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What is My Task in this Mothering Moment?

By September 27, 2017Blog

That dark shape in the mid­dle of this pic­ture is a nest. And on that nest is a moth­er black­bird. And under that moth­er black­bird was an egg that is now a baby blackbird.

We have watched over the last four weeks while the nest and its inhab­i­tants have been thrashed about in the branch­es, storm-tossed by wind, drenched by rain, and pelt­ed by hail. It is amaz­ing that the nest has with­stood the ele­ments and that the egg and chick stayed on board. Through all of the tumult that wee mum has held relent­less­ly to her task.

Alfred Adler the founder of indi­vid­ual psy­chol­o­gy talked of the sep­a­ra­tion of tasks between par­ent and child, self and oth­er. Robert Meis­ner, the act­ing coach, famous­ly said “What hin­ders your task, is your task.”

Today I found myself asking;

What is my task in this mothering moment?”

I have just hung up on my daugh­ter. It was quite a moment.

Let me give you the con­text, just the facts. Then I’ll share my rea­son­ing, my judge­ment and why I’m writ­ing this.


- This morn­ing she has a class trip to have hot choco­lates leav­ing school at 8:45 AM

- Her alarm did not go off

- I woke her at 6:40 AM

She freaked out, rushed, show­ered, break­fast­ed, dressed, made her lunch, put on her make-up  (Put on make-up? I hear you ask. I know. I’ll get back to that.) She got it all done, well, near­ly all of it.

More facts;

- We have a con­tract that she emp­ties the dish­wash­er in the morn­ing if it’s clean — she did­n’t do it

- She chose instead to put make up on

- At 8:20 AM in a pan­ic about being late, she asked me for a ride to school

- I said no


My rea­son­ing is that it is her task to get ready. It was her choice to pri­ori­tise time to put on make-up over time to do her con­tri­bu­tion job and get her­self to school in good time.

She leaves in a pan­ic. 5 min­utes lat­er my phone rings. She’s freak­ing out on the oth­er end. It’s an 8.5/10 freak out. This is one way she influ­ences me; “If I freak mum will help”. It’s very effec­tive. I don’t like it when my chil­dren are stressed, I wor­ry about them and then I feel stress. One way to stop my stress is to stop their stress. But today I am clear about her choic­es. And I’m clear about mine.

She is shout­ing, cry­ing, whim­per­ing. Both of her bus cards have run out of mon­ey. We’ve been here before and agreed that it is her task to keep her bus cards topped up. I try to talk to her, to calm her, she is rant­i­ng, she won’t lis­ten. I don’t feel like being blamed, bul­lied or emo­tion­al­ly spewed on. So I hang up.

I trans­fer mon­ey for her to top up her bus cards and pay for her school trip hot choco­late. I text her to tell her I’ve done that and her big sis­ter has just left and could snap her on to the bus. But she’s not at the bus stop and does not reply to my texts.

Per­haps she is pun­ish­ing me. Per­haps she would like me to wor­ry and regret that I did not res­cue her. But I am hold­ing a line.

It is the line between her task and my task.

Her task is to learn life skills. She is learn­ing to man­age her time, to pri­ori­tise her focus, to for­ward plan. At 14yrs old these are appro­pri­ate life lessons. If I jump in here I will get in the way of her learn­ing, I will be inter­fer­ing in her choic­es and devel­op­ing life skills.

My task to be a sta­ble base. To get out of the way of her learn­ing, so she can learn the lessons in front of her.

My task is to know the difference between our tasks.

What I have bub­bling on my inner stove is my judge­ment about her choic­es. About make-up. It’s a fad at the moment and I strug­gle with it. I’m con­flict­ed about make up. AND she chose make-up over our con­tract. But we have a con­se­quence built into the con­tract; no dish­wash­er — no pock­et mon­ey, so that is tak­en care of. Back to make up and my judgement.

Lurk­ing in the back of my mind is that once when she was lit­tle – sur­pris­ing­ly young for this insight — she said to me “Mum, every­one is try­ing to teach me lessons. But I need you just to be there for me. Not to teach me lessons but just to have my back. ”

Part of me feels sick. Have I let her down?

Part of me feels steady. I am here, clear, bound­aried, lov­ing, sup­port­ive, providing.

Part of me feels guilty. I hung up on her. I hung up on her when she clear­ly want­ed help.

Part of me feels like I did a good thing look­ing after myself and not suck­ing up what she was dump­ing on me . If her goal was to con­nect with me for sup­port, to steady her­self and draw down on my love, then she will need to learn anoth­er way.

Her task is in her hands. My task is in mine.

And now as I write, as a process to ori­ent and come to under­stand more about myself, about us, about my task, I can see some­thing that pro­found­ly shifts my world view. To remain steady, lov­ing, calm, and kind, I must NOT judge her. I’m must NOT judge her choice. I must NOT be puni­tive. I must NOT lec­ture her (again) about make up. I must NOT tell her “you made your choice to put make-up on and this is the con­se­quence.” That is not my task.

She has a les­son to learn, but it is not my task to teach her that lesson.

She is doing her best, and she is learn­ing. I am doing my best and I am learn­ing. It is not my job to res­cue my child from her learn­ing, but to be along­side as she learns.

Here I am. I am here.




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