponytails, designer jeans for sweatpants, long hot baths for lucky if I get a shower Repost this if you don’t care what you gave up and will continue to give up for your children! If, like me, you felt your breakfast coming back up in your gullet, you may be a Mean Mom. Your children should add to your life, not subtract whats most essential about you. Losing yourself completely in your kids is bad for you for obvious reasons but its bad for them, too. How can they learn to respect themselves if they don’t see you doing it?
2. Mean Moms aren’t afraid of the big, bad “No”
To me, no is a short, sweet dose of parenting magic. Don’t fear it it may have a bite now and then, but it doesn’t actually bite. We live in a yes-happy time. Yes is like those towering, sickly-sweet cupcakes. They look so pretty, but they are a little more than a temporary sugar high. No is like a bowl of fiber-rich oatmeal that sticks to the ribs. No develops character; it allows you to offer mini-lessons on your budget, your morals, and your choices. And if you say yes because no brings on tantrums? Heres a hint: The kids get over it! Often, way faster than you think. Try it. Say no. Smile (enigmatic smiles fixed on the middle distance work best for me). Don’t apologize. Repeat as necessary.
3. Mean Moms don’t follow the parenting pack
Remember junior high? When if only you had the right jeans and hair that would behave, you’d be in with the Cool Girls? Remember how that didn’t work? It doesn’t work with parenting, either. Theres a new set of Cool Girls in town, and they are the moms who dictate the way you should do things. Like tote snacks in your purse, sign up for dance class, join the PTA. If you’re not a joiner, don’t join. And please, make your capital P parenting choices (nursing, sleeping, feeding, schooling) based on your own ideas and instincts, not theirs.
4. Mean Moms fail their kids, a little bit, every day
Wait, really? Yes, really. Listen, when my boys were newborns, I fed them the minute they mewled with hunger, held them when they cried, and changed them when they were messy. Being mean is not letting a child remain uncomfortable or feel unloved. Being mean is, as they get older, bit by bit, letting that time between Mom! and Coming, honey! get ever so slightly longer. Tiny failures not rushing to a toddler trying to figure out how to retrieve the toy behind the chair; not helping a 6-year-old work his way across the monkey bars; not calling the middle schooler friends mom to force a party invitation are what allow a child’s competence and confidence to flex and grow. Little failures now = big successes later.
5. Mean Moms remain (benignly) in control at home
Remaining the buck-stops-here person in your household shouldn’t freak you out. Staying in control (of the food in the fridge, the fare on TV, and the schedule for everything from activities to bedtime) is not the same as being authoritarian. Its not a dictatorship. It is, instead, authoritative. Your kids need to see that theres someone all grown up with her hands on the wheel (though its okay if you don’t feel that way all time just don’t let them see you sweat!). Authoritative, surefooted, in-control parents raise the most self-confident, self-assured kids. When you are fully the parent, they get to just be the kids. You provide the envelope; they push it. Don’t believe the hype (or the kids themselves): They don’t want you to be their friend, and they don’t want to make all the decisions.
6. Mean Moms’ kids know how to do stuff
What has changed in our world where my friends, whose 9-year-old son mows the lawn, find themselves fielding astonished comments from neighbors who aren’t impressed, but appalled? Knowing what tool to use to fix a car or clean a toilet is good for kids (even if they grumble). My friends kid feels enormous pride that he knows how to handle a mower, as well he should. Mean Moms teach their kids to do stuff, from cooking and cleaning to yard work. Yes, you can outsource the jobs for less, but teaching basic life skills not only helps you (I haven’t emptied my dishwasher in months; my son took it over and loves it), it serves them, too in reserves of knowledge, self-satisfaction, and competence. Its a win-win situation.
7. Mean Moms turn out kids who are prepared to take on the world (not kids who think that the world owes them something)
Raise your hand if you’ve heard a story lately about a college kid whose parents intervened with professors, or a new graduate whose parents called an employer to request better treatment? Theres a whole cohort of kids whose parents have always smoothed their path for them, who’ve been left unable to stand steadily on their own two feet. Listen, if your first grader writes N’s that look like H’s, he’s going to miss the point on the spelling test. Thats his mistake, and he has to own it. If you fix it, or if you always make excuses or apologies for his behavior, you may end up being that parent calling the college dean. Don’t be that parent.