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Don’t be a helicopter mom: Overprotective parents can hurt their kids

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I recently heard a helicopter mom declare: “I live for my daughter.”

Too bad for that little girl. And too bad for the mom.

A group of studies reviewed in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that being an overprotective parent can negatively impact a child's mental health, contributing to increased levels of anxiety and depression.

Are you a helicopter mom or overprotective parent?

Helicopter parents are overprotective parents who take an excessive interest in their child’s life and wellbeing. You might be a helicopter parent if you: 

  • Make your children the center of your universe
  • Do things for your child they are capable of doing themselves
  • Don’t allow your child to learn from their own mistakes
  • Don’t respect healthy boundaries with your child
  • Try to dictate your child’s actions and decisions

These are some hallmarks of helicopter parenting:

“My kids are my world.”

Parents who make their children the center of their universes mess up their kids, mess up themselves, and in the case of single parents — make serious relationships impossible.

Don’t get me wrong: My kids are the most important people in my life. Every major decision — and pretty much all the little ones, too — I make is with an eye toward what is good for my kids:

  • Where we live
  • What to cook for dinner
  • Whether to drive or fly on our family vacation

As a single parent it can be easy to slip into unhealthy attachment to our kids. Some days, my focus on making a good life for my children is so overwhelming that it can feel all-consuming. But that doesn’t mean I live for them. That would be effed up!

Yes, you are a parent. Maybe that is the most important job you will ever have. (But maybe not — there are plenty of remarkable people who go down in history for contributions that have nothing to do with their offspring.)

The thing with kids is this: they leave. They leave your house when they go to college. They leave you a little when they learn to pump on the swing, and no longer need a push.

They leave you when they go to school for the first time, and when they can cook their own breakfast and earn their own movie money. When they’re teenagers, they have secrets and experiences that you will never share.

Parents are forever changed by that invisible yet palatable tether that ties mothers to their children. But they are not ours. They are but beams of life that pass through our existences.

But some parents do not let their children pass through. They hover and guilt and coddle until that child is afraid to leave — afraid about what will happen to the parent who lives for them.

The children stunt themselves, forgo normal dating, professional and social opportunities en lieu of perceived obligation to the needy parent. Mental health experts call this codependency. I call it pathetic and borderline abusive.

One recent study found that young adults with overbearing parents were more depressed, and suffered “decreased satisfaction with life and lower levels of perceived autonomy, competence, and ability to get along with people.”

This PBS NewsHour report explores the negative effects of helicopter parenting: 

“My kids are my life. My kids are my everything.”

Like I said, I love being a mom, but that is obsessive, lacking boundaries, and puts enormous pressure on your child to make you happy. One study asked 181 mothers to rate how strongly they agreed with these five beliefs involved in intensive parenting:

  1. That moms are the most important people in their kids’ lives
  2. That kids are entirely fulfilling
  3. That children need lots of stimulation
  4. That parenting is very challenging
  5. That parents' lives should revolve around their children.

Turns out that mothers who agree with these statements are more stressed and depressed.

“It makes sense that nominating yourself Commander-in-Chief of your child's life would add some stress to your existence, and if that's all you're ever thinking about it's easy to understand how you'd feel less satisfied too—since kids aren't known for pulling you aside to offer heartfelt thanks for doing such a stellar job of caring for them.”

Are you “living through your child?”

“Living through your child” means that you get your own self-worth, self-esteem and identity through your kids, opposed to your own experiences and accomplishments. Parents who live through their children tend to see their kids as their experience and accomplishment, a form of over-parenting and enmeshment that blurs the lines between parent and child and places the parent’s dreams and goals onto the child, essentially making the child responsible for their parent’s happiness and wellbeing. 

26 reasons being a single mom is awesome

Can I love my child too much? Can a child be too attached to a parent?

It is possible to be too attached to a child, though there is no limit on how much you can love them.

Enmeshment is when a parent and child do not have boundaries in their relationship, and the child is raised to believe that they are to serve the parent — make them happy, fulfilled, loved, and validated.

Narcissistic parents nurture enmeshed relationships with their children, who are not given the opportunity to grow into individuals who care for their own needs. 

In separated and divorced families, enmeshment can often become a case of parental alienation, in which one parent turns the child against the other.

What does Enmeshment (or an enmeshed relationship with family) look like? What causes enmeshment?

