Archive for the ‘Childcare and Domestic Work’ category

“The Help” Yesterday and today

September 6, 2011

There has been a war of words over “The Help” since the phenomenal success of both Kathryn Stockett’s book and the recent movie adaptation.  One argument has to do with how Hollywood (and white authors) portray Black women.  A second argument has to do with applicability of “the Help” to today’s domestic workers.  The argument goes like this:  “It’s a great story, but it’s about the civil rights era.  It has nothing to do with domestic work today.”  The other side argues that today’s nannies face many of the same challenges as Abilene and her friend Minnie.  One side argues that to make the connection between today’s domestic workers and those living in the Jim Crow South is an insult to the violence and degradation faced by African Americans after slavery. The other says that to ignore the similarities to today’s domestic workers is to deny the oppression going on under our noses.  Which side is correct?

Both are. Nothing in contemporary domestic work can compare to the caste system enforced by the threat of violence and permanent unemployment that reigned in US prior to the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement. The status of African American women as the ultimate “other” in American society made “colored woman” synonymous with “maid” and vice versa. Thus, the beautiful economy of Stockett’s title: “The Help” simultaneously captures what it meant to be a black woman in the South, and what it meant to be a domestic worker. Like those at the bottom rung of any caste society, the dirty work simultaneously defined both status and occupation.

But there is also a through-line to this story. Declared “obsolete” in the 1970s by eminent Sociologist Lewis Coser, domestic workers have not disappeared but rather, domestic work has proliferated as economic disparities have increased, and the 71% of mothers in the labor force seek relief from the double day of the first shift in the office and the second shift at home. Today’s domestic workers are overworked, underpaid, often unprotected by labor laws and made more vulnerable by immigration laws. However, there is no one group designated to fill the contemporary role of “domestic.” Rather, multiple groups of women, immigrant and native-born, fill increasingly specialized roles of hourly cleaner, mother’s helper, and nanny.

Black women in the south might spend a lifetime cooking, cleaning, and raising children for generations of the same white family.  In today’s era of competitive mothering, however, most employers are not content to have the same person who mops their floors raise their infants and toddlers. In my interviews for “Shadow Mothers,” I found that employers hired nannies based on “Ethnic Logics” – developmentally-specific criteria designed to match the right type of nanny with the age-specific needs of their children: a patient, older immigrant for infancy, an outgoing, younger au pair for the social-skill building years of toddlerhood, and perhaps someone with a degree in early childhood education for the crucial pre-school period. Rather than one all-purpose maid who stayed with a white family until her employer threw a tantrum, nannies now turn over based on children’s developmental needs. As one respondent who bounced between care for children and care for the elderly explained, “they either die on you or they go to pre-school.”

Employers have changed, too since the 1960s. The caricatures of status-conscious ladies of the “league” have been replaced by harried, working professionals. Their concerns have changed as well. The wife in the “companionate marriage” of the 1950s and 1960s concerned herself primarily with enhancing her husband’s status at work by being a hostess and by improving her family’s social status through engagement in civic and volunteer organizations. Mothering was an important, but lesser concern. Contemporary women, by contrast, are judged by the upward mobility of their children, not of their husbands. Evidence of “competitive mothering” is everywhere from Baby Einstein to enrichment classes for one-year-olds, to the long waiting lists for the best pre-schools. Demographer Susan Bianchi has shown that the at-home mothers of that golden age of the nuclear family actually spent less time with their children than do the working mothers of today.

Thus, in today’s domestic work relations, the stakes are higher in drawing the line between mother and not-mother. The white mothers in “The Help” express relief one moment at their children’s desperate clinging to the maid, and the next moment pitch a fit because the child misused the word ‘mommy.’ Among the nannies I interviewed, allowing a child to cross the boundary between “mother” and “not-mother” was often a firing offense. The employers in “The Help” were less threatened by children’s attachment to their maids because the caste line was unbreakable, and because mothers were not held so deeply accountable for how their children “turned out.” For the help of the 1950s and 1960s, the sacred, uncrossable barrier was the color line; for the today’s help it is the line the “mother/not-mother” barrier.


