Many years ago, when my husband and I took on the challenges of raising a family, I knew that life would become busier. There would be lots of cooking and cleaning and laundry, carpooling and parent-teacher meetings and assorted ‘stuff’, and I would have to learn to stretch a dollar a little further. I expected all this when I signed up. What I did not expect was that I would eventually morph into the reluctant dictator of a small, unruly nation.
“A benevolent dictatorship is a theoretical form of government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state but is seen to do so for the benefit of the population as a whole.” (Wikipedia) As a mother, think about your life. Ponder the myriad of things you, your family members, and the world around you, hold you personally responsible for. Ask yourself…
HAVE I BECOME THE RELUCTANT DICTATOR OF A SMALL, UNRULY NATION? If one or more of these situations applies to your family, the answer is likely YES:
1.Look around your house. Is there an appliance or furniture item that you did not save for, shop for, and purchase?
Because in my house, I buy EVERYTHING except the fun stuff (aka video gaming systems and sports equipment). This explains why I seem more concerned than hubby when a swarm of 11-year-olds want to drink pomegranate juice while dancing around the sofa, or when a teenager takes our $200 Ninja blender to school for a fundraising “Smoothie Sale” and casually forgets to bring it home.
2. Think about family vacations. Are you responsible for planning every holiday?
And by ‘planning’ I mean… hours spent finding cheap airfare, hotel deals, and discount tickets; rooting through attics and closets for vacation essentials, buying and borrowing the things you can’t seem to find; and of course, putting arrangements are in place to keep the pets alive while you are gone.
This explains why I am a bit grumpy on the morning of departure when family members roll their eyes at my request for ‘help’ putting luggage in the car. It also explains why I am less-than-thrilled with camping and skiing, since these holiday ‘plans’ also include selecting the best pots and pans to take with me, and having a grocery list prepared so I can shop quickly when we reach our destination… my fellow vacationers become quite antsy when I take too long gathering the ingredients for cooking meals.
3. Ponder the things hubby and the kids (including those ‘kids’ who are now old enough to drive a car, drink alcohol, and vote) do around the house. Are you the director of all household tasks?
Do the other people in your house describe cleaning up after themselves as ‘helping out’? Are there any ‘chores’ performed in your house that were not assigned by you, are not monitored by you, and are not at least occasionally performed by you because it’s just easier.
4. Consider the outside world. Are you ultimately held accountable for the actions of all?
Over the years, I have been spoken to by school representatives about the clothing choices of my children and have been sent multiple notes and emails from teachers scolding me for homework they have forgotten to complete. I have endured multiple talks from my mother-in-law about things I should do to ensure that my husband (who owns his own company) sleeps more, eats more vegetables, and ‘deals with’ his bad back.
And, in a recent turn of events, I have been held responsible for my grown daughter’s procrastination and inability to reply to texts in a reasonable amount of time. (Both she and hubby feel these behaviours are rooted in her childhood and may have something to do with me not assigning her enough chores when she was young)
5. Are you afraid of what would happen if you ‘stepped down’ from office?
This was a big problem for Fidel Castro. Sure, there may have been a time (many, many, years ago) when I craved power and my ego fed on compliments about my cooking, my ‘lovely’ home, and my well-behaved children. But that was a million casseroles and PTA fundraisers ago. Now, what keeps me running is more the fear of what will happen if I stop.
I’ve gone away on business trips… and when I get back the crisper is still full of apples and there’s a stack of empty pizza boxes by the composter. I genuinely believe that my family members would develop scurvy if I left for more than a week.
I don’t know how any of us can be extricated from our all-encompassing responsibilities. If I had even a vague idea, I would totally be writing a book on the subject instead of a blog post! Have done a few google searches using the keywords ‘benevolent dictatorship’. A lot of them seem to wind up assassinated or drummed out of power but I can’t see this happening to me. Am pretty sure there is no one else plotting to take on my position.
For now, I believe we mother-dictators have no choice but to continue working for the good of our citizens, and accepting both accolades and ‘blame’ with as much dignity as we can muster. Oh… and we can drink wine… there is always wine!