I’m on vacation with my husband and four-20-somethings and I want to have some down time and relax. To avoid filling the role of family servant, I had a family meeting when we arrived. I forgot to send out an email in advance asking about who will cook what, when. Last year, my oldest daughter coordinated all of it and I did my part.
As always, the Double E – encouragement & expectation – plays a role, as does my behavior. I had to learn to step back. My husband has developed the tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinner for “his” relatives. I’ve taken on the role of his assistant and chief bottle washer, instead of my normal role of chief cook. It has given me practice of being a man on Thanksgiving — to do my small role, a big part of which is cleanup, and then leave the area. Relax. Watch football [not!]. Take a walk or a canoe ride. Play bridge or Scrabble or Banannagrams. At first it was odd to be relieved of the responsibility. Now it’s glorious to NOT be in charge of THE MEAL of the year. It’s kinda fun to watch him plan and coordinate it.
Same with summer vacation. I have to put on the reins and STOP myself from running the show. Some women do not cook during vacation [or the rest of the year]. The family goes out. They get takeout. People buy prepared food. Not cooking requires a passivity that doesn’t come naturally to me.
Mothers, I’m here to tell you that passivity can be learned. Someone who is hungry will take initiative. Dirty dishes in the sink are NOT my responsibility! They can pile up. We can use paper plates. I can learn to kick back. I can encourage and expect others to prepare dinner, buy food, and make plans.
I can enjoy my vacation, too and do what I feel like. It’s kind of like my attitude towards our family dog. I am not the dog owner. I’m the dog’s stepmother. I do what looks good, feels good and what I feel like in the moment. I have absolutely no responsibility for the dog. It’s glorious! I’ve learned to be passive, to let go, to learn that complaining about profuse dog hair does no good.
The question is, and it’s a good question to ask when parents have a conflict with offspring: “Whose problem is it?” All that dog hair is MY problem. Hunger is MY problem at dinner. I can rustle up a few nuts and wait and see what appears, produced by someone else. It’s glorious. I’m off to read my novel, because dinner is not my problem.