It’s both a benefit and frustration of the job that being Chick in Charge (aka Mom, homemaker, etc.) has no real job description. Most days I get by on a combination of stuff I learned from my mom, advice from magazines and friends and just winging it. There are are also no annual reviews or pay raises to let you know if you are doing a good job. Occasionally you get a customer satisfaction survey, but that often comes in the form of teenage kvetching or flowers on your one holiday in May. It’s hard to know if I am doing a good job or even exactly what my job is (or isn’t).
I’m a very analytical person. I like numbers and solid proof, but I’m not sure what data I would or could use to verify my effectiveness as CIC. Did my family eat this week (check) was it nutritious (ummm, most days, half check), did my kids show up at school everyday (check) on time (check) with the stuff they need (ummm).
Women’s magazines seem to be very clear on what makes a “good” mom. She goes above and beyond, always. Her family always eats home-cooked meals that feature balanced nutrition, organic ingredients and come in under budget. Not only do her kids have perfect attendance records at school (because she would never let them get sick), she is always at their school. She’s a room mom, PTA volunteer and lunch monitor so she can spend more time with her kids.
I see two HUGE problems with that job description. First, if she does everything for her kids, they are not learning to take care of themselves, which leads to problem number two, eventually (hopefully) they will leave home and she will be out of a job that has consumed her life.
There is a part of me who feels great when I do everything for my kids, when I make their life easier, softer, sweeter. But, the reality is, I’m not doing them or me any favors if I don’t teach them to stand on their own and take care of themselves. If they don’t do their laundry (or don’t bother to put soap in when they do) the result is stinky clothes and friends who avoid them, a good lesson to learn. Natural consequences are great at teaching life lessons, IF I can get out of the way and allow the natural consequences to happen. For me, the hard part is ignoring how much it looks like I am failing at my job when I do this.
This morning was typical. My older son couldn’t find a belt (required at his school). I knew he had left it in a suitcase so I told him where to find it. It sped up the process, but he has come to rely on me knowing where all his stuff is (and he is definitely not the only one in this house guilty of that). It’s hard to know when to stop; when to let him think back to the last time he saw it and find it himself or take the consequence of not having it on at school.
In the next month both my kids have birthdays, moving one step farther away from me and toward independence. My job is being slowly phased out and I’m being eased into mommy retirement. My heart tells me to hang on, do nice things for them while I still can; but my head tells me to keep pushing them away, let them try and possibly fail, learning life’s lessons. In the end, I will be the only one to decide if I’ve succeeded or failed at this job. I’ve created my own job description and it looks something like this: launch two happy, productive adults into this world and leave one satisfied, relieved CIC behind.