Growing Independence (for all of us)

Since mid-March I have been spending time by myself in town each week. It started as part of my mental health strategy for late winter.

Then, when my second semester of French lessons started in April, this time mid-week instead of on Saturday, my time in town increased from an just a few hours each time to eight hours. This is the longest stretch of time I've ever spent away from my family, on a regular basis.


I leave home in the early afternoon, I write at the cafe, I do errands, and then I go to French class in the evening. By the time I come home I am so anxious to see and be with my family. I miss them!

Which is a good thing because I am inundated with stories, projects and all 'round show and tell the moment I get in the door, shortly after nine o'clock. Or even before I get in the house, as my kids usually tumble out the door as I drive up, "need help carrying in any bags Mom?"

Damien works in the afternoons and part of the evening, and so on my town day the kids are on their own in terms of parental involvement for the better part of my absence. (Dad is in the house but not available unless there is an emergency.)

girl stirring batter

This week, before I left on Wednesday afternoon, I made the following list for the kids:

  • Brienne - finish the laundry
  • Celine - cook supper
  • Snack - leftovers from the snack Laurent prepared yesterday
  • Celine - schoolwork as discussed in our meeting this morning (I added a diagram to illustrate what I meant, but I won't recreate that here).

When I came home not only was the list done, the kitchen was completely clean from supper (that's Damien's domain anyway), and Laurent had even fixed a few things around the house that I asked him to do earlier this week. In addition, Brienne told me how they don't even complain about their work when I'm gone because there's no one to complain to!

boy cooking

Not that it was all work while I was gone. There was gaming of course, and Brienne's newest "dress-the-baby" app (yessh!). There was art, always art, and new stop motion animations created. Which of course I watched as soon as I caught my breath after coming in the door.

I also heard tales of the adventuring done in the nearby woods, "we pretended our bikes were horses and we came in the house and made our tents." And the gardens were planted for the Domehead and Menhir tribes.

I came home to family life lived in my absence.

This still feels strange to me after a couple months of this routine. How is it that my family can survive without me? Oh right, I've taught them some living and learning skills so that they can, not just survive, but thrive, in my absence.

Of course, I don't want to be absent for long or for more than once a week, at this point. And I usually send Damien at least one e-mail, "I miss you guys", while I'm in town.

girl playing barbies

I will always be Mom but my kids are going to have to live and learn on their own, without me cooking their meals, doing their laundry, reminding them of deadlines and responsibilities. I'm working myself out of a job. A few years ago, I could barely imagine this, but now I see it, just around the corner.

Growing our children towards independence is one of my parenting goals. I read somewhere this week (I wish I could remember where!):

We're raising adults, not raising children.

The culture around us suggests this is best achieved with independence at a young age. Daycare, sitters, preschool, school, etc... Wean your children from your presence. Teach them to stand on their own, often in the face of bullies and peer pressure. I beg to differ.

You can start very attached and dependent and move towards independence, in ways that feel right for your family and for your kids.

kids biking

I don't understand why people freak out when six year olds want to be with their parents, "how will they learn independence!" the concerned citizenry cry. Oh brother. Have these people never met a fourteen or twenty-four year old?

Little kids do grow up. They will not always tug at your breast and literally hang on your body (though some children never outgrow physical closeness because their love language is "touch".)

Start teaching your kids skills when they are little, at your side, and they will eventually cook meals, do the laundry, and fix things around the home - without your help or interference. (I get the distinct impression there is a certain freedom in our home when I'm not hovering around telling everyone what to do or how to do it.)

I don't want to be one of those mother/writers who's always telling moms with younger kids, "this too shall pass" etc... So I won't.


Kids grow up, and it's fun when they do. And when you've spent your whole adult life taking care of dependents - cooking, teaching, cleaning, etc. - it's supremely satisfying to come home to a clean kitchen you didn't clean, to a fed family you didn't feed, to laundry put away that you didn't fold, and to learning projects you didn't facilitate.

It's an affirmation for years of hard work. And in a career like homemaking/homeschooling where there isn't financial remuneration, nor many other forms of recognition, a bit of affirmation feels good.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • paulafrombelgium

    paulafrombelgium on May 31, 2013, 3:03 p.m.

    Well, You can be proud of yourself. You are a great Mother. The slide show is gorgeous. They still have the same funny  and beautifull faces. Congratulations ! 