“Enmeshment, from the outside, will appear as closeness within the family, but on the inside means the child does not get independence, and their parent is involved in every aspect of their lives,” says Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT, a professional counselor from Neurofeedback & Counseling Center in Harrisburg, Penn.

“An enmeshed parent will be friends with their child, using them as a confidant and being involved in all decisions they make. This parent will not support their child’s independence unless it is in something they can use to live through their child,” Levison says.

To stop enmeshment is first to recognize the issue. Next would be to set boundaries and to take a step back from one another.

Is enmeshment unhealthy?

“Causes of enmeshment begin with a parent with their psychological

issues, and it falls on the child to make them feel better,” Levison says. “This behavior can be unhealthy because the child will need to consult with their parent for all of their decisions and will feel the need to make decisions based on the parent’s desires.”

Enmeshment in separated and divorced families can become part of parental alienation, in which the enmeshed parent turns the child against the other parent. Research recognizes this as an act of abuse and can cause trauma for the enmeshed child.

How do you stop enmeshment?

Often, enmeshed children must grow up and leave home before they can recognize the unhealthy relationships and heal. “To stop enmeshment is first to recognize the issue,” Levison says.” Next would be to set boundaries and to take a step back from one another.”

How can I stop being a helicopter mom and get a life outside of my child?

Since birth, women are conditioned to believe that our greatest calling is to be a mother. This often leads women to become helicopter moms.

However, this is codependency, and actually can harm your kids — as well as your own sense of self. Here are some ways to prioritize your own needs:

1. The greatest gift I give my children is modeling a full life.

I want them to absorb by osmosis rules of living in the world in a whole, independent way. Much of my motivation to succeed professionally is to show my son and daughter how to do that themselves, but also so they can observe the joy and pride that they, too, can experience.

I want them to see me enjoy long-term friendships, in part because these loved ones also care for Helena and Lucas, and so that my kids understand why such bonds are critical to life.

And I would like them to see me in a long-term romantic relationship, so that they will have a model for loves of their own, but also see their mother supported and adored by a partner.

My goal is to fill my life up in a real way, so that a) they will know how to do that for themselves, and b) feel confident that I am cared for, and can therefor go out into the world as independent adults, unburdened by their mother.

“My ex calls the kids all the time when they are with me.”

2. Glomming onto your children also stunts your ability to have a romantic relationship.

I believe that a couple must put one another before their children — the health of a successful family orbits around a happy couple. This is a tricky transition for many blended families, and I can imagine that it will be for me one day.

While my kids are not the center of my universe, they do top my priority list. I am not sure how I will transition that priority to a husband, but I recognize that it must happen. Single parents who loudly insist that their children will always come first cut off at the knees any potential relationship.

Single parents who declare that they live for their kids signal to potential mates that they are not truly available.

One Saturday night date of mine shared with me a great example of a healthy family relationship.

Over cajun food he described what sounds like a remarkably happy suburban childhood headed by parents who enjoyed a 40-year marriage, five kids and two successful careers.

My date has only the fondest memories of watching his dad court his mom on their weekly date nights and annual parent-only vacations — in addition to the family road trip. Staying home with the babysitter was tons of fun. “My dad made it clear that his relationship with my mom was the center of everything, while he was also the best dad ever,” he said.

What could be a better example of the benefits of putting your romantic partner first?

But what if you don’t have a romantic interest to start with? Read our reviews of online dating sites.

3. Stop putting your child’s needs ahead of your own

A Modern Love column in the New York Times (which I read religiously and am only slightly bitter about the fact the editor Daniel Jones has rejected more than a dozen of my submissions over the years BUT NEVERMIND!) highlighted a 2005 essay by Aylete Waldman about the fact that she puts her husband and their fantastic sex life above their four kids.

The most interesting thing about the essay was the resulting shitstorm of controversy which landed Waldman on a much-viewed Oprah episode during which a hostile audience nearly attacked her. Yes, that essay is a decade old, but it warrants a revisit because parents — mothers most especially — are still expected to make our children the center of our worlds. Waldman wrote:

I do love [my daughter]. But I’m not in love with her. Nor with her two brothers or sister. Yes, I have four children. Four children with whom I spend a good part of every day: bathing them, combing their hair, sitting with them while they do their homework, holding them while they weep their tragic tears. But I’m not in love with any of them. I am in love with my husband.

