Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mommy withdrawal

This week has packed the one-two punch of (1) being quite busy and (2) not having the toes wherewithal to get it all done.

So some things naturally have to slide.

Like blogging anything deep.
Like the pile of crumbs under my kitchen table.
Like getting laundry to its proper place.
Like getting anything but a boxed meal on the table.

Yesterday, you would have thought a bomb went off in my living room.

Why is it that when Mom has her feet up, everyone else assumes they should, too?

Which leads me to my thought for the day: Am I training my kids to be too reliant on me?

A friend of mine, whose children are all school-age, recently started a small, part-time, in-home business. She and her husband sat down with their kids and told them they were going to have to pull their weight for real because Mom wasn't going to be at their beck and call anymore.

She said at first, the kids went through a sort of "Mommy withdrawal." (Remember, they are not preschoolers). No longer was she always available to bring the forgotten lunch or homework. Dinner was sometimes their responsibility. The older ones have to babysit after school sometimes.

They whined. They cried. But eventually they figured it out, and have done quite well with a reduction in "Mommy services."

Now, my kids have certain responsibilities, like taking care of their rooms, helping with dinner, setting the table, and feeding pets. But I admit, none of their jobs (say, schoolwork, for example) are a matter of life and death (although the bird has come awfully close to death by starvation!). If they don't get them done today, they can be done tomorrow. I admit that they still need quite a bit of reminding from Mom to get them done. I also admit I do things for them sometimes that they are capable of doing themselves - because (a) I'm home and (b) sometimes it's just easier if I do it myself.

While I wouldn't ever intentionally spoil my kids, overall, I think they are quite comfortable in the level of concierge services they are receiving from Mom and Dad. "Mommy withdrawal" here mostly means that the house looks pretty shabby for a while.

I guess having weeks like this where I've absolutely had to count on my family to help - with dinner, cleanup and general pitching in to the family's welfare - is good. It helps me realize the gaping holes in our training strategies. I asked my oldest daughter to make dinner - all by herself - and she did beautifully. The other kids pitched in in other ways. Why did it take until I was incapacitated to ask them to do that?

I do want to be there for my kids - I think there is a balance here. I'm not saying I don't want to do things for them. On the other hand, I don't believe that loving them means being "always available" to satisfy their every whim. They need to know they are important, but that the world does not revolve around them, and that part of being important means that they have to do some meaningful work (relative to their age and ability) toward the family good.

How have you struck this balance at your house?

14 comments:

Beckyb said...

Ok - have you been eavesdropping in at our house this week?? My husband and I were just saying how our boys need to become a little more independent - I don't have to be right there to tell them everything - yet, I want to always be there when they need me - yes, a tough position!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, Katherine, NO, I have not found this balance in my home yet! Granted, my kidlets are still young - all five are under eight years of age.

But I already find myself battling the war of how find that delicate balance.

And my own character is critical in area.

I want to be a servant and to serve my family well, not grudgingly.

And I want my children to be servants, and to serve each other (and their parents) well, not grudgingly.

I'm just not sure yet how it all plays out in the day-to-day activities of picking up socks and putting away Lego.

But the Greatest Servant of all is teaching me. :-)

Chris from Canada

Beck said...

My kids HAVE to start doing more around the house without being told. They're driving me nuts! There is no balance here - occasionally, the kids will do something because they've been told to. We NEED to fix this.
I hope you're not so sore today!

Joy said...

I think about this often. It seems when I am really tired and overwhelmed, I start to see how much I have just been doing everything for the kids instead of continuing to teach them to do things themselves. I know my kids are still little (almost 5, 3, & 1) but they are capable of more than I realize sometimes. My husband is so great at this - he is always training them to do things to help me out. I think as moms we just jump in and do things because it's our nature to do so, to serve our family and just to keep things in the order we want (like bookshelves - my kids never put books back the right way!)

Patsy said...

