Suburban turmoils

by Carolyn on September 8, 2009

Love that tagline!
Love that tagline!

Have you ever read Lindsay Ferrier?  If you haven’t, you should.  She writes a column for the Nashville City Newspaper, maintains her blog Suburban Turmoil and has also blogged for Parents Magazine.  This lady is one busy writer.  With her being both a child of divorce and stepmother, I’m always interested to read her take on parenting, step parenting and life in general.  and one of her latest posts really piqued my interest.

She started by poking fun at the parents she encounters who have completely given their lives up to parenting.  The ones who volunteer for everything and are omnipresent in their children’s social, academic and extracurricular lives.  Why would anyone do that to themselves?  Choosing to lose your identity to that of chauffeur, classroom helper, baker, fan, and social director doesn’t seem very enticing and yet so many are choosing to live this way.  Lindsay speculates that it may be related to divorce.  She writes:

Scariest of all? This is what’s become of Generation X.

Yes, all that cynicism and Nirvana and flannel shirt wearing was simply layer after layer of protection, designed to cover frail psyches damaged by divorced and career-obsessed parents. Fast forward to today and witness how many Gen X parents are overprotective and obsessed with their children. This helicopter parenting is merely an effort, according to the experts, to fix what was broken when these parents themselves were kids, 20 to 30 years ago.

I’d like to laugh off the theory, but I can’t. I’m living it.

Twenty-nine years ago, I was my daughter’s age, dressed in Lanz pajamas and seated beside my brother night after night at the top of the stairs, as we listened to our parents arguing down below. A year later, I watched my father carry an armful of suits out the front door.

I remained pretty stoic about my parents’ divorce and my mom’s return to the workforce, but while I thought as a kid that it didn’t affect me, I was wrong. I’m a regular June Cleaver today because of it. I cook. I clean. I volunteer. I stay at home. And too often, I bite my tongue to keep the peace. I tell myself it’s best for our family.

But I’m not always sure it’s best for me.  Read the full article here.  It’s worth reading in it’s entirety.

Now as a cynical, Nirvana loving, card carrying member of Gen X with parents who are both divorced and career minded, married myself with children to boot; it seemed I could completely fit the bill.

And so this made me wonder, am I a helicopter parent?  Have I given everything I am over to my kids in an attempt to right my parent’s wrongs?  I hope not.  But it’s worth a closer look.  Because the reality is that I have said and thought that I want my children to have a very different experience growing up than I did.  And so far, I feel like I’m achieving it.  I guess what I need to consider is at what cost to me as a person as well as a parent?

Am I overprotective?  You bet.  I make no qualms about that.  Am I helicopterish?  Maybe.  I am usually hovering when I’m with them and I don’t trust many others to care for them.  Do I live for my kids?  Yes, I do.  Do I live my life through my kids?  No.  I can honestly say that.  I mean, I do have other things going on.  They alone do not define me.

Can I relate my parenting style to my parent’s divorce?  Yes, I’m sure there are many elements of my parenting  that are directly related.  Like feeling hyper-in-tuned to what my kids are feeling and how they perceive things.  I find myself remembering all too well how things made me feel and then overcompensating with my own children.  Then there’s my need to have them see that arguing within the context of a relationship is okay.  And my constant reminders to myself to allow them to own and express their own feelings without reproach.

What’s interesting is that my husband is even more of a helicopter parent than I am and his family history is almost an exact opposite of mine.  He has only known stability.  His parents have been married over 40 years.  They still live in the same they did when he born.  His mom stayed home with him and his three sisters when they were young.  So is the helicopter brought forth by absent or divorced parents?  I’m not so sure and yet it seems to make perfect sense.

Lindsay writes that she finds this same theme reflected in her marriage.  She bites her tongue to keep the peace instead of being assertive in an attempt to maintain a peaceful marriage.  I pondered whether I did that too.  And again, I find similarities and differences.

I don’t think there’s anything that could make me divorce my husband.  I feel and hope that our marriage could survive anything.  And I mean that.  I never find myself wishing for the ‘bigger better thing’ or worrying that one day I’ll feel unfulfilled.  Divorce is not an option and although our marriage hasn’t truly been tested as I know some are, I know that divorce would crush me right to my core.  It’s hard for me to fathom that I could even survive it, so then what does that mean I’d be willing to sacrifice in it’s name?  Therein lies the similarity.

