Parenting, to make the understatement of the ever, is a complicated venture. There are umpti-squillion books about how to be a better parent, how to raise a better child, how to take an unknown lump of baby human and form him or her into the superior. This is a profound change from the days when you had kids (whether you wanted to or not), and they were mainly expected to do and be as the parents, period. The last 20-30 years or so have brought a steadily-increasing focus on “hyper-parenting,” at least in American culture. Asian cultures have traditionally put tremendous importance on their children doing whatever it takes to succeed, with methods that can seem harsh or even abusive to Americans. Yet…these extremes often achieve their goals.

You know you’ve got some controversy brewing when you write an article based on your new book that makes intense American “Helicopter Parents” seem like weak, inefficient slackers. Amy Chua, an author and professor at Yale, parent of two teens, and a woman of Chinese descent, is being raked through the media coals for “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” published in the Wall Street Journal. It’s written to be provocative , thereby generating interest in Chua’s 3rd book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which has worked spectacularly – it’s now a best seller. For us “housecat moms,” it’s a cringe-inducing read. Everything the umpti-squillion books have taught us, everything an enlightened, responsible, compassionate modern parent is supposed to be, Chua turns on end. As she details, her daughters had zero choice on what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, and any rebellion was met with shaming and name-calling and threats of destroying beloved toys. There was no TV, no computer games, no fluffy extra-curriculars, and no playdates. Chua’s plain talk and honesty here is jarring, yet intriguing. It’s like looking into a diamond mine. There are some pretty impressive and beautiful things down there, but the effort and the danger and the misery it takes to mine them out is scary.

Scary to me, that is. To others, Chua is on point, and her daughters seem to be very accomplished and happy young ladies. The thing is, I’ve had my run at being Tiger Mom, or at least maybe Bobcat Mom. I’ve not been as rigid by any means, but have I demanded excellence? Yes. Have I yelled and threatened and screamed over homework? Yup. Have I chosen activities because I thought they were important and not because my kid was really interested? I have indeed. But no more. I’m a Housecat Mom: not as useless and wimpy as Kitten Mom, but I just don’t have it in me anymore after 19 years on the job to tornado my way through the house for the potential benefit of my three very different children.

Why? Well, a few reasons. I’ve known a whole lot of moms over the years, from public and private schools, from those on public assistance to billionaires. I’ve seen almost all fall into hyper-parenting, by choice or simple peer pressure. I’ve seen the “second shift” day in and day out, where harried mothers are pushing their kids into minivans or SUVs and rushing them off to soccer or piano or horseback lessons or math tutoring. And I’ve seen so many stone-faced children, joylessly competing, disconnected, exhausted. I’ve seen the same kids as teenagers, fed up and burnt-out, hating the music or the sports they were forced to do. Kids so completely freaked out about getting into a “good” college that it essentially ruins their last years of high school. Kids that have no sense of competency because someone has always made their choices for them. Kids that can’t do anything else but fail in order to assert their independence. Kids who binge out on drugs on the weekends just to relieve the vise-grip their weekdays have on them. Over and over and over I have seen this, the children who aren’t really children, but something…else. They don’t even know who they are, or how to even begin to find out.

Another reason I’m done with Tigering is purely because of the nasty effect it has on me. Forget the kids for a moment, shall we? I didn’t become a parent to be Homework Nazi! I too am burnt beyond burnt and sick of yelling and cajoling and nudging and reminding. I’m sick of my blood pressure going to volcano levels, sick of the precious few hours – and years! – I have with my children while they ARE children to be destroyed, trashed out in tears and anger and frustration on all ends. I deserve a peaceful and enjoyable home with my children. And that doesn’t make me a crappy parent, either.

I can provide my kids with almost anything; almost any opportunity they could ask for, by god, I would find a way to get it for them. But I can’t provide them with the foresight, motivation, and common sense it takes sometimes to make better choices – they have to actually experience consequences and earned successes and defaulted failures by themselves via their own actions, not from some puppet master. My message to them is repeated and utterly consistent: do your best now, and it will earn you more choices in life in the future. But you know what? I’m not going to sacrifice my life for it. Sorry, spawn. I’ll do almost anything for you except become some bitter harridan wondering what the hell I had kids for. I like life too much for that, and I don’t want you to remember me that way when I am gone.

So be it. The cubs of the Tiger Mom may very likely get the best meat of the kill, and Housecat Mom’s kittens may have to live off the decaying scraps. But maybe not. It really does come down to the individual temperament, as much as Chua and mothers like her would argue it. No matter the parent, no matter the circumstances, people who want to do well in life usually do; people who are less invested in “the best” settle and live with it. I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither does Amy Chua – only time will tell how our respective children turn out. Tiger Mom is a tough talker and a hard taskmaster, but I think I have a toughness that is far harder to deal with. I have to be tough enough to say “no more” to the sickening grind of hyper-parenting, and strong enough to be able to let my children make their own choices, and take some heartbreaking falls. I have to be tough enough to give myself a break, and stand tall even if my children do things that embarrass or depress me. For all that Chua does to ensure her children’s fine place in the world, she wraps them in a cocoon of unreality. When failure comes to her children – and of course it will – it may hit them with far more severity.

There are so many ways to show our love, and none that seem to be perfect. Complicated, indeed.