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Dear Family, I Am Not Responsible for Finding Your Stuff

Image Stuff: Katy Anderson

Mothers fill many different roles. We are teachers, comforters, nurses, counselors, and activity planners (just to name a few). For the most part, I enjoy the varied jobs that come along with motherhood. One responsibility I did not sign up for, however, is “finder of all things that are lost.”

My family seems to be under the mistaken impression that every time they misplace something, Mom will know where it is. Backpacks, homework, food items, favorite blankets, and shoes … so many shoes. Somehow, after casually glancing about for about a minute to locate whatever is missing, they feel the need to immediately make it my problem. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent playing detective just so my family doesn’t have to. But I’ve reached my limit. Something’s got to give.

I feel partly to blame. I once joked with my husband that I’m the “house manager.” It was, in fact, a fitting title. I was a stay-at-home mom who took care of all the responsibilities relating to the house. I did all the shopping, planned all the meals, and paid all the bills. I performed the vast majority of the household chores and took care of just about everything relating to the kids. So whenever something went missing, I suppose I was the one most likely to know where it might be.

Life is about change, however, and our family is changing and growing. It’s time everyone take responsibility for their stuff.

We are a family of five. I was warned the third kid really rocks your world and have found that to be true. The reality is that I can no longer be relied on to do everything that I was doing before and that’s okay. In addition to having more kids, I am also working from home. I am learning that it is okay, too. It’s healthy to teach my kids to take more responsibility and ask for their help when I need it.

This mother is not an on-call detective they can put on the case of the missing whatever.
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Lately, I’ve adopted a new tactic. Whenever one of my older boys asks, “Where are my shoes, Mom?” I treat the question with logic, instead of rushing in to solve the problem. “Why would I know where your shoes are? They’re your shoes, right?” I respond. Of course, I then follow up with the old adage, “Where is the last place you remember wearing them? Try looking there.” After all, I don’t wear my 9 or 6-year-old’s shoes.

When my husband asks me where a food item is, I give the logical response, “In the fridge.” He seems to think when he opens the fridge, whatever he’s looking for should be greeting him square in the face. Obviously, that’s not always the case.

The only family member who is not responding to my logical approach is my 2-year-old. “Dinosaur!” he demands. When I calmly ask him where he put his toy, he responds by asking louder because maybe Mommy didn’t hear him. “DINOSAUR!” he shouts with desperation. At this point, the only logical thing left to do is help him find his T-Rex before he turns into one. But as he gets older, he’ll need to learn to take responsibility for his stuff as well.

If I’m being honest, there are still times I step in to help someone look for something — usually when we’re running late for school. I do require they at least look on their own for a reasonable amount of time first.

I know motherhood is about compromise and doing what we can to help things run smoothly, but my family is learning that this mother is not an on-call detective they can put on the case of the missing whatever.

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