Monday, January 7, 2013

Mom Sabbatical - Week 1 of 4

I started Week 1 of my 30-Day Mom Freeze by explaining to my children that I would not be doing anything for them for the next month. I would not remind them to do things they should do or ask them to stop doing the things they shouldn’t. I would not pick up after them or get them things they were capable of getting for themselves.


My daughter said, “What kind of resolution is that?”

My son said, “That’s not a resolution, that’s a Halloween nightmare!”

My husband said, “---.” Nothing. He’s keeping quiet.


I must say it’s been great not being the harpy in our house, shouting out reminders about things like brushing teeth, going to bed and walking the dogs. On the contrary, I am not only not saying these things, I’m not even saying complete sentences anymore. Why? Because I stop myself mid-sentence every time I begin to say something instructive and mommish, which I’ve discovered is most of the time. 


My “conversations” with my kids this week have gone like this:



                                                        IF I’D FINISHED IT

“Why are you…”                          …shining a flashlight into my room at 6:00 a.m. 

                                                       on a Sunday?


“Are you really…”                        …going to leave that wrapper on the floor?


“You can’t…”                                …have any cake. You didn’t eat dinner.


“The dogs…”                                …are starving. Please give them food and water!


“Please…”                                     …stop picking your nose.


“If you don’t…”                           …clean that scab you’re going to get gangrene.”


Each day I’m getting better at keeping my mouth shut, and also at not picking up things I did not take out. I have several times picked up the three remote controls forever on the den floor, only to drop them back on the floor a moment later. I have closed wide-open closet doors only to reopen them and walk away, leaving them ajar. Old habits die hard.


It has been excruciatingly difficult for me to ignore the random crap left around the house like this nail polish remover. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR.


How does it even land there, and how could someone just walk away from it? I am baffled. I instructed my husband not to pick it up either. I will be fascinated to see how long it lies there before one of the children picks it up or the dogs eat it.


I'm excited to report that since I’m refusing to do anything for my kids that they can do for themselves, they’ve learned some valuable life skills this week like:


1.     YOU CAN USE THE MICROWAVE! My 7-year-old daughter asked me to make her oatmeal on Day 2. I declined, but talked her through the steps of doing it herself. This morning (Day 6) she woke up and said, “Mommy, I’m sooooooo hungry." I said, "Mmm hmm," and went back to Pinterest. Then the light bulb went off and she said, "Wait! I know, I can make some oatmeal!”  Priceless.


2.     DO YOUR OWN DAMN LAUNDRY. She also wanted to wear a particular pair of jeans before the weekend when I usually do laundry. While reading my Entertainment Weekly from the couch, I told her how to bring in all the laundry baskets then sort and load the laundry, which she did.

Here she is on a stool taking her prized jeans out of the dryer.

3.     CLEAN YOUR OWN FLESH WOUNDS. My 10-year-old son got some pretty bad road rash last week while skateboarding, and the scab had gotten progressively filthier as the week went on without me requiring him to shower regularly or apply a bandage. While I couldn’t say, “You should…” I was able to tell him the (true!) story of my Aunt Jeanne who has diabetes and lost her foot (and later her entire leg) when she stepped on a nail and never had the wound properly cared for. She’s now in a wheelchair. After I told him the story I went into my room to read a book. Not 15 seconds later he was in my room with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide asking me, “Is this the stuff I’m supposed to put on it? Then what do I put? Neosporin?” Yep. My boy cleaned up his own wounds right quick. No nagging necessary.


Lastly, the biggest thing I did this past week that was non-mommish was to say YES to a last-minute invitation to go take an out-of-town weekend trip. Here's what happened:  My dad and stepmother were visiting us for the holidays. My stepmother and stepbrother have three tickets to the inauguration in Washington D.C. over MLK weekend, and my dad did not want to go. My stepmother said, "The hotel is already booked. I will buy you the plane ticket for your birthday. C'mon, it will be so fun for us to spend time together! The hotel is where all the movers and shakers stay--and they have a vodka bar!" Normally, I would feel guilty about leaving my husband with the kids last minute, but this month I'm not being responsible. I'm putting me first. I hesitated only a second. "Vodka bar? I'm in." I leave in two weeks to joyously watch this guy enter his second term:


I can report that this project has been a success insofar as I do feel more relaxed not carrying the weight of requiring constant perfection in my home or from my children. But I’m not declaring victory yet. We still have three weeks to go. And my stress levels are low now because I have been off from work for two weeks. I’m an administrator at my kids’ school, so when the school is closed, I’m off too (except summers). Turns out I am incredibly fun and happy when I do not have to work!


But it's back to reality this week as the kids and I both head back to school tomorrow. Will I be able to refrain from reminding them to hurry up and get ready in the mornings... to pack their lunches so they don’t go hungry at school... to wear a Brownie uniform on the right day... to study for tests? I'll keep ya in the loop.  


What chores do you hate doing around your home that your children (or husband) are perfectly capable of doing for themselves? What would it take for you to stop doing them and/or ask your family to help out?


  1. I informed my kids yesterday that I would no longer be harping them about homework. The only help I will provide is reading instructions for the child in kindergarten (he can only read small words at this point). The kids know they can't watch TV or play until finishing homework and with the nagging and everything, a 10-15 minute task takes 45 minutes. I want them to feel in control of completing their work and not be reliant on me. Older child must finish the week's homework in order to "earn" his weekly playdate with a friend on Thursday. Will let you know how it works....

  2. My problem is that I thought it easier to do everything myself rather than explain it and get exasperated and naggy if they couldn't do it 'right'.
    They are in their late teens now. When they did rise to the occasion to help, I just let my standards float away.
    Firstborn's cooking skills are outstanding and she cleans the kitchen afterward beautifully.
    They can turn out ok without nagging.

    1. Yep--the hardest part about this project is letting go of perfection and having things done "right." I ask myself daily, "Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?" It's a thin line, 'cause mama's always right. :)

  3. OK, I want to put that bottle of nail polisher remover away as I type this. Stay strong!