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By Joan Bechtel


You or the Mommy Police?

The Mommy Police? They're just a fiction--an adult version of the Bogey Man, aren't they?

Well, maybe they don't actually inhabit the bodies of the living dead like your mother-in-law, your ex-pediatrician and that busybody next door. But there is one place this Gestapo may be alive and well and controlling your life. And that's inside your own head--enforcing the Shoulds, Shouldn'ts and Shame of Parenting Absolutes.


The pressure is intense. Good parenting can seem like a mixture of magic and luck. Lives are at stake and one screw-up can seem fatal. Fear of failure can drive parents to dogma.

Every parent is a walking advice magnet. A moving target with a sign that says "Correct My Parenting Please."

Your preschool teacher says no pacifiers. Your church group is an exclusive SAHM's club. Your brother says a family bed is Satan's playground. Your sister warns that every month you don't breastfeed, your child loses an IQ point.

The cultural contradictions are even crazier.

If you give your child too much attention you'll spoil him.

If you don't give him enough, he'll grow up sociopathic.

Put your child in daycare and you're abnegating your responsibility.

Keep her at home and you/re sheltering her too much.

The doublespeak of Big Mother.

Whether we're Mormon, atheist, Pagan or Muslim--public schoolers, homeschoolers or freeschoolers, the fear of doing it wrong makes all parents susceptible to dogmatism.

Who wouldn't want to run and hide behind a Big Powerful Dogma that justifies her actions?

Isn't it safer to surrender to the omniscient authorities and follow what They Say Is Best? The Superhighway of Convention is easier than taking that pot-holed frontage road of personal truth. Dogma is a narcotic. It runs your life while you sleep. So parents are off the hook. No more personal responsibility. But isn't personal responsibility exactly what most parents want to teach their children?

When we hand over the helm to doctrine, dictate or dogma, we cheat our children and ourselves of the greatest growth experience parenting has to offer: discovering who we really are.

But Big Mother works in the subconscious. How can you tell if you've been taken over by parenting piracy?


1. Big Mother may declare Martial Law in the Lizard Brain but the body will rebel. Listen to your gut. Let that gnawing fury, weepy resistance or cringing resentment inform you. If that one-size-fits-all solution doesn't quite fit you--your gut will let you know. Look for solutions that feel personally-correct.

2. When someone else's parenting style triggers anxiety, check to see if it's really yourself you're judging. Are you trying to wear a Maternal Perfection Suit? Your authenticity is the gift no one else can give your children.

3. Is there room in your family system for you to be who you are? Or have you had to do too much psychological liposuction--carving away all your selfhood to fit into that skinny formula for Perfect Motherhood? Put the Me back in Mommee!

4. Is there a battle of good and evil constantly raging in your head over every parenting decision? It's a Clash of The Subliminal Titans when dogmas duke it out. Absolutes and objective truth are fine for a hollow deity like Big Mother. But families are organic, growing systems. Trust your own subjective humanity.

5. Are your children disappointing you? It's time to check and see if those high expectations grew out of your family's authentic needs--or did the Mommy Police plant them? Question authority. Everyone's happier when family life is custom-made.

6. Are you constantly disappointed in yourself--feeling you just can't live up to what you're supposed to be? Maybe that Perfection Suit has tightened into an iron maiden. Maybe you're children need the real you even more than they need that "perfect parenting."

7. Are you obeying The First Commandment of Big Mother: Thou shalt not complain? Well, Break it. Without recognizing pain, we can't take the first step to finding out the cause and healing it.

When we hide behind dogma to protect our children, we deny them access to our humanity and put their own at risk. Yes, Big Mother is watching. But it's time we took a good long look at HER!

About The Author
Joan Bechtel @2005 All Rights Reserved

Joan Bechtel, award-winning comedienne, early childhood educator and author of MOTHERHOOD CONFIDENTIAL, is a Personalized Parenting speaker, helping women out of the dogma-doo to find their own personally-correct answers.

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