My boyfriend and I alternate weekends at each other’s houses. A few weeks ago, he helped me rake my yard since I never do it in the fall and am left with clumps of leaves all over my yard. Then he helped me put in all my air conditioners. So when I was with him the following weekend, we did some yard work, which included seeding his lawn and trimming back some trees.
I’m grateful, and it’s a huge help, but I also believe it’s what you do when you are with someone — you are a team in every way.
But it wasn’t always like this between the two of us, and I recently figured out why: His mother lives very close and will come over to his house and do anything he’d like her to do. Therefore, he wasn’t used to having to do much around his own home, much less someone else’s. I’ve encouraged him to tackle things on his own, telling him it takes a lot less time and energy to get after it than it does to call his mom and wait for her to come take care of things.
For example, when we couldn’t find the hay he thought he had, he called his mom to see if she knew where it was. She didn’t answer and I pointed out that in the time it took him to call his mother and leave a message, we could be halfway to the hardware store to get some more.
Then he realized his hose wasn’t working and again called his mother to see if she knew what the problem was since she had been over there to water his lawn.
We’ve been together for a few years now, and I notice this is how they work. If he needs any cooking, cleaning, painting, or pretty much anything else, he calls his mother and she comes and does it for him.
She painted his shed last year. She also planted gardens in his front yard. She repainted his bathroom and came over to decorate his house for Christmas.
Now, I’m glad they have a close relationship. I also think it’s nice that as a single dad who owns his own business and works hard, he has help.
But I am not going to lie — there are times when I say, “Really? You are going to call your mom about your clogged sink? Don’t you think you can take care of it yourself?” His mother is approaching seventy years old and I’m sure she has other things she wants to do than come over and scrub his bathtub, for Christ’s sake. It drives me freaking batty and has made me realize how important it is to teach my kids that I’m there to help if they absolutely need it, but to remember that they are perfectly capable of doing stuff on their own. Once they’re grown, my help with such things should be the last resort — not the first option they turn to.
Initially, I kept my trap shut. I don’t want to come in between this relationship in any way. I also thought maybe it bothered me because my own parents don’t help me out with anything. In fact, my father hasn’t even been to my house since I got divorced long ago to see if I could use a hand around my house. He’s a skilled carpenter and knows how to fix just about anything. Oh, and he lives only a few miles away. My mom is the same; she lives close, but she’s the one who constantly needs help and never offers her services. There are times it makes me sad, but honestly, I wouldn’t have the independence and the skills I do now if they weren’t that way — because I’ve always known if I want to do something, I need to figure it out for myself. If I ever called my mother to paint something or water my lawn, she would laugh her ass off.
I want to tread lightly; obviously my boyfriend’s mother enjoys doing these things for him or I’m sure she’d be telling him to buzz off because she had better things to do than to wait on him and be his maid. But she doesn’t.
However, there are times when we are doing something and he can’t see how counterproductive he is because he’s waiting for his mom to do something for him he could (and should) just tackle himself. Right now, he wants the living room to be repainted. When I suggested we go get the stuff and tackle it together, he said he’d call his mom to see if she could do it. Then, I had a few doors I needed to be repainted and he came over one evening and I had all my supplies out and was doing it by myself. After seeing that, he said, “I think we could paint my living room together.”
That was a good time to mention if we ever did move in together I expect us to do just that: tackle things together, without his mother, because it will be our house. And while I’d love to have her help because she’s a huge one, there’s no way we are going to sit around and not be productive because we are waiting for her to come over and clean the damn oven.
While I want to break the cycle and be there for my kids when they need me no matter how old they are, there are definitely limits.
Of course I will help them move into a new house or give them a hand if they want to paint a room. They will know I will be there to help them with their kids and bring them dinner if they are sick or there’s an emergency or if I sense they need a damn break. I will always check in on them and I will always offer some kind of help when I can. But I am not going to be their personal butler and manage their homes for them.
First, there are too many of them for me to do that. But also, I don’t want them calling me for every little thing. I want them to leave this house knowing they are capable of snaking a drain or reseeding their lawn without me holding their hand — or straight-up doing it for them.
At that age, I’ll be busy reading, and tending to my garden, and having hot sex. They can get the painting or cleaning started and I’ll be there to help when — and if — I can.
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