My daughter has things pretty easy compared to how I grew up. My husband and I are active parents who make sure she has everything she needs and most of the things she wants. We both try to make it to every game, show, or recital that she has, take her on vacations every year, and go above and beyond to make sure she knows that she’s loved.
Because of how hands off my parents were, I knew that I wanted the opposite for my children. I imagined that I would be lovingly doting on, catering to their every need, for as long as they allowed me to. I dreamed of being a helicopter mom, swarming around my kids to ensure no harm could ever come to them and that their every wish was granted. My kids were going to be smothered in love. That was the plan.
Then I had kids and realized that my plan was foolish for a number of reasons. First, I was tired. Just being with kids is exhausting, even before you start to take care of them. Then I saw how doing everything for my daughter was turning her into someone who was a little entitled and kind of spoiled. I set some boundaries, stopped saying yes all the time, and talked to her about why I was giving her more independence. I’m not saying she agrees with all of the things I refuse to do for her, but I talk to her enough about it that she at least gets it.
Although there’s not much I wouldn’t do for her, there are some things I absolutely refuse to do.
1. Make her lunch.
Ever since my girl was in the first grade, she’s made her own lunch. She didn’t like what my husband and I packed, so we let her do it herself. She tried to give the job back to us last year, but we refused. Making her own lunch every day makes her more conscious of wasting food and gives me a few minutes extra to get ready in the morning.
2. Clean her room.
I believe that having your own room is a privilege. Cleaning it up is your responsibility. Because I know she’s still learning, every few months I’ll go over deep cleaning and organization tips, but day to day, cleaning is my daughter’s responsibility.
3. Turn around and go back home if she forgets something and we’re already out.
My child is so easily distracted and I know it. I don’t mind reminding her about things when she has a lot going on. She usually only ever forgets things because she’s on screens, though. I’m not going to be inconvenienced because she was watching YouTube when she should have been getting her things together.
4. Give her tons of money for field trips.
When I was a teacher, I was surprised at how much money parents give their kids when they go on field trips. I’m already paying tuition for school, as well as a field trip fee. I’ll make sure she has a few dollars, but she’s not getting tons of cash to buy something like overpriced slime from the museum of history gift shop.
5. Buy her something every time we go to the store.
One thing I don’t have anymore is guilt for buying things for myself. Just because I’m at the store and in a shopping mood, it doesn’t mean that my daughter is going to get something. Sometimes I’m only shopping for me, and I don’t feel bad about that at all.
6. Pick out presents for her friends’ birthdays.
I know my daughter doesn’t have any money, so I’ll pay for the gift, but I’m not going to go to the store and pick it out by myself. Oh, I’m also not reminding her that we have to get a present. At this point, she knows what she needs if she gets invited to a party and if she doesn’t ask me to go to the store, I have no problem letting her go to a party empty handed.
7. Pack her schoolbag.
When I leave the house, most times I have my purse, computer bag, toddler son, diaper bag, and my tween. All she has is her book-bag. She can handle that.
8. Remind her to do her homework.
Every day, Monday to Friday, the 4th grade teacher sends homework home. I’ll ask once what needs to be done. After that, it’s up to her to manage her time. Her teacher even helps by giving the kids a homework planner that they fill out daily. My daughter has all of the tools she needs to remember to do her homework. If she still forgets, that’s on her.
9. Allow her to be rude.
My kids don’t have to hug people if they don’t want to, but if someone says “hi,” they need to speak back. Greetings, and saying please and thank you are non-negotiable in our family.
10. Say “yes” when I’m put on the spot.
I hate being put on the spot. After a couple of years of caving in because I didn’t want to be the mean mom, I stopped caring. My daughter knows that if she wants a playdate or to do something, not to ask me in front of her friends because the answer will (usually) be no. I don’t like feeling pressured by little kids when I might have other things to do. Setting this expectation has cut back on my discomfort, and my daughter actually gets to do what she wants more often.
11. Cook a separate dinner for her.
When I was growing up, if I didn’t eat what my parents cooked, I didn’t eat. I’m not that strict, but if my daughter doesn’t want what I make for dinner, she’s welcome to eat something else. I am not going to cook it for her, but if she feels like cooking (and cleaning up) for herself, I don’t have a problem with that.
I’m not a mean mom, really. I love my daughter and actually don’t mind doing anything for her. I’ve just noticed that when she has more of a role in making sure she has what she needs, she has a greater appreciation for the things other folks do for her. Raising a grateful, independent, and self-sufficient future woman is my goal, and it’s worth all of the backlash I get from my choice to let her take care of these things herself.