This year I looked at things in a different way. And I have learned a lot. Being sick was truly an experience that, although if I get through I never want to do again, that has changed a lot in my life. It has opened my eyes to what I thought I knew some of. And it turns out I did know some, some I had no clue about.
This is one of the things I did not know. Roles in a family are not static. It may seem like I was a bit on the slow side not to realize this, but I didn’t. I saw my role as a wife and mother as something that was unchanging. You are always a wife and mother right? You know why young kids don’t want their mothers to leave their sight? It’s because they sense at an instinctual level that mother figures are the glue that hold everything together.
I thought that even if I couldn’t do the meal cooking or the cleaning that I would still be a wife and mother right? Wrong. What ends up happening is the kids (teenagers in my case) begin to look after themselves. They cook a few meals, make their own plans and start telling you what they need you to do. “Come pick me up at six. Don’t forget and if you are going to fall asleep, be sure to set your alarm.” Poof there goes my hold the kids.
“I need you to sign this, no I filled it all out, you just need to sign, it’s for my field trip remember?” “I’m leaving at eight. Don’t forget.” “I just cleaned the microwave; don’t forget to put a cover on stuff.” “I need more hangers, I just finished the laundry.” Poof there goes motherhood.
My mother reads this so I can’t go into what happens to the wife part but rest assured it suffers. Everyone is doing their best to get through. And I will be forever grateful for how my family has pulled together. I am amazed at how well my husband and kids did with everything that needed doing. They did all this while going to school, work and attending to the rest of their lives.
I saw my control slipping away. And it scared me. Really scared me. On days when I didn’t feel like death warmed over I noticed that they seemed to need me less. The kids started getting Derek to sign stuff. They all started to make their own decisions without a consult. That felt odd.
We all know that being a wife and mother has a certain element of control that most women I know have. Some women won’t let their kids do laundry or dishes because they won’t “do it right”. I was never one of those women. I thought that if something was done wrong, it meant they needed more practice. But it still felt like I was slipping away. Not something that I would have thought was going to happen.
I am really glad that I taught my kids a lot over the years. My kids knew how to cook and do laundry. I didn’t have to teach them while I was sick. The one that I dropped the ball on was my husband. I did the shopping and the banking. I did the meal planning. I made the phone calls. I organized. He had a lot of things to learn. And I had to learn to let a lot of things go. I installed the same password app on his phone as mine. I copied all of the passwords to his phone. It became apparent to me that I had to adapt.
We say things like “I don’t know what they would do without me.” “This family would fall apart without me.” I realized that my family should be able to go on without me. In fact that should have been my goal. It was with my kids. I was preparing them for the “real world”. But my family was ill equipped and it was my fault. I hope that now that I have learned these things that I can move on to teaching my family. They need recipes written down. Pictures organized. Old stories retold maybe recorded. My husband needs to know passwords, where our insurance policies are and everything else it takes to run this house. I need to let go.
I have to teach my family how to go on without me. My family should not fall apart without me. They should be able to pull together and do everything, and I do mean everything, that needs doing. I hope it doesn’t happen for a long time, but none of us know when that is. We all need to face the reality that our people are going to need to know how to function without us. Make sure they know how.