By Jennifer McGrail
Someone recently asked me when I was going to stop writing about not being the “mean mum.” 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 mum, they tell us, not the nice mum. Not the cool mum. 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 mum, and my response from the other side.
- 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.
- 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 mum” 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?
- 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 mum 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.
- 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 mum 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.
- It just plain works.
Didn’t we already do this one? Sure, it works. Know what else works? Being nice.