5 quick and easy tips to stop being over-available

5 quick and easy tips to stop being over-available

Parenting teens is tricky business.

A few weeks weeks back I was at the orthopaedic clinic with a bad case of frozen shoulder. I’d hoped to be home in time for lunch but what with running around for the Xray and multiple payment points I was still there.

The twins are, of course, more than capable of managing themselves and yet, as I felt my phone vibrate I knew it was one of them.

Sure enough there was a message from H.

‘Can I eat?’ It said.
‘Yes,’ I typed back.
Then followed N, ‘Come home soon, I need to talk to you’. 
I typed back a quick, ’Okay’.

No matter where I am — at the doctor’s, at the supermarket, with a friend, on a call, in the loo — I am constantly asked a million questions, often simply out of habit. And I answer them too, without much thought, simply out of habit. The barrage never stops.

What should I eat? (The biggest one)

What’s for lunch/dinner?

What’s the time? (Yes, even that!)

May I watch TV?

May I take a nap?

Do we have ______ at home?

Where are my ______?

This, when the twins are 15 years old and have been sorting their schedules independently for over a year now.

For N it’s also about sharing each tiny, inconsequential event of her day — a small win in class, a disagreement with a friend, a vague (often imagined) reprimand by a teacher, just about anything.

Most times I don’t mind. I enjoy listening to them and talking to them.

However, there are times I wonder if such oversharing is healthy. As a teen, I didn’t give such issues much thought. I handled my daily troubles and disappointments pretty much on my own. 

I worry that my constant presence (and interest) is making the twins over-dependent.

I wouldn’t have noticed any of this had it not been for the Pandemic throwing us together so much taking this whole 100-questions-a-minute thing to new levels.

I was reminded of a friend whose son while pursuing a Post Graduate course in London would call her every single time he left for college or got back home. Imagine the madness with varied time zones!

Parenting is as much about letting go as it is about being there. 

Over the past years I have come to realise that as a stay-at-home mom weaning children off me is one of the toughest tasks I’ve been faced with.

It’s important for teens to know that they’re the ones in control of their lives

As teens, we want them to take more control and more responsibility. Our absence teaches them to be accountable, resourceful, responsible. It’s important to wean them off even that token response/permission because they need to be aware, they need to know that they are capable of managing their lives on their own.

And of course it’s important for me

It is important for my sanity. Not having to answer all those questions would free up my mind for managing better all the other jobs I juggle on a daily basis. When my mom-brain is teeming with answers to a million inane questions it leaves little space for much else.

It also teaches the children to be respectful of my time, to not take me for granted. Children respect you more when they know you’re not always available.

So how do I plan to do this?

Here are five-pointers for me to wean the children off me (and me off them)

  1. Be Mindful

Check yourself before you provide ready answers. Stop yourself before you tell them where they left their book or that it’s time for class; stop before you rush to hand them mid-meal snacks or to find them that lost sock.

2. Be Absent

And I don’t mean only physically, though that’s definitely the easier option. Earmark times when you’re not available to them even if you’re home, no matter what you’re doing. You might be working or reading a book or even watching a film. The children need to know that there are times they have to manage on their own. Mine quite thrive when left to their own devices. It’s only when I’m physically present that they cannot dissociate themselves from me.

3. Leave Them to It

This one’s hard. When you leave them to do things their way, it won’t often be exactly the way you want them to do it and you have to learn to be okay with that.

4. Hold Them Accountable

Responsibility without accountability isn’t responsibility at all. The children work best when they know there will be consequences to their actions and decisions. And also that there will be no mama to sort things out for them at the last moment.

5. Be Consistent

As with any parenting lesson this one is the most obvious and the most difficult one too. You give in once, you give in every time. So stay strong, stay consistent.

I need to do this as much for them as for myself.

Have you ever thought of this? Do you think you’re the kind of person who gives a lot of yourself? Not just to your children but to any relationship? Perhaps its time to re-evaluate and pull back a little. It’s great for your peace of mind. Try it.

4 Replies to “5 quick and easy tips to stop being over-available”

  1. What a wise mom you are, Tulika. There are many mom’s out there who are happy to have their children dependent on them, because it meets their own needs. I think that allowing your children to be independent and fail must be one of the hardest and also the most necessary thing parents have to do. Hugs, for being you!
    Corinne Rodrigues recently put up this amazing post…Simone Biles’ Brave Act Of Self-CareMy Profile

    1. Hey Corinne. Thanks for dropping by, as always. And I’m sorry for having been so tardy in getting back. Thank you also for that compliment. Parenting is a journey full of so much doubt that hearing someone say that one is on the right path feels reassuring.

  2. All good points OM. We definitely need to let them be and let ourselves be, which I’ve seen most parents fail at (dunno if fail is the right word..but most dont slow down enough to realise this)
    I would say point 3 is the one most struggle with , as in, parents want kids to own and do stuff but want it done ‘perfectly’
    And, then there’s 5… truly a challenge !
    As for me, I take my peace of mind seriously (after a self evaluation a few years ago) and have taken the risk of letting Ammu be (for the most part). Keeping fingers crossed 🙂
    Priya recently put up this amazing post…Love and light!My Profile

    1. You’re right. No 3 is my undoing. But I’m pushing myself to let go bit by bit, even if I have more work at the end of it.

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