Apodaca: Not a tiger, bear or bird — just Mom

February 11, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Soccer moms, it seems, are so last decade. The latest fashion in parenting is animal moms.

The trend is being fueled largely by the book that has everyone talking, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." And by "everyone," I mean other moms, as well as TV talk-show hosts, media pundits and late-night comics.

The new memoir, by Yale professor Amy Chua, chronicles the author's efforts to give her two daughters what she considers a traditional, ultra-strict Chinese upbringing aimed at producing successful kids.


She writes, for example, of forcing her girls to practice piano and violin for hours on end without breaks, even on vacations; considering any grade below an "A" as a disgrace; banning TV, computer games, play dates and sleepovers, and resorting to name-calling and threats to force her will on her daughters.

The "Tiger Mother" moniker stems from the fact that Chua was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger, and she occasionally references the animal as a symbol of power, strength and respect.

The "Tiger Mom" stands in contrast to another animal metaphor made famous by Sarah Palin: the "Mama Grizzly," which she uses to connote the power of mothers to influence politics.

The fad has inspired other mothers to declare themselves "Dolphin Moms," "Lion Moms" — the list goes on.

While these nicknames are used to make various points, the animal-mom theme carries a common thread: We mothers should be courageous, unflinching beasts who are unafraid to do battle, whether it's with our own kids or the world at large.

This caused me to wonder: Am I a "Tiger Mom," or a "Mama Grizzly," or some other animal-person hybrid? And how helpful and meaningful are these identities, anyway?

In my quest for clarity, I decided first to find out which animals truly are the best mothers.

Turns out that's not so easy.

I looked up Animal Planet's "Top 10 Animal Moms." Among those making the list were: elephants (they give birth to the biggest babies on earth — no way on this one); polar bears (they double their body weight during pregnancy, then sleep through the birth — I could handle that); orangutans (build new nests every night, and never put their babies down — forget it), the octopus (moms go hungry while guarding 50,000 eggs — again, forget it), and koalas (they feed infants their own feces — no comment).

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