Intensive Mothering

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For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river… (Isaiah 66:12)

What is distracting us of our peace?

There are many answers to that question— we are

too busy,

financially overstretched,

raising children,

not getting enough sleep,

dealing with toxic people in our life,

having work concerns,

home maintenance,

taking care of our aging parents,

not eating well,

comparing ourselves.

In the next few posts I want to talk about what is distracting us from feeling this peace the Savior offers us.  Especially in the realm of motherhood. There is a term I keep hearing about– “intensive mothering“.

There is a control issue here. If we can just raise the perfect family, then our life’s work will be validated . I know–I worked on that premise for many years. Now that I am an old salty Momma, I  know that children come with their  own personalities and your best bet is to teach, and guide and hold them responsible for their choices. Which means to not enable them by rescuing them.

I grew up in the 1960’s with no seatbelts and among other things, was  allowed to ride my bike away all day, where ever I wanted to go.

 I am on the parenting spectrum, less but better.

When the school bus got cut in our neighborhood because of budgeting, I did walk our last two  children to school. I am not the free range mom that would let her 9 year old ride the New York City subway by himself. That’s too far for me.

Back to “intensive mothering”:

“Holly Schifferin, a psychology professor, and  her colleagues at the University of Mary Washington in Fredrickson, Virginia,   recently  published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies an article on this very topic.  The researchers relied on a measure of intense mothering, which they developed. It included five categories:

  1.  The idea that you were responsible for  the majority of the  stimulation of your children;
  2. The view that mother is best, more than even the father;
  3. The belief that child-centered parenting is really different from two generations ago when children were to be seen and not heard;
  4. The idea that children are sacred and should bring joy and love to their parents;
  5. The premise that parenting is challenging and exhausting.

The researchers looked at 181 moms of kids age 5 and under, and asked them to fill out an Internet questionnaire measuring their opinions about intensive mothering. Even after controlling for social support — help from Grandma, for example — researchers found

that intensive mothers were not as happy.

“Moms who believe parenting is challenging and requires expert knowledge and skills were more stressed and more depressed than moms who didn’t think an arsenal of expertise was mandatory.’

“Moms who think stimulation is necessary and that children are sacred did not show differences from other moms, which surprised Schiffrin. It could be because the “challenging” measure “tended to gobble up the other explanations,” she said.’

(I am actually glad that #4  did not stress mother’s out. Because we believe, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that children are sacred and do bring joy and love to us.  That is the truth. Otherwise, why the heck be a parent? The other premise, above,  stimulation,  can be overdone but could mean many things on a wide spectrum to different moms. Maybe that’s why people weren’t stressed by it.)

The article goes on, “It’s also worth reiterating that women who subscribe to this exhausting parenting philosophy — and their numbers are not few — do so because they believe it benefits their children. Next year, Schiffrin hopes to look at whether intensive mothering actually conveys advantages to kids. “A lot of research says children of depressed mothers don’t fare as well,” she says. “If this ideology is making us depressed, it may not benefit kids in the long run.”


“A lot of research says children of depressed mothers don’t fare as well.”

This is a great reminder for me as I move into the phase of parenting adult children. Let’s take note, lean back and relax. Maybe as Latter-Day Saint mothers, our identity gets eclipsed because we are the primary nurturers of our children. In the next sentence, the Proclamation of the Family says,”In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” But not to the extent where we think we can parent better than our husbands, or we sacrifice so much that it leaves us exhausted and spent.

I recently read in 1 Nephi 8 about Lehi’s dream. This verse struck a chord in me:

12 And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

That is why I had children. I was betting that they would “fill (ed) my soul with exceedingly great joy.” And they have!  It has been worth every ounce of work, inconvenience and pain. And the more we can find the balance as protector and encourager, holding firm boundaries on what isn’t safe and encouraging their independence and self-reliance, the more joy we will feel.

Let’s take a deep breath and relax.


Have you seen intensive mothering? What are your thoughts?



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