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Tiger Mom Meets the Jewish Mother

What is all this fuss about Amy Chua overtly confessing to be a tiger mom? Jewish mothers, if they would tell you their age, have been around for centuries working behind the scenes and the animal that would best describe them would be a hybrid of kangaroo and dragon.

While tiger mom might threaten to burn your stuffed animals if you don’t practice piano or not allow you bathroom privileges while you write that research paper, a Jewish mother is far more subtle. In her arsenal is not an angry outburst, but something more powerful and enduring- guilt. Do not underestimate guilt as any affluent therapist will tell you. Guilt is eternal. Guilt accompanies you in childhood and as an adult; every child of a Jewish mother shudders at the thought of guilt – “Oh, someday you will miss me when I’m gone.” A thirty-five year old woman told my stress management group that she apologized to her mother at her grave – “I just had to get a divorce. He was abusive. I’m sorry for disappointing you.”

Instead of the sharp claws of the tiger mom, the Jewish mother wears a velvet glove on her iron fist. This is how accomplishment is played out with a Jewish mother.

For example, take mine:

My mother (smiling, wearing an apron): How was school today (sophomore year high school)?
Me (bubbly): I had a great day.
My mother (serving me a warm snack): Did you get any tests back today?
Me: Yes, I got my chemistry test back.
My mother: What did you get?
Me (beaming): 95
My mother (clapping her hands together and grinning): That’s very good. Did you get the highest mark?
Me (no longer smiling): No, Nanette did.
My mother (still smiling): What did she get?
Me: 97.
My mother (speaking passionately with the enthusiasm of a war cry): How come she had higher? What do you think she did to earn that grade? And do you know where your other 5 points went? Ask the teacher if you can do some makeup work, maybe an extra experiment and lab report or a term paper. Go on, finish your snack. I made chicken soup for dinner, great for your cold, better than penicillin.

I am happy to say that after all is said and done I cultivated a love of learning and solid self-esteem. I do not feel guilty or angry, and am known for my sunshine disposition. How could this be? I had a great Jewish father to balance out my Jewish mother. In his words: “Just do your best. If you get a fifty on a test and you did your best, then you learned half the material. I am proud of your accomplishment. You are good enough. B’simcha – which loosely translated means, in joy!”

Life is a tension of opposites.
For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show




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