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Parenting shiftOne of my children once told me that he grew more, and learned to become a man, because he “had to, to take care of me and his father after the divorce.”

When he said that, I was hurt. And I felt guilty.

Parents are supposed to take care of their kids, not the other way around, right?  I struggled to try to figure out what I might have done wrong.

My conclusion?  NOTHING.

Why? Because he turned out to be a pretty awesome young man.

I didn’t fall apart after the divorce.  I didn’t need anyone to pick me up and make sure I was okay.

But I did expect each of them to help the family and learn to be responsible.  And because each of them are amazing young people, they rose to the challenge of helping out their mom.

At the beginning of this summer, we had the opportunity of helping out a young man who, at the age of 13, had spent most of his life being the caregiver for his mom.  Once again, I found myself saying, parents are supposed to take care of their kids, not the other way around.

But what if I’m wrong…. or at least not quite that accurate.

Hundreds of years ago, for families that lived on a farm, the kids had very real responsibilities (chores) that were necessary to the success of the entire family.  Was that hard work and responsibility bad for the kids? I don’t think so. I think it strengthened them and prepared them for adulthood. I think if the kids were encouraged to go to school and get good grades, and still had a little time to play, that hard work probably made them better adults.

So how does this apply to me and my family?  I may not live on a farm or have that type of hard work to give to them, but I want my kids to grow up to be responsible, capable adults.

Is there a shift in my parenting thinking that needs to happen to encourage this?

When I got divorced, i started working outside the home, AND I was running an at-home business.  I did need them more than ever to help the family out.  It was time for everyone to do their own laundry, help with dishes and cooking.  My kids with drivers licenses had to help with drop-offs and pick-ups of brothers.  This change happened out of necessity, and I’m so glad that they were all so wonderful about being more responsible.

I’ve read several books and articles lately, and watched a few TV programs about families, and I think I have come to a conclusion that there are a lot of parents out there like me, who want to love and care for their kids, (and do everything for them) to make their lives easier, so they can just be kids.

I guess for most of my life, I felt like my job was to help my kids make it to adulthood in one piece, no scars or permanent damage.  As the stay-at-home mom, I often felt like it was my job to make sure everyone had clean clothes, a hot meal every evening, and well cared for pets ready to play with when they all got home from school.

But does that really prepare my kids to be adults.

My change in thinking or “PARENTING SHIFT” has turned into this. As their parent, my primary responsibility to them is as a teacher not a caregiver.

Of course they count on me to care for them also.  I make sure there’s food available, and they have a home, clothes and bedding. I provide all of the necessities, but now it is time for me to teach them how to care for all of these things.

In my life right now, I have a smaller home, and I work solely from my home, so in a lot of ways, it would be easier to just take care of all the home and family responsibilities myself. I think most parents would agree with me, that we do things because it’s faster, easier and more efficient to just do things ourselves.

I also think that we tend to do things ourselves because it makes us feel needed… important.  Especially as a full-time mom. Especially as a mom with a little OCD.

Too many times in the past, I’ve done things myself because I wanted them done a certain way, or I felt like it was my responsibility, or I needed to feel valued because of the work that I did.

None of these excuses is more important than the value of teaching my kids, and having them learn to do these things themselves before they go out into the world on their own.  I’ve had to shift from the view of getting something done, to teaching and raising kids so that they can do these things once they are on their own.

I may only have 2 of my 5 kids still at home with me, but I continue to learn new things about myself and my parenting.  I want to be a better parent because I want my kids to be prepared to be the best adults that they can.

Life is hard enough for me as an adult, I need to be careful not to give my kids unrealistic expectations of how the world will treat them.  The world isn’t going to take care of them the way their momma did.  We each have to pull our own weight.

The truth is that the people who work the hardest and are the most innovative and care about the success of “the company” as a whole (just like they did in their family) are ultimately the most successful in their jobs.

And isn’t that what I really want for my kids, for them to find success out in the world?

— Laura

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