Book Review: Au Pair by Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller

May 19, 2011

Au Pair, by Zuzana Burikova and Daniel Miller, 2010, Polity Press
Paperback, ISBN: 9780745650128,

Au Pair is one of the first books to analyze this unique institution of domestic labor. Au Pair focuses on the experiences of Slovak au pairs working for British families in London, in the mid-2000s, (around the time Slovakia became a member of the European Union). It was co-written by two anthropologists, a British man who has employed a number of au pairs to help care for his family, and a Slovakian woman who became interested in the number of her compatriots who decided to become au pairs in the UK. Using fieldwork, interviews, and some content analysis of media related to Slovak au pairs, the authors explore the au pair experience – how they decide to become au pairs, how they view themselves and are viewed by their host families, and the consequences of their decision.

Miller and Burikova studied specifically Slovak au pairs in London and its environs as they are probably the largest ethnic group of au pairs in the city, a shift from French or Scandinavian women who previously dominated the field. The research also took place at the time when Slovakia became part of the European Union, so that an original motivation for becoming an au pair – gaining a visa to the UK – was no longer valid.

The authors worked with fifty au pairs who represented eighty six host families (the numbers are not equivalent as the au pairs sometimes changed families. Based on their shared ethnicity and language, Burikova interviewed all of the au pairs, and spent most of her time with them, both socially and helping them with their domestic tasks. Miller interviewed many of the host families who employed the au pairs in Burikova’s group as well as others from his own network. Even though it is an ethnographic study, this book is written in a unique style, which is somewhat informal and with no academic references in the main text. Each chapter is written in a different style, featuring a combination of individual stories and analysis, which explore different aspects of the au pair experience. Beginning with the stories of four women and why they decided to become au pairs, Miller and Burikova then describe on the relationship between the au pairs and their host families (this chapter is titled “An Embarrassing Presence”) through a material cultural analysis, which focuses on the au pairs attitudes to and experiences with their rooms, food, and cleaning (cleaning seems to be a major part of the au pair’s job, more so than childcare.) Subsequent chapters describe the daily work of the au pair (with both the au pair’s and the host families’ perspectives), racist attitudes of the au pairs and the host families, the au pairs’ leisure activities, and their relationships with men. The final chapter evaluates the au pair experience through the lens of a rite de passage (rite of passage) and also sets forth recommendations by the authors of how to improve the au pair experience on both sides of the relationship. The final chapter of the book, the appendix, is a literature review devoted to academic studies of domestic labor.

According to the authors, au pairing started from a tradition in which middle-class German and English families sent their daughters to live with French and Swiss families to improve their French language skills. It is supposed to be a “pseudo-family arrangement in which the au pair is supposed to be incorporated within the household more as a member than as a labourer” (2). Most au pairs decided to leave Slovakia for work as au pairs in London due to issues with personal relationships (romantic or parental) or life decisions (deciding whether or not to continue on in a graduate program). Economics was a large factor in the decision, as au pairs can earn substantially more in the “pocket money” they are paid in London than in wages for a “regular job” in Slovakia.

Miller and Burikova found that, similar to the mother-employer and caregiver dyads that Macdonald studied, the au pairs and their host families often had completely diverging accounts of their relationship. Almost all of the au pairs felt that their employers exploited them, and made them work more than the 25 hours as specified by the law. Burikova’s observations confirmed this inequity. Yet most of the host families believed that they were very generous with their au pairs and treated them well. The host families (it is mostly mothers who are quoted) seemed to have little understanding that how they treated their au pair could affect how their children were treated by her. Miller and Burikova conclude that the parents are generally don’t believe that they are exploiting their au pairs and this helps them to not worry about how their children are being treated by them.
One of the most provocative chapters of the book, “Sort of English,” describes the prejudicial attitudes of both the au pairs and their host families. Many families think of “a cross between Heidi and Mary Poppins” (p.87) when they consider hiring an au pair. Similarly, most Slovak au pairs presume that their host family will be like the Banks family (of the Mary Poppins story) – white, Christian or secular, well-off, and urban. The reality, as the authors show, is very different for both sides and can lead to some difficult interactions. A little over a third of the host families fit the “Banks family” template. The rest were Jewish and a mix of South Asian, Black, Iranian, other European and American – these were the “sort of English” families.