It is very important to teach and also to let them try to do the things related to being a grown up; some of it comes naturally; ie little ones helping mom fold clothes; my kids could wash their own clothes by the time they were ten; not that they had to but so they would know how, sorting clothes for washing seemed to be the hardest for them. And believe they are proud of what they could do when they were that age.

voni said...

Oh yikes, been cathing up on your toe "fun" I went through something similar a while ago when I was on my back. I think you see the mess even more when your forced to sit and stare at it.
Its good for kids ( and husbands) to have a mommy fast every once in while:)
My daughter learned to microwave oatmeal, load the dishwasher, dress her little sister during that time. I learned to stop, to ask for help, to not expect to much, to be thankful for for the ability to move my body in order to clean.
Will pray for your poor little toesies.

Susanne said...

This is something I seem to be working more towards than anybody else! :v}

Jen said...

Yes....when I was pregnant with Miller I was on bed rest alot....so Madison started getting more chores...she was 8 /I gave her extra's like feeding the dog, dusting all furniture in the house....clean all mirrors and appliances in the house...you get the idea....she didn't like it she cried, complained...but realized I couldn't do it by doctors orders. You know what..she learned responsibility....she still does these...but I have to ask her..she forgets with all the homework, tests, and activities she has...but overall my family comes through when the going gets tough.

Kim said...

I know what you mean that it is just easier to do things myself...but too get it all done I have had to rely on my 2 older girls! They help me so much! They have *life skills* that they do each day. Sometimes I do think they could be spoiled somewhat...I still do most of the cooking(I enjoy serving in this area) even though my 14 year old could do it. There are certain things I just need to do or feel like it is my job.
I'm not sure what is best....


Each family is different! I do appreciate how you are *raising 5*. You are a great example to me who will have 5 before too long!

Kim

txmommy said...

yep, that's us too, maybe it's univeral.
I really try and have the kids help and pull their share, and the truth is they are huge helps but I still do the lion's share.

I need to do better at teaching them. Lately I've been telling my older girls when I am gone you need to step in and do the things I would do, and yes it is fair, life is about becoming charitable and the only way to do that is to serve with a smile.

I want to do it all, and I know I can't, and I shouldn't.

Tough Tough Tough

GOod luck to us all!

Elise said...

I think striking the balance relies heavily on us *letting go*. I know I hold back, and don't let others do too much because I'm afraid it won't get done right.
Forget about right. They need to learn, yes? And they always, always suprise me.
Except hubby. He still doesn't know where to put the tupperware dishes. :)

Rachel Z said...

Hi Katherine,
I can't remember if I've commented here yet or not, but wanted to let you know I so enjoy reading your blog. Came to you from Rachel Anne, who I found through the wonderful world of lefse making. I don't know if we'll get to 5 at our house but the two that we have so far are causing me to want to network as much as I can to get me through with grace and my sanity. Thanks for being one of those people for me. I'd love to add you as a link to share with my friends too.

Feel better soon!

Jennifer said...

You know, my husband and I were just wondering if we are too hands off with our kids! They are both (even at 8 and 2 1/2) quite happy to play alone and entertain themselves. So, while they are independently minded, I do end up picking up the slack for many things--rooms, school responsibilities etc, so I do need to crack down in those areas more and expect that same natural independence that they enjoy.

Lori said...

I started commenting and quickly realized I was writing a book rather than a comment, so I moved much of what I wrote about chores to my blog.

In some areas, I have to say that I don’t even think about letting my girls have more responsibility. Things like making a PBJ sandwich or pouring their own cereal or milk. I tend to think that they aren’t able or will make a mess or whatever. Other times I do things for them because it’s quicker. But if our girls get an attitude of not wanting to do for themselves, it is nipped in the bud very quickly.

We have specific rules about toys in our home, so don’t have much problem with the girls keeping their rooms picked up or toys put away. Also, our older girls have assigned chores and I remind them to do them every day. They also all help with laundry, as well as vacuuming and dusting when asked to. The big girls even fold Mommy and Daddy’s clothes sometimes to get extra TV time.

We are still looking for our balance, I think, but getting closer every day.