They say that “art imitates life.” I have often thought about a scene from the 2004 classic “Mean Girls.” The character Regina George was the quintessential “cool girl.” She was also a snob, controlling, narcissistic, and self-centered. And the movie never actually explains why that is, but we get a slight insight into her origin when we visit Regina’s home at one point in the movie, and meet…her “cool mom”:
Mrs. George: “I just want you to know, if you ever need anything, don’t be shy, OK? There are NO rules in the house. I’m not like a “regular” mom, I’m a “cool” mom.”
In contrast, we all can think back to that REALLY Mean Mom from our past. You know, the one that we told stories about at the lunch table? My mom was definitely a ‘Mean Mom’ and while I didn’t much appreciate it at the time, when I look back, I’m so thankful that she was tough. As a parent, I’ve learned that it’s actually pretty exhausting to be a Mean Mom!
A Mean Mom:
- Means it when she says no.
- Sets boundaries… and enforces them consistently.
- Is first the parent… and then eventually – eventually- becomes a friend.
- Expects respect and accepts no less, but also models and gives respect.
- Sets clear rules and enforces them… and then follows through when they’re broken.
- Knows… I mean KNOWS who each friend and their parents are and where they live.
- Puts her spouse before her kids.
- Expects kids to play outside – for more than 2 minutes a day.
- Sees the potential each of her children has and expects them to reach for it.
- Is honest and doesn’t make excuses for her kids’ behaviors.
- Makes her kids clean up their own messes and do other work… for free!
- Makes her kids play alone often… so they learn to entertain themselves.
- Allows her kids to feel boredom.
- Serves the same food to everyone at the table.
- Allows her child to feel the effects of a lack of responsibility
- Makes her kids to go bed…and stay there… before 9:00.
- Makes her kids wait.
…. And this list could go on and on.
But, I’ve come to learn that there’s a huge difference between a ‘Mean Mom’ and an Unfair Mom. I also have to admit that I’ve definitely rowed the Unfair Mom boat more times than I can count, and it’s usually when my life is spiraling in some random, completely unexpected direction. While life happens and sometimes we just are just temporarily holding onto the oars with all we have and trying to stay afloat, there are also times when the waters are pretty calm and we kind of just tread right along giving into an easier, indulgent path. And, if we’re not careful, we can quickly slip into the shoes of an Unfair Mom. An Unfair Mom, while well-meaning, is unintentionally setting her kiddos up for failure.
An Unfair Mom will:
- Fill the evening schedule so full (with often very good things) that her kids eat fast food 4 nights in a row- in their car seats- and then she’ll try to justify in her mind that at least there were apples in the kids meals! (and then wonder why everyone just seems crazy)
- Neglect her own personal needs (exercise, going to bed before the next day begins, eating healthy) until her body and emotions completely spazz and then she EXPLODES. At everyone. Including the Dog. In a nonconstructive Blind Rage.
- Debut the most incredible, awesome kids’ Pinterest Perfect Party… all the while snipping and snapping at everyone in her path (including the birthday kid!)… and completely lose the meaning behind the party!
- Set an expectation, but forget to offer tools or instruction for how to meet the end result. For example, she tells her child to clean up, but has never really taken the time to show what that looks like step by step.
- Do chores, laundry, dishes… and even sometimes homework for her child. It’s just much easier sometimes…. Until they show up for their first day of work!
- Related… she helps her child…. And helps her child…. And helps her child… and never really hands over the reins, resulting in a lack of independence
- Live through her child rather than teaching her child how to live.
- Never allow her child to feel loss or sadness.
- Never allow her child to experience failure. If she can swoop in and fix it, she’ll swoop in and fix it!
- Confuse indulgence with love.
Of course,there are countless other examples for both a Mean Mom and and Unfair Mom…
but after years on the “I’m the Kid at the lunch table talking about my mom” side, to years as the ‘I’m really just trying to figure out how to parent my kids into successful adults” side, I’m learning that a Mean Mom is consistent, prepared, has high expectations for her child and herself, and isn’t afraid to see her child unhappy now and again. I’m learning that being a Mean Mom is really showing true, selfless love and that consistently being that Mean Mom is beyond tough because it demands thick skin, self control and a whole lot of love and perspective . It’s the kind of parenting that prepares your child to face the world outside of your home, to take responsibility, to feel confidence in who they are on their own 2 feet. We all love our kids and we all want the best for them. But, I’ve too often slipped into the Unfair Mom Mode… where it sometimes becomes more about Me…. Or “the Joneses” or Convenience, and it comes to back bite me in the you know what. None of us are perfect and we all have completely different parenting styles are are raising completely different children! But, when everything around me starts to feel out of control, I have to take a step back and look. Am I being an Unfair Mom? And, when I find those unfair characteristics creeping in… you know, those parenting moments that are more about getting through the day or unintentionally scratching my own back? When those moments start to become the norm, it’s time for me to take a deep look, take a deep breath and find my inner Mean Mom; and to truly invest into some tough parenting. After all, a Mean Mom sets boundaries and enforces them consistently! And, it seems to me that she raises some pretty awesome kids!