Sunday night around 9 p.m. I went to put my son to bed (late) and my 12-year-old daughter said, “By the way, I have some clothes that need to be washed. I’m going to put them downstairs in the laundry room.”
Let’s step back a little bit. I work in PR for a school that had its reunion weekend that same weekend. Classes celebrating reunions from the Class of 1937 (yes 1937) through 2007 converged on the school for three days straight, so from dawn til way past dusk all weekend long I had been running around like a headless chicken in heels, taking pictures, giving out programs and gifts, navigating back roads to go say “Hi” at class parties, [fill in thankless activity here].
Somewhere in the mix I also managed to come down with one of the many germs from hell I get from working around kids all week long so I was doing this while throwing back cold medicine and struggling (unsuccessfully) to talk without sounding like a baby Barry White.
After being done with all the craziness by mid-Sunday afternoon I picked up said daughter from a birthday party, came home and filled out a few reports and invoices which I needed to do for my freelance life while the kids lounged around taking part in a whole lot of nothing until 9 pm when my daughter wanted me to do laundry.
“Why did you wait until 9 pm at night to tell me you need to do laundry? We’ve talked about this before. If you have laundry to do, tell me earlier.”
I thought about spending the next couple of hours washing and drying before I dragged myself to bed bleary eyed when it hit me. There is a simple solution to this problem. And it comes in the form of the word “No.”
“I’ve told you about this before,” I said. “I’m not doing it.”
She looked up at me bewildered. “But I don’t have any clean clothes!”
“And you knew that all weekend long. If you want it done, you’re going to stay up and do it yourself. I’m not.”
And even though she went in her room and flung the door a little harder than normal (although she caught it before it slammed because momma doesn’t play that) about ten minutes later she re-emerged carrying a laundry basket and I fell asleep to the whir of the washing machine, waking up well-rested.
As parents, we often find power in recognizing all that we can do and our ability to keep going, but we can’t forget about the power of knowing when to stop. It’s taken me a while to understand that that in stretching myself to do everything for them wasn’t just wearing me out, it was doing a disservice to them.
Teaching our kids to respect us isn’t just about teaching them not to talk back. It’s also about showing them that we are people that they need to show some sensitivity toward, and by beginning to step back a little bit and let them get resourceful, I hope I’m teaching them just that.
Do you think I was wrong for my laundry refusal? Do you find it hard to step back from being supermom or dad?
Find more tips for busy couples to help keep marriages strong at Making Love in the Microwave.