As parents, it's natural to want to hold our children close—protecting them from danger, helping them feel loved and ensuring they are raised according to our standards. That can explain why moms of babies say they do roughly 74% of the "parenting" in their homes, according to a new survey from Plum Organics.
At the same time, we want to raise children who have confidence and independence. So, what to do when the desire to hold them close seems to conflict with the desire to empower them? Put the tendency to be a "maternal gatekeeper" in check, says Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity and an expert for Plum Organic's "Keeping it Together" campaign.
For parents of little ones, this doesn't mean sending them out to play unattended. But, rather, it's letting your child know they can be attended to by someone other than you.
"They need to know that they can survive if you're not around," Perel tells Motherly. By doing this, you are fostering the trait of resilience. And, as an added perk, the person you are entrusting to care for your child will feel more empowered, too. That's why Perel is a big advocate for moms taking a night or weekend away.
"Let your partner actually figure it out on their own and know that the system survives even when you are not there," she says.
Perel adds that if it makes you feel "bad" everyone was in fact okay without you, that indicates your personal value system needs some attention. She explains, "If your child keeps experiencing that you need them to need you, that you almost need them more than they may even need you... that is an emotional burden that you are putting on a child."
This doesn't mean it's wrong for your primary identity to be that of a parent. But, adds Perel, the role of a parent is to be attuned to the child's needs, not to project your own onto them. "It's not to have a merging of identities, it's to make the space necessary for your child's identities to develop," she says. "And that's what gets confused."
Few people set out to be helicopter parents—especially with mounting research showing the detrimental effects overbearing parenting can have on children. The struggle comes when we know we have our children's best interests at heart and want to make sure they are set up for success.
The catch is that requires autonomy. Says Perel, "In order for a child to try, they need to know that there are things they can do for themselves."
That starts with you doing something for yourself. Go on and plan that girls' weekend, mama.