Why Am I Doing So Much For My Kids?

“I cannot help you; you’re too independent.”

My Mom said these words to me a few months back. I think she was complaining but I’ll take it as a compliment. After all, I’m the middle child. The older one got all the first son status. The younger one got all the youngest child attention. So I was always determined to chart my own course. Consequently, I firmly believe that happiness and success are my own choice. I alone am responsible for the decisions I make and their outcomes. I create my own destiny.

So why the heck am I doing so much now for my kids? I do their laundry, I clean up after them (I use the word “clean” quite loosely), I remind them (when I remember) to take their swimsuits/library books/signed forms to school, I arrange their playdates, I (sometimes) check their homework. I organize their clothes, get new ones when they outgrow current ones. We buy groceries, new shoes, toys. My husband folds their clothes, packs their lunch every day. We plan and cook their dinners, recycle their trash. We ferry them here, there and everywhere.

Is this not part of the definition and commitment of parenthood?

Yes, they do have some basic chores but inconsistency is ubiquitous (our fault, largely.) Take your plate/glass/cutlery over to the sink when you have finished your meal. Put your shoes/coat/hat/mittens away when you come in the house. Hang your towels up after you use them. Make sure dirty clothes find their way to the hamper, at some point. To me, these are all part of respectfully co-existing in the same household.

But I have decided it’s time for the grown-ups to back-off and for these kids start stepping it up. There is much much more that they can – and should – be doing to be active contributors to our home and hearth, otherwise known as this working Mom’s domestic crisis.

Starting today – albeit gradually and with best intentions – I’m doing less and they are doing more. They are nine and almost seven years-old and I believe it’s time. Maybe even beyond time. It’s going to start with bringing their full hamper down and then folding and putting away their own laundry. We’ll move on to making their own school lunches. Stacking and emptying the dishwasher. Sweeping the kitchen floor. On the weekends, they can make their own breakfasts and lunches. They can call their friends and arrange their own social schedules (checking with parents, of course, who still have to do the ferrying.) I’m sure my husband would appreciate help putting the trash out.

The whining will certainly be loud. Eyeballs will roll. They will be plenty of “fine” and “whatever” and pushback. There will be days when the particular pair of pants he wants to wear are not clean because he won’t have realized that the hamper was full.  They will inevitably say “I’m hungry” and get all stroppy when food does not instantly appear. They will learn. I know other parents who have successfully drilled these duties into their kids’ and I feel ashamed that I am still doing it all for them.

Over time, I’m hoping, these chores will become natural, second nature and hopefully, this household will hum with organization, goodwill and less mayhem. But this isn’t just about making my life easier (though that’s a huge incentive, I’ll admit.)

It’s about getting them to think, anticipate and understand the ingredients of an independent life so that, as they get older and obstacles (emotional, physical and academic) plant themselves in their path, they’ll have the muscle memory to face them. Be responsible for their actions. Take failures and inequity in their stride and ultimately, create their own success – whatever that will be.

Emptying the dishwasher, putting away clean socks and remembering their library books are just stepping stones in this journey. Independence is the goal, but happiness is always a choice.

Crossing My Fingers & Toes for Free, Full-Day Kindergarten

Like so many other local families, I’ve been watching the news out of each Framingham School Committee meeting as eagerly as episodes of Mad Men.

The good news is that it appears that everyone is in favor of implementing free, full-day kindergarten across Framingham’s elementary schools. The budgetary details have been worked out. All systems go?

But, wait, it still needs to be approved through the Town Meeting – and that meeting starts tonight!

Parents of five year olds across the town are waiting with baited breath.

Why does it matter so much to us? Here’s why it matters to me and my family:

  • Free – Who doesn’t like free? Truth is, we were prepared to pay for full-day as we did for our older son. In fact, the cost of full-day kindergarten felt like a huge discount compared to the cost of preschool. But for many, it’s not an option. Implementing free, full-day kindergarten will be a huge break for large numbers of families across town. Not just for their wallets but also for the two to three extra hours they’ll get (to work and/or organize busy lives) instead of having to pick up kids in the middle of the day.
  • Full-day – While we all acknowledge that “full” in this context is a misnomer, the fact is if we don’t get universal full-day, we get thrown into a lottery system and may end up with half-day. This element of uncertainty makes me very nervous. Having to wait till late May or even early June to find out makes me hyperventilate! If we don’t get full-day kindergarten, it will be a huge problem for our family. My husband and I both work full-time. Our son attends an after-school program that does not accommodate half-day kindergartners. Will we have to find separate transportation and care for our daugher? How will this all work logistically? How much extra will it cost? Is it even worth my working?

Of course, I’m coming at this from how this decision impacts me and my husband. But what about the kids? In my opinion, three hours of school barely counts as school, especially for those children that are already used to spending all day in a preschool setting.

So many questions, so much angst. I know I’m not alone in this. Please, Town Meeting people, do us all a favor and pass free, full-day kindergarten so we all know where we stand.

Yours with baited breath and clutching a brown paper bag,

One of Many Anxious Working Mothers

(This post originally appeared in the Framingham Patch.)

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