I seem to be doing a lot of head shaking these days and the column that just appeared by The Tiger Mother is no exception. Maybe it’s because some of the things people say are simply unbelievable to me. Or maybe I’m just getting old. No matter…what follows is what turned an otherwise relaxing Sunday morning on its ear.
In the Life and Style section of The Wall Street Journal appeared a column – “A Week in the Life of the ‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua.” Now perhaps you read her 2011 book, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mom, or simply heard about it. It tossed another catch-phrase about mothers and parenting into the ring which now also includes helicopter parents, free-range parenting, and others. And while every parent approaches parenting differently (and has the right to do so), this column stepped over the line for me and maybe for you too.
The Sentence That Threw Me Overboard
First, it's important to say this – if I’m going to take my time to read something, I expect it to have some value. Whether an insight to consider or a line to make me laugh, make it worth my time. In Chua’s tale of a day in her life (why printed space was given to this in the first place is another issue; i.e. no value), she makes this statement referring to her 19 and 22-year-old daughters who were returning to college after winter break … “Dogs are so much nicer than daughters.” I stopped and re-read it, figuring that I must have missed something that would have framed this statement differently. I missed nothing.
No question about it – parenting is tough and there are days when we’d much rather be stroking our dog than our child’s ego. But can you imagine being someone that many apparently follow in terms of parenting advice and, whether in jest or not, thinking no less saying that you think your pet is nicer than your child?
A Line In The Sand
Whether she intended her statement to be humorous or not, it simply crossed the line. And how do I define this line? Like this – no matter what parenting approach you prescribe to and no matter how difficult your parenting road may be, how about showing gratitude for having the privilege of simply being a parent, for not everyone can achieve this title. It’s not the same as the titles Chua has after her name, but for many, it’s the most important one there is.
The Greatest Gift
Is Chua aware that there are millions of parents who yearn for a daughter? Women struggling with infertility and couples trying to adopt. Is she cognizant of the millions of parents who have daughters with disabilities, hoping beyond hope that their daughters *can* attend college and will be grateful when they return home for winter break? Is she aware that one of her colleagues may have a daughter with mental health issues where every day is fraught with both fear and hope? Is she clueless about the parents who have lost a daughter to suicide or another life-ending tragedy? While I typically don’t write like this, I simply have to say…Gimme a break.
I’m all for differing opinions. If you want to share parenting insights that some might find valuable, do so. If you have advice that might help another, advise. But if you’re fortunate enough to have the ability to impact others through the written word or otherwise and you've been given one of life's greatest gifts, you better be sure you’re taking the realities of others into consideration.
Here’s my bottom-line to Amy...
Degrees and accomplishments don’t take the place of common sense and sensitivity. No question you love your daughters, yet the fact that you also asked whether they may want to come home again speaks volumes. Your dogs may be wonderful companions that don’t give you a run for your money, yet they also don’t give you the pride of the accomplishments that you value so dearly. So remember…you're regarded as the tiger mom for one reason only. And it's not because your dogs are your sole dependents. Be thankful. You have the most important credentials ever...M.O.M.
-Debra I. Schafer, CEO