I’m Not That Kind of Mother

Purposeful Parent Tip:  Strike a balance in how much you do for your children.

Recently in my Toastmaster’s meeting, a woman about my age was giving a Table Topic speech. While I don’t recall the exact topic, I do remember that it was about parenting. And she said something that has stuck in my mind now for about a week.

She described a day when her daughter forgot to bring her trumpet to school which she needed for band practice. By the time she realized she’d forgotten it, they were already at school. The daughter looked at her mother and said “You’re not the kind of mother who would go home and get it for me, are you?” To which the mother, my Toastmaster colleague responded, “Nope.”

While I chuckled at the delivery of her speech, it gave me pause as, uh, well, I AM that kind of mother. Ut oh. Is that bad? There have been countless times I’ve driven back home and retrieved forgotten lunches or homework or money for a field trip and not thought twice about it. Why wouldn’t I? Isn’t that my “job”?

After listening to her speak a bit more on the havoc overindulging our children can wreak, I began to think about my own potential overindulgent behaviors in years past. While my intent was to help my children succeed, have I instead, shown them that no matter what they forget or don’t do, Mom is here to bail them out? I have to admit, I might be guilty.

To clarify, it’s really only been in the past few years that I have had the luxury of “fixing” these minor problems since I am now a mompreneur with a workplace that is less than 10 minutes from either of my children’s schools. There’s no manager to call and inform that I’ll be late for a meeting due to a forgotten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There’s no traffic to ‘beat’ from leaving a few minutes later than usual. So it’s easy for me to help them out.

But am I helping? As I listened to this woman speak about letting her child experience the consequences of her actions and how beneficial this would be as she got older, I had to wonder if my actions were doing more harm than good.

I remember reading or hearing that children in China (or maybe it’s Japan) focus solely on school work. They do no chores, prepare no meals, and clean no rooms. Their parents (or mostly their mothers) take care of everything so that they can focus on the one job they have – school.  I remember thinking – hmm – maybe we should adopt this same approach here in America and our children would be doing better in school.

Not knowing much of the Asian culture, I do not know if this system is working out well or not but it appears Asian children do much better in school than American children. However, how are they doing with the rest of their lives? Do they know how to make a bed? Clean a bathroom? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have been given a potential wake-up call to begin to curb my “I’ll save you” activities for more of a hands-off approach so that my children learn that there really are consequences to their actions and there will be days, many of them most likely, when no one can save them and they will need to fend for themselves. Yikes!

Truth be told, I have been feeling a bit “put upon” with what my children have come to expect from me so perhaps this woman’s speech was more timely than even she knew. It is hard to see your children struggle and fail, but as adults we know that failure is a part of life and it is from our failures that we learn and grow.

While neither of my children will die from a forgotten lunch or field trip permission slip, I’m not sure about the bigger challenges like test preparation or homework. But if they are to grow and thrive, then they will need to learn to stand on their own two feet and who must be their first and best teacher? Me.

So, as I begin to pull back, I challenge you to join me. Are you doing too much for your children? Are you preventing them from experiencing the consequences of their choices or actions? If so, then join me in saying, “Sorry honey. You’re on your own.”

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