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).

But…

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.

102 thoughts on “Over- Competent

  1. Google and Alexa are nothing more than Mom on steroids. It’s just easier to ask. By the way, I rented a house for vacation once and I’m pretty sure the dishwasher was ran by a rocket ship control panel. Never could figure out how to get that thing started. Alas, washed the dishes by hand.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. When I was a kid my mum’s response to just about anything was always, “look it up”. How do you spell….”Look it up.” Can we get a guinea pig? “read at least 5 books on them and then we’ll talk” or ‘try it first then we’ll talk’ no amount of whining or pleading for help would be acknowledged until one had done some independent research and made attempts to ‘look it up’ or ‘try it’ and my father’s was always “you did it wrong! Do it again!” I learned early on there are right ways and wrong ways to wash dishes, fold laundry, sweep the floor, etc, etc etc and it was simpler to just accept their way was the ‘right’ way as life would get rather unpleasant if not done ‘correctly’. While the punishment based learning model is one i try to avoid, I do feel there was a lot of benefit in the ‘look it up, do your research, try it, then we’ll talk’ model. My go to still to this day is ‘look it up’, and now with the internet (when I was a kid ‘look it up’ meant the dictionary, encyclopedia or the library card catalog for a book, none of that stuff was easy access online until I was well into high school) ‘look it up’ has become even easier! I’ve been slowly working to condition my husband to the ‘look it up’ and ‘try it’ model for home base stuff. And so far strides have been made. (though I do admit, I have slid into the ‘you did it wrong, do it again correctly’ model for some things, like laundry and clean dishes. Damp laundry is not dry, don’t bring it upstairs to be put away! It needs to be fully dry to be dry. I have no idea why that isn’t intuitive to everyone, no idea. Damp cloths are moldy cloths!)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. You have no idea just how much this issue played a huge roll in my divorce. Personal responsibility was unheard of by my ex-spouse, because…well, it was just easier to let me do everything. Or better yet, wait so long and/or much such a huge issue out of the doing of something that of course I would simply accomplish it just to have the thing done. GAH! This whole situation sets me on edge…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Interesting post. We are products of our upbringing. My mom was raised during the depression and as a result even when she went to a casino as an excursion with friends in retirement, or with family, she was the only one who would leave with money in her pocket! I take after her. My husband had some difficulty believing when we first met how simple my apartment was. All I knew was the furniture was paid for and suited me through graduate school and two jobs. I hold on tightly to money which was why in my blog, I posted about ‘actual’ buying when I am in the store. Even if I know and contribute to the budget, I am just like my mom. So, in my case, I took after her as I trailed to the grocery store, cooking, working in our small ice cream parlor. We have a family member who is an executive with a major car company. He and his wife have 5 children. Her house is a mess. She is a lovely person but I wonder why she doesn’t hire someone to clean once a week. She can afford it and it would her life and his much easier. Well, anyway, my thoughts. I think they do appreciate you but they have grown dependent. Each has their own strengths. I know where my router is and what but I still freak out and want my husband who is more of a techie to fix it. Old habits die hard.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Funny! I can see that. Although now that her kids are all in school, she does have time to clean or just hire a cleaner if she has the money. That is what I would love to do but cleaning is cathartic anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! Especially about putting away the groceries. Your post also reminded me of a time when my husband was retired but I was still working. I was attending an important conference and asked him to limit his calls since it would be hard to respond to them. When my cell phone rang, I assumed it was important. When I excused myself to call him back, his “important” question was “Where’s the peanut butter?”

