Just after my divorce, I moved to Ft. Worth, TX where I knew exactly one friend from college and his wife. She and I were sitting in their backyard next to their fire pit one night, having a conversation when she told me I was the most “scrappy and resourceful” person she’d ever met. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or an insult but as the years have gone by, I realize, it’s probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
Working with women and couples, the one thing I hear the most is that wives are exhausted from “doing it all”. The house, the errands, the meals, their job, etc, etc.
I hear jokes that constantly belittle men by complaining how they can’t find anything if their wife doesn’t find it for them. An example given by many is that they’re standing in front of the fridge asking “do we have any ketchup?”.
Raising kids and homeschooling, I hear the same things all day long “I can’t figure this out”, “how do I”, “help me”, “can you do this”. Over and over.
What do all three scenarios have in common? Resourcefulness.
Do you know the difference between enabling and helping?
Helping is doing something for someone that they can’t do for themselves- grabbing the box of cereal off the top shelf for the disabled person in a wheelchair at the grocery store, zipping the coat of a 1 year old. Enabling is doing something for someone when they can do it themselves- putting your 3 year old’s shoes on them, making breakfast for your 13 year old, paying off a debt for your mother-in-law or grown child because they’re too lazy to get a job and pay it themselves.
The brutally honest truth is that we’ve become the helicopter parents and the enabling spouses. We give way less credit to our children than they deserve and hold way more resentment for them when they’re enjoying the freedom we wish we had.
The truth is, the point of parenting is to teach them to be resourceful enough not to need us and emotionally stable enough not to fall apart while simultaneously accepting it when that time comes.
It’s having our daughter-in-law send us a text of appreciation when her husband looks in the pantry for an extra bottle of ketchup instead of asking if they have any while his head is in the fridge.
That point starts and the resentment of mothers and wives all over ends at the same intersection on the streets of Delegation Avenue and Responsibility Boulevard.
If you’re doing the same things over and over expecting a different result, congratulations. You’re literally living out the definition of insanity! Stop!
Give children chores! Set boundaries with your spouse by saying “I don’t have the time/energy/sanity/brainpower to do xyz.” Ask for help. The only reason women are “doing it all, all by themselves” is because they’re allowing it. They either arrogantly believe they’re the only ones who can do it “right”. Or they thrive on the stress and overload of cortisol while striving for perfection, knowing it will never come.
As a pilot wife, I hear “well we live in a city where we have no family. I have no help and my husband is always gone.” #metoo Guess what? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Gym daycare, care.com, make friends with the other moms from your kid’s soccer/baseball team, meetup or peanut apps, church. I could go on for days.
Your husband and children can help out around the house. They live there. It takes the whole team to move the ball of life down the field. There are age appropriate chore charts and lists all over the www. Be resourceful and find one that works for your family! (See what I did there? ;))
Instead of rushing to help your kids out, let them struggle a little bit. Ask them questions like “how could you figure that out?” or “where would you find something like that?” Hide a toy under a blanket when your kids are toddlers and let them look for them. Cheer when they find it. Make your 18 month old help pick up toys. If they’re old enough to get them out on their own, they’re old enough to pick them up. Will it be perfect all the time? Absolutely not. However, they’ve got to start somewhere. Our kids can do so much more than we let them do.
Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll never be hungry again. The same concept applies to our kids.
I’ve witnessed 2 year olds cracking eggs and stirring muffin batter, 3 year olds putting their own shoes, coat and mittens on, 12 year olds mowing yards and taking out the trash of the elderly in the neighborhood for a little extra cash. Have you let your child try so you know they can’t do it or are you holding them back because of your own insecurities in letting them try?
On the flip side of that coin, what are you holding yourself back from trying that would propel you forward? Whose coat tails are you holding onto in hopes that they’ll enable you when you can do it yourself? What have you been putting off out of frustration or fear when all you really need is to break the big plan into smaller chunks? How can you figure it out on your own? What boundary or new habit can you set to create more space and sanity for you?
Creating resourcefulness in our children leads to more mature, resourceful adults who are consequently less entitled, more appreciative and less needy.
They’ll have better work ethic and a competitive advantage for being hired or figuring out how to run their own business.
How can you be more resourceful in your marriage? If what’s not working hasn’t been working for a hot minute, what do you need to change? What hard conversation needs to be had that you’ve been putting off out of fear or frustration? Is there a book, a podcast, or another resource you can intentionally utilize to change the trajectory of your life? Who can you go to for suggestions on resources they find useful?
Your children have the ability to do so much more than they think and so do you.