And yet, I can’t say I ever bite my tongue to maintain it’s peace.  In fact, my husband and I can hardly hold ourselves back when we are dissatisfied with something.  We disagree often and make up just as much.  I’ve always held the belief that this is what would make my marriage strong.  No brewing or hiding or feeling quietly resentful.  No stuffing or denying angry feelings.  So far it has worked.  For us.

It’s always amazing to me, the wide array of effects that divorce can have on it’s children.  How differently we as people can translate our past experiences into our current lives.  There is a whole generation of us now.  A wave.

So tell me, how has your history of divorce woven it’s way through your current life?

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Yaya September 9, 2009 at 6:24 am

I’m a nanny and have been for almost 10 years. It’s funny because when I take a class with one of the kids, or take them out to the museum or something, I can always tell who the helicopter parents are in a heartbeat. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I think to live life like that would be exhausting.

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2 Carolyn September 9, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Oh, I’ll bet you can! My kids are still really young, so I’m going to attribute my hovering to that. Hopefully as they get older I’ll be sane enough to let go. ;)

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3 Eyes Wide Open September 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

This was so interesting to read. My husband’s father left shortly after he was born(he never met him), and his mom’s remarriage ended in divorce. Oddly enough, he is totally not a helicopter parent. I’m not sure how much of his actions fall into gender stereotypes and how much is due to his own experience, but he is constantly trying to toughen his kid up. He encourages his son to go for walks and bike rides alone (his mom’s side tells him not to because he’ll get kidnapped) etc. Sometimes I think he’s too tough, but then again he was from a single parent household where his parent worked three jobs to make ends meet. So he had to be tough, which means his parenting is shaped by his experience with divorce…
I never thought about this before….thanks for the post!
.-= Eyes Wide Open´s last blog ..Quotable Sunday =-.

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4 Carolyn September 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

What’s so interesting for me, is that what I’ve seen in my friends (granted, mostly women) is that they either want to be a very different parent than their own or they want to be similar. I’ve not seen a lot of middle ground. I remember once hearing a friend of mine say “that’s what my father did, so it’s what I’m doing”. Wheras I always find myself thinking “I remember feeling this way, so what can I do so that my kids don’t”.

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5 Theta Mom September 9, 2009 at 9:44 am

I don’t have direct experience here since I am not a child of divorce myself, but I do have friends that are and I remember how hard it was for them when their parents split when they were really young. Looking forward to checking out this blogger you mentioned! :)
.-= Theta Mom´s last blog ..Mowing the Lawn and a Blue Bunny =-.

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6 Carolyn September 9, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Enjoy! She’s great.

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7 Blond Duck September 9, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Popped in from SITS to say hi! What an interesting post. I would have never thought “helicopter” parenting developed from the divorce age, but I can see it!

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8 Carolyn September 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Thanks for stopping by!

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9 Jennifer September 9, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Stopping by to say thank you for visiting and following my blog. I don’t have children yet but my sister just had a baby two months ago and I can definitely see her being a helicopter parent. Not that there is anything wrong with that but it is interesting how a person was raised and what they experienced in their own childhood might affect the way they parent their own children.
.-= Jennifer´s last blog ..We Got Gourds! =-.

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10 Carolyn September 9, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Thanks for coming by again Jennifer! Congratulations to your sister!

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11 Lindsay September 10, 2009 at 7:53 am

Wow! Thanks for writing this post- It’s been interesting to read your take and all the comments.

Another thing I thought was interesting was that 60% of Gen X parents have started saving for their children’s college educations when the kids are still very small- I definitely fit that bill!

It is interesting research, that’s for sure!
.-= Lindsay´s last blog ..Hello, Chattanooga! =-.

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12 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for stopping in Lindsay! I’m glad you liked the post and it’s response. Oh yes, I fit the bill with your new bit of research too. I wonder if that’s because we have seen the rising costs of higher education first hand and don’t want it looming over our or our children’s heads in one big lump. I know that’s why my husband and I are saving, anyway.

