Aching to Stand By


When I was in college, my mom would say that she would worry when I didn’t call enough or if I was working too much and not eating right. I would tell her that I’m an adult, and she shouldn’t worry. Now that my boys are technically grown, however, I’ve found that I’m more worried because I’m not in control of their worlds anymore.

I think every mom must adjust to how the relationships with children evolve over time. My friends who have kids moving into the teen years are reeling from the shift in attitude and attention. The later teen years involve driving, dating and daring to be more adult. The change in roles is constant.

I recently read the book, “Pick: Choose the Create a Life You Love” by Dr. Sherene McHenry, regarding how to make choices for the life you want. One concept that really helped me process my parenting was the idea of over-functioning and under-functioning behaviors. Think about all your relationships, but especially you as a parent; from the time your children are born, you’re taking care of them and trying to determine the delicate balance of responsibility.

When do you stop holding the bottle for your baby because she should be doing it herself – or, something a little tougher to discern, like when does little Johnny make his own bed, fix his first meal or do his own laundry? The concept of over-functioning or under-functioning says that there is a balance to every responsibility. If you do more than your part, then the other person essentially underperforms. If this continues to happen, a person could begin to expect that they can do so regarding their responsibilities.

In the case of parenting, it’s easy to over-function. And, maybe it is even easier to over-function as the parent of boys (I’m not sure). Either way, I feel a sense of blame when it comes to the areas where I let them lapse in responsibility. I didn’t make them cook many meals because I didn’t want to reclean the kitchen to my specifications. I didn’t have them sign up for team activities, make their own appointments or advocate for themselves the way I should have. Now, they are learning these areas as 20-something adults. Don’t worry, they are achieving these milestones, but it could have been easier. Much easier.

I’ve been encouraging moms to let their children function to their responsibility level. So, let this be the Mother’s Day where you decide to stop over-functioning for your family and live the life you deserve. 

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