In Shadow Mothers, Macdonald showed how the mother-employers of all background had stereotypes about caregivers based on their ethnicity. Miller and Burikova’s fieldwork reveals similar negative characterizations on both sides. The host families thought of Slovaks as “…part of a generic Eastern European lake which stretches without significant differentiation from Estonia to Macedonia, from which they fish for au pairs” (94). Host families typically described Slovaks as hard-working, conscientious, natural with children, yet also lacking ambition, from a peasant class, and not cultured or intellectual (despite the fact that a number were university graduates). Interviews and fieldwork among the au pairs revealed that they thought that “Asian and black families would be both dirty and lazy, and Jews would be mean and calculating” (88). More ominously, the researchers discovered that how the families and au pairs actually behaved had little impact on these stereotypes. Each side’s experiences were filtered through their racist beliefs.

A chapter on men is also a unique feature of the book. While au pairs are almost exclusively women, 10% of the au pairs in the study were male. Initially the male au pairs experienced suspicion from their host families and were viewed as very unusual. The few male au pairs who had successful placements were effusively admired: “… the host mothers felt as though they had discovered a hidden treasure in the world that had brought them untold blessings” (151), that is, someone living in their house that could help with moving large items, doing repairs, and gardening.

Similar to most paid domestic work, the au pair experience is not regulated in any way. Miller and Burikova are very critical of the lack of oversight and accountability by au pair agencies. After the au pairs and host families are matched (often with conflicting information about the other), au pairs are not informed about issues such as laws regarding working hours or how to resolve disputes with host families, and there is essentially no support for au pairs if they have problems. There is no organization or government agency which regulates the work and living conditions of au pairs. The authors conclude that the structure of the au pair institution, which is defined as temporary, informal, and based on “foreignness,” accounts for the mismatched expectations (and subsequent difficult relationships) of the au pairs and the host families.

This was one of the most unusual scholarly books I have read. While it was somewhat refreshing to read an academic book without footnotes, the lack of references to other scholars and theories of domestic labor was disconcerting. The authors explain their rationale for the book’s style by claiming that they wanted to the book to be a “good read, uncluttered with constant external referencing” (1). Yet there were times when I wanted a footnote or some sort of source when the authors were making a claim. While there are many quotes from the au pairs, the information from the host families is conveyed in a more offhand manner. For example, this piece of data was offered: “At dinner parties, Mrs. Christie’s friends could talk for hours about the behaviour of their au pairs…. “ . Does that mean that most of this information was gathered at dinner parties? The informal prose was also a bit jarring. Phrases such as “girlie time” (without quotes in the original text, describing the female world of au pairs), or, “It’s like – where do you go in Beddlingham?” inserted a too-casual style to a serious topic. There should be a way to write readable academic prose without sounding so laid-back.

One of the oddest features of this book is that even though it is devoted to caregivers, there is virtually no discussion of the au pairs’ relationships with the children of the host families. Even the cover of the book demonstrated this absence – it features a couch, a vacuum cleaner, and a pair of shoes, and nothing related to children or childcare. The few references to children are decidedly negative, such as this au pair’s view: “”She was starting to appreciate the old joke about au pairing being the best form of contraception. A few hours with the Christies’ children was enough for her to lose those sweet teenage illusions about babies and motherhood. As an au pair you were expected to give the care, but without the reward of a child’s love” (p.67).

Compared to Shadow Mothers, in which the caregivers were the more sympathetic figures, I found myself disliking many of the au pairs portrayed in this study. Whether it was their racism toward their host families, their focus on shopping and the minutiae of their friendships and romantic relationships, they seemed to reflect the worst stereotypes of vapid girls. I understand, as Miller and Burikova explain, that part of why the au pairs act the way they do is because they are strangers, isolated in a foreign country, saddled with unappreciated domestic duties. Yet their behavior and attitudes made me wonder how parents could actually feel comfortable with a caregiver who was untrained, had limited language skills, and living in their home!
Au Pair is another book about care giving that reinforces for me my discomfort with in-home childcare. Despite its conveniences, I am too private a person and to uncomfortable being a “domestic employer” to have someone I don’t know live in my house. Yet this view into the au pairs’ world is a valuable book for those interested in domestic work, especially from an international perspective.
au pair cover image

Book Review – Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering

March 28, 2011

Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering, by Cameron Lynne Macdonald. University of California Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-520-26697-1.

By Susan Sapiro.

