I came home from work, so exhausted. I just wanted to put my feet up for a minute. Drink my coffee. And then she came into my face and started arguing and making these noises to annoy me on purpose. I told her I needed some space, that my head is exploding, and she wouldn’t let up. I got up and went to the living room. She followed me, with the loud noises. I had to physically push her away from me and lock myself in my bedroom. I just wanted a short nap so I could regain my strength for the evening with the kids. [Single mother of five.] She stood there pounding on the door making the noises as loud as she could. I’m sooooooooo sick and tired of it all.
We’ve all been there. And it’s hard. It’s so hard.
I get up at four to get my six kids to school on time and myself to work [an hour’s drive away]. I come home exhausted to find the place a total pig style- dishes with dried food stuck on it, the counter, the sink, the table- overflowing; their things strewn everywhere, the bathroom smelling like a public urinal [five boys] and then, then, then I hear, “Mom, have you made dinner yet? I’m hungry.” …..And, of course, I’m the last one to go to bed for I’m cleaning up and getting ready for the next day. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. Angry.
And here our evening begins….
Again, I lovingly welcome you if you are new to gabiklaf.com or new to our How to Parent Out of Control Teens series. It’s paralleled to this amazing parenting class that I’m currently teaching in Northern Israel at a local high school. It’s so raw, so real, so emergency-parenting that I feel this huge, bulging desire to share the details of our journey knowing that it can help others. To be sure you don’t miss any of the parenting/healthy lifestyle/loving myself soul work that we do here, feel free to sign up on the right in that little form. Also, to catch up to our work up until now, here are the links for the previous four posts in this series:
and, as a lovely added bonus: How to Live with a Teenager Who Hates You
We all have to work. We all get tired. We all have errands and cooking and driving the kids around and a life to juggle into a finite amount of time. This is acceptable (and even here there are so many gorgeous life hacks and areas of reflection that can allow us to simplify our lives and create more spaces for inner peace in the hysterical beat of That Which Is…. but, that’s another day). Tiredness from the day-in-day-out of life is normal and acceptable. Neglecting myself and my needs for an extended period of time, as a lifestyle, a lifestyle in which I run around like a chicken with my head cut off doing, serving, cleaning, and caring for all the needs of everyone in my household plus the needs of the house itself to my standard of perfection with no end in sight is not. It’s not. It. Is. Not.
Now I’ve worked with mothers of very young children and I know that it may seem that we will never get over this stage. I know. I birthed three kids in three years, homeschooled for half of their childhood, and sometimes felt like the restroom was the only breather I got from my life. I know. I know and can accept that there will be intense periods in our lives, maybe even intense years in which all the logistics of life itself are a bit overbearing. OK.
But living in a home with teenagers and elementary school-aged children who can and should be contributing while you run around like an unappreciated servant is not OK.
What We’re Teaching Our Children
And so we find ourselves here in a room full of over-worked, over-tired mothers who have raised their children knowing that they can do, break, take, help themselves to whatever/whenever/wherever/however they wish with not a care in the world, with not the slightest need to raise a finger. They bitch A LOT but except for the occasional total-break-down-freak-out-hissy-fit it’s empty air for as they are bitching, they keep cleaning up other people’s messes. And what this teaches our kids is, in my opinion, completely unforgivable.
We’re teaching them through modeling, through our example that love/family/motherhood/couplehood means me giving you everything and me totally giving up on myself; sacrificing everything to make another happy; me losing all of my self worth and making you the center recipient of everything. That in love/family/motherhood/couplehood that it is really ok to give, give, give and not receive; that it is not a two-way dialogue of giving and taking, compromising and sharing responsibilities; that relationships are not about mutual growth but about one becoming unappreciated and unworthy while the others become egocentric and selfish. That if I really love you I become your servant and you in turn treat me like shit. And… then I get to be a victim- complaining, nagging, bitter, exhausted, depleted, neglected and I blame you/all of you for putting me in this position and I get older/uglier/nastier/colder than I should be and lose the pure joy of really enjoying a life of sharing/growth/independence.
You see, in essence, when I don’t allow my kids to take responsibility, to rise to the occasion, to do more as they grow more; I am actually retarding their independence. I am crippling their ability to form healthy, happy relationships of mutual caring and sharing of duties. When I do everything for my child and family, I am not only creating situations of distance and bitterness; I am not only raising ego-monsters who will seek spouses who will continue to treat them as such; I am creating a mutual dependency in which I still want to be needed by my grown children and they will continue to need me even when they can and should thrive otherwise.
It’s sometimes this deep unconscious need stemming from the fear that I’m not needed/I’m not important/ I’m not anybody really and then I have a child and suddenly someone is totally dependent on me and then I have this role and it feels good and I’m needed and I feel more whole in some parts, and losing that, raising my kids to be independent and not need me is really scary. It’s in essence, taking away from myself this one role that makes me feel significant and though I may bitch endlessly, I’d rather stay a needed victim than be ‘title-less’. It’s a bit to chew on and it’s not what everyone does do, but I think it’s worth marinating on for a bit. Could this be what I’m unconsciously doing in my parenthood?
