- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2007

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m enlisting with the “slacker moms,” as USA Today described us this week.

In, “‘Slacker moms’ urge other mothers to chill,” Sharon Jayson describes the new version of the “mommy wars.” This one isn’t between stay-at-home moms and their professional peers; it’s a skirmish between the controlling, super-efficient, protective “alpha moms” and the more laid-back “slacker moms.”

Miss Jayson writes the latter “may forget to send back permission slips or lose track of their turn for team snacks.” My picture should run next to that sentence.

Of course, the term “slacker” mom isn’t right at all. I prefer the more accurate term of “common-sense” mom. Anyway, one common-sense mom confesses to Miss Jayson (gasp) that, contrary to the other affluent moms around her, she lets her 10- and 11- and 7-year-olds ride their bikes in their neighborhood. Ooooh.

In today’s parenting world that is living on the edge. Especially for the mom, who may risk censure from the “alphas.”

When I think of “alpha” moms, I’m reminded of those moms with healthy young children who announce with exhaustion they can’t go to the bathroom alone. I think of mothers who agonize endlessly with their child over every bruised knee or hurt feeling, and fear if they don’t get their children into the right preschool at age 3, their chances at Harvard are over.

Yes, there are “alpha” dads, though they don’t seem to be quite as intense. Let’s save that for Father’s Day.

I’m guessing that the more kids you have, the harder it is to be an “alpha” mom. With my four, I couldn’t be an “alpha” if I tried. Yes, I allow more than one child at a time onto my large (netted) trampoline and, wow, do they have a blast. If it’s a beautiful day and my kids are a bit late getting home from school, I assume they’ve stopped at the park for a few minutes, not that they’ve been abducted. I don’t worry about trace amounts of pesticides remaining on their fruit after I wash it. I readily tell them I’m not the entertainment committee. Sometimes after they scrape a knee or an ego and have been given their hug, I tell them to stop whining and move on.

I want them to work hard in school because that’s their job, whether or not they end up at Harvard. And sometimes if we stay up late on a school night to watch a movie together, well — so what?

I love my kids like crazy. I have fun being around them. I’m also quite open about something alpha moms seem loath to admit: sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes parenting is just hard. Sometimes it’s just a good time to send them all to bed.

Yes, I worry: about building my children’s characters, helping them to deal with a world that wants to seduce them in every unwholesome way, teaching them to respect themselves, and me, and the principle behind “no, you can’t have it, you can’t do it, you can’t behave that way.” Teaching them to esteem others, not just themselves, and that it’s my job to care for them and lead them. And that, yes, they are precious and the world still doesn’t revolve around them.

The helicopter parents who seem to live in constant anxiety and fear, who consistently worry about building their child’s all-important self-esteem in addition to their little one’s resume, well I just don’t think they can be having a whole lot of fun. Sure they love their kids like crazy too, but I have to wonder — are they raising “all about me” nervous nellies?

Yes, there’s probably a lot of overlap in almost every mom between “alpha” and “common-sense.” And I hardly think I get it all right. In fact, many times I don’t get any of it right. For starters, I’m not necessarily happy that I’m raising children who are perfectly comfortable (occasionally) sleeping in their clothes. The list goes on.

But, if I could give a gift this Mother’s Day to every mom in America, it would be this: Relax, give your children and yourself the freedom to fail, and just enjoy your kids. Happy Mother’s Day.

Betsy Hart is a nationally syndicated columnist and hosts the “It Takes a Parent” radio show on WYLL-AM 1160 in Chicago.

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