On a brisk and sunny Sunday three weeks ago, prior to heading out to a Christmas concert, I made my family a healthy and tasty lunch. Both of my kids (ages 6 and 3) scoffed at it and my husband had to beg them to take their (mostly full) plates to the kitchen. I cleaned the kitchen by myself while my husband and the kids played, and then we headed out, leaving behind a living room covered in toys and puzzles that I didn’t have the energy to fight about.
On the way to the concert, both kids began to whine that they were hungry and wanted to go to a restaurant. My husband told them that we’d go to one after the concert. We arrived early, so my husband and the kids played on the lawn while I sat in the sunlight, too exhausted from making breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, folding the laundry, doing the groceries, putting them away, cleaning out the fridge, unloading the dishwasher, making lunch and cleaning the kitchen again (plus putting in a 50-hour workweek at school, commuting, and making daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners).
A mixture of anger and sadness welled up inside me. Where had it all gone wrong?! Here I was, Ms. Full Montessori, with all my degrees, certifications, research and experience… And my kids were acting like entitled little brats! Furious thoughts whirled through my mind as we entered the chapel where the concert was being held. I tried to breathe out the negative thoughts and enjoy the music, but then my son began whining because I wouldn’t buy him a cookie from the concession stand and my daughter started melting down (because, no lunch, remember?). Something inside of me snapped, and the tears began streaming down my cheeks.
We left the concert at intermission (see: pre-schooler and mommy meltdowns) and quietly piled back into the car. We drove home in silence, and as soon as we got there I grabbed notebook and pen and fled the scene. I needed to think, to reassess our lives.
I sat at a coffee shop and furiously made a list of all the responsibilities I shouldered in our home. It was two pages long. Then I marked those tasks that could be done by either my husband or my children, and sorted them into lists under their names. As I crossed out chores from my list, I felt a considerable weight lifting off my shoulders. I wrote out a “Who Does What” plan for mornings, evenings and weekends. Then I headed home.
That evening, I called a family meeting and explained that I was feeling overwhelmed by all the responsibilities I had chosen to undertake. I apologized for failing to give them opportunities to contribute to the household, and pointed out how capable they had become in just a few short years. I shared all of the tasks I knew they were capable of doing, and showed them the plan that outlined all the family contributions.
I also talked about lifestyle changes: no eating between meals; restaurant dinners were limited to Friday evenings or special occasions; and my husband and I would leave the kids with the babysitter and go on date nights every other Saturday. At the bottom of the list I wrote: “No moaning/groaning/whining.”
My kids seemed excited by most of the changes. My husband, not so much…
Stay tuned to find out how our lives have evolved in the past three weeks since I set these new boundaries and expectations, and what tools I’ve been using to shift us towards more gratitude and less entitlement!