Tough Love From a Working Mother

What do working mothers worry about the most? It’s the kids of course. Whatever the setting, the question I get asked the most is “Will the kids be alright?” It’s made me realize that we tend to look at the glass half-empty rather than half-filled when it comes to blending work and family. We forget about all the benefits that we bring to our children when we work – and I’m not talking about the obvious financial benefits, although these of course shouldn’t be taken for granted.

About a year ago I remember getting a call from the school just as I was pulling up to the house after having driven 20 minutes to the school and 20 minutes back. “Mrs Brown-Quinn, your son asked us to call. He forgot his sports clothes. Can you come back to the school and drop them off? ” I was exasperated! I had already spent 40 minutes in aggressive weekday morning traffic. I replied, “Sorry, I’m working at the moment. I’m afraid my son needs to learn to be organized.” Ouch. Yes, that was tough to do, but I resented that my son thought my sole purpose in life was to be at his every beck and call.

So today, about a year later, the school called me again. This time my son got on the phone. “Mom, I’m really sorry but I forgot my sports clothes. Do you think you could possibly drop them off for me?” His voice was genuinely sweet and unassuming. I decided to say yes. I had some flexibility in my schedule and more importantly, my son had the right attitude – he wasn’t assuming anything. When I arrived at the school and took the bag to the main office, the school secretary explained that my son had been very reluctant to call me. He told her that I don’t do that sort of thing – if he forgets something, I won’t come back to the school to drop it off.

Being a good parent requires delivering tough love sometimes. Kids need to learn to be independent. It can be a cruel and competitive world out there. Pursuing interests, including business, outside of your kids, can give you that extra perspective you need not overwhelm your kids with attention (dare I say spoil?). This benefit of working isn’t always immediately evident.

It wasn’t until our daughter went away to college that she realized why we (a dual career couple) had raised her in the way that we did. “Mom, I can’t believe how so many of my friends struggle to manage things on their own. They are constantly calling their parents for help.” You’ll love that moment! After all those years of complaining about why you don’t do this or why you don’t give them that, your kids have a “light bulb moment” and they realize that tough love has made them better people. Like many working mothers, I don’t have time to smother our kids, but this has turned out to be one of life’s blessings.

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