I’m Your Mother, Not Your Maid

KJ Dell’Antonia raised an important issue in The New York Times, Motherlode about how parents who are convinced they don’t hover may not be stepping back to allow children to step up.

Most of us have great intentions when we do for our children, what they can, in fact, do for themselves. But I believe that it’s a disservice,in the long run, not only to our children, but also to us. They should be taught from an early age and be given the opportunity to become responsible for themselves.

I understand its gut wrenching for some parents to let go. I know it was for me. I remember the prideful delight when my adolescent sons rode their bikes to Jr. Lifeguards, instead of me chauffeuring them, during the summer. I’ll admit, I followed them once from a distance and barely managed not to scream when my older son showed off, riding with his arms up in the air. They learned more bike safety than any class could offer, found the best burritos on the way back home, and got to know their community. I garnered more than just time for myself. I was rewarded by their confident swagger.

They also learned to run most of the household appliances, all by themselves, at the tender age of eight. My mother was horrified and gently suggested I hire a housekeeper. I’ll admit it took a lot of patience on my part. It would’ve been easier for me to take over and do it to ‘my specifications’, but now when I hear the sound of the vacuum cleaner or the washing machine on a weekend as I’m heading out to the garden or a walk, well, it’s priceless.

As a Latina raised in a traditional home, I was resolved that my sons wouldn’t expect me to do all of the grunt work just because I was their mother.

Now both of my teenage sons know how to buy and bag groceries as well as whip up a decent meal. I eat with pleasure whether it’s slightly charred or am not in the mood for scrambled eggs with hotdogs, again. Eating a meal that I didn’t cook myself after a long day, is a gift.

Of course, they complain and give me dirty looks when I remind them that it’s their turn to wash the dinner dishes or clean their bathroom. They are teenagers after all.  But I hear the gratification in their voice when they correct folks who assume they don’t contribute to the running of our household.

How else do they learn that they are not entitled and exempt from the every day responsibilities of life?