What do you think would happen if you stopped trying to do everything on your own? Stopped jumping in to be the first person to change the baby, grab a toddler a cup of water, or offer to set up a doctor’s appointment for your husband?
What would happen?
Are you scared that everything would fall apart?
Do you think that you are the only one who can do it correctly?
Do you feel like you should do it, because it’s your job?
Take my word, and try it out. What’s the worst that can happen? Things don’t get done, oh well. But the potential upside: What if someone else just jumps in to fill in the gap?
As moms, we put the world on our own shoulders. Yes, we are often the ones primarily responsible for running the household and raising our kids. But sometimes the importance of our role gets a bit blown out of proportion, and we begin to think that we are the ones who must do everything. Or we may decide that sometimes it’s just easier to do it all ourselves rather than wait for someone else to help us.
There are so many problems with trying to do it all. One commonly discussed fact is that moms tend to neglect themselves in the child-rearing process. But there are other reasons why we should step aside and let other people in our households contribute to the family or learn to do things for themselves.
From what I’ve seen, most husbands actually want to help. I tend to be controlling and have a very specific idea about how certain things (like everything) should be done. So, in raising our kids, I pretty much took over the majority of childcare tasks. The downside to this is that my husband: 1) didn’t know the process for a lot of things, 2) felt discouraged about helping with the kids because he “couldn’t do anything right,” and 3) wouldn’t take initiative to take care of them when I wanted him to.
I’ve improved in this area recently, now that the kids are 2 and 4. I was eating lunch the other day after everyone else had finished eating (isn’t that always the way?), and the little man cooked up a particularly stinky diaper. I had to fight the urge to stop mid-eating and go get it handled while everyone else complained about the stench. And you know what? My husband saw that I was still eating and took care of the offending mess. No questions, no complaints, he just got it done.
Another big change I’ve made is that I schedule time for myself. I will book something for myself for an evening when my husband is home. Or I will “book” some time for a task that I need to get done on the weekend, uninterrupted. I do not ask permission to take this time because other than “work time,” the kids are our shared responsibility.
The kids need you to stop doing everything for them. If you are like me, you will be surprised at what they can manage for themselves.
I used to do everything for my 4-year-old daughter. Now when I suggest that she do something I know she is perfectly capable of doing (like getting dressed), she will refuse, saying “I don’t know how.”
My eyes were truly opened to this when I enrolled my son in daycare when he was 1, and I stayed with the class the first day to observe. The teachers had all these little 1-year-olds doing things for themselves that I had never even tried to do at home. The best one was that they all lay down by themselves on their little mats to nap. We ended up deciding that daycare wasn’t the right option for him, but the message stuck with me.
I now push both kids to do as much as they can for themselves. I make sure to allow for enough time for them to complete each task, knowing that they may not do it right the first time (or the second). Time and extra patience are required!
I have seen so many changes in our family since I stopped trying to do everything myself. My husband is jumping in a lot more to assist the kids with whatever they need. He is taking time to play with our children, and I am thrilled to see that he is getting closer with them.
Best of all, the balance for tending to their needs, whether initiated by the kids or by us, is becoming more even. Some of this is definitely due to their getting older and more independent, but also a direct result of my stepping back from the do-it-all, know-it-all role.
I can tell that the kids feel a real sense of empowerment. They get the rhythm of our daily lives and get to participate in their own self-care. They are more willing to learn and try to do new things for themselves because of the new attitude we are cultivating.
The best part of all? I get to breathe a little more. Read a book once in a while. Eat a hot meal, and actually taste it.