Shadow Mothers, by sociologist Cameron Lynne Macdonald (moderator of this blog), examines the complicated personal negotiations between employed mothers and the childcare providers who work in their homes. In this fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking study, Macdonald examines what it means to both mothers and childcare workers to be a “good mother” and what it means to outsource some of this role.

Macdonald’s study focused on the delegating of “motherwork” – the physical and emotional tasks involved in caring for children. Since a large part of motherwork are these emotional tasks – soothing, stimulating, forging strong bonds – outsourcing these tasks can be controversial and challenge “the fundamental understandings of motherhood” (10) and the idea of the self-sufficient nuclear family. Macdonald studied in-home childcare as it would demonstrate how mothers dealt with childcare services directly with the provider, as opposed to being mediated through a center and multiple caregivers. At home, a mother supposedly has more control over the quality of the care, and “how she selects and manages in-home care reflects what does and does not matter to her as a mother” (11).

The original research for Macdonald’s study took place at cultural moment when the American media was focused on social anxieties about women’s’ roles, women’s work outside the home, and childcare. The Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood scandals over undocumented immigrants they employed as nannies, the Louise Woodward case (the British au pair who was charged with the death of the baby in her care), and the resulting media frenzy displayed Americans’ ambivalence about employed mothers and non-maternal childcare.

One of the inspirations for Macdonald’s book comes from a personal caregiving experience. When she was 16, she was a summer babysitter/mother’s helper for a family. She had worked with the family for some time and had grown close to their children, especially the baby. One day, something happened that upset the baby and she reached for Macdonald for comfort, not her mother. Almost immediately, Macdonald was “frozen out” by the mother. Shortly after, the family paid her for the summer but let her go from the job. It wasn’t until many years later, as she started the research that became Shadow Mothers, that she understood the mother’s reaction and the complex emotions and relationships between mothers and their children’s caregivers.

The research is based on data that Macdonald collected in the late 1990s, based on interviews with 30 mothers who employed caregivers and 50 caregivers. Most of the mothers (called “mother-employers” in the book) were in high status professional jobs, had children under school age, and two thirds were white. The childcare providers were a mix of au pairs (some European), U.S. born nannies, and immigrant caregivers. They worked between 30-70 hours per week, and earned between $100-300 per week (live-in) and $80-$500 per week (live-out).

The book has four thematic sections: a) the cultural and structural restrictions that influence the mother-caregiver relationship; b) how the mother-employers try to solve the contradictions between the conflicting “ideal mother” and “ideal worker” ideologies in their lives; c) the caregivers’ perspectives on their employers’ mother and management strategies; and d) alternative and more egalitarian mother-caregiver interactions. Each chapter begins with a prelude, which presents observations and excerpts of interviews with a mother-employer and a caregiver, or a linked pair of mothers and the nannies they employ. These stories relate to the relevant theme of the chapter and give voice to the hopes and anxieties of two types of women, both of whom are caught between jobs that they are devoted to, and children they love.

Macdonald notes that with the increase in the number of women in the paid workforce, the cultural expectations around childrearing and mothering in particular (cf. the work of Sharon Hays and Judith Warner, among others) have become more rigid and extreme. Professional-managerial class women are highly influenced by the ideology of “intensive mothering,” the expectation that mothers are solely responsible for the social, emotional, educational, and ultimately professional development of their children. The professional mothers Macdonald interviewed were highly successful in male-dominant fields. Yet even after having children they were put in the impossible position of having to be completely career-focused. At the same time, the mother-employers held themselves to similarly high standards as mothers, insisting that they should be utterly child-focused. The women expressed the resulting tension from these competing expectations in both ambivalence about their careers, and in how they managed their relationships with their caregivers. The caregivers Macdonald interviewed were skilled workers who were frustrated that their jobs were seen by their employers, and society in general, as “unskilled,” “natural” family work. Macdonald relates a number of situations in which, because of the strong relational component of their work, the caregivers’ often seemed to place their young charges’ needs, and their own desire for recognition of their role, over their own financial needs.
Macdonald analyzes how the mother-employers chose a caregiver, a “shadow mother” to act in their place when they can’t be present. These choices often involved ethnic and/or national stereotypes (e.g. “nurturing“Caribbean women, white, “fresh-faced” Midwestern farm girls, too-worldly British au pairs). Once the mother-employers chose the nannies, they used different types of monitoring and management strategies, which Macdonald labels either “puppeteer” or “paranormal.” Some mother-employers were “puppeteer managers” who had detailed written schedules and definitive opinions on how caregivers should interact with their children in order to mimic the mother’s own communication and parenting style. Mothers who were “paranormal managers” felt that they had hired a caregiver who would intuitively act as the child’s mother would. This type of mother-employer didn’t consider their nannies’ unique relationship with their child, and they seemed to believe that that their caregivers were infinitely moldable, flexible, and ultimately, interchangeable. Mother-employers also revealed to Macdonald that in order to shore up their self-concepts as mothers and preserve their primary relationship with their children, they expected their trusted caregivers to “fade away” at the end of the workday, once the mothers returned home.