One Russian mother shared something powerful. She said that she had worked for years in kindergartens in Russian and there each child learned from a very young age that they are responsible for the immediate area around them. If you drop food when you eat or you drop paper cuttings doing art, it is your responsibility to lean down and pick it up, to keep your area clean. When she immigrated to Israel and began working in the kindergartens here, she found a totally different early-childhood personal responsibility mentality. Here in Israel, when she suggested to the main teacher that they have the kids clean up after themselves, she was told repeatedly, “No, that’s ok, we’ll do it when they’re done” or “No, let them be. There’s no point,” and from this foundation out of the home and at home is born the child who cannot take care of his own basic responsibilities.
Being Taken Advantage Of
And when we raise our kids knowing that we will do everything for them and that they have no responsibility for themselves or to clean up their own messes, they grow dependent on us and naturally (not meanly, but very naturally) take advantage of us. That is what we taught them.
One mother with two children already married said that one couple was living in their home and now, the newlyweds also moved in, explaining how “We’ve decided to spend our first years here as a way to save money for the downpayment on a house.” She said both couples were lovely but that she exclusively does the cleaning, cooking, and shopping for both grown working couples, and that the other day her son came home from work, kissed his wife hello, handed his mother his dirty laundry, and told her that he was out of his special shampoo. Really?
Another mother shared that her teenage daughter is now bringing home her boyfriend who stays until extremely late at their house on school nights. She says she feels that she no longer has privacy in her own home to walk around and feel at ease at home for they sit in the living room or dining room until all hours of the night. She said the other day they came home, asked for money to buy some food [single mom barely getting by], cooked, and left all the pots, the sink, counter, and the dirty dishes for her to wash. Really?
Re-educating Our Children and Setting Clear Limits
Clearly, we have a lot of new information to convey to our children. We have some clear limits and new regulations to administer in our homes. Something to the tune of:
Dear adult or almost-adult children,
You live in my house. You (and your significant other) are guests living under the graces of my kindness. I pay for this home, the furnishings, the water and electricity. I pay for the groceries and for the most part, for your clothing, education, entertainment, and lifestyle preferences. This is my home. You can stay here (or not- cuz it’s time to get out) as long as you understand that I feed, cloth, and clean after the people living in this home up to this limit. Your contribution financially and logistically are as follows… [fill in the blank]. The limits for guests are in the following rooms until the following time in which everyone leaves the home. If you prepare food, have dirty laundry, etc… this is how you will take care of it. Should you be unhappy with these new and clear limits, feel free to respectfully discuss them with me or move out. The choice is clearly yours.
Love, Your Guardian and Parent
It is hard to come back and change the rules of the game once we’ve accustomed everyone to this dependency. It’s hard to come in and sing a new tune and expect others who have been raised with this song as acceptable to now seamlessly start to harmonize to your new tune. It is hard, but it must be done.
Sure, it would have been easier if we had raised them that way from the start. And sometimes, we have raised our kin to contribute and once adolescence kids in, what was previously acceptable now becomes the source of rebellion and resistance. Either way, here we are now and here we longer accept to stay.
One mother spoke of how she came home from work to find the entire kitchen and house a hell-hole and all of her kids (5) on technology and waiting for her to make dinner. She took two steps into the house, accessed the situation, and reversed. She went to a coffee shop, took an hour-long walk in nature, and gingerly answered their first few calls with a cheery, “The house is not acceptable and the kitchen is not functional. Once it is properly taken care of, feel free to inform me.” Fast forward two hours and much whining and family drama later (which she refers to be a part of) and the overflowing trash is thrown, dishes washed, counter cleaned, and living room cleared.
Turns out her kids CAN do it!
Re-education is not easy but IT IS MANDATORY.
Is it possible that just maybe you are subconsciously keeping your kids down to protect your role as needed parent? Are your kids taking advantage of the kindness of your heart and the softness of your way? Is it time to re-educate your kids and create new limits in your home? Is there a much-needed dialogue about contributing and fairness and appreciation that may be helpful to have in your home?
I’m hearing you, mostly through private messages and emails and such is also beautiful. Should you want to share, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m so happy to be sharing this course with you. Here are the rest so far…
and, as a lovely added bonus: How to Live with a Teenager Who Hates You
Gabi is a certified trauma therapist, family communications expert, energy healer, and life coach with a Masters in Psychology. She shares her personal life stories and insights to inspire others to share their honest, neurotic selves and do all that is necessary to Clean Your Soul. She believes that all of us are on our journey from pain to the light, and by staying inspired and aware, we can all reach our fullest, cleanest, most beautiful free selves. Gabi takes a very limited number of one-on-one clients for transformational parenting, family, healthy life, and trauma therapy. You may reach Gabi directly at email@example.com.
awesome, awesome works of art that adds so much light to us all. i thank these geniuses…
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