It is his face that inspires in me paroxysms of infatuated devotion. If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother. I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children.

I love that Waldman challenges the institution that admonishes women for anything other than fulltime adoration of their kids. Waldman’s work includes many of the points I’ve made here on this blog:

  • Putting kids before all else makes them neurotic and robs me of my potential to live the biggest, fullest life that I can — and model for my children that such a life is possible.
  • I’ve urged parents — single moms in particular — to prioritize their health above all else, including family time. After all, you can’t be an energetic mom now if you are overweight, and you are even more likely than single moms overall to burden your children in your old age if you don’t care for your wellbeing now.
  • That despite my attempts to live said full life, I’ve found myself hugging my kids too much because I’m lonely — and that is entirely unfair to my son and daughter. Alas, I am only human.
  • You are free to introduce your kids to a romantic interest at any time of your choosing. Dating is healthy and normal, and does not hurt kids.

Stop feeling guilty.

Want to date? Go for it — AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY!

[10 best dating apps for single parents]

Need a single-mom sex life? NO GUILT FOR YOU – ONLY BOOTY! Need to hit the gym? HIRE A SITTER AND DON’T LOOK BACK!

Looking forward to that business trip even though you have to leave the kids at home? KILL IT!

I’m not worried you’ll neglect the kids. If you are like the professional moms I know, the pendulum swings way in the other direction — and you’re far more likely to neglect yourself.

Every single mom needs a life insurance policy, even moms with no income of their own.

Your kids should be named as beneficiaries.

Term life insurance provider Bestow offers policies up to $1.5 million of insurance, and plans starting at $10/month. Bestow guarantees no medical exam or lab tests, ever.

4. It is good for your kids when you work outside the home for pay

A Harvard Business School study of 50,000 adults found that in 24 countries, the daughters whose moms worked before the girls were 14 years old:

  • Finished more years of education
  • Earned higher salaries
  • Were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles than their peers whose moms stayed at home

In the United States, the Harvard study found that daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.

In other words, when moms work for pay, there is more gender equality in the workforce, and more gender equality at home.

5. Stop being ‘just a mom’ and start being a cool woman

I am writing from a charming apartment in Copenhagen (complete with wood floors, white walls, and minimalist, teak furniture — biked parked outside on the cobblestone walk), where I will spend the next three weeks living, working, traveling, hanging out with friends I met last year when I accomplished more or less the same trip.

My kids are with their dad in Greece, visiting family there, and last year, I decided that I deserved to go somewhere fabulous, too.

My return was as cliche’ as my Danish apartment: I felt energized, grateful for my regular life, thrilled to reconnect with my kids, routine and work. The feeling was familiar.

Since I was a teenager I’ve been in love with travel — the more remote, the better. Before kids, I’d lived in France, Ecuador, Bulgaria. Traveled to Laos, around Europe, Brazil, Cuba.

I love that scariness of knowing it is not safe to go where you do not have a hotel booked, but you go anyway. Of the magical way the universe swells up around you to create lifelong friendships and memories that make you who you are. That travel, perhaps rivaling only parenthood, keenly reminds you of your humanity, and possibilities.

I’ve gotten on planes with my kids. Driven across the country with them a few times. I don’t need to tell you it was great, but different. Those single mom road trips were cliches about family travel. This one was cliche about travel-travel.

Ladies, cliches are a cliche for a reason: They are true.

These trips to Europe remind me of who I am. My greatest joys, things that have resonated with me since I can remember. Manon DeFelice, the founder of the recruiting agency for women, tells clients searching for what will make them professionally happy:

“What did you write your high school senior thesis on? That is what you are most passionate about.”

That is true for me:  I wrote that paper arguing why prostitution should be legal, and now here I am advocating for sexual and financial freedom for women every day in a career I love. Ta-da!

By prioritizing my most ancient joys means being a fulfilled person, and being that person for myself, for the world, and my children.

6. Loving your child too much? Get therapy.

Whether you prefer in-person therapy near you, or an online counselor, a good professional can help you understand whether your relationship with your kid is healthy — and how to make it better.

Bottom line: You can love being a mom, but you don’t have to be a helicopter mom

I wrote this post about eight years ago. Today, my children are ages 14 and 12, and I feel even more strongly about the importance of having my own identity, my own experiences and self-worth outside of parenting — and especially strongly that my teenagers have their own experiences away from their parents.

