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We are two working mothers — Lauren Rose, the director of business development for Name Bubbles, and Betsy DeMars, the assistant managing editor at The Saratogian. Try as we may to be really good at both, balancing motherhood and career can get pretty messy. As professionals, work schedules and mommy schedules often collide. So, we plow through, hoping at the end of the day, our kids — Lauren's 5-year-old son and Betsy's 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter — know how much we love them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where does a parent's responsibility end?

It's always a tough call for me whether to "fix" something for my children or let them suffer the consequences of their actions.

Here's what happened this morning that prompted me to reflect on this. As I was zipping around the house getting ready to leave for work, I noticed my daughter's homework folder sitting on her bed. I picked it up and opened it. Sure enough, her completed homework was tucked inside. For a moment, I contemplated running it over to the school so she wouldn't get in trouble for not having her homework. Glancing at the clock, I quickly decided it against it — but not before a twinge of guilt crept in.

An internal dialogue ensued as I continued on my getting-ready routine. Could I bring it to her? Yes, but I would be late for work. Would she be happy and appreciate my efforts? Yes, but it certainly wasn't my responsibility to ensure the folder got to school. Besides, she goofed off for much of the morning before getting her bag packed. Surely, there is a lesson to be learned here for her.

So I decided to let her take the heat. It reminded me of a saying we have at the office: "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

But where is that line with our kids? We want to teach them to be responsible, but we also want to be there for them. We want to be their heroes on some level. Sometimes that involves coming to their rescue. Usually I can do that without even going out of my way. Like if we all rush out the door to get to soccer practice, and we're in the car on the way, I'll say, "So, you got your water bottle?" Of course, I know she didn't get it because I grabbed it and filled it. But I let her squirm for just a moment. "Oh, no! I don't have it!"

Then I swoop in as the hero. Albeit, with a bit of sarcasm.

That raises the question, though: When do I just let her forget the water bottle? Are there certain times, instances and levels of responsibility that parents just need to back off and let their kids fall?

The biggest struggle I have is with schoolwork. My son is in sixth grade, and the teachers at this grade level are expecting a high level of independence. At what point do I quit nagging him about his homework and just let him suffer the consequences? They are his classes and his assignments, after all.

Ballston Spa School District, like many others, offers parents access to a "parent portal" where we can see all assignments. But neither my husband nor I have time to check in there constantly for stuff our kids are charged with keeping track of themselves.

So, I'm left to guess when to swoop in and when to back off. It's impossibly difficult to watch your kids fall on their faces, but I guess, in the end, it's where life's lessons are learned.


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