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13 Amanda September 10, 2009 at 10:22 am

I have been mulling this over all night since I read it yesterday.

I never thought that I was *that* affected by my parents divorced and yet I was talking about your post to my friend today and realised that actually the way I parent has a lot to do with their divorce. I am adamant that I will be able to drop my kids to school and be their to pick them up. My mum worked full time and I would often be home on my own for a few hours before she got home. I was so jealous of kids whose mums were home to meet them or pick them up from school. This has really stuck with me and I won’t let it be the same for my kids.
I also voluteer for school activites and am the Class Parent Liason – my mum never did anything like that. Hey she was a single mum trying to make ends meet and would sarifice meals for me etc etc so I do not blame her for any of it but at the same time I won’t let it be the same for my kids.

Great Post Carolyn
.-= Amanda´s last blog ..My First Job =-.

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14 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Thanks Amanda. I agree and I know exactly what you mean. My mom was a career mom too and I remember the kids who’s mom’s came to every field trip or volunteered regularly, etc. I wished mine could too but she just couldn’t. Kids just love to show off their parents!

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15 hayley September 10, 2009 at 9:01 pm

This is such an interesting topic. I know I’m guilty of this – or maybe guilty isn’t the right word… or is it? Because it’s my guilt about a) being divorced from Jake’s dad that I overcompensate and b) it’s my guilt from knowing what divorce can to do a child because of my upbringing that I overcompensate. There have definitely been a few times where I let discipline, or issues slide — or worse, fester and let anxiety build because I’m so worried about screwing up my kid. I’ve come to really accept that we can’t be perfect. If we shield them too much – it’s not good. If we shield them too little it’s not good. Very interesting discussion…
.-= hayley´s last blog ..The Case Against Facebook =-.

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16 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:50 pm

It’s hard to find that happy medium isn’t it? As a parent in any situation this is a struggle. But thinking about it is important. And no, I wouldn’t say you were ‘guilty’. Just trying to do right by your child. Making mistakes like the rest of us and trying to do improve.

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17 Blond Duck September 11, 2009 at 6:31 am

I’m glad you liked the Pond! I’ll be back to visit you as well!

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18 Kelly September 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Very interesting. I’ve heard of helicopter parents before, but not this theory behind it. I have an *idea* of what kind of parent I want to be, but it’s hard to say what the reality will be when that actually happens.
.-= Kelly´s last blog ..The boy said whaaa?! =-.

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19 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm

And it’s so hard to know until you are there! Things I said I’d never do I find myself doing. And things I thought I would do I don’t. It’s a surprising thing – parenthood.

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20 Mary September 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hi! Popping over from SITS roll call to visit.

Interesting. I guess in reality, even though has been years ago now (my son is 28) I know I was a bit of a helicopter parent because my parents weren’t. But, as much as I may have tried to “fix” those broken things of my parents, I often wonder if my parents weren’t just trying to do the same thing … undo what their own parents broke to begin with. I wonder. Could it just be a vicious cycle that has generational repeats?
.-= Mary´s last blog ..How to Make Homemade Gravy =-.

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21 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I wondered the exact same thing! When I commented on Lindsay’s post, I wrote something like “perhaps the following generation will try to do things so differently from us that they end up parenting like our parents did.” I guess we’ll have to wait and see. ;)

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22 Pam September 12, 2009 at 11:21 am

Happy SITS Sharefest Saturday

I’ve never thought about helicopter parenting as being an effect of divorce, but I suppose it’s possible. I know many helicopter parents whose parents were not divorced, however. I think that helicopter parenting is more a funciton of women making child-rearing their “career”. We are a generation of women who chose to stay home and gave up work to do it. So, we treat parenting like a “job” that we want to excel at. Stay home moms in the 50s didn’t put so much emphasis on “parenting” – and I think they raised more independent, self-sufficient kids as a result.

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23 Carolyn September 12, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Good point, but I see lots of working mom’s who are the worst helicopters of all! Maybe trying to make up for their lost time with their children by being intrusive when they’re home? It is an interesting phenomenon and I’m sure it can’t be pegged to just one cause. But it’s neat to explore the possibilities.

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