Single parenting is overwhelming. Solo parenting, as in being the only living parent, is scary. All the responsibility falls on your shoulders. It is hard enough that parenting has no playbook. The daily responsibilities often feel like a burden. Every morning, I have to get three people up and ready for school and work. When my husband was alive, he was deployed or often away so that work still fell on me, but it felt very different. There was something about his presence, even in his absence, that shared the weight with me. I have realized, as a convicted helicopter mom, that the level of responsibility I choose to share with my children is completely up to me. As their capabilities grow, I have a choice to let them take on more responsibility or still reserve it for myself for the sake of efficiency.

It is in the childrens’ best interest to let them do EVERYTHING they can on their own to grow their responsibility, maturity and self-esteem. In The Courage to Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga discuss the concept of separation of tasks in general and related to the parent-child dynamic. This blew my mind. No joke. Major game changer. Each person has tasks in life and is responsible for their own tasks. Parents often intrude upon their children’s tasks. This inhibits children and the intrusion does more harm than good. “One is unlikely to avert a collision in this way.” This reminded me of my own childhood and the dynamic I had with my parents; constant collisions. My reaction often was to rebel and their efforts were counterproductive.

Kishimi and Koga explain that each person is responsible for their own tasks and should be given the space to complete them without external interference. The easiest example is when my children wake up in the morning. The process of getting the kids ready for school is a major struggle in parenthood. The experience of getting them to wake up, get ready and do their tasks is a huge source of frustration. The separation of tasks made me realize that waking up and getting ready for school is their task; their burden; not mine.

Whoa, did you hear me right? Yes, yes you did! It is up to them and if they do not do their tasks, they will face the natural consequences. A reward and punishment system is not necessary or healthy. My kids now have to get up and get ready on their own. I have explained the separation of tasks to them. The adjustment takes time, but it has been very positive in my experience. This has relieved the burdensome feeling of “I have to get three people ready every morning.” The weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I enjoy my morning and getting myself ready. The key is this: be aware of the kids and what they are or are not doing. They know if their parent is not paying attention and then they act out or rebel to seek attention. Do not ignore them, do not praise them, and be ready to assist them if they request help. They thrive in this dynamic.

You may be thinking, “but I have to get to work. If I leave them to their own devices, they will not do their tasks. I will never make it to work on time.” It seems to be a domino effect in which their completion of their tasks directly affects my tasks. Let me make this clear: getting to work on time is your task, not theirs. The separation goes like this: the kids have ample time to complete their tasks in the morning, and when it is time to go because you have to drop them off at school and head to work, you go. Their level of readiness is their responsibility. If they have one sock on and the other in hand and no breakfast in their cute little tummies, that is on them. They will learn. They will adjust. They will thrive.

Wishing all our children thrive,

Nikola Rosa