It’s everywhere. Mothers complaining on Facebook, at the ball fields, on Instagram, sitting around in tribes during PTO meetings, tweeting on Twitter, and commiserating with one another about how sick and darn tired they are of doing every little thing for their children. Mothers who insist from experience, that it was easier to take care of an infant, where you at least expect to wait on them hand and foot, than it is to take care of tween or pre-teen that seems to have no grasp on reality or the simple things in life it takes to exist. Mothers who are fearful that their children will grow up into this big world, and still not remember to brush their own teeth without being told, or how to throw their trash in the trashcan rather than stick it in the couch cushions.
It’s perfectly normal as mothers to do a lot for our children. Many of us relish in the responsibilities of taking care of our kids. However at some point in your child’s life (probably sooner than later), it is important to address the fact that you are their MOM, NOT their personal assistant. With every age, your child reaches come milestones. And in order for kids to reach these milestones successfully, parents (and mothers in particular) must be willing and ready to handle over the sum of responsibility to their children. If your kid is constantly forgetting their book bag, or their lunch box, or never remembers to pack up their homework and they are in 4th grade – then your multiple trips to school to rescue them are only compounding the problem.
If your pre-teen with braces, which you have spent a fortune on, still needs to be reminded that they shouldn’t eat caramels and goes to bed without brushing their teeth and then is constantly making in-between treatment trips to the orthodontist, spending your money and using YOUR time – then it needs to be addressed. Bottom line is that before your child can learn the basics of self-care, they have to be entrusted to do so. And if sometimes, this means that they have to suffer the consequences of not turning in an assignment, living in a pigsty, not having any clean clothes to wear to school, or being hungry at the school lunch table – then so be it.
The mark of a good mother is not how much you do for your child. Hovering and being a helicopter parent doesn’t make you a more concerned or more loving mother. Doing every little thing, dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s, does not mean that you have the superpower of maternal instinct inside your heart. It only means that you are going to raise a child who will be helpless, and who will not be able to take care of themselves when the time comes to do. It also decreases their self-confidence, inhibits their ability to succeed, implants a feeling of entitlement into their psyche, and causes them frustration and stress later in life.
There is a big misconception in the mothering society, that when a child calls your name – or asks for help, that a parent has to drop everything they are doing in that moment to be at their beck and call. Today, parents allow children to interrupt adults talking, and will literally drop everything they are doing in order to serve their kids. Some sociologists believe that is partly due to guilt and the rise of two parent-working households. Yet, it’s also a problem with the perceptions that mothers have with which they define their mothering by. We think things such as ‘a good mother’ would help her child no matter what. “A good mother,” does not get aggravated having to remind their 11-year-old 785 times to pick up their laundry off the floor. And the list goes on.
Your children were born unto you, not so that you could be born into slavery. The parent child relationship is one that over time evolves and changes. Certainly, we start out with a tiny person that can do little but breathe without our assistance. Yet they show us quickly, with their first steps, with the first time they let go of our hands to walk away from us, that they are capable creatures. And this letting go, this freedom, this trust that our children are capable – is what we have to hold on to. It’s never easy. But if you continue to keep your kid’s dependant upon you so that you feel needed all the time, and so that your role as a mother never changes – you are offering your child a huge disservice in life.
Tell your child no. Tell them to wait. Refuse to clean their rooms. Expect something of them for living under your roof. If they have a problem, don’t be afraid to tell them that you are busy and that they need to figure out a solution on their own. If they tell you that you are hungry – then teach them how to fix a bowl of cereal on their own. Set some boundaries and rules in your home so they know if their dirty underwear is not in the hamper, it will NOT get cleaned. You may feel like you are letting your child down by not adorning June Cleavers apron, but the truth is that you will be teaching your child the lessons they will need to survive in this life without you.
If they persist to help themselves, then gently but firmly remind them that you are their mother – NOT their personal assistant!