I see now that they are older (as well as observing even more families with teens and young adults) how children benefit when their parents are active people who model productive lives contributing to the world — and not hovering over their over-doted-on offspring, who are ever-more anxious in a world where they have achieved little without their parents’ constant attention. 

It turns out, being a helicopter mom might just lead to the harm that you tried so desperately to protect your kids from for all those years.

Do you feel pressure to sacrifice yourself for motherhood? Did you rediscover yourself? Share your struggles, and journey, in the comments! 

Disclaimer: The opinions and ideas expressed in the article are those of the author(s) and are not promoted or endorsed by Bestow or North American Company for Life and Health Insurance®.


Waldman has also told that in her essay :

“My husband loves the children the way a mother is supposed to. He has put them at the center of his world”

Yes i believe gender equality and i do not agree “a mother is supposed to” statement. But “Waldman’s husband & family” contradicts with blog’s “do not put your kids at the center of your world” argument.

Also in Waldman’s essay she tells that: We love our kids but we love each other more. But think about these cases :

Case #1
You have two close friends. And They love you but they love each other more. And thay confess this to you.

Case #2
Your love your son but you love your daughter more. And you confess this to your son.

Case #3 ( extreme case )
Your partner loves you but he loves another woman more. And he confesses this to you.

Nobody likes to be less loved. Especially in a family being less loved can be traumatic. Your kids may feel isolated & alone if they realize this.

Blog : “My dad made it clear that his relationship with my mom was the center of everything, while he was also the best dad ever,”

My dad was same and he was the best dad till he divorced. But after divorce i started to see him lesser and lesser. I have last seen him 15 years ago. Men who thinks this way abondone their kids when they divorce. Because they see their kids as an extension of their relationship. When relationship dies their kids also die for them.

As I read this blog,I’m reminded how much better adjusted and joyful we all were when I had a career and the kids even got involved in the great quest to address illiteracy. Then, along came another adult who couldn’t stand the recognition I got for spreading what worked to programs across the state. Enter: my own mother, who was pulled to agree-lest her youngest adult suffer. I made the dumbest decision to resign & told no one the real reason, only the socially accepted one: to spend more time with our teenagers. As a dedicated volunteer told me: “you have a gift & it’s a loss for everyone if you quit.” I was undeterred and couldn’t admit I was tied to my original family and would be damned to hell if I shine too much and didn’t please them by going silent and half-dead. Did it help anyone, societal moray? No. It took meaning away from my whole family and proved someone else had the power to diminish me and mine. A sad result of a person who needed attention and got it by snuffing out someone else’s light and joy. Tragic that my entire loving originals enlisted in the harem and finished the job. Only 20 years later our father came to me & confessed the tragic outcome of going along to get along; we miss out, we lose our souls in white lies that grow to a monster, we shun the best things about each other. What a legacy.

Why do you tell your kids that you love your husband / wife more than them? What can be the purpose of this? You can also love one of your kids more than other kids. But never tell / confess that. And i will “never” understand priotirizing an adult over a kid. Is it fair? Kids are our “future”. Yes surely you must nurture your marriage & priotirize yourself also. But kids must not be #2. Can a nation putting kids / future #2 have a promising future?

Thanks, Emma for this beautiful post.

When my 16year old son told me he is going back to his dad because he finds comfort in the house I was devasted. I could see that he was in pain because no doubt he will miss me dearly. I know he didn’t choose his dad over me. Its just the comfort he has chosen because his dad is very rich and has always provided very well so he is accustomed to luxury while I am a salary earner being a secondary school teacher.
Anyways I was so devasted with the news. I did not stop him from leaving because his wellbeing is my priority. but I was not able to handle my pain and I felt like destroying something or someone but what and who? I felt like shouting or arguing but what and with who? so much pain that I did not know what to do so I typed on my mobile “How to live without your children” and stumbled through your blog.

This blog is like a pillar of strength for me, like a ray of light and hope for myself. it is easy now to let him go because I can understand now the importance of not just letting him go but the importance of him seeing me letting him go happily.

Thank you Emma.

I agree it is important for parents to have a rich life in addition to their role as parents, that this is great modeling for children and frees the children emotionally to live their own lives as they individuate.

