Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

Goodbye Helicopter Parenting, Hello Mothership Parenting

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“Mothership, I have returned!”

Those were the words my 17-year-old wise-cracking son uttered as he strode through the door after returning from an outing with his friends.

“Mothership”? Seriously? I wasn’t quite sure what to think about Matt’s new nickname or why he bestowed yet another endearing term on me. In the short 17 years of our mother/son relationship, he has gone from calling me “mama” to “mommy” to “mother” and now to “mothership”.

What on earth was going on in the depths of his teenage mind? Did I suddenly transform into some technologically advanced, large piece of floating metal randomly traveling the vast universe on some inter-galactic mission? Had he been watching too many Star Wars movies? Or, had my son suddenly decided it was time to change the rules of parenthood once again and force me to learn a new game.

Whatever the case, his nickname has seemed to stick — I am affectionately now known as his “Mothership”.

A New Phase of Parenting

A wise friend once told me years ago, “Parenthood is like no other game you play; as soon as you figure out the rules, they go and change the game on you”.

Helicopter parenting, parenting with boundaries, team mom, and even “stalker” mom (guilty as charged), I have down pat, but “Mothership Parenting“, this is a new phase I hadn’t prepared for — and the rules are vastly different.

In my case, as soon as my son coined me “Mothership”, I knew I could no longer deny the fact that I had indeed entered a new and slightly frightening phase of motherhood – learning how to parent young adult children. Dear Universe, please help me!!!

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Mothership Parenting, I fear, is going to require a lot of practice and balance on my part in order to learn how to navigate the “un”parenting path I am now walking on. I admit this is not going to be easy for me. Breathe in, breathe out, and where is that bottle of wine?


How quickly we travel through the phases of motherhood without even noticing it. In the blink of an eye, I have gone from rocking my precious babies, singing made-up lullabies, and imagining all the wonderful adventures they will experience, to watching them turn into mature young adults, ready to leave and explore the universe on their own.

I remember listening to strangers tell me when Emily and Matt were toddlers, “enjoy every second while they’re young” and “kids grow up too fast”; thinking to myself these people were crazy. But believe me, it does happen in the blink of an eye.

As my two children have reached this new level of independence, I am constantly reminded about how precious time really is. Once their childhood is gone, it’s gone. I’m already missing the days of silly antics, playing pretend games and believe it or not, the insane school projects that kept Michaels and Hobby Lobby in business all these years.

The scary part (and I’m being honest), is that I don’t feel like I’m old enough to have grown children and really don’t want to face the fact that as my kids age, so do I. Hate me for saying it, but I still want to be that youthful, quirky mom, who keeps color-coded schedules and drives her kids a bit nuts with unfiltered advice while they tweet “SMH at what my mom just said”.

What is “Mothership Parenting”?

I believe it’s the time in the mother/child relationship when we learn to find balance between wanting to help our children in every situation with the knowledge that our children are capable young adults. It’s about the realization that our children don’t need “mom” to remind them every minute of the day what they need to do. — even if we think we have to. I admit, as a recovering helicopter parent, this is hard.

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It’s also the time to give our children the freedom to find out who they are and what their purpose in life is. They are going to make choices and decisions that we won’t like and will also make decisions that make us proud. Let’s pray there are more proud moments.

It’s about faith in ourselves as parents, trusting that we have actually done a good job and made a difference in our children’s lives. We gave them wings; it’s time to watch them soar.

Will our children make mistakes? Of course, they will — but don’t we all? For them to succeed, we must trust in our children’s ability to figure it out all by themselves without running to their every rescue. Emily and Matt are going to learn their own life lessons; while I’m left fidgeting on the sidelines nervously biting what is left of my nails.

Mothership Parenting is more than just about our changing relationship with our children — it’s also about the relationship we have with ourselves. How we deal with the shift in our own identity will help us to keep things balanced. The transition from being the center of your child’s world (or them being the center of your world), to creating a new world for yourself can be an exciting time of self-discovery. We now have the freedom to explore our own passions and to focus on our needs.

One thing is true, as Motherships, we will always be the safe haven our children will want to come home to. There will always be times when they will still want us to swoop down and comfort them. I was reminded of this while discussing the concept of “Mothership Parenting” with a close friend. Here my strong and fierce friend, who is going through a personal battle of her own, openly admitted, “I’m 51, and right now the only person I want with me by my side is my “Mothership”.

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We will always seek out our Motherships whether they be in happy times or in difficult ones.

So, when your child bursts through the door and shouts “Mothership, I have returned”, savor those four little words. Take pride in the fact they are gaining independence but still see you as a safe place to return to.

And as for my son, Matt, who is wise beyond his years — I will always be proud to be his Mothership.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Mothership Parenting?
A: Mothership Parenting is a new phase of parenting where parents learn to balance helping their children with the realization that their children are capable young adults.

Q: What are the challenges of Mothership Parenting?
A: The challenges of Mothership Parenting include giving children the freedom to make their own choices, having faith in oneself as a parent, and dealing with the shift in identity.

Q: How can parents navigate Mothership Parenting?
A: Parents can navigate Mothership Parenting by trusting in their children’s ability to figure things out, allowing them to learn their own life lessons, and focusing on their own needs and passions.

Q: Will children make mistakes during Mothership Parenting?
A: Yes, children will make mistakes, but it is important for parents to trust in their children’s ability to learn from those mistakes and grow.


As parents, we are constantly adapting to new phases of our children’s lives. Mothership Parenting is one such phase, where we learn to balance our desire to help our children with their growing independence. It’s a time of self-discovery for both parents and children and a time to trust in the foundation we have built. Embrace the journey and take pride in being your child’s safe haven, their Mothership.

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Tagged Parenting, Relationships