Museum of Motherhood

*Dr. Mama*, ‘On Letting Children Be’ – MamaBlogger365

By:  Amber Kinser

One of the greatest struggles that mothers face is grounded in the difficulty of accepting their children as they are.  Actually, perhaps an even greater struggle is admitting that we don’t already do that.  I remember watching television shows as kid about parents who were always trying to get their kids to be different than they were—more smart, more talented, more distinguished, more outgoing, more artistic, more focused on career, more focused on family, more focused on school—it ran the gamut.  But the message was the same: parents are never satisfied.  I remember watching these shows and wondering why it was so hard for parents to just allow their children to be, why parents couldn’t just offer motivation and helpful support without being so utterly invested in the outcome, so completely wrapped up in their children’s choices or proclivities.  I remember vowing that I wouldn’t be that kind of parent.  That I would love my children through full acceptance, that I would separate my identity from theirs and give them the freedom to figure out who they wanted to be without my intrusions.  I vowed that I wouldn’t say “I wish he would just be more…” and “I wish she wouldn’t be so…” because I would know that they would figure their own lives out and I would accept them fully and completely as they are.  I would not push my goals on them; I would not insist that my life vision be theirs.  And above all, for god’s sake, I would not assume that they owe me something.

Some mothers are reading this, I imagine, thinking “Yes, this is so very important; why aren’t more parents able to do this when I know it’s possible because I do it.”  (Perhaps many of these mothers have young children.)  Others may be reading this and thinking “Hah!  That’s what I thought too! It’s impossible.”  But my guess is that many of those who read this are thinking “Yes, I do want to do that but it is so hard when life has taught me just exactly how actions have consequences and just exactly how being more this and less that will create a very different life.

I continue to be struck by how simple “letting your children be who they are” sounded when I was young and I continue to be surprised at how very, very difficult it is to disinvest from my children’s outcomes.  I fancy myself someone who has done a yeoman’s (yeowoman’s?) job giving my children freedom to find their way as individuals.  So in some ways I have tried to live up to my youthful vow about what kind of parent I’d be.  But the truth of the matter is that I have, many many times,  been quite dissatisfied with where my children were at various points, and even now, there are points at which I regret the choices they make.  I have found myself, and do find myself, wishing they could be more this or less that; I do find that my identity is quite wrapped in them and their choices.  And I do feel like they owe me—at least a life they have lived well if nothing else.  All of this I (repeatedly) find surprising; it doesn’t fit my image of my maternal self.   For me though, they hardest part isn’t really about accepting where my children have come to; it’s in accepting where I’ve come to. The hard part is in accepting that I am not the parent I thought I would be in many ways.  That I had no idea when I made those childhood vows that parenting is quite paradoxical.  That I am actually obligated to redirect my children’s choices when I believe they are misguided and that I am also supposed to figure out how to simultaneously disinvest from those choices.  And this is, needless to say, pretty tricky work at which I succeed only some of the time.

BIO:  Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee.  Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage.

Dr. Amber Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine


About M. Joy Rose

Woman, Mother, Human, Rocker, Educator, Activist Director; Museum of Motherhood President and Founder; MaMaPaLooZa Inc. a company by Women, Promoting (M)others for social, cultural and economic benefit. Dedicated to a more educated, more peaceful, more musical planet.


8 thoughts on “*Dr. Mama*, ‘On Letting Children Be’ – MamaBlogger365

  1. As you know from the motherhood and yoga post (http://theveganasana.com/practice-makes-imperfect-motherhood-and-yoga/) I am right there with you on this one… like so many other things.

    Posted by Lorin | February 18, 2011, 16:20
  2. As a mother of 5 daughters – Amber you nailed it! I had the same asperations as a young woman that despised her Mother for expectations that I had absolutely no intentions of fulfilling. I made the exact same claims, however. When I saw my beautiful daughters each one I desperately wanted to protect them from wrong decisions that could cost them a life of regret. When our oldest got pregnant at 18 we were devastated. She got married and gave birth to our first grrandaughter, then 11 months later gave birth to our first grandson, HANG ON!, 11 months later she gave birth to our third grandchild another little girl. They own their own business now, she has gone to school and teaches at the elementary shcool that they all go to and they are the happiest little family I know. Not because of any direction from me (or maybe just a little) she was way over that. She grew up, and like you told me many years ago…. You do because you must. The other four are doing amazin as well, charting their own course. Accepting that they are all WAY more like me than not like me has been a challenge and frankly it keeps me on my knees praying for them everyday. Thank you Amber for your insight.

    Posted by Kimberly O'Keefe | February 19, 2011, 09:04
  3. Although it is quite difficult to watch my children make mistakes, I know that experience is the best teacher. I let my children know my thoughts on what they plan to do, but rarely stop them (unless it is physically dangerous) because I think they should have the right to succeed or fail. They do typically ask for my thoughts on what they plan to do or try, and I think that one of the reasons they are so comfortable asking for my input is that they know that I won’t stop them or criticize them. In my mind, I may be freaking out, but I try to contain myself for their sake. My kids and their friends tell me almost everything. It hasn’t always been like this between my daughters and I though. In fact, we didn’t used to be close at all. When they were younger, and I was still married to their father I think that his parenting style overshadowed mine. He was extremely domineering and always had to control every aspect of their life, what they wore, what they ate, how much they ate, what TV shows they watched, etc. After we got divorced I took some time to reassess my relationship with daughters. I am a completely different parent when parenting alone. I think I am much better at parenting alone, then parenting with a partner.

    Posted by Kelly Church | February 20, 2011, 21:31
  4. Thanks so much everybody for offering your experiences and insights! I so appreciate the dialogue

    Posted by Dr. Mama | February 23, 2011, 20:46


  1. Pingback: MamaBlogger365 – No Mercy by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser | Museum of Motherhood {BLOG} - February 24, 2011

  2. Pingback: MamaBlogger365 – No Mercy by *Dr Mama* Amber Kinser « MaMaZinA - February 24, 2011

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  4. Pingback: No Mercy « Amber Kinser - March 27, 2011

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