I think the situation of putting a new romantic partner as a higher priority than one’s children is a very different idea. Since the new partner is not your child’s parent they typically would not have the same bond and investment in your child. In my own experience of my mother prioritizing her new husband’s needs, I felt very isolated and our relationship was really never the same again. The new husband was interested in being married to my mother, but not interested in developing a relationship or positive connection with her children.

The most successful situations I have heard about are when the new couple strengthens their relationship while the child is spending the day or the weekend with their other parent. I have also seen parents wait on bringing a romantic relationship into their life until the children are grown and they can comfortably make that a strong focus.

I think that children can learn a lot about relationships by all the friendship relationships that parents cultivate. I don’t think that single parents cultivating a romantic relationship to model that for their child is not necessary in order for their children to develop well.

My God I’m Inspired, this article makes so much sense. Its ME,,and My Mom,,. Explains so much of a Generational curse.
I’m 51 , wish I knew this when I became a Mom at 19yrs. I did NOT make the right choice by putting myself last.
Knowing this now, I can keep any of my 3 kids plus others of making the same mistake I did.
I will be sharing this Article.

When I was growing up, I remember my father (too often for my liking) saying, “God first, spouse second, children last.” And, “The relationship with the spouse comes before the relationship with the child.” Why he felt the need to remind us kids of his belief, I don’t know. I do know that hearing that growing up, as a child, made me question a few things. Why was I not as important as Mommy?, was one question in the back of my mind. I remember not liking hearing that, not liking how he delivered that news to us kids. I don’t remember in what context this would be said, I just remember it felt similar to how I would feel when I was last to be picked for dodge ball at recess. Yeah, it happens to kids, yeah, that’s life, get used to it, but yeah, it hurt when my dad would announce, in effect, Mom will always be the one I choose before you. I didn’t know to resent my Mom, I just loved her. From my father, the only take-away I had was, “I love you, but you’ll always be second choice.” When I was older, I vowed never to make my child feel ‘second best’. My husband and I had our Date Nights often on a blanket on the living room floor after our little one went to bed. Sometimes candles, sometimes food; conversation in whispers, and it didn’t cost anything! We never used the term Date Night exclusively for the two of us. Many times the three of us had a Date Night and all go to dinner or all sit up and watch a fun movie together! My goodness, my daughter is 20 years old now. She is bright and happy, socially well- adjusted and loving. And what lovely memories we all share. My advice to mothers is to follow your gut. Do what works for you and your family. We’re all so unique. There is no one-size-fits-all way to raise a family. No indeed, you don’t want to riddle your children with guilt and neediness, oh but they crave to know how special they are to you, to hear how very much you love them, to be taken on a ‘Date Night’ or two themselves, with AND without the equally-significant other! Model perseverance, courage, joy, getting back up with determination and optimism after life’s knocked you down a time or two. Let your child see these qualities. Above all let them know they are equally important to you as anyone will ever be in your life. Start there and let your ‘gut’ (and heart) be your ultimate guide.

I love your statement and I also grew up with the same voice, saying god first, husband second and then children. Even though I didnt grow up in a home with a father, I heard this at church. Now that I have my on children I still have thought this way and also shared it with my boys. I am not married but I taught them what I learned in church. I think what you said is true in alot of way, and everyone is different and you should do what’s best for you and your family. Thanks Lsmith

I am in a almost 3 year relationship with a man that has continued to stay legally separated and not fully divorced because he can’t afford a lawyer and is afraid to do it himself. He has kept me separate from his kids, his home, his life except that he has spent almost every night with me in my bed and our relationship was very good until one day when I cried and told him how much it hurt and made me doubt his truthfulness and made me feel that he was living a double life to keep me separate. He claimed he had talked to a priest who told him he had to put his Xwife first still and not date me at all. This was done after years of promises that it would all stop when his divorce was final. He claims he will never return to his Xwife and showed me the legal separation. Now he is saying he has to put his kids first due to what the priest said and put me last. I am so hurt by him. Every weekend now he will break plans we have had if his son asks him to change all plans for him. He even let me get all dressed up for New Years and then came to my place to tell me our date was cancelled because his son wanted to be with him. He says he cares for me very much but is being pressured by his friends to not date. The problem is that we have been dating and heavily connected for almost 3 years. Now he is telling me his kids will always come first and I can’t depend on anything he tells me. I am broken and wounded and everytime he tells me he changed his plans due to his son, I feel like a knife is stabbed in my heart. I asked him a year ago to include me in the kids lives instead of cutting me out. I told him how much what he is doing hurts. His response was to threaten to end our relationship every time I am hurt. He tells me he isn’t interested in any other woman and that his marriage is over. He tells me that he doesn’t spend time with his Xwife at all and that he cares for me and loves me. But it doesn’t feel like love anymore. Every time he cuts me off either in time, presence, voice, decision making, communication or any plans he has, I feel more and more crushed and am beginning to feel like it is affecting my self esteem. I feel unloved, unwanted, excluded and he spends very little quality time with me. Every holiday he spends with his kids and any time off he has. He even seems to resent any time I ask for. I asked him if he still loves me because it doesn’t feel like it and he says yes. He says it is all about the kids. Please help me. I am more and more crushed each time and angry.

