Family Life


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Motherhood: Becoming the household CEO

King family - motherhood: becoming the household ceoMothers can be a pain in the backside. We
boss our kids around – nicely or otherwise.
When our children are young, we have the
advantage of intimidating height. We tell
them what to do, how to do it, and that it’s in
their best interest. No matter how we sugarcoat
our demands, their young minds have
figured it out: Mom is the boss.

But who could stand this boss? Imagine
some woman telling us to go brush our teeth.
Imagine her telling us that we have to wear
sunscreen. Imagine her asking if we flushed.
But more than anything, imagine being told
what to do constantly?

Actually, most of us don’t have to imagine.
We’ve dealt with this boss before and most
of us call her Mom. Because of this, I ask my
kids now and in their future: Please forgive
me for the times I’ve been a micromanaging,
domineering, unappreciative boss.

Honestly, I walked right into this position
without qualifications. Some people work
their way to the top by taking parenting
courses, babysitting weekly, or caring for
younger siblings. At a rare babysitting gig
at age 14, I changed a diaper. I considered
leaving the poor kid in a soggy mess, but
I pulled through. That amounts to the
experience of a sentence on my resume:
“Changed diaper, reluctantly.”

I certainly always loved kids, but I wasn’t
the type to strum on an acoustic guitar for
an adoring group of drooling babies. Most of
my adult life selfi shly revolved around other
adults. Then I got married and pregnant.

My lack of qualifications quickly rose to
the surface by way of anxiety. To compensate,
I read all the popular parenting books. I
could tell you, by heart, fetal development at
14 weeks. I learned how to swaddle a baby,
and solicited opinions on cosleeping versus
crib sleeping. (I later realized that cosleeping
meant being too exhausted to return my baby
to the crib.)

Like most women, the mothering instinct
came out of hiding and a big boss emerged.
Certain feelings of doubt were replaced little
by little with confidence. In time, I was adept
at caring for a baby. Although I worried, a
self-assured CEO emerged. I can do this! I can
even do this again! And again!

But I wonder, if it were a real job, what
would my performance appraisal look like?

Some days I should be reprimanded. I find
myself frustrated, angry and exasperated. Do
you know how long it takes a six-year-old to
put on socks and shoes? I don’t, but I know
I can get my dishes done while I’m waiting.
Do you know how much toothpaste falls
off the brush of three young children? It’s
incalculable! The worst boss comes out of me
as I demand accountability.

Other times I see myself as the boss who is
scraping by on hits and misses. I secretly, and
often, can’t believe that I get to be caretaker to
three children, and I’m drunk with success.
You can barely talk to me some days.

I’ve also noticed my “employees” are
forming a takeover. Their strategy is to grow
up and become independent. I’ll lose a lot of
my power, willingly. They’ll be free, and I’ll
step down. It’s lonely at the top, but I think
it’s going to lonelier when there’s no top or

I hope they recognize my imperfections as
the boss. I want them to see me as a human
being who’s fumbling with life’s greatest
position. I’ll repeat what so many mothers
have said before me, “I’m doing the best I
can.” I hope that my best is pretty good. After
all, this is the best job I’ve ever had that I had
no business applying for.

Thankfully, I am now at a point where I can
update my resume to say, “I changed many
diapers, reluctantly.”

Elizabeth King is mom to Declan, 9 (left), Samuel, 8 (right),
and Josephine, 6. The Hamilton, Ont. resident continues to
add to her parenting resume.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2012.

a man carrying two children

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