Mom on Strike
Last weekend, I went on strike from being a mom.
It was only for a day. But for that one day, I didn’t do anything for my family. I didn’t remind. I didn’t harry. I didn’t nag. I just let them be them.
Our little family consists of two girls, ages 12 and 15, my (relatively) newly-acquired husband, and me. The girls and I moved into this house almost nine years ago, and my husband/their stepfather joined us two-and-a-half years ago. For six years, I was the only adult.
I will confess that I’m not a very patient person. I get frustrated easily. In the beginning of our journey as a little family of three, it was simply easier to do everything myself. Over the years, this became a habit.
As the girls got older, I did let go enough to teach them to do various chores. They set the table. They unload and reload the dishwasher. They clean the kitty litter (yes!) and feed the cats. They do their own laundry.
The girls are here only 50% of the time. Their father and I have joint custody, and when they’re at their dad’s house, I had to do their chores. So our routine, our habit is that either I remind and nag and push or I just throw my hands up in frustration and do things myself. Until last weekend.
I don’t know what the instigating event was. I just woke up and decided that they needed to stop relying on me to remind them to do everything. They needed to realize that now there is another adult in the house who can help them. I needed to go on strike.
During breakfast, I made my announcement. Effective immediately, I was on strike. I would not be reminding them that they needed to do things. I would not be gently inquiring if they had clean clothes for the coming school week or if they needed to get their homework done. I would not help find things or solve problems. I was not available.
This announcement was met with a combination of worried expressions (from the younger child) and knowing smirks (from the older child and my husband). After assuring my younger daughter that I wasn’t going anywhere, I got another cup of coffee and picked up a new book.
It was an interesting day. In the beginning, the girls were THRILLED that I wasn’t nagging them to get things done. They lazed in their rooms, glued to their screens, happy as two cute little piglets in a warm mud bath. However, as the day progressed, they got a little weirded out by the maternal silence. Then the testing began.
The younger child tried to get me to help her find a library book that needed to go back to school this week. I said, “Gosh, I sure hope you find it!” The older girlchild asked if she had to do laundry. I said, “I don’t know.” Together, the girls started fussing at each other about a videogame they both wanted to play. I went for a walk.
I’m not quite sure what the ultimate results of my strike will be. I don’t know if they did their homework that was due this week. I don’t know if they have clean clothes to wear to school. I do know that everyone in the house realized that one person can’t keep the house going by herself. I know that I realized that the world will not stop spinning if I take a break. The house will be even messier than it usually is, and the schedule will be a little wonky, but life will go on.
So who wants to join me on the picket lines next weekend?