I am independent. I am capable. I am strong. These are all great qualities. These are qualities that I want to nurture in my daughter. These are also qualities that can undermine me.
A few weeks ago I was talking to my blogging friends Chrissy and G Sandwich about this strange phenomena- the fact that the more competent you are, the more you are taken for granted. Think about it like this: I am really good at taking care of things around the house- I can do minor household repairs, handle many technical glitches, maintain the house and budget, care for family members and pets, etc. I have lists and protocols and organizational charts- sort of like the CEO of the household. Alas, the CEO is often the figurehead- though technically the buck stops with them, they have doled out a lot of the work and just read through what has been done. They set the standards and ask others to do the dirty work. My job is to oversee and do the dirty work. To be clear- I don’t have a real issue with this. I am happy with this arrangement because I like to be in control, and I like to foresee all possibilities. I like things being done a certain way. I am OK doing everything.
But here is where the problems start. Because I can get everything done, and done well, my family tends to see me as omnipotent. They think I can do it all (which I can- I mean really- you can see that I’m awesome).
Sometimes I would like help. Sometimes I need assistance and not half assed assistance. If I say to someone, “Put away the groceries” it does not mean unpack the bag and leave them on the counter. It does not mean putting everything in the refrigerator. It means put the things where they belong and when we need them we can find them. Putting the soup in the section of the pantry with canned foods is not being pedantic- it’s being logical.
Also, if I know how to fix the router, everyone should at least know what a router is. For example, when I am out at a lunch and you text me that the internet is down, and I say how many lights are lit up on the router, your answer should be none, or the second from the bottom. The answer should not be silence, followed by uhhh, what’s a router?
If I am away at a girls weekend, I should not receive a call asking how to run the dishwasher. Seriously- it’s a dishwasher, not the control panel of a rocket ship. FYI- these are true anecdotes.
I am not a nagger or a whiner. I do not badger people into doing things. If the garbage is full, I throw it out. If the toilet paper roll runs out I replace it. If something is broken I fix it, or get it fixed. Something needs to be done, I do it.
Now, I’m guessing I am like this because of my Mother. My Mother is not what I’d call competent (though she will tell you she is). She has no basic skills. At 5, I put together my Barbie Dream House. I read the instructions, assembled the plastic parts, got the “elevator ” to go up and down. My Dad worked a lot when I was younger, and my Mother said things like “I can’t understand those f’ing instructions.” If I didn’t learn, my Barbie Dream House would still be sitting in a box. I learned at an early age how to take care of things. I learned how to be organized. (there’s that adapting thing I talked about yesterday)
In an odd way, my Mother did me a favor. Her lack of knowledge and understanding forced me to learn how to survive. I fear that my ability to handle things has made my family soft. I have been teaching my daughter things- when we get assemble furniture, I’m having her help. I taught her how to use the cordless drill (but that’s a whole other blog story slated for next week). She knows how to cook simple stuff, and she is way better at tech than I am. But she still stumbles sometimes- her printer had an issue yesterday, and instead of trying different things to fix it, she called me to help. Now, did she do this because of time pressure? Maybe. But what if I wasn’t around? Sometimes you have to keep trying, or pull a McGyver- you know- come up with a work around.
My husband though- that’s a whole other story. He comes from the type of family that brought toys to the toy store to be assembled. His family literally can’t read instructions, even recipes. His sister (who has a Phd) called me once and asked me to read something and explain it to her (instructions for a cleaning product). My husband struggles with changing light bulbs. I’m just slightly over 5 feet tall, so ceiling fixtures are the bane of my existence- even with a step stool I have trouble reaching. I have often tipped my building handyman to change the lights just because I can’t deal with the hour and a half it might take my husband to fix it. You know that joke, how many accountants does it take to change a lightbulb? At least he’s an excellent corporate tax accountant…..
Sometimes being in control and knowing how to get everything done can work against us. Sometimes we have trouble asking for help. Sometimes the people around us don’t realize we need help. But even domestic Goddesses need help sometimes. We need to ask for it, and the people around us need to supply it. And everyone in a household needs to have an understanding as to how things work- even if you’re not doing something on a daily basis, you should still know how. Knowledge is power. It’s the kind of power that helps you survive.