Balancing the Responsibilities of Children

I have a lot of trouble with assessing appropriate balance. My perceptions have changed a lot in the past few years, now I see any sort of abuse for what it is, not as part of life.
I am not sure how to reach a balance between working and relaxing, for the children. When I was the age of my oldest child I was making dinner twice a week, baking cakes, and cleaning the entire house save my mother’s room. I bathed myself, got my own food, did laundry, and went outside to wander until full dark, without any cell phone or tracking device.
I have not made my children do much housework. They have, at times, done work for pay. They do clean up after themselves, when I mention it. My oldest has Asperger’s and a lot of anxiety with his PTSD. He is shredded by school each day, and at the end of the week his chin is chapped from licking his lower lip out of anxiety. By Sunday afternoon it is fine, because the weekend has restored him. If I ask him to help me in the morning, he is cheerful about it, but in the afternoons after school, he cannot handle any request at all. He is drained, so I have been holding him only responsible for self care and manners and house rules.
My middle child has only been nonviolent for a year. He is learning impulse control and self regulation, and he has PTSD the worst of all of us, so he needs to learn to handle that before all else. I would say his progress has been fantastic since he started his meds last year. He does house work for money, when he really wants something.
I want home to be a haven, I don’t want it to be a source of stress. I want my kids to be independent, but not burdened.
I really struggle with this. I always said when my oldest could be in a room by himself, when he could handle washing his own hair consistently, when… when will all that ever happen? I feel like I am neglecting him, by not pushing harder. When I push harder, I regret increasing his stress. I teach him a new routine about once every few months. Boots go here, jacket goes there, hat goes here.., was the last one. It took him a few weeks, and he is not perfect at it. Where do I accommodate his special needs, or am I holding him back by relaxing expectations? Am I in his way?
I am not a tiger mother. I don’t make my children study anything outside of school besides required homework, most of the voluntary homework and community sports. They already have counseling and therapies, both.
When I was in school we did not learn to read any word at all until about the age of seven. Now three year olds need to know their sight words upon entering preschool. When I say my son reads at a sixth grade level I mean fourth, a teacher corrected me, because fourth graders are reading what sixth graders used to read when I was a kid. My kids are not even in second grade, and they have homework every night.
When I was eleven I tried to kill myself. I was a miserable child. I hated myself and I hated my life. I am terrified of my children having this sort of experience. I don’t want their worldview to be bleak. I want them to be children, to feel joy and freedom, and they have already suffered. I fear that increased responsibilities would be for my selfish benefit rather than for their own.
The advocates told me that guilt would get in the way of my parenting, that a strict approach would provide the structure they needed to heal. They weren’t really right. Not for my kids. My kids have done best with a strict routine and a transparent parenting style. They know the rules and the consequences, and I don’t see myself as strict.
I grew up a poor kid in a rich area. Most of the children whose houses I went into did not have to clean up even their own room, much less do their own laundry at age six. What if the reason I survived is because I was self sufficient from a young age? What if the reason I was abused is because I was obedient and subservient from a young age?
I don’t know what is privilege and what is practical. I don’t know what is disability and what is sloth. I don’t know what is normal guidance and what is neglect. I don’t know how to assess what from our former culture will handicap them in their new culture besides the obvious misogyny. I can guide but I don’t want to push the unwilling. I want to tempt them into it. I haven’t found the right carrot. I haven’t decided on what is balanced. It just tortures me, this responsibility.


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6 responses to “Balancing the Responsibilities of Children

  1. Wow. Tough questions — and a heavy burden, as your head frames it and your heart carries it. I am not a parent; I am still quite certain that none of these questions have “right” answers, perfect answers. Only “best I can do, and can think to do, right now” answers.
    I am glad your kids have you in their corner, as all of you recover from experiences none of you deserved.

    • I know the solution would be tailored to each child. I just don’t want to be wrong, to have them come to me in sixteen years and ask me why I never made them learn x, y, z. To be accused of ruining their chance at university, or independent living is a nightmare!

  2. I understand how you feel about being a mom. I often question my skills. My intention is always good. I want them to be healthy, independent thinkers and have high self esteem. I am bad with structure because of my own mental suffering. I ask them to do something. If they say no, then I do it myself to avoid a conflict that will hurt my feelings and send me into post traumatic stress.
    I do too much and become overloaded with working and doing everything in the house. I know they need to be responsible people and cook and clean etc. but I can’t make them do it.
    I guess they will survive me. I make sure they eat, I listen to their problems and help them work through peer issues etc.
    But the house ends up a mess because everything gets thrown everywhere while I am at work and I only have so much strength for an hour or so when I get home at midnight to clean it up. It is very hard.
    I hope they will turn out to be able to take care of themselves as adults.
    I worry but I am so exhausted all the time.
    It sounds like you are a good mom , in spite of past trauma and I guess I am too overall. No parent is perfect. Everyone is weak in some area of parenting. I guess it is easier for people that have a partner that has the skills they lack and vice versa so you can work as a team. But I only have me.

    • I only have me, too. I started a lot of cause and effect consequences to get my kids to pick up after themselves. Like ¨Oh, I guess you can’t sit down to dinner yet, you still need to wash your hands!¨ I do everything like that. I do sequencing much better than scheduling, and my autistic son can fathom it better in that format. It’s an easier transition for him.
      I get triggered by my kids, too. I wish I had better control of my PTSD, sometimes I feel like I have become an entirely different person because of it. I don’t like it much!
      A mom that helps with emotional stuff and makes sure the kids are in good health is definitely doing well. We cannot all be tiger mothers! I am sure our kids will remember more our support than our chores, and remembering childhood positively is really important.
      Thank you for your support, us single moms have to stick together!

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