I agree 110%. My daughter is 4 years old has my whole heart but I also want her to live a full life, have close girl friends, and chase wildly after her God-given passions and dreams. I will be with her, supporting her and cheering her on every step of the way. I also, like you, hope to have a very healthy romantic relationship one day so she can see what a healthy relationship between a man a woman looks like. Thanks for sharing!

Hello, I disagree with the post. Its great and sensible to put your children first. When they move on and out then place more emphasis on your personal relationship. The last thing you want is to create a broken child. Being that your not in a relationship your coming from an inexperienced angle. Your information is not proven nor evident based, its a concept of your reality is. To be a successful parent is to a foundation, and building block for your children with a healthy balance of friends, outings, and ambitious prospectives. Sorry you just cannot have it all. I have a daughter, she is my world, however, I am equally happy when she is away, either at school or with family, then that’s my time. I see no need to isolate your child. Why? Though, I wonder why its important to have a man and put him first. Unless you find that very unique person who totally understands that child rearing in a full time lifelong commitment and he too is willing to put his needs and wants aside for the sake of an innocent child then great. Most women that live life looking for this man to make it right are in my opinion a little needy. A woman is strong enough to raise a child on her own placing her children first at all times while maintaining a balance.

YOU ARE NOT DISAGREEING WITH THE ARTICLE with anything you said. it just looks like you depend too much on your kid to be “your world” and you know it. and are getting defensive for that reason.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this article. I stumbled upon that while googling “introducing a serious partner to my child after being a single mother for five years”.Especially as a single parent, my child does not have a father so I think of this little person that I chose to bring into the world and I compensate as a mother and a father and we have a very intense relationship. My son is special needs so where I live and where I work all depends on what the school district is and what the resources are there and if he’s comfortable being left with a babysitter or if he’s going to have a meltdown. My life is my son and I would be doing a disservice just to make him a especially as a single parent, my child does not have a father so I think of this little person that I chose to bring into the world and I compensate as a mother and a father and we have a very intense relationship. My son is special needs so where I live and where I work all depends on what the school district is and what the resources are there and if he’s comfortable being left with a babysitter or if he’s going to have a meltdown. My life is my son and I would be doing a disservice just to make him a priority priority. I have to say that writing an article like this to me is someone who is feeling undeniable guilt about how they overheard someone saying I left for my child because if your first thought after hearing someone say “I live for my child” from someone next to you is oh that’s the wrong way to live there is clearly some guilt if there was a need to write an article to justify why you don’t put Your child above your dating life or your work life. I work to give my child a better life I don’t go out that often because I chose to have a child and I knew the responsibility before I had one. I find this to be a very selfish article and a bit offensive. Just say that a person who lives for their child for their child Is borderline abusive is not only the overstatement of the century but I really twisted view I’m looking at parenting.
This article for me, reeks of some parenting guilt.

I agree with you. My son also has special needs and has no father ( died when he was four). I found this article offensive with the opinion that living your life around your child’s needs is abusive. But the author has no frame of reference for what we deal with on a daily basis. So I guess this article is just naive.She has no idea what some parents lives are like. I did not sleep for two years just to keep my son from wandering out of the house at night until he started sleeping through the night. She cannot speak for all single moms. I work in a high stress profession from 4a-245p so I can be home with my son everyday After school and then I work with him myself on daily life skills and academics so that he can be as independent as possible when he’s older. But I also have to accept that he may always be dependent and prepare for that as well. So I have learned how to take care of myself to cut my stress and stay healthy so I can live as long as possible to be able to take care of him for as long as I can. That is my choice. I am all in. I love him. I will take care of him till my last breath. That’s not abusive. That’s being a true “mother”. Any man that would enter into my life would have to acknowledge the awesomeness of how I live my life for my son and that I have the final say regarding decisions about my son.

