My son and I recently visited a Waffle House where it’s a lot of fun to watch your food being made right in front of you.
We decided to try some of the food at home.
Dylan shouted out his order, and I tried to make hash browns, cheesy eggs, and deep fried French fries (not an actual Waffle House food!) as good as you’d get at any greasy diner.
I’d even holler out “Order Up!” when the food was ready.
But I’m not a short order cook.
Dylan can’t drive, which puts me in the driver’s seat for helping get his out-of-the-house needs met. I take him to the grocery store, to recreational activities, to his friends’ houses, and to Walmart on allowance day.
But I’m not a chauffeur.
I do a lot of cleaning on Dylan’s behalf. I wash his dishes. I do his laundry. The older he gets the more he picks up after himself. But I still pick up after him quite a bit.
But I’m not a maid.
Usually when you hear a parent lament that they are not a maid, a chauffeur, or a cook, they are complaining about the amount of work that they’re doing.
It’s an indignant protest. A frustrated lament.
And it’s a shallow and shortsighted denial of the truth.
The truth is that I’m NOT a cook, chauffeur, or a maid.
I’m a mom.
The tasks that I do for and with my child are the shape of our relationship. They are the care shared between us. They are the profound details of our lives together.
It’s insulting to think of our relationship in these job-oriented, money-focused, task-specific ways.
I don’t need to be paid for these things, or acknowledged for these things, or limited in how often I do them.
These labels are harmful in the context of a loving relationship.
To a child, “I’m not your cook!” sounds an awful lot like:
Your needs are obnoxious
Caring for you is a bother
Your hunger is stupid
Being your mom is annoying
And the labels obscure and distort our ability to communicate meaningfully. I know parents are feeling frustration and tiredness when they protest this way. But there’s a better way to communicate.
These kinds of questions and statements convey the truth of the matter – how you feel, what you need, what you are requesting from your child. And they leave out any sense of blame.
You can learn more about this kind of talking in the book Nonviolent Communication (that’s an affiliate link).
At the end of the day, I would never want my kids to think that I think that being with them is some kind of job.
Many people love their jobs, yes, and you can derive many positive things from a job.
But it’s much more likely that you think of a job as something tedious, something you wouldn’t choose to do without the looming threat of bills, and something you try to escape from as quickly as possible.
When you whine that you’re “not a short order cook”, your child hears that THEY are tedious, something you don’t choose, and something you want to escape from.
Go ahead and cook. Go ahead and clean. Go ahead and drive them around.
Ask for help if you need it.
But be their parent, wholeheartedly.
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