Tiger Mom Vs. Dragon Mom: New Ways to Talk Parenthood

If there is any topic that has some of the most extreme views and opinions, it’s parenthood. Parenting philosophies. Parenting methods. Parenting books. It’s seems pretty inexhaustible, and no doubt, incredibly overwhelming.

So, of course, when anything hits the media and has to do with parenting, especially if it’s contentious or tragic, we might find it peppered all over our Facebook walls. First, there was the phenomenon of tiger moms. And now, apparently, there are dragon moms. So, are Dragon Moms the new Tiger Mom?

One motherhood story, you might remember, is associated with Amy Chua and the controversy associated with “parenting the Chinese way,” and the other is a recent story about a mother’s perspective on raising a child with Tay-Sachs disease, which is a rare genetic disorder that causes the person to regress to a vegetative state. What’s heartbreaking in this story is that there is no cure or treatment, and the little boy is expected to die before his third birthday.

Certainly, both are stories that are compelling to me since I’m in the throes of new motherhood with 7-month old twins. Amy Chua brings up some provocative issues about culture and child-raising, and Kelly Rapp is courageous and compassionate. I seriously have no idea how she is doing it; I know I would be falling apart every single day. What’s pertinent here is that they also offer up conflicting perspectives on parenting, in terms of priorities and practices. And the reason is simple. They are in completely different situations.

One is focused on investing in experiences that will be helpful to a healthy child who presumably has a future, and the other, as Dragon Mom Kelly Rapp writes, “parent[s] for the here and now, for the sake of parenting, for the humanity implicit in the act itself, though this runs counter to traditional wisdom and advice.” But, I doubt that Amy Chua, or anyone that found themselves in Kelly Rapp’s situation would try to Tiger Mom their dying child into the best Little Gym or preschool…or on Dance Moms. The Dragon Mom certainly makes a good point about remembering what is ultimately important – health, happiness, love, etc. – but that presumes to me that the Tiger Mom doesn’t value these as well.

This is what is ultimately problematic to me about these Chinese zodiac mom labels. They might be an intriguing starting point to talk about the kind of parent, and ultimately, person I want to be when it comes to my children and family, but the tiny little symbols are pretty restrictive and limiting. Do I have to choose one or the other? Or as one friend writes on Facebook, “Can the Dragon Mom just sometimes remind the Tiger Mom in me that in the end, all that matters is my love for my child. As long as they always know that they are loved, accepted, today, now, and will be loved tomorrow, always?”I think most parents must have a little of both.

Then again, I wonder when this little trend – attaching a Chinese zodiac animal to a parenting style – will get old? Or simply annoying? It’s actually getting pretty close to running out its usefulness to me. As one of our 8asians editors helpfully commented, “Must the word “Mom” be with prefixed with every animal in the frakkin Chinese zodiac?” Ugh. I hope I don’t fall into any of the other categories this list. Either way, there has got to be a better way to talk parenthood without Asian symbols or farm animals.

[Photo courtesy of here.]

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About Mihee

Mihee lives in the Mid-West with her husband, toddler-aged twins (yes, terrible twos is actually a thing), and baby #3. Though her reserve of brain cells is seriously depleted she is still passionate about Asian American culture, religion and social justice for marginalized people, stories about Korea, sports, and power naps. During the day, she spends a lot of time trying to remember which baby needs to eat or get a diaper change, mentoring and ministering to college students, occasionally taking a walk, writing, watching Sportscenter, or grabbing coffee. You can read her blog here.
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