I like your take on this post. I have a son and a spouse and both are equally important but in different reasons. I love them both but in different ways. I decided when I had children that my priorities changed it’s not about putting anyone before me but here someone is who needs me more at this time and when I decided to become a mother I knew I would take a backseat and that is okay. My child means everything to me and in no way is that abusive. I lead my parenting with love and as long as I live I will be there loving and guiding my children (guiding when needed)
I never want my children to grow up feeling unloved or unwanted. I never want my child seeking attention elsewhere or suffering from mental illnesses for lack of affection/love.

Hello, so I am that only daughter of a single mother. And I am in that situation when I’m the whole world for her. And I praise this article!!! Yes, yes, yes the best thing you can do is to let your kid live his own life and do the same with yours. And my story goes like this. My parents divorced when I was two. He lived in another town so didn’t see each other much. And my mother never had any other man, any romance, nothing. So I’ve always was the center of her universe, anything she did was for me. Can’t remember her having her own needs or whatever cos I was first, the one and only. And now I’m 29… and she constantly reminds that kids are absolute best thing in life cos if not me she literally wouldn’t have motivation to work or to live. Cos just there is nothing else to live for when you are 60.And she still supports me financially , I asked not to do so cos this doesn’t help me to be more independent, but in this case I understand that she feels needed. And it’s absolutely harmful when a single parent focuses only on their child and don’t take time to think about their needs, hobbies, activities…. I want to move to another country, to explore my possibilities, to see what I’m made of, at least to feel real adult life…. And I feel such an enormous psychological pressure, that she has given everything to me (doesn’t matter that there were things that I didn’t want but she had the best intentions and was only meaning well) and now I’m that ungrateful not following her plan for me…. ‘I have to live my own life’. Yes, if the vision of it is the same. No. All other possibilities. Hope that one or two mothers will get inspired:).

I do not agree with you Ms. Johnson. A good parent places his or her child’s needs above their own. Yes you have a partner to go through your life with, but you only have your children for a short period of time; it seems like in the blink of an eye, they are grown. When they see a healthy relationship that involves them, rather than isolating them, they thrive. You only get one chance to be a parent, and if you mess that up because your partner’s needs come first, in the end you will see that child become a broken adult. You have the rest of your lives as partners, once you have provided healthy role models for your children.

This is especially important in blended families. When your child is going through a difficult time and says ” I really need you now Mom,” do you say “Sorry, not tonight, I promised my husband that tonight was his.” Is that what you are advocating? In blended families, older children can choose which parent they need or want to spend more time with. Should that child be told “No, my partner needs time alone with me so you are not allowed to come home”? Do you think that this is acceptable? If a child elects to live with a parent whose partner refuses to accept that child, then you believe that the child should be rejected because the partner comes first?

I realize this is late, but I feel the need to comment:
I don’t think the author is advocating putting anything above his or her child’s needs. Caring for your child’s needs, emotional and physical, is a parent’s responsibility. That being said, what I gathered from the post is that your child *needs* to understand, for the sake of their own ability to function in the real world, that not everything revolves around them and that everyone, including mom, is an individual with needs and wants. Coddling them and tending to their *wants* at the expense of your relationships and your identity as a person and not just a mom can be detrimental to them, to yourself, and to your relationships.
We live in an increasingly child-centric culture and the definition of children’s *needs* are ever expanding. We forget that we are NOT neglecting our kids if we don’t entertain and shower them with affection, privilege, and utmost priority all the time. On the contrary, we are harming them by doing so. My mom always told me, “I love you, but remember that my job is to raise you, not to serve you.”

Your children need to learn that just because they might need you right now, the world doesn’t always work like that. They might be in many situations as an adult where there will be no one there for them. That’s real life sometimes and it’s better to learn to deal with this sooner rather than later. Of all my friends who take the “MY child is my sole reason for living” approach,” all have more than their share of behavior issues to deal with from them. Mostly, they rely on mommy to do everything for them and usually mommy runs to school to curse at the teacher when they get into trouble there. I actually know of a child who was raised like this who, when in her early 20’s and in her first professional job had a conflict with management and you guessed it…Mommy tried to step in and save the day. Needless to say little Susie found herself unemployed in a very short time.