    Liked by 3 people

  6. My mom was of the generation that catered to my father. When she passed away two years before him, he took up cooking and was able to make a mean vichyssoise. He told me he learned from watching her in the kitchen but he never let on he knew how to cook.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Funny and the women loved my father. He could be absolutely charming. He even found a girlfriend the last year of his life and we were happy for him. He was a handsome man and my mom was beautiful. I never expected her to pass away first. Anyway stay out of the cold.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can relate! I’m also content to do everything most of the time. But sometimes it’s nice to have help. My daughter asked me to make pizza dough this morning, and since she’s away at university most of the time, I’ve been catering to her. I suggested she make it while I’m here to guide her. After it was done I asked if she could clean up the kitchen. The kitchen aid mixer bowl is still in the sink. I think she thought by “ clean up” I meant get it off the counter. I’m hoping it will get washed without me having to ask again. But I won’t hold my breath.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh my goodness, this post just hits home! It’s also very entertaining too.
    I want to read that post about teaching your daughter to use the drill. I bought my husband one, one Christmas after we had to call my brother on law over three times to help put up our new curtains. The drill has celebrated it’s 7th birthday and has never left its box.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It happens to me sometimes because I don’t let people know I need help. When we had young kids we attended a church with a lot of military/government families. Whenever the guts would go away on duty they would do meals to help the moms left behind. My wife also travelled a lot for the government leaving me home alone with two young kids. I never made it known that I could have used some help and no one ever asked. I would get a little bitter sometimes when she would be gone for a couple of weeks and I would be asked if I wanted to sign up to make a meal for someone because her husband was away for a week. These days I think people just don’t notice me at all because I don’t make a big deal about what I do.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This is why I’ve made my kids participate in household life. I grew up with my parents doing everything. Sure we had some minor chores, but we never really learned much outside of cooking. I’m inquisitive and dug into things because I wanted to see how they worked. I am also fiercely independent and I wanted to do it all myself. As I became an adult, those things served me well, but it still took lots of stumbles and mistakes before I figured most stuff out (finances was a huge one). My brothers, though, are incapable of taking care of themselves and doing for themselves. As fully grown adults with families of their own, they still cannot do squat without needing my parents to hand hold or help. Despite the rants about how horrid of a parent I am, I demanded that my kids learn independence early. As soon as they were old enough, they were folding their own laundry. When they got older, that included separating it out to get it ready to wash and now they do their own completely. They are responsible for emptying the dishwasher and they have to clean up their own after meals. The responsibility for keeping their bathroom clean is on them, too. There are others as well, but I still worry a bit because there is still much that they don’t do. They have some basics of cooking, but both MC and BG are intimidated beyond belief over the gas stove top and avoid it if at all possible. I do try to teach them as things come up and at least show them how things are done and they realize that Mom isn’t always going to be around to do stuff for them.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m lucky on that front. My Hubby is pretty good at balancing me out. He is good at things I’m not so good at and I’m good at what he isn’t. We have several area where we overlap, but we help each other out in those areas. Unless it is plumbing. That, we are in full agreement on that you pay someone to take care of that crap even if you know what you are doing because it just sucks.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I totally understand. I am single and I do everything for myself. I have even changed the oil in my vehicle but Occasionally, when something like the wiring a new light fixture up or replacing the toilet or taps, ( I don’t like electric or slumming), I call my brother in law, he never does the job for me just talks me through it on the phone how to do it.

    I am grateful I am capable of doing everything, than the alternative of being helpless. Good for you and good read. Cheers

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My husband tells me I need to make the kids do more on their own… then leaves the empty box of cereal on the counter if he uses the last of it.
    I’ve moved our dirty laundry hampers into the bathroom, so his clothes can still be dropped on the counter about two feet away. *sigh*

    Liked by 2 people

  14. This is a great post, so many of us can relate!! I find though that I tend to have a martyr-like attitude about having to “do everything”…. and then continue to do everything, because it’s just faster. And better.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am in a very similar position. They even come to me to ask me the location of THEIR things! On the other hand, one really is a rocket scientist, and the other is a theoretical physicist, and they’re each good at their own thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Often with first world problems, you need a sitcom solution. STRIKE!

    Stop being maintenance mom for a week or two and let chaos ensue. And air your grievances with an obligatory laugh track. But be sure to let on that it might be best to humor you with a bit of ensemble help with all the domestic set direction and prop wrangling that’s necessary in putting on your collective and contented bliss of a production.

    Break a leg, and your welcome.

    And that will be $119.86. But better yet…double or nothin…on that you can’t keep that work stoppage going for more than 72 hours. Control is a Janus coin.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. OMG I loved this post. It is wonderful and so perfectly describes the plight of so many capable women who can do everything, but get tired of having that responsibility24/7 . I am going to share this with my sister, who even though her children are now grown and live with their own families, she still goes over their houses and organizes for them. She says it is because they still cannot do things right. LOL I think it is because she needs to feel in control.

