My husband and I argue frequently since he says I’m too soft on our daughters. They are both in high school and I like to make their breakfast and pack their lunches like I did when they were little and they both appreciate this. I also make their beds and do their laundry so they can have time for study and friends. I have the time and I love doing it for them. They both get close to straight As and are involved in sports and dance. Is it so wrong to show a little extra pampering to my girls? They are the center of my life! – Loving Mother in Ohio
Dear Loving Mother
Can you come to MY house!?
Seriously, I know it feels good and is good to care for others (and I don’t know all the details) but maybe your husband has a point.
Protect less, prepare more
Our job as parents begins with a lot of caretaking and doting but should continually move away from protection and more toward preparation for life. By the time our kids are grown they should be able to stand steadily on their own two feet. Your girls should be ready to do the small, mundane (boring!) duties in life as they enter either the workforce or marriage and motherhood. Wiping noses, butts, and hands. Washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning, sewing, and grocery shopping. Handling money and credit cards wisely and creating and adjusting a monthly budget. Taking care of their cars and being a help to others in the family. And without complaining, demanding payment, and being able to find the small joys in them!
Kids need you to teach them, not do it yourself
My mother of nine brought us into her adult world to teach, train, and equip us. Sure, we had lots of childhood fun, but she also delegated tasks and chores to us early and we all look back in deep gratitude. Rather than DOING so much for your children, why not start TEACHING them and allow room for error and growth. This will require you to step back, bite your tongue, and not jump back in. Am I saying just let them fall and do nothing? Not at all. But your job is to stop managing. It’s to become less of a caretaker and more of a consultant.
Help them grow in virtue
This detachment can also help them excel in humility, patience, and obedience, three virtues vital for a rich spiritual life! It is also crucial to their emotional and spiritual well-being and their maturity to care for others in the family, show gratitude and respect, and sacrifice for the good of others. Yes, it will be difficult and they will cry and sometimes feel like giving up. But don’t you dare rush in and rescue them. Instead, listen to them, lead them to a place of emotional support, love them no matter what they say or do, and let go of your fears, worries, and your own need to fix. This is the recipe for true “self esteem,” when they know they are strong and not just pretending to be.
Learn to give them “more” by cutting the extras
When the children are still under your roof, and if their schedule is too full to participate in and learn household duties, cut some of the extras. Stand up to any whining or manipulation you may have permitted in the past. No future boss, roommate, or spouse will be cooking and cleaning for them. The truth is that little princes and princesses don’t do well in the real world.
I suspect the reason you may not want to stop doing these things is that these precious girls fill you with love and validate your goodness as a person and a mother. For many years being their mom has given you a deep and joyful purpose in life. But your primary parental purpose is preparing them to become grown, capable women of virtue. And that means their ability to carry a cross.
Love your children, but take them out of the center
And, if you truly have made the girls the center of your life, where is the place for your husband? And where does God fit in? I know these can be difficult questions to ask and answer.
Ask God to help you shift your desires to desire HIM first and most. You were created by him, for him, and you will return to him. We pursue so much good in our earthly relationships that we forget he is the Greatest Good of All and the best relationship.
Put God back on top
Then ask God to help you re-order your loves to put your husband back in first place where necessary. Your daughters are meant to take wings and fly away someday and it is your husband who will be at your side. Don’t worry . . . you’ll always be their Mom and you should never stop loving them. But begin to shift your mothering from care-taking to teaching. Then stand aside. let them fall, but then watch them take flight and soar!
Find more help in teaching our children about lasting happiness in A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Happiness.
Get more parenting tips in my book A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Relationships .