“Ryan! You need to unload the dishwasher!” I could seriously feel my patience slipping away as I yelled upstairs to my 12-year-old son (for the 17th time today). It was already one of those days, and it really wouldn’t take much more to push me over the edge. “I should just do it myself,” I thought, tempted to lose the battle and try again tomorrow. The last thing I wanted was a fight. But then again, his future wife wouldn’t thank me.
Okay, I know it’s a stretch but let me explain. I’m trying something new here. By new, I mean that I’ve failed at it 100 times already and today I’m starting fresh. Again. And I’m hoping (and praying) it’s all worth it. Call me crazy, but I’m trying to drop the I’ll Do It Myself Syndrome. Wild, I know, because I think we can all agree that as moms we have enough on our plates. And trying to transfer something onto our kids’ plates doesn’t really take anything off of ours. It just creates another thing we have to “parent.”
It’s Easier to Do It Myself
I can’t be the only one. As moms we are programmed to multitask. From the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep we are on. We are thinking and planning and working and worrying and we have gotten it all down to a science. We somehow manage to work, carpool, do laundry, meal plan, schedule doctors’ appointments, and still find time to drop a meal off to a friend who is sick. We do it all and then some, and we rarely ask for help. Our system somehow works and if you’re like me then you can run the ship smoothly for a good six months until you hit a wall, have a good cry, fantasize about throwing in the towel, and then hit the bed only to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to captain for another six months. I never said it was healthy. But it’s true.
As a mom of four, saying I have my hands full would be a severe understatement. Even on my best days I am outnumbered and find myself doing things for my kids that I know full well they should be capable of doing themselves. It doesn’t matter if you have one, four, or 10 kids though, we all know it’s just easier to do it ourselves. It’s easier to pack their lunches. It’s easier to clean up their spills, and anyone who has ever asked their kids to do the dishes knows that you end up with more water on the floor than you do in the sink. We all know it’s just easier to do it ourselves. But then one day I started thinking… Easier for who?
But Easier for Who?
Easier for me, yes. But one day that boy will grow up to be someone’s husband. He will grow up to be someone’s father and maybe even someone’s boss, and if he doesn’t learn these lessons now, when will he? I started to realize that doing everything myself may be easier in the moment but it was only setting him up for failure later on. I needed to change things up.
So, I came up with a list of things I thought each of my children could handle, and I stuck to it. Which included my 12-year-old son unloading the dishwasher. Sure, the plates will be thrown in the wrong spot. The forks will be mixed with the knives, and I’ll probably be returning the not-so-clean cups in the cupboard back into the dishwasher. But he is learning to do things for himself. And I have to believe that it’s worth it and over time it will get better and easier. So, I yelled upstairs again and braced myself for the fight.
And guess what. It did get easier. Don’t get me wrong, it was a long, exhausting, life-draining road at first, but it got easier every day. Because I stuck to it. I stuck to it through the crying and the whining and the academy award winning scene about how I am ruining their lives. But I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you just stick to it.
“That’s great,” you’re thinking, “but what does that look like? How do I actually get my kids on board?” I’m glad you asked! You see, kids are smart. Like, super smart, and they know when you aren’t serious. They know if they don’t actually need to do something.
Let me explain.
Their Needs Become Motivators
We all have things we need to do. We need to cook dinner otherwise our kids will “starve.” We need to go to work or else we will have no money. And we need to keep watching The Bachelor to see who gets the final rose. Okay, the last one might be off topic, but I couldn’t resist. Anyway, the point is we are all driven by our needs. The problem is most kids these days don’t need anything. Which is a good thing, maybe. But I’m learning it can also be a bad thing. Because when our kids don’t need anything, they lose their motivation for everything. And that is a bad place to be.
Here I was running around trying to do everything for everyone thinking it was an act of service when nobody was really benefiting from it. Least of all—me!
Once I decided to get serious, all of a sudden my son needed to unload the dishwasher every day or he wasn’t going on electronics. My daughter needed to clean her washroom or her friends weren’t coming over. And they needed to pack their lunches because I just wasn’t doing it anymore. The point is: all of a sudden, my kids had a need.
Listen, I love doing things for my family. I love cooking meals and being at home, and I will seriously cry when my maternity leave is over, so don’t confuse what I am saying. Our home is not a harsh place led by an angry dictator, and I am not forcing harsh chores on my kids so that I can take an afternoon nap (remember when I said it was easier to do it myself). We are a happy family and because we are a family, we all do our part. We all have responsibilities and together we share the load.
As much as our kids will fight us, we need to teach them responsibility in the same way we teach them to be kind and to eat their vegetables.
I’ve nowhere near mastered this subject and I am still finding some areas of which are hard to let go. But, I am learning more and more that the more responsibility I give to my children the more responsible they become. And just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Our kids are depending on us to equip them with all the tools they need to go out and change the world, and today I’m learning that it starts with the dishwasher.
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What Your Kids Get When You Let Them Fail
Every Mom Needs Her Own Highlight Reel, This Is Why
Ask Dr. Zoe – Handling My Teen’s Anger
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