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The Mother Load
By Mary Byers


"The Mother Load" by Mary ByersDear Fellow Mom,

I have an article from the associated press in front of me titled, “Hovering parents irk colleges.” The first sentence reads, “They’re called ‘helicopter parents,’ for their habit of hovering—hyper-involved—over their children’s lives. Here at Colgate University, as elsewhere, they have become increasingly bold in recent years, telephoning administrators to complain about their children’s housing assignments, roommates and grades.”

The article quotes Helen Johnson, author of Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money, a guide for college parents, who writes, “This is a group of parents who have been more involved in their children’s development since any generation in American History.”

After reading that sentence, I stopped and pondered the implications of parental involvement in a child’s life. Am I too involved? I wondered.

Since then, I’ve actively been seeking opportunities to help each of my children take responsibility for themselves. It’s tough, but I try not to remind them when their library books or due, or ask if their homework is done. Instead, I’m trying to teach them to ask themselves the questions they need to ask. Before bed, I want them to ask, Have I done everything I need to do to prepare for tomorrow? In the morning before leaving for school I want them to ask, Are my morning chores done? Do I have everything I need for school today? It’s much better that they get into the habit of asking those questions now, even though it is hard for me to let go enough to let them do it.

Part of the reason that it’s hard to let go is that I want to matter to my kids. But after thinking about it, I’ve decided I want to matter to them because I’m their mother, not because they need me to remind them to do their homework or grab their lunch on the way out the door. I’m making a hard decision now: I want to matter in my kids’ lives, but I don’t want to be a “helicopter parent.” I also don’t want to be a garbage sweeper, trailing behind them picking up the messes they make. Instead, I’d like to be a sidecar, like on a motorcycle, riding alongside my children as a companion and encourager.

The decisions we make today determine our children’s future success in life. Decide what kind of parent you want to be. Then, have the courage to be it.


Mary Byers is an author, speaker, facilitator, consultant, provocateur and permission giver. She is also a Certified Association Executive (CAE). She helps associations remain relevant in an increasingly competitive environment. You can reach her at www.MaryByers.com.

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