“There once was a young bride who decided to make her husband a pot roast for dinner. After trimming the meat, she cut the end off the roast and put it in the pan. As her husband watched her prepare dinner, he asked, ‘Why do you cut the end off before you put it in the pan?’
‘Because mom always did,’ she replied. Thinking about it the next day, she called mom and asked her why she cut the end off the roast. Mom said, ‘Because that’s how grandma always did it. Ask her.’
So, the young bride called grandma and inquired about cutting the end off the roast. Her grandma laughed and said, ‘Honey, we never had a pot big enough to hold the whole roast, so I always had to cut the end off.’”
Of course, this kind of unintentional behavior can go far beyond the kitchen. From the way we discipline our children to the expectations we have for them, there may be many things we do as mothers simply “because mom always did,” even if they don’t make sense in our current family situation.
One of the first and most influential things I ever learned as a Family Science major was that if I didn’t make deliberate decisions about how to parent my own children, I would, by default, do exactly what my own parents did. In my case, that wasn’t such a bad thing, but I think most people would agree there are always things they would like to do differently from the home they grew up in.
Even so, many of us don’t always think those things out too clearly, let alone make specific plans for how we’re going to improve upon what we’ve already learned from our family of origin. Perhaps it’s because we think mothering will come “naturally,” or maybe it’s because we feel so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to start. Personally, I remember being surprised to realize after successfully getting my baby through the first few years of life happy and healthy that the real work of child development had just begun. There was so much more to motherhood than healthy eating, sleeping through the night, and potty training!
What are the most important values to pass on to your children and how do you plan to teach those values? Which activities will take priority in your family: academics, sports, the arts, faith, community involvement? How will you discipline? How will you show love? What will your family rules and expectations look like? Which traditions will you continue, which ones will you discard, and what new ones will you develop? What kind of work will be expected of your children? How will you handle allowance and money issues?
These types of questions are at the foundation of deliberate, intentional mothering, or “mothering on purpose” as we like to say. Our partner website,valuesparenting.com is an invaluable resource for women interested in becoming more deliberate mothers, and we hope you’ll take some time to consider three of the most fundamental systems in this process: family rules, family economy, and family traditions.
So the next time you catch yourself doing something “because mom always did,” ask yourself if it really feels right to you and fits your family, or if there isn’t a better way to make your own pot roast!
QUESTION: What things would you like to do differently in your own family than in your family of origin?
CHALLENGE: Take some time in the next week or so to work on creating a plan for family rules, economy, or traditions.