I appreciated the article above and all of the comments. I am a single mom to an only child 5 year old boy. He is the love and center of my life. I am new to this blog and look forward to learning from everyone and sharing. It appears that I have a lot to learn. :-)

Hi Kris – thanks for joining us here! I Look forward to hearing your thoughts and support of other moms. xo Emma

Wow! So glad not to be the only one who thinks like that! Court seems to think I’m a bad mother, but deep down I know I’m doing a better job than her dad who’s making her the center of his universe. Thanks!

Your thoughts are exactly like mine. Thank you for articulating them so well. I know some look down on me and my boyfriend for the way we think, but I don’t care. We are great parents and love our children.

@Nicole, so happy you found a partner who not only is worthy of your priority, but also shares your commitment to your relationship and family. Keep us posted!

I am missing my 13-year-old son, who’s away at camp this week, so reading your post really struck a chord. It is dangerous to give all your time and energy to your child. Great topic, Emma.

I’m enjoying your blog, particularly the tell-it-like-it-is tone. Refreshing and in this post, spot on!

Well said!

The thing that I want to add is in relation to being an only child in this situation.

It is tough. The child might have managed to overcome the situation, they might not be ‘co-dependent’ or ‘pathetic’ but as an only child of a single-parent it is likely that once old age or sickness kicks-in they are going to find themselves having to ‘go back’ – daily. They’re going to be faced with a really heavy psychological. And a scarily demanding situation both financially and physically.

I can see how it can happen too. But the bottom line is that the parent has a responsibility to themselves and to the kid. The parent, single or otherwise, needs to seek a well-rounded life, and to ensure that there is a broad support network. If the focus is the child, or even work, then they are they are letting themselves and their child down in a really fundamental way.

Very well said, Belle. I am also a child of a single parent, and appreciate very much my two brothers now that we are adult — both for their companionship, but also facing the challenges of an aging parent.

Totally agree! And I believe I am doing this as well. I love my kids to death, they are my number one priority, but I don’t live for them. I think becoming a single parent actually helped me in this regard. Because I started getting those weekends where all I had was myself for company. It actually made me think more about ME. When I was married I didn’t think I lived for my kids, but when you barely get a break from them, you are essentially doing that in practice, if not in your heart/mind. It was only near the end of my marriage that I started reading and thinking about how we needed to put our marriage first. Too little too late, turned out. (but hey, my kids were 2 yrs old and 6 months old at that point, so I think I was still doing pretty good at recognizing it that early!)

Anyway, while becoming a single parent actually helped me to think more about myself as an individual, I can see why for others it might drive them more toward solely living as a caretaker. I think they are essentially hiding behind their kids. And you’re right, that isn’t fair to anybody. But they don’t want to have another relationship, they don’t want to date, etc. The kids are safe, it’s what they know. New stuff is what is scary. I’m not doing that myself, I believe it is the wrong choice for everybody, but I can also see how it can happen.

Erica, I had a similar experience in being pushed to define myself once I became a single mom. Like you, filling those free weekends required I dig into who I am and what is important to me. Having limited time, energy and financial resources also forced me to dig into myself in a way I may not have had I stayed a married mother.

I have a question. I asked my use to be fiancé why he change is status on his Facebook page from engage to single. He said because of his daughter. What can I do about this. We have been seeing each other for five years now and not once I had not yet get the chance to meet his children. He always make up a excuse for me not to meet them.

Sounds like you are not a priority. I imagine that is hurtful, but the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can move on to a relationship you deserve: in which you are the priority.

Thanks Linda — this makes me smile, in part because I know your “chicks” and you should so be proud!

I agree 100% Emma. I always said my job was to make the chicks self reliant and independent. I always have been “Linda” and Mom. Now that they are young adults I’m so proud of the fantastic people they have become.

Wowwwee! What an eye opener for me. I thought I was doingthe right thing I thought I was loving my kids enough from me and my now ex husband. I’ve been a long term relationship and he has been telling me I was guilty of this alllll along. I promise I didn’t know. Thank you for sharing so I could reap the benefits of this epiphany.

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