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Feminism: chat

How do I let go of wife/mother work whilst still being supportive?

12 replies

grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 15:47

I thought I had it sussed today. My 17 yr old DS has a number of important things to do which he hasn't touched yet (driving license, volunteering, sorting out books for some research he is doing). So I wrote him a list of mainly information gathering tasks and told him not to report back until dinner. He grumbled but set to it.

Between him and DH this resulted in a half arsed search for an NI number (which they needed my help with, only for me to go to the exact place I said it was and retrieve it). Plus a half arsed application attempt which might come through when we're on holiday.

I thought an information retrieval task would promote more responsibility and a more thought out plan of action and reduce the need for micromanagement. I gave plenty of opportunity for this first step of information retrieval to be made but then when nothing was happening thought I'd just give a more specific nudge. However even that just flips us back into me micromanaging again! Aargh!

Now my DS is wanting a conversation with me about what he's been finding out etc. When the whole idea was for him to use the information to do his own planning and we'd just have a casual conversation over dinner about how he'd got on. He's a lovely lad and nothing but well meaning but I can't be making all the decisions....

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Zebracat · 22/07/2021 16:39

I agree that it is very difficult. I just keep repeating to myself the mantra that Ican only change my behaviour. I need to still remind the 18 yr old of tasks. I do this by text or email so that I can prove that , yes, I did say it. I make vaguely sympathetic noises when they can’t find the paperwork, if I know where it is, I do say. We have a folder with their name on it, which helps. I am incredibly complimentary when they complete a task. I listen carefully to their updates, but Idont take tasks back, if DH wants to, that’s up to him, I’ve been doing this shit for years, if he wants to take a turn, I’m easy, but I’m neutral for his updates, at his age he doesn’t need applause.
With the older adult children, I’ve stepped right back. Every other person on MN seems to have a narcissistic or neglectful dm or dmil, sometimes both at the same time, so if whatever we do is wrong, I’m going to please myself. A lot of my friends and contemporaries are getting sick now( I’m 62), so I think it’s time to start enjoying life and not feeling obliged to help everyone, smooth out sibling rivalry, host Christmas etc. They’re so fucking critical anyway.

grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 16:56

After several conversations I got him to read this:


And he was pretty apologetic.Smile

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Babdoc · 22/07/2021 17:31

OP, there is no substitute for just stepping back and letting them fail. Otherwise they will never learn to manage their own lives, and you will be your son’s PA until you die.
If they say they can’t find something, your response should just be “Oh dear”, not going off and finding it for them!
Ideally, this process should have been happening gradually all through their childhood - they should take responsibility for tying their own shoelaces and wiping their bum, then build up to organising their homework/PE kit/laundry and eventually Uni applications/tax return/dental appointments etc. Nobody would bother doing anything if a helpful mother was always ready to do it instead.
Cut the apron strings, remove the training wheels, and give them a good push. Off they go…

grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 17:42


Ah, I don't think my sanity could survive watching them fail. My DS has managed to totally take responsibility for his pretty hefty study schedule. Good job because a lot of it is way over my head! (different specialisms). He can cook from scratch and is responsible for cooking a couple of meals a week. Thing is he is good at being organised but there are certainly areas I've not entirely successfully handed over yet.

When you talk about gradually that is a moot point. His primary school identified some learning difficulties (which they said were 'severe') but he has completely overcome them and is achieving extremely well (above average) with no additional support. However, I bear the scars, I think, of continually being told what he couldn't do. I know I can be overprotective. There is nothing I have found he cannot do when shown how and he is certainly a better, more diligent, student than I was.

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Babdoc · 22/07/2021 17:52

That’s interesting, OP, about his primary school, and could explain a lot as to how the current situation evolved.
Do you think his perceived “special needs” may have involved his ability to organise or process, leading you to micromanage for a bit longer than average?
It sounds as though he is now perfectly competent when necessary, so you just need to relax a little more and be prepared to let go! He will be leaving home fairly soon, and your job is to ensure he has the skills to cope without you - in other words, you need to make yourself redundant as a parent, which is always a difficult stage. But once achieved, you can enjoy a new relationship with him as an adult, not a dependent child. Good luck!

Shelddd · 22/07/2021 17:55

You're micromanaging them because you want to micromanage them. You have to look inward. They aren't doing those tasks because they know you will do them and also probably they know if they do them.. you'll just correct them anyway.

They need to own the responsibility along with the task otherwise it'll always be like this. You stepped in so quickly. Like the other person said you have to let them fail.. but you actually stepped in way before they even had a chance to succeed so this issue is even more pronounced than that.

Shelddd · 22/07/2021 17:56

And I say this as someone who does the same thing so I know how hard it can be.

grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 17:59

@Babdoc, that's about the size of it. I was 'helped' along the way a couple of years ago by having cancer treatment, though. So I had to let a lot go then! And my DH had to take over. I still find it hard, though. When my DS was little I felt like I needed to be on constant alert. Now I throw myself into fitness and running but my mind will not always be stilled and I did get very proficient at being very pro active in terms of what needed to be done.

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grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 17:59

@Shelddd, yes, I think there is some truth in that.

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grasstreeleaf · 22/07/2021 18:02

And I get major guilt when I leave my DH and DS to it..especially if they complain.

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DextrousCT · 23/07/2021 01:18

Don't rebuff his approaches. If your son is actually wanting a conversation to discuss the matter, be available and welcoming. 17 is young. So very soon they will 'know everything' and your life experience will be old hat. Try to couch your opinions as opinions, tell him YMMV, you are there to guide him through pros and cons. You did not steer this project for 17 years to watch it float into a pointless gully. You can discuss all he wants, tell him to own his decision and the outcomes of the decision, THEN you let him make it. You have to guide him into adulthood, not kick him into it.

grasstreeleaf · 23/07/2021 07:13

Thankyou @DextrousCT. It certainly is a balancing act and I absolutely do want to remain available for discussion whilst encouraging more independence.

My initial thoughts were to give a nudge so the research was done so then DS possessed all the information (not me) so then he could report back at that stage. Then DH happened! DH can be extremely proactive and stepped in to help DS complete the online forms there and then, look for the NI number so I was summoned! I had imagined a 'this is what I need to do thought process' and a civilised discussion over time frames then DS going away and doing stuff with less hands on input. So I had a 'discussion' later with DH too.

Hot day yesterday! Grin

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