    And yes, even though we can do it all, we still want help now and then. The problem is, and I can say this because I too made mistakes expecting a little too much when raising my children to become self sufficient, that the more we do, the LESS they will do.

    As an elementary school teacher I can tell you that if you do everything for them then expect your children to call you for help at their first sign of failure. In order to change that you have to let them fail now and then. What I learned is that If you tell them to do something and they actually do it, then you cannot complain when it isn’t perfect. You just can’t. No matter how much it drives you crazy. Because then they will think why even bother doing anything at all if it isn’t up to your standards.

    I had a mom who did everything and I pretty much let her do it. I didn’t meet her set of 1950’s standards and simply danced to the beat of my own drummer. In any case, I remember just not bothering any more because whatever I did, I knew it wouldn’t be right. So I just rebelled against everything. However, I didn’t expect at age 25 to become a divorced mom and so I had to learn how to do everything myself anyway. Life is rather ironic isn;t it? So… I did my best. And some things I got really capable at doing. Others not so much. I recall wishing that I had been taught more by my mom and that she had allowed me to do more (without judgement). In my second marriage, when my youngest son was in high school his father got sick and he died while he was in college. Events beyond my control made both my sons (who are almost 16 years apart in age) very capable and independent due to life circumstances. I was working multiple jobs, taking care of the household problems, running them to sports and school activities and doing it all, so I couldn’t stress over how they made their beds or worry about how the refrigerator was loaded or if the pantry was organized. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. No time. And it actually helped prepare them for the world. Both sons bought their own homes before they turned 25. Both are successful in their line of work and both can take care of anything that comes their way. One is a real techie but that’s his thing. (He works in the film industry.)The other is incredibly business savvy.
    You are modeling good behavior. But, yeah, they will take you for granted. Our children expect moms to be able to handle everything because we could and we did. I guess my advice looking back is that maybe you should let them know that you don’t want to be boss of the world all the time. I think had I stopped and said, you know I can’t do it all, then ,maybe I wouldn’t have had to do it so much…. Who knows. We all try our best. And it always seems like the mom who winds up being the one who holds the family together. Just my opinion. You do seem to be one awesome role model for your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Yeah, they will think that for a while. But, I promise it won’t be forever. A few weeks ago my 44 year old son called to thank me. When I asked him why he said it was for being there when he was a pain in the butt teenager. (His oldest child in high school) and she gets moody. So he said to me, “Mom, I know I was moody and not the easiest teenager. I just want to thank you for putting up with me.” I literally laughed out loud. I told him he was totally welcome and that some day his daughter would thank him. I actually said that he wasn’t so bad as far as teenagers go. And we both had a good laugh. I shared with him a quote my mom told me when he was driving me crazy. “This too shall pass” And guess what? It did!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m still living off the fumes of a plastic, under-the-counter wine glass holder for which I drilled holes to fit it, at my post-divorce “bachelor” apartment in 2010. It was a red-letter handy moment for me. But after reading this post of yours, I realize I’m seriously deficient. Does it count that I now write the check to all handymen who make repairs in our condo? I didn’t think so, but a boy can try. – Marty

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Marty you are funny. Just because you’re a guy doesn’t mean you come with the mechanic gene. I have two sons. One calls a handyman and the other can fix anything. I’ve had two husbands. One could fix anything and the other was helpless. And their offspring did not inherit their abilities or lack their off. We have to own our strengths and our weaknesses. And it’s no sin to call for help with a hammer. Lol

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Help me with x = do it the way I do it. Yes! That’s how it is here, too. Not because I’m anal (although some could argue that…) but because it makes sense or, as you say, is logical.

    They still don’t get why towels are folded like so and not another way. They don’t get that folding another way makes them not fit.

    I hear you, is what I’m saying. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Oh my god, we must have been separated at birth, it is the same thing in my house. My daughter has been known to phone me from Pennsylvania with questions (we live in Massachusetts), god help us if my husband has to do something computer related(saves up the tough questions for my son in law the software engineer). I once was going to be late so I asked my husband to preheat the oven and when I came home he calmly stated that he couldn’t figure out how. I will start showing my son how to do things as I think my husband is a lost cause. He has said that he has to die before me because he doesn’t know how to do anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. As a young wife and mother, I noticed a trend not just in my family, but friends families too. When asked to do a chore, they would do it badly and ultimately were not asked to do it in the future. My hack for correcting this was to continue asking the chore to be done, then not letting them off the hook until it was done adequately, not necessarily “my way”.

