Sep 10, 2009

Mother Guilt & Personal Responsibility

As a mother, I'm inclined to take the blame for everything that's wrong in my family's world. You're cold? Let me get you a sweater and fix hot cocoa. You're hungry? Here's some food. From the time they are infants, moms are programmed to respond to their needs. If Mom is smart, there comes a point where she must allow them the privilege of taking responsibility for fixing their own problems. It's tough to let go, though, because I can do things better and faster.

They might make a mess, but they'll also learn how to fix a sandwich.

There is a policy in my house: I only wash the clothing that is in the laundry room. That makes sense, of course, since that's where the washer is. However, it doesn't stop children from complaining that the item of clothing left under their bed is not clean and ready to wear when they want it.

I suppose it's easier (although childish) for them to complain than to discipline themselves to keep their clothing where it belongs.

Then there is the inevitable frustration of clothing that found its way in the laundry room too late for the last load. When I hear "I need this RIGHT NOW and it's not clean!" then I have to take a deep breath and realize that this could easily turn into a "I'm so sorry, what can I do to make you happy" guilt fest, or a shouting match. One of us has to be the grown up. So I say something like, "Let me get this straight: I failed to read your mind, and now you're angry?" This usually buys me time as they puzzle through what I just said. My point, though, often comes through: if you want something, tell me. If I can help you, I will. If I think you need to help yourself, I'll make that clear, too.

Don't allow yourself to be bullied by people who want you to do what they should be doing, by those who expect you to read their minds, or by those who want to absolve themselves of guilt by putting it on you. You have enough problems of your own - don't take on those of others.

Who are you going to teach to be self-sufficient today?

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