I’ve recently acknowledged something about my mothering feelings.
I don’t enjoy serving my children.
I don’t hate it or resent it either, but serving my children doesn’t bring me joy. It is a necessary, neutral activity for me. Now that confession may thrust me into the “bad person” camp, but it is where I am at right now.
If it makes anyone feel better, I don’t really enjoy them serving me either. Sure, it’s cute to have them make me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day, but it is something I would not want to get used to.
I’ve realized that I am happiest in mothering when our family is working together as a team.
I call it “All hands on deck!”
A perfect scenario was Sunday night. A fellow travel-widower friend was coming to dinner with her kids and we were making breakfast burritos. About a half-hour before they arrived, I gave every child an assignment.
Elle was in charge of the sautéed veggies. She cut and chopped green onions, mushrooms, and onions.
Crew whipped up his signature scrambled eggs that he is so proud of.
Croft cut strawberries and bananas for our fruit side dish.
Locke cooked the tortillas.
(Chad was out of town.)
I was doing nothing– or everything– depending on your perspective. But notice I didn’t give myself a job. I rarely do anymore if I can help it. I prefer to oversee everything because someone inevitably needs me, and it is nice to be freed up to help them. Being jobless allows me to roam, to help, to oversee, to encourage, to correct, and to fill in all the gaps.
And sure enough Locke needed help flipping the tortillas; Crew asked about how many eggs to crack; Croft threw away almost half of the strawberry, so I had to remind her how to cut strawberries as to be less wasteful, and Elle wondered if her green pepper cubes were a good size. Meanwhile, I was getting out serving utensils, plates, drinks, and doing dishes as we prepped.
That night as we all worked together I felt joy. I got satisfaction out of watching them grow, problem solve, develop new skills, and meaningfully contribute to a bigger project. And in an ironic twist, I got joy out of watching them serve others.
Christmas was another magical time of team work. I did not feel like decorating this year, so the kids all pitched in to set-up and take-down. As we set up the tree, they were assigned certain types of ornaments to hang – like all the gold ones, or all the snowflakes, or all the pinecones. The day we cleaned up was one big long list and they all took different parts. For example, Elle took down the kids’ Christmas tree; Croft took down the Christmas cards and made them into a flip chart, Locke was in charge of our sock advent calendar and Crew was Chad’s right hand man to climb and get everything up high. The tree went down in the same way it went up – with everyone owning a part of it. I felt so much love and joy as we all worked together.
Our family teamwork operates best when I break big jobs down into smaller tasks and give assignments. Everyone just pitching in doesn’t always work. We all have that sister or brother who rarely helps, so specific jobs and assignments hold everyone accountable. And it gives those that are hard workers some rest and those that are slackers some expectations.
I like to think that my kids are good at teamwork because we’ve always done it. Even when they were just toddlers and preschoolers we would work together to clean up the playroom or get dinner on the table. I would assign each kid a toy category to put away or a part of the table to set or a row in the car to clean out. I don’t think you can start too early working together as a family team.
So while I do serve my kids all day long, I prefer teamwork. I look for and create opportunities for our family to work together so I can feel joy. It’s my mothering right.