Still in search of recipe for parenting success

Image: alekss/

If evolution means becoming better and more streamlined as a species, then I’m not likely to be among the survivors — mostly because much of what I’ve moaned about in the past, hasn’t changed.

“It’s been a week into the new school term and I’m ready for Christmas. I am schedule-toting, deadline-driving, uniform-finding, lunchbox-scrambling mom-on-the-run — and I don’t know how I got onto this bus, or how to get off it.”

This, five years ago, was me. Today, it still is. I put it to you now (as I did years ago — what’s changed?) that life was a helluva lot simpler before 21st-century parenting. More “wing it”  than “know-it-all”, true, but sometimes — and certainly in this case — ignorance was bliss.

Back then, you were simply “mom” you weren’t assigned a totem animal name by modern psychiatry and expected to live by it. Psychiatrist Shimi Kang says that the rise of a pioneering parenting age — riding its wave of technology, instant information, dog-eat-dog materialism and global competitiveness — means we have within our ranks a variety of different types of parent.

We are the new maternal animals who know too much and are, thus, exhausted and confused. You are either a Tiger, Jellyfish or Dolphin mom, whether you knew this or not. Unless you’re a Helicopter, in which case we’re probably not friends. Helicopters smother, though Tigers over-mother and terrify the daylights out of everybody’s children — so it’s likely that anybody I know is either a Fish or a Dolphin.

I know that I’m a Dolphin, because I have a green conscience, am suspicious of commercial bread, won’t eat battery chicken and believe children shouldn’t get so much homework. I also worship the power of sunlight. All these are Dolphin traits — the mark of a mom trying to be a supermom, without being authoritarian (Tiger) or too permissive (Jellyfish).

But on busy days — and they always are — I wish that I could un-remember this stuff. The pressure of living up to a psychiatrist-stamped label doesn’t get easier with time. My friend Podge, with her clutch of grown-up children and a handful of grandlings, laughed at me then, and still does now.

“Babe,” she told me once, ignoring her grown-up daughter’s text message for the umpteenth time and pouring a G&T (closet Jellyfish, there), “there’s only one type of mom every kid wants, growing up. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, but momma’s gotta be the only thing she needs to be — boring.”

On some mystical, complex level, I think she’s right.