Charlene R. is no wimp when it comes to her kids. The Murfreesboro mom of three says she’s in charge and her kids know it. “Someone has to uphold the authority at home,” Charlene says, “And that falls to me. I don’t have any problems with that, I’m definitely a take-charge, no fuss person.” In Stephan B. Poulter’s book, The Mother Factor: How Your Mother’s Emotional Legacy Impacts Your Life, Charlene might fall into Poulter’s perfectionist mother type, although not entirely. While Charlene is a mom in charge, she also feels her kids should be given enough rope to take risks for themselves which is a trait of the “complete” mother.
Yet not one mother can possibly be pinned down, labeled, boxed up and filed. Most of us will never understand the complex legacy imparted to us by our own mothers even with the myriad articles, essays and best sellers we read aimed at helping us to figure it all out. Currently, the idea of the “tiger mom” or the “helicopter parent” has entered our mothering psyche to confuse us: Should we or should we not permit sleepovers, participation in school plays and nights off from studies? Charlene’s authoritative approach is a good idea, social psychologists say, since parental authority can provide motivation to kids, perhaps paving the way for their success. Yet the happiest, most successful children appear to be those who are capable of doing for themselves rather than relying on Mom or Dad to do things for them.
If a mother’s main task in raising her children is helping them to develop autonomy and confidence, clearly children need to learn to take risks, and even to fail. For those who can’t stand to see their children unhappy, this could be a bitter pill.
Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success, says a loving mother is warm, willing to set limits and unwilling to cross the child’s psychological boundaries by calling up shame or guilt. Your job, Levine says, is to control your anxieties so they don’t get in the way of your child’s healthy development — for many, easier said than done. But one of the best things you can do, no matter what type of mother you are, is to show your kids a life worth striving for.
5 Mother Types from The Mother Factor
1) The Perfectionist Mother
Typically, a controlling, fearful and anxious woman for whom appearance is everything. Her children tend to be hypercritical of themselves, feeling inadequate and emotionally empty. The children of a perfectionist mother have a strong sense of commitment in relationships, and are responsible and reliable in everything they do. They value hard work and persistence as core character qualities. The emotional legacy of a child with a perfectionist mother is that he always feels the opinions of others are far more important than his own. He often has a heightened sense that the world is watching and judging.
2) The Unpredictable Mother
Anxious, angry and emotional, the unpredictable mother is overwhelmed by feelings and her parenting style is based purely on mood. This mother can create problems, issues and crises in her own mind, through emotions and relationships, passing them on to the children. The children of an unpredictable mother have excellent people skills and the ability to be empathic. They can offer emotional support to colleagues as well as friends and family. The emotional legacy of a child from an unpredictable mother is that he’ll grow up with an ingrained need to take care of people and their emotional issues. They can be overwhelmed by emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression. These children learn early on how to read people and situations, in order to manage them.
3) The Best Friend Mother
This mother enjoys treating her children as equals in order to avoid the responsibility of setting boundaries. She believes her life will be over if she embraces motherhood so she avoids that role. Instead, both child and parent assume the role of emotional confidante and partner, leaving the child effectively motherless. In this situation, the mother relies on the child to meet her emotional needs. Children of a best friend mother understand the importance of boundaries between parents, children, colleagues and families. Because they have a sense of motherlessness, they are often aware that they should take the lead and assume the responsible role as an adult. Emotionally, they may feel neglected with a fear of rejection. They can be resentful in relationships.
4) The Me-First Mother
One of the most prevalent mothering styles, me-firsts are unable to view their children as separate individuals and tend to be self-absorbed and insecure. Their offspring will learn from an early age that their role is to make their mother shine. Children of a me-first mother are extremely good at supporting others and are intuitive and insightful with people in all types of relationships. They’re loyal and supportive and able to appreciate other people’s needs and solve problems. Emotionally, they may doubt their decision-making abilities, finding it difficult to trust their own feelings on any matter because their mother’s opinion is more important and powerful than their own.
5) The Complete Mother
The complete mother combines the best elements of the other four styles. Emotionally balanced, she can see her children as individuals and help them achieve their own independence. She isn’t necessarily perfect herself, but whatever her emotional circumstances, she’s committed to motherhood — regardless of other responsibilities outside the home. Children of a complete mother feel loved, understood and can take risks, embrace change and initiate relationships without fear of rejection. Emotionally, as they grow they will have the ability and insight to appreciate that other people, colleagues and family members have their own perspectives. They will be able to navigate the challenges of becoming independent and won’t feel emotionally enmeshed with their mother.