Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Sharon Owens: Why this hyper-mum will put her little darlings first

The mother-child bond can leave husbands in the shade

There’s a new label doing the rounds. It’s called a ‘hyper-parent’.

A hyper-parent is a mother who dotes on her child, no matter what age the child is. The child could be five, or 35, but the mother is basically devoted to the child’s constant happiness.

Be it a lavish birthday party for a young child, or supporting an adult child through an emotional break-up, it’s the same thing. And to facilitate this time consuming devotion, the woman has to neglect the man in her life.

The main reason suggested for this new trend is that most women no longer believe that marriage lasts for life. They expect the union will end eventually.

But, of course, the mother-child relationship will never end, unless there’s a tragedy of some kind. And so the husband is left watching the telly, while his hyper-parent wife fusses over the children all weekend.

Subconsciously, or so we are told, the mother is forging links with her children that ensure they will never abandon her in old age. The advice offered is to stop spoiling the children and go back to spoiling the husband.

I have to admit I’m a hyper-parent and proud of it. But it’s got nothing to do with nurturing a handy companion for my twilight years. I’ve got plenty of friends and family that might be good enough to look in on me once every few weeks.

No, I think I’m a hyper-parent because I feel so thoroughly guilty that children and teenagers nowadays are expected to excel at school. And not just in one subject, like in the good old days, when you could get into college with five C grades at O level. Students today are aiming for 11 A* grades at GCSE and up to five A* grades at A level. And that takes an awful lot of homework and studying and perfectly presented coursework.

So naturally we hyper-parents do not want our children to have to do menial chores as well. There are only so many hours in the day and I believe that children and teenagers need time to chill out.

Any parent whose child has gone through the stomach-churning anxiety of the transfer test, school exams or university application system will know it completely takes over family life for months on end.

And there simply isn’t time to show a teenager how to iron a shirt, or clean the oven. And really, these domestic details can wait until the child has a home of their own, in my humble opinion.

The repercussions of being a hyper-parent are all too obvious, so the experts say. A child that has been loved and pampered will struggle to cope with demanding employers and relationship breakdown and money worries.

I don’t agree. I think that a child, teenager or adult who knows their mum will always be there for them, has a built-in security blanket that other less-loved children do not.

I believe it will be easier, not harder, for a person to cope with life’s emergencies if they’ve been brought up with family support and a 24-hour advice service.

I mean, what words would you prefer to hear on your mum’s lips the day you begin a new job or college course? Would it be: “Now remember, my darling, to send me a little text at lunchtime, just to let me know how you’re getting on”? Or would it be: “Don’t you dare be sending me texts all day because I’ll be on a romantic date with your father”? I think I know which sentiments I’d prefer. A mother’s unconditional love is character-building for any child. That’s |my belief.

I know quite a few doting mums and their children are all lovely, well-balanced people. By contrast, the children of the not-so-doting mums are generally needy and demanding; constantly looking for implied criticism in the most harmless of utterances.

So, I’m sorry. I’m not buying this advice to stop being a devoted mum. I’d even go as far as to say that if there were more doting mothers in the world we might not have so many wars.

Loved children are happy children. It’s the unloved children we should feel sorry for.

And as for the neglected husbands left on the sofa while their wives spend hours on the phone chatting to their precious little chicks? Come off it. The husbands are perfectly happy watching the football, or When Pilots Eject.

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