Are you a mum or a parent?
There’s a massive difference!
‘Parenting’ is a twentieth century term that suggests that raising kids is a gender neutral activity. It’s a managerial, almost scientific term that has given rise to a huge industry. In Western countries, millions of parenting books and magazines are sold each year, parenting columns appear in most newspapers, and new television series appear every year focused on the modern notion of parenting.
The problem is that when we refer to ‘parenting’ we tend to remove the heart and emotion from the task. We obscure the fact that it is mothers and fathers who are doing the child-rearing, rather than mere parents.
Parenting means different things to different people. For many people the term ‘parenting’ is code for behaviour management – particularly taming toddlers and their close cousins, teenagers. A broader and more thoughtful definition includes teaching kids positive values and attitudes, developing a range of skills that equips them for adulthood, and ultimately preparing kids to be parents themselves one day.
I often point out to audiences in parenting presentations how being related to our kids can stop us from being great parents. We all know how our neighbour’s kids should be raised, but somehow it’s harder to raise our own. That’s because the hopes and dreams of motherhood (and fatherhood) can somehow get in the way of rational decision-making.
Mothering is emotional and instinctive
And that’s the thing. Being a mother is not always rational, as parenting is often made out to be. There is a great deal of emotion attached to the role of mother. This emotion drives you to fight hard to protect your children, work assiduously to right any wrongs on their behalf, and exhaust yourself looking after their physical and psychological well-being.
Being a mother is instinctive. In the information age we need to be careful we don’t to deny the intuitive nature that mothers bring to their child-rearing. The nature of mothering infers nurturance, protectiveness and longevity. Mothering is relational rather than rational. You may grow out parenting by making yourself redundant but mothering is something you never grow out of. You are a mum for life.
Mothering is individual-based. When you are one-on-one with your child you are a mum. Parenting is group-based. When you are focusing on what’s best for your family, or just leading the gang you are a parent.
Kids want their mothers, not their parents
Kids say, “That’s my mum!”
They don’t say, “That’s my parent!” (They may say that when they are annoyed or embarrassed by you, but that’s another story.)
Boys and girls of all ages generally love their mothers unconditionally, whereas they merely put up with their parents, particularly during adolescence. They can live without their parents, or so they think, but deep down they know they can’t live without the one person who has a blind spot for them, overlooking all their faults. That person, of course, is their mother.
When kids of all ages get into emotional difficulty or their life becomes too hard , they generally go looking for their mums. They only look for their ‘parent’ when they want some money, or want someone to get them out of a jam!
Raising kids is about mothering (and fathering) ... rather than parenting. Parenting is a head thing; mothering is a heart thing and that’s hard to beat.
That’s why we have Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day), not Parent’s Day.
I do hope you have a good one!
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