Helicopter moms are frequent targets of critics so I’d like to come to their defense. Having raised seven children, I understand this difficulty with letting go; with letting children fail; with letting teachers and coaches do their jobs without interference. Helicopter parenting is considered a trait unique to modern mothers, and while I agree women of prior eras were less inclined this way, I also know there are modern realities that contribute to the helicopter-mom phenomenon.
The first is the baby monitor.
Don’t take offense if you use a baby monitor. I actually enjoy watching my one-year old grandson throw his pacifier out of his crib as he babbles and fights sleep. I also know many mishaps have been prevented because a monitor captured something dangerous occurring behind closed doors.
But what message do we send an expectant mother by presenting her with a night-vision camera as a gift? Here, Mom. You can watch your baby while he sleeps in the safest place on the planet: in his crib in your house. And so the hovering begins with this standard nursery equipment.
Most moms don’t become helicopter parents because of baby monitors, but maybe some do. Maybe some women find it difficult to develop their letting-go muscles because they’ve relied upon a whizzing device to alert them when their baby rolls over. Maybe that kind of uber-monitoring has a long-term impact on some moms and they can’t shake the need to watch everything their children do.
I’m not saying moms should throw out monitors. But I am saying that we moms eventually need to develop faith enough to believe that when our children are out of our view, they remain in God’s sightline. They don’t need us to watch them sleep. The things we fear rarely, if ever happen to them. The other adults in their lives are gifts to us who may know more than we do about education, sports, and medical conditions. What a blessing that we don’t have to be all-knowing and all-wise.
If we want our kids to grow strong, we must be strong enough first to say no to monitoring, maybe even from the start of our mothering career. We need to walk away from the bedroom door because we will have to walk away from pre-school and college dorms eventually. Maybe a more limited use of baby monitors could help steer us clear of our helicopter inclinations. Maybe more praying and less worrying will dismantle our rotors for good. Maybe we need to be more like Christ’s mother Mary, our ultimate example of trusting God and letting go. Maybe God has a good plan for our children too, even if they suffer some.
The second modern contributor to helicopter moms is the mom monitor.
I’m talking about nosy neighbors, government authorities, and critics who want to point out everything mothers do wrong.
For example, there are those on the lookout for “free range children.” These kids have moms who let them walk to school and to the playground. They let them climb trees and ride bikes without helmets. They send their children to public restrooms alone. They home school, home birth, and home remedy. And what do they get for their not-gonna-be-a-helicopter behavior?
That’s right. These moms are often considered irresponsible.
It wasn’t so a generation ago when children like me walked everywhere by ourselves. Was society safer then or was society less paranoid then?
My guess is that modern children are not more endangered today. It’s just that crimes and parental behaviors are simply more publicized than before. Weekly documentaries highlight the evil of child predators. News channels and newsfeeds critique parents who buck the system or make mistakes. School personnel must report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect. It’s enough fear-mongering to make any mother hover.
On one hand, the emphasis on childhood danger doesn’t faze the free range mother who parents responsibly and raises incredibly well-adjusted children. On the other hand, she knows that the greatest danger to her family is not some weirdo in the restroom. It’s some wannabe hero with a cell phone, ready to report her to CPS for letting her children play alone in their own yard. Thus, modern society’s reaction to relaxed parenting actually contributes to hovering. What mom wants to be accused of neglect? Even the most confident, hands-off mother finds it difficult to parent from a distance because she knows people will find fault anyway.
And that’s where the critics come in. They may be trying to help by pointing out mothering failures, but maybe they are making things worse. Maybe there are just too many people hovering over modern mothers, evaluating their every move and belittling their every decision.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever— no end, ever, to his kingdom.” Luke 1.29-33