Someone recently asked me when I was going to stop writing about not being the “mean mom.” My answer? As long as people keep writing articles glorifying being mean, I’ll keep writing about the alternative.
This one, published by Scary Mommy, was the latest one to come across my desk, but there is no shortage of others. Be the mean mom, they tell us, not the nice mom. Not the cool mom. Not the friend. In reading this one for a second time, I see and understand that it was written in a sort of tongue-in-cheek, humorous style. And please understand, it’s not that I don’t have a good sense of humor. I do. (Ask my dog. He thinks I’m freaking hysterical.) I just don’t happen to find humor in disparaging kids, and in treating them as less than …. which is exactly what articles like this do.
The other side deserves to be heard. The other side needs to be heard. Here then are the author’s 9 reasons for being the mean mom, and my response from the other side.
1. I’m not your friend. Not even close.
I say: I will always be your friend… the best friend you could ever ask for. I’ve written about being friends with my kids again and again. And I’ll continue to do so. For me, it’s pretty simple. Friends are going to come and go, for a variety of reasons. But as parents, we have the unique opportunity to be the friend that’s always there. The trusted rock that our kids can count on… not just now, but for the rest of their lives. I will proudly, unabashedly, always be that friend for my kids. In fact I strongly believe that it’s one of my most important jobs when it comes to being a mother.
2. I’m not here to be cool. I’m here to raise cool kids.
This is one thing we may partially agree on. Anyone who ever accused me of trying to be cool wouldn’t get very far. I’m pretty much a big dork. I’m socially awkward, I trip over air, and I laugh way harder than I should at “That’s what she said” jokes. But I’m perfectly me, and I encourage my kids to be their own best selves too. It’s not a zero sum game, where I have to be “mean mom” in order for my kids to be raised right (or whatever version of “right” that society deems appropriate). I do my best to be kind, and respectful, and a person with integrity. And guess what? My kids are kind, and respectful, and people with integrity. Who cares about cool?
3. Because nagging works.
Lots of things “work”, especially in the short term. But that doesn’t mean that anything that works is the best choice, or the kindest choice. Being a mom should be about the relationship. Nagging doesn’t tend to be a great thing for relationships, and rightly so. No one likes to be nagged. Bottom line: if I wouldn’t like it said – or done – to me, I don’t want to say or do it to my kids.
4. I married a cool dad.
I think this is meant to be a take on the antiquated good cop/bad cop paradigm, where one parent needs to be the soft one, and the other the “heavy.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. My kids have a cool mom and a cool dad (or, at least, uncool in equal measure). We are different, to be sure, because we are vastly different people. But good and bad? Nice and mean? Nope. We’re partners; both on the same team.
5. It just plain works.
Didn’t we already do this one? Sure, it works. Know what else works? Being nice.
6. It takes a village, except when the villagers are all too nice.
The author feels that a trip to the playground should carry with it a mandatory contract that reads, “If you see another kid being an asshole, don’t hesitate. Say something.” Gah. Again with the calling kids assholes. So here’s the thing: There seems to be a false dichotomy that states that there are exactly two ways for parenting (and by extension, society) to operate. 1) Parents are “mean”, children behave, and there is order and harmony in all the land. Or 2) Parents are too nice (ie: pushovers) children run wild, and chaos and bedlam reign supreme. But there are other options. Yup, sometimes it really does take a village. And yup, sometimes a trip to the playground does require intervention involving another child and/or another parent. I have been there. But I’ve never met a situation that couldn’t be at least a little more quickly diffused, a little more softened, a little more pleasant for all involved… by being nice. I don’t care who you are, young or old. God knows we could use a little more “nice.”
7. Kids will suck the nice right out of you. Let them.
We’re not born with a finite amount of “nice.” If we are treating our kids kindly from a genuine place of love and respect (and not, for example, from a misplaced sense of martyrdom or insecurity), we literally never run out of niceness. No one can suck it out of us. No one can take it away. In fact, it’s one of those emotional muscles that actually increases the more we use it. I’ve been a parent for over 20 years, and I still manage to be nice to my kids. I think I’ll even be able to be nice to them tomorrow. Crazy! (But true.) Even crazier? My kids are nice to me, too!
8. I refuse to raise little manipulators.
Oof. Listen, it’s not that I think kids are perfect (they’re human), and it’s not that I don’t think kids – past a certain age – can’t manipulate (again, they’re human). It’s just that 1) being nice to your kids doesn’t turn them into manipulators; 2) being mean doesn’t preclude it – in fact I think it increases the odds exponentially; 3) children, like all of us, tend to behave as well as they are treated; and 4) calling kids manipulators (and brats and assholes etcera) is tired and uncool and contributing to the problem. Not solving it. Look at it this way: if someone was assuming the worst about you and calling you a name, would you be more or less likely to act pleasantly toward that person in the future?
9. Still want to be cool? Just wait until you’re the grandmother.
Nope, it’s not about being cool. Not even a little bit. It’s not about being liked. It’s not even about being nice. It’s about something far simpler. It’s about treating my kids the way I’d like to be treated. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t like it very much if an important person in my life measured their relational success against how mean they were to me.
In fact, I’d actually appreciate the opposite.