Not surprisingly, the paid caregivers often had strong reactions to their employers’ management strategies. Nannies also believe in a different version of “good motherhood” which was often critical of their empolyers’ lives and mothering techniques. In Macdonald’s interviews with nannies, they often yearned to be seen as a “third parent” in the family, a recognition the mother-employers were reluctant to give. In response, the caregivers used different strategies to either resist or succumb to their employers’ limits on their roles.

In the final section of the book, Macdonald describes a second phase of research that revealed a more positive and balanced (if not egalitarian) mother-employer/caregiver relationship. These “partnerships” most often occurred between caregivers employed by mothers who worked part-time or had flexible work arrangements and more equal childrearing responsibilities with their spouses. These mothers also specifically acknowledged how much the paid caregivers helped their families. In welcoming the influence of other adult caring figures into their children’s lives, they disputed the ideology of intensive mothering.

In the final chapter, Macdonald calls for campaigns to socially and economically re-value carework. She calls on carework advocates to describe both the skill and emotional care inherent in their work as worthy of fair pay and societal recognition. Macdonald also argues that class issues also need to be addressed in order to reduce the tension between middle-class mother-employers and their working-class nannies. Class transmission was the basis of most of the conflicts between the mother-employers and nannies. Mother-employers need to resist the ideology of “intensive motherhood”, the idea that they alone are responsible for their children’s emotional, social, and class-based cultural development. As long as upper middle-class mothers continue to hire working-class caregivers, the mothers will need to accept that their children will be influenced by the class-based values of their caregivers, not only of their families’.

I found Macdonald’s book enlightening and depressing at the same time. The book is unique in that it focuses on the experiences of both mothers and childcare workers and their linked relationships. Yet the gendered nature of its premise troubled me and reminded me how much further we have to go to de-gender carework. Nannies, au pairs, and other types of childcare workers are hired to replace mothers, not fathers. No one criticizes a “working father” for having someone who isn’t his children’s mother take care of them. It’s only employed mothers who are condemned and censured, and their children scrutinized for any negative effects of non-maternal (not non-parental) care. As a parent who has used center-based childcare, Shadow Mothers re-affirmed for me what I knew I would find emotionally difficult about in-home care, despite its conveniences. While it was sometimes painful to read what the caregivers thought about their mother-employers (especially when I realized that my children’s daycare providers might feel the same way), it’s made me more aware of my quick judgments of both sides of the relationship. When I hear my friends complain about their nannies, I now realize that they may be ambivalent about their roles as employers. When I see nannies chatting in the playground and reprimanding the children in their care, I remember that social support and recognition is essential for caregivers of young children.

I appreciated Macdonald’s observations of how the nannies interacted with the children in their care, and the small details she noticed, such as that virtually all of the families had no photographs displayed of their children with the caregivers. The only thing I found missing in this very detailed study is an ethnographic account of the interaction between mothers and caregivers. The voices of both “sides” come out strongly in the quotes from the interviews, but it would have added an even richer layer of nuance if Macdonald would have recorded her observations of how the mother-employers and caregivers related directly to each other and to the children. It would have obviously been a challenge to find a time that both women would be present and interacting, especially since when the mother-employers returned home from work, they wanted their caregivers to “disappear”. I wonder if some more observations would have helped with the delicate issue of conflicting accounts among mother-employers and caregivers, such as one mother-employer claiming that their nanny cooked and ate with the family, while the nanny stated that she always ate alone, and was never invited to eat with the family.

