When some friends and I formed a new book club a few years ago, we learned the local bookstore would give us a discount if we registered our club and its monthly selections. We discussed potential club names, and realized that “Meanest Mommies” was perfect, as that’s what we’re all called at home.
It turns out that our club name and no-nonsense parenting style was part of a trend, a reaction against the coddling, cheer-leading, here’s-a-trophy-for-joining-the-team method that was popular when our kids were younger.
In the past few years, a host of mean mommy blogs – including themeanestmom.blogspot.com and www.meanestmommy.com — have popped up, all flaunting the same, “I’m not supposed to be your friend, I’m supposed to teach you how to be an honest, hard-working contributor to society” bent.
In my view, this “mean mommy” approach to parenting fills a nice void between the hyper-controlling helicopter moms, the super-driven Tiger Moms and the latest flavor of the month, the detached, extra-strict French style presented in Pamela Druckerman’s new Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting.
In our house, the meanest mommy in the world makes the kids complete 10 tasks a day to earn allowance (make their beds, clear their plates, put their clothes in the laundry and, most important, take on one job that contributes to the household’s functioning, such as emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry).
Early on, this mean mommy was inspired by a wonderful book entitled Mitten Strings for God (it isn’t as religiously oriented as it sounds), in which the author’s edicts include a ban on criticizing “the chef.” In that woman’s home, as in mine, if the kids don’t like what’s offered for dinner, after trying everything, they can quietly leave the table, grab two slices of bread and some cheese, and return with that simple sandwich.
At our house, kids must pay for clothes they don’t “absolutely need.” They must check in whenever they are out, can’t sleep at other kids’ homes after eighth grade, have an early curfew and get “grounded” for disrespecting rules.
This mean mommy pays for the kids’ cell phone service, but insists that their primary purpose is to enable communication within the family. So, if she calls a child and he or she doesn’t answer or call back within 10 minutes, the phone disappears for a while.
This mommy is so mean, she bags up clothes that are left on the floor too long, and tells the kids the items will be donated to the thrift store, or the kids can buy them back at thrift-store rates.
To be clear, this mean mommy loves her kids enormously, and they know it. We rarely end a phone call or text without an “I love you” or xoxo, we trust and confide in each other and we share wonderful tender moments. And, while my kids aren’t perfect people (who is?), I am very, very proud of them. However, they are works in progress, and I am grateful for advice and information from other moms.
Where we live, MOB (Mother of Boys) groups have been popular for years. These groups of moms, generally gathered by their sons’ grade level, meet on a regular basis to discuss age-appropriate issues (first junk food and PG-13 movies, later homework and “screen time” issues, then allowance and curfews and finally, well, female and substance concerns).
One of the greatest aspects of the MOB groups is returning home and telling your child that six of your friends don’t allow “what every other mom in town” permits. After a while, kids grow so suspicious of MOB meetings, they’ll try to keep their mothers from attending – illnesses, need for homework help, erasing phone messages; everything short of lost limbs.
Now, the internet has made some of those MOB groups obsolete. As an example, two weeks ago a very venerable mom in our community sent an email to a few dozen friends stating, “[My son] assures me that ALL the 2nd semester senior boys have had their curfews removed and that everyone can stay out as late as they want with no ramifications(!).” She wanted a “reality check,” and the internet swiftly flooded with responses, most assuring the mean mom that she wasn’t alone; that their kids still had midnight curfews, too.
To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being mean.” Because we love our little creatures so much, we are tempted to do whatever it takes to make them happy. For their part, kids learn at a very young age how to pull just the right heartstrings at just the right moment. However, we mean mommies understand that in life, we can’t always get what we want when we want it.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 13 Feb. 2012
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