I had an interesting conversation earlier this week with all a lady who asked if I had any advice for how she could deal with her son.
She has a 28-year-old son who lives in his own apartment and she has to go over to his apartment several times each week to make his bed, do the dishes, vacuum and clean every square inch of his home.
On her way over to his place she picks up groceries for him and, seeing as how she is here anyway, also prepares his meals.
And, she explained, she is frustrated beyond description about his unwillingness to keep his home clean. Nor can she understand why he displays such irresponsibility.
I asked her why she does this for him and her reply was telling: It is because I can’t stand going over there and seeing the mess.”
This lady went on to tell me that she has always considered herself to be a “people pleaser” and believes it is her role in life to do all she can to make the lives of those around her easier in any and every way possible.
She went on to describe how she has had repeated conversations with her son and nothing ever changes.
She asked me what I thought she should do?
I told her I thought she should adopt me.
And Gimalle too.
We would love to have a mom who showed up every day to keep our home sparkling clean, did the dishes, vacuum, shop, cook and then leave quietly with no expectation of reward.
By profession this lady is an accountant and by her own admission, in her spare time, does all the bookkeeping for two businesses owned by relatives and also does the tax returns for all her family members.
She has done this for years. No charge. It is now expected of her.
Oh, and she also does the grocery shopping for her sister who is in an evening bowling league and just doesn’t have time, or energy, to do it for herself.
And she’s exhausted.
I told her I had a brilliant idea for her.
The brilliance of the idea lies in its simplicity: STOP!
Stop everything. Stop cleaning your son’s home, stop doing the bookkeeping for your relatives, stop doing tax returns and teach your sister how to pick up the phone and order pizza.
And then she astounded me with this: “I can’t do that. They depend on me.”
Of course they do. People treat us the way we train them to treat us and this lady has done a marvellous job of training family members to allow her to make their responsibilities hers.
What gets rewarded gets repeated and when we clean the home of someone who will not do it for themselves, we are ensuring they will never clean their homes because we are rewarding them for doing so.
She told me she understands the concept but doesn’t know how her family will manage if she stops her activities.
I asked her what she thought the worst thing that could happen to each of them would be and she told me that her son would live in filth, her relatives would find themselves in trouble with Canada Revenue Agency and her poor sister might have to miss out on a few bowling games.
And my reply was, “So?”
And then she shared the truth with me. She told me that she enjoyed being indispensable as much as she hated it.
I wasn’t really sure how best to help her until I remembered a video put out many years ago by a prominent and internationally acclaimed “psychologist” whose name is probably familiar to most of you.
I found a link to this video and suggested she watch it.
And I have included the link here for you to watch. Some of you may remember that this link appeared at the bottom of the very first blog I wrote all the way back in August 2009.
If this doesn’t help her nothing can.
It always helps me to re-focus every time I watch it and I bet it will give you some much added perspective.
Till we read again.