This book would be a welcome addition to courses on carework, mothering, the sociology of labor and sociology of gender. I would also recommend this book to anyone who is negotiating a relationship with a paid caregiver.

Much ado about (Tiger) mothers

January 30, 2011
Tiger mom and cubs

Tiger Mom and Cubs

Amy Chua’s recent memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,”  produced a maelstrom of outrage, fear, and a bit of nervous guilt among American mothers.  As is now well-known, Chua boasts that her traditional Chinese and highly authoritarian parenting style has produced daughters who have and will succeed as she did, leading commentators to both rail against her for cruelty to her own children and to cringe at the thought that parenting is one more area in which the Chinese are superior to Americans.

But what is the fuss about, really?  Who cares if a Chinese-American law professor from Yale drives her daughters like a banshee?  We do.  The rules of one of our favorite spectator sports, competitive mothering, are at stake.  If she is correct, then the legions of “helicopter mothers,” who have carefully organized their children’s lives to reinforce their self-esteem and sense of entitlement, have failed.  Instead of encouraging their children’s innate giftedness, they should have berated them to do better.  Chua is the Simon Cowell to a nation of mothers who truly thought their children were talented, only to learn too late that they are tone-deaf.

And yet, is the agitation produced by this little tome really about competing styles of mothering, or is it simply one more reflection of the culture of competitive motherhood that has taken over middle- and upper-class life? As Stephen Colbert noted in his hilarious interview with Chua, “Moms alone determine how our kids turn out.  Couldn’t be dads because we’re never there.” He holds up his hands, “No fingerprints!” 

I continue to be astonished that as the number of mothers working outside of the home continues to rise, and the number of hours fathers spend with their children rises too (though not as quickly), Colbert’s joking statement continues to ring more true than it did when my mother stayed home during the first few years of my life.  Sure, mom was important in the 50s, and 60s, but so were factors like innate temperament, IQ, and the influences of other children.  I’m not suggesting that we should return to measuring children’s abilities based on these other influences, but that maybe we need to lighten up on mom.

This is no small task.  Even though advice books and magazines euphemistically use the word “parenting,” we know that they really mean mothering.  And in every bit of advice on cognitive stimulation, socialization and proper nutrition, there is a hidden caveat: “if you don’t heed this advice, your child won’t get into Harvard.” 

We laugh at this well-worn trope, but there is no question that the stakes have never been higher for childhood success.  The Millenials are the first generation since the Great Depression who are likely to be worse off economically than their parents.  The gap between the middle-class, the rich, and the super-rich are expanding like never before.  Like it or not, Americans view mothers as the last bastion against downward mobility.  Producing upwardly mobile or at least economically stable children is hard work, and it is women’s work.

In my own research on nannies and their employers, Shadow Mothers, the central tension between employer and employee was the paradox of upper-middle class mothers trying to reproduce their cultural capital via working-class or poor nannies.  The belief in child perfectibility combined with long hours away from the children  turned otherwise intelligent, reasonable women into unreasonable employers.  If, as Sociologist Arlie Hochschild has stated, the family is the ‘shock absorber’ for changes in the economy, the mother-childcare provider relationship is the shock absorber for the gap between working mothers’ aspirations for their children and reality.

Chua is similar in many ways to the mothers I interviewed.  She hired a nanny who speaks Mandarin in order to increase her children’s cultural capital.  Likewise, the mothers I interviewed strategically employed particular types of Spanish- or English-speaking nannies to broaden their children’s language skills.  Their mothering practices differ not in intensity or anxiety, but in tone. 

Our blame-the-mom and fear-of-children-falling obsessions get in the way of successful childcare partnerships.  They also create the kind of hysteria that met Amy Chua’s somewhat silly and self-indulgent book.  More importantly they place relentless pressure on both mothers and children to live up to unattainable goals.  Ultimately, is the practie of making children the primary product of their mothers’ time, energy and money healthy?  Is it good for mothers to spend less time with their friends, their spouses and themselves in order to invest more time and energy in producing the perfect child?  This relentlessness may be no good for anyone, regardless of whether it takes the form of the Tiger mother’s threat or the helicopter mother’s micromanagement.  Fair or not, both sets of mothers face an all-consuming job in which their children’s long-term success will be the measure of their worth.