your mothering style

Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your parenting style to prepare for the challenges ahead


You’re determined to avoid every parent’s worst missteps while repeating their successes. So what kind of mother will you be? Take our quiz, developed with Gayle Peterson, Ph.D., a therapist in private practice in Berkeley, Calif., and the author of Making Healthy Families (Shadow and Light Publications, 2000),

for hints about your style and tips on relating to your child.

1 You’re in the home stretch of your pregnancy, four weeks from your due date. At this point:

a> You’ve devoured everything your library and bookstore offer on infant development and fret that the nursery you’ve created isn’t stimulating enough.

b> You haven’t read much but figure you’ll deal with things as they come.

c> You’ve read enough on babyhood to give you a foundation from which to build but also realize you’re going to have to wing it sometimes and rely on your instincts.

2 Your next-door neighbor tells you she’s getting divorced. You:

a> Start inviting her to dinner every night so she won’t be alone.

b> Offer her a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

c> Pop a Hallmark card in her mailbox.

3 While riding the elevator, you spy another pregnant woman. You:

a> Avoid eye contact. You don’t want to attract her attention.

b> Smile and ask when she’s due.

c> Push the stop button, then bombard her with questions, comparing the details of your pregnancies.

4 Your co-worker is The chairman of a local charity and keeps asking you to help out. you:

a> Agree to pitch in when you can fit it into

your schedule.

b> Say yes every time, even if it means you rarely get to your aerobics class.

c> Volunteer for tasks that will enhance your résumé, no matter the commitment.

5 You leave town for a long-overdue week of vacation. While you’re away, you:

a> Take your briefcase—you plan to work.

b> Leave your cell phone number with your trusted

assistant for emergencies only. You’re confident you’ve left things in good order and realize the office will survive

without you.

c> Call in at least twice a day—just in case someone needs you for something.

6 In the first year after the baby comes, you and your partner will probably:

a> Hang out with the baby as much as possible; spending quality time with your child always comes first.

b> Continue doing things the way you always have.

c> Make a point to have a date once or twice a month—it’s important to keep your relationship strong.

7 Your relationship with your mother is best described as:

a> Distant. You’ve been drifting apart for years but don’t exactly know why.

b> Good. You’ve had your share of differences, but you’ve come to terms with those issues and want her to play a role in your child’s life.

c> Volatile. You see your mother’s parenting patterns as negative and are determined not to make the same mistakes with your own child.

8 You’re expecting out-of-town guests tonight, but a last-minute project has just come up

at work. Your husband is stuck in traffic, so he can’t start dinner. You:

a> Ditch that home-cooked meal, put the finishing

touches on your project and hit the local deli for take-out.

b> Scrap your dinner plans altogether; you can always catch up later.

c> Burst into tears.

What is your mothering style?

Add up your points (below)

according to how you answered the previous questions,

then refer to the profile below that corresponds to

your total. Keep in mind that most women have a mix of

parenting styles that vary depending on the issue at hand.

1) a>1 b>3 c>2

2) a>1 b>2 c>3

3) a>3 b>2 c>1

4) a>2 b>1 c>3

5) a>3 b>2 c>1

6) a>1 b>3 c>2

7) a>3 b>2 c>1

8) a>2 b>3 c>1

8–13 points:

The Overanxious Mother The upside is you’ve read extensively about child development and are up-to-date on child-rearing philosophies, which can greatly benefit your baby. But you may feel anxious about doing everything just right and need a little confidence building. In work and

at home, you tend to approach tasks with an all-or-nothing attitude, which can end in disappointment or frustration. If you view mothering the same way, you could project your anxieties on your child. You’re often not comfortable taking time out for yourself to indulge a hobby, learn something new or simply recharge.

Tips: Nurturing yourself more will make you a better

mother. Look for ways to ease your anxiety—such as meditation and yoga—and take time out for yourself on a regular basis. By doing so, you’ll develop a healthy perspective on your new role and a better sense of your child as his own unique being.

14–19 points:

The Balanced Mother You are generally confident, self-assured and comfortable in a nurturing role. You feel you’ve had a positive influence on your friends and believe you can make a positive difference in your child’s life. You have healthy relationships with a wide group of people, whose differences you respect. You’ll likely see the ways your child is both like yourself and a marvelous being totally separate from you. You’ll view your child as resilient and try not to smother him with protection and guidance. You recognize that you must take time for yourself and other interests in order to stay charged and engaged. The downside: You’re fully aware of what you’ve given up to have a child and experience the normal grief that comes with sacrifice—of time, privacy, career advancement, etc.

Tips: Be proud of how you’re approaching motherhood, but realize that you will have bad days when your balance seems out of kilter. Follow your instincts, and the situation should soon right itself.

20–24 points:

The Detached Mother The benefit of this style is that you won’t project anxiety onto your child. You also won’t worry extensively about leaving your newborn with caregivers, so separation is easier. But you risk not establishing a deep bond with your infant. As you tend to derive your feelings of self-worth from work or physical activities more than from relationships, you may feel ambivalent about the new role you’re about to take on. Being detached can stem from having a pregnancy that was unplanned or ill-timed or from being in a family in which female roles weren’t valued.

Tips: Motherhood is an opportunity for you to grow and learn. Aim to play a central role in your baby’s first year, when the foundation for attachment is first built. Sit in the park and observe what your baby experiences. For example, is he more visual (looking around at everything), auditory (listening, responding to sound) or kinesthetic (feeling the breeze)? Your pleasure and feelings of attachment will grow with the increased knowledge of who your child is.