    Like

  23. Absolutely got this!

    Because I always do sort it, everyone expects I can sort it – and leaves me to it. What frustrates me is that even when I ask for help, no one takes me seriously so no one steps up. They all assume, well I’m me, I’ll find the way and run until the crisis is over. And then of course I find the way, because I’m the only one left to sort it; which proves their point.

    In another life, I’d make a point of being the helpless female!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I was just listening to a piece on the radio about the author Muriel Spark. Apparently she was told by her mother that if you never learned how to do housework you’d never be called on to do any – advice she delightedly followed!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yup, as a rampant Feminist, my Mum refused to teach me any domestic chores, such as cleaning, ironing, or cooking, ‘so that I would never have to do it for a man.’ Yeah, but Mum, what if I want to do them for myself??

      Liked by 1 person

  25. It reminds me of the situation I am in now: with my husband having cancer stage 4 receiving treatment and me not being able to do anything. I feel like all trussed up with no place to go. On the positive side, if they hadn’t contacted him for the experimental group and he had the colonoscopy a year earlier, he might not be here. If he hadn’t answered the phone call from the VA that day, how would we have known? I guess you have to find your blessings where you can! I am a person who needs to do things to help and it is sometimes like sitting on ice water fishing knowing you should get out of the cold but you can’t. he he. How is the temp in NY now? Hang in there.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Amen to that! My husband thinks doing the laundry is taking the stuff out the dryer and throwing it on the bed so I can take care of it when I get home. I like my stuff without any wrinkles and how been known to rewash my clothes because of the wrinkles. I know. Anal. But it really ticks me off that he cant fold them or hang them where they belong. Why do it if you can’t do it right?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. What a great post and so true for me! I manage a lot in my home, the cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, putting out the trash, laundry, etc. Most of the time I don’t have help. Although this is true, my husband is a great fix it guy, to the extreme of plumbing, electrical, construction work around the house. He is a hard worker and is always helping other people with their work and problems and is tired when he comes home. I really don’t mind doing it all but would love help once in awhile. Once in a great while he’ll help when he knows I’m stressed. I’m thankful for that.😃

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Oh, my, yes to all of this. But not at home – at work. Any job I’ve held I have often been the one to lead, to tackle the tasks others wouldn’t – or couldn’t – handle. And it works against you. There’s a meme out there, and it goes something like this: “Work your butt off every day, no one says a thing, but take one moment to be lazy and everyone’s calling you out on it.” At home it’s mostly 50/50. And we rent, so if there’s a large issue, we call the landlord. But still, both of us know how to change a lightbulb, reboot the router, etc. I feel for you, 50, I really do.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I agree.. Very well said. And so humorous too…. Wow…
    I can get basic things done, but for most, I call someone to get it done. Hahaha even my old parents know what is a router… They call it the Internet thingy hehe… But they make it known what doesn’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Wow! You put together your Barbie Dream House at age five? I’m impressed! Yes, I know you explained why, but still. 😛 My dad spent most of the night putting that sucker together Christmas Eve/Morning so that it stood there all nice and presentable when my sister and I woke up and went to see what Santa had brought us. ^_^

    Yes, I get what you’re saying. It does have to do with letting go of some of the control and delegating those responsibilities to the kids. Both hubby and I aren’t quite that good at that. We’d rather just get it done ourselves. In any case, it’s good that you’re teaching your daughter all that you are! My boys do know how to cook some basic meals, and the older one takes care of his cat. lol They have a few chores, and they are very helpful to me, so I’m grateful and blessed to have such wonderful sons!

    Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  31. I would recommend setting parameters and expectations for yourself and your family. Sounds easy but it isn’t. It is contrary to your nature. Big breath. Micromanaging CEOs are unfair to the CEO and the team. Good grief that sounds smart. Not something I could properly accomplish.

    Liked by 1 person

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