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Are You As Good As Your Mom?

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Technology is another reason for this strong mother-daughter connection, says Tannen. Cell phones and e-mail make it easier to stay in touch, and most of our respondents do, speaking to their mothers at least once a week. Four in ten are even chattier, talking once a day or more.

One of them is Jennifer Morton, 36, a stay-at-home mother of a 12-year-old son in Raleigh, North Carolina. The only thing Morton won't bring up with her mother? "Problems in my marriage," she says. "What if I'm the one who's wrong? I need a more objective view...and I don't want her to be prejudiced against my husband."
Morton's response isn't unusual. While 61 percent say they turn to their mothers for advice on life in general, and over half ask for parenting tips, only a third invite Mom to weigh in on their marriages or relationships.

Being a good mom gets tougher all the time

Almost three quarters of the women say that being a mother today is harder than it was when their own moms were packing the lunch boxes. Are they just feeling sorry for themselves? No, say the experts, who point out that today's tidal wave of parenting guides and must-have developmental toys creates intense pressure on mothers to raise little Einsteins. And popular culture plays a part. In follow-up interviews, many women said they needed to shield their kids from inappropriate music, TV, movies, and Internet sites.

That jibes with the findings of Martha Farrell Erickson, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and coauthor of The Motherhood Study, a comprehensive survey of 2,000 Ameri-can women, published in 2005. "Many mothers feel that the values they are trying to instill in their children are the exact opposite of the values of pop culture and the media," she says. "These women have the sense of spitting into the wind in terms of how hard it is to counteract messages of greed, commercialism, and sexuality."

And the world now seems a much more dangerous place. "My mother would let my sister and me go for 20-mile bike rides alone. I would never let my kids do that," says a Midwestern mother who homeschools her kids (and has recently taken in two foster children). "I'm always careful; I always make sure I know who my kids are with, and where."

Rethinking the guilt

As they cope with all this, women sometimes worry about not being quite the parents they'd like to be-and of those who worry, more than half also feel guilty. The surprise: Working mothers, even those on the career track, feel about the same amount of angst as the full-time moms-no more, no less.

But guilt has not gone away entirely, so let us count our respondents' reasons. The biggest: not having enough time for the kids. Other hot buttons:
- "Getting them the best education possible."
- "Providing for their future."
- "Not doing as many cultural things with my son as I should."
- "Not seeing my daughter as a separate person soon enough."
- And that one-word chiller: "Divorce."

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