Tiger Mothers and Background Fathers

01 Oct 2012

written by Carolyn


After reading Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” excerpted from her new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” I planned to write a post not unlike many of the posts I’ve read about Chua.

I was going to talk about suicide rates among Asian students as evidence that parental demands for perfection can be destructive. I was going to talk about how rote drilling and non-stop studying may produce straight-A students who get into all the top schools, but don’t produce people with the leadership skills necessary to run leading institutions.

Then I read Chua’s book.

In the Wall Street Journal article, Chua seems smug and self-righteous. The article has a “my kids are better than yours, and I’m a better mother than you” tone that many people justifiably found off-putting. By contrast, Chua is much more self-deprecating than smug in her book. Her stories about drilling her kids to practice their instruments for hours at a stretch are told with a touch of “I can’t believe I did that” embarrassment, not boastfulness.

The Amy Chua portrayed in “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is someone I can identify with.

Like Chua, I am a graduate of Harvard Law School. Like Chua, I joined a major international law firm after graduating, primarily because it was the next big mark to hit, not because I had any burning desire to practice corporate law.

And like Chua, after my children were born, I found myself – despite my demanding career, despite the presence of a partner – shouldering 90% of the responsibility of raising our children and managing a household.

Both Chua and her husband Jeb Rubenfeld are Yale Law professors, and both are bestselling authors. Yet she acknowledges the job of raising the children, taking care of the household, and even caring for the family’s dogs, has been left largely to her.

Chua seems to be okay with this lack of balance, as I was, and as many of my women friends seem to be. Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sure I could trust my husband to know what to do with the kids.

More to the point, I didn’t trust him to do it my way.

Chua says her husband appreciated her tactics because he wanted their children to be raised in a more strict environment than he was. The portrait she paints in her book mirrors my experience and that of many women I know. We are the taskmasters and disciplinarians, while Dad is the fun guy – the one who makes pancakes and takes the kids to Yankees games and water parks.

Still, it’s apparent that, as much as Chua took a cue from her own daughters and learned to back off (a bit), her husband provided some much-needed balance. If nothing else, he provided a counterpoint that required her to reassess some of her more manic mothering tendencies.

As it turns out, the Tiger Mom is kind of a pussycat. There’s no need to reignite the “Mommy Wars” over Eastern versus Western parenting techniques. Chua’s own example proves that all of us mothers have a lot to learn – from our partners, from our children, and, not the least, from each other.

Originally appeared on MarriedMySugarDaddy.com

One Response to Tiger Mothers and Background Fathers

  1. Whitney

    I haven’t read the book, but parenting is something that is definitely OJT, you live and learn.

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