    A propos d'autre chose, nous travaillons sur un projet qui ressemble un peu au votre. Nous allons vivre dans un autre pays et changer complètement notre vie. Je vais avoir besoin de quelques conseils sur l'ecole à la maison, le deménagement, etc. Est ce que je peux vous contacter par courrier ou email? Merci d'avance!

    A bientôt 



    • renee

      renee on May 31, 2013, 3:42 p.m.

      Oui! Oui!

      Paula, tu peut m'envoyer un courriel directement: renee at tougas dot net. Ou, contactez-moi ici, en Anglais, svp!

      A bientôt!


  • Kika

    Kika on May 31, 2013, 4:02 p.m.

    Your full day away sounds really nice - and so wonderful that your kids do well and have fun in your absence but are also happy for your return:) I go study once a week in a cafe but only for 2 hours - still I look forward to the time away mostly b/c of no distractions (it is AMAZING how often my kids seem to 'need' my attention when I am trying to focus on something for myself). I totally agree with the attachment parenting philosophy and have seen it live itself out in our family to date. You said that a few years back you couldn't have imagined where you are now (in different words) - I feel like that about where I'm at: excited about the current and next stage w/ teens and young adult in the family whereas even a year ago I couldn't imagine being ready for releasing my son into his next stage of life. I guess it is a good reminder to worry less, breathe and trust that we WILL and our children WILL come through each stage happy and whole.


  • Julie

    Julie on May 31, 2013, 5 p.m.

    It's great when kids learn life skills that will serve them in the future -- good for parents and good for them too!   This reminds me that I have been meaning to ask you a question.  I think you said once that Celine cooks dinner once a week.  My older daughter (14) is starting this in the summer -- how does this work for you?  Do you have Celine do everything -- plan the menu, all the cooking, etc?  Or do you have a weekly menu and she picks one meal to make?   I am just curious how other families arrange the kids cooking!  I will have to help my daughter somewhat, as part of the reason we are doing this is so she can learn new cooking skills.  She can do the basics and is a good baker, but she has not yet been responsible for a full family dinner.  We are looking forward to it! 


    • Kika

      Kika on May 31, 2013, 5:41 p.m.

      Me too! I have really slacked in this department this year (I guess recovering from major surgery took precendence). But I'd love to get my 13 year old doing this and maybe my 8 year old being very involved in one meal/wk too. I do regularly ask my kids to choose complete meals but I'm the one, this year, making them for some reason;)


    • renee

      renee on May 31, 2013, 6:28 p.m.

      They way it works right now is that Celine plans the meal, choosing the recipe (we are one pot cookers and eaters). I add the necessary ingredients to the grocery list (Damien and Celine do the weekly grocery shopping) and then she prepares the meal. At first we did this with me nearby and I would help chop difficult veggies etc. But now she does this on the night I'm at French. 

      She has to choose a recipe that fits into our family eating philosophy that's the only guideline. She makes a lot of pasta and rice dishes (with veggies sauces) and she especially likes Heather Bruggeman's recipes from her courses.

      I find it works best if I'm out of the scene entirely. I have a tendency to "hover" or take control the situation in ways that aren't helpful. Hard to pull back after years of managing everything at home (smile). 

      I had tried a couple years ago making Celine responsible for one meal a week, maybe when she was eleven or twelve? But we weren't consistent at the time. Also, she needed my help more then. She can be completely independent in the kitchen, at 14, which is nice. Some people talk about their 9 or 10 year olds making complete meals on their own. That never happened in our home.

      Our youngest really enjoys making snacks and treats with me in the kitchen (smoothies etc.) She is much more naturally interested in cooking than the other two and will experiment more on her own. The other two will prepare food - snacks and supper making for Céline, when required, but it's not a natural interest of theirs. 


      • Julie

        Julie on June 1, 2013, 12:44 a.m.

        Thank you!  If she is ever so inclined, I know my 14 year old and I would love to see a guest post from Celine (on her weekly dinners or her other pursuits!)


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on May 31, 2013, 5:31 p.m.

    "...Work myself out of a job" I love that! We had some friends of ours (when we both had babies) tell us that by the time their children were 13, they wanted them to be completely dependent (i.e. laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.) and that was the first I had ever heard of that concept...and it made a lot of sense to me and has inspired us in the same way (also, I love the Montessori way of doing things at very young ages, so we did a lot of that at home--and the kids were so happy to help out!). 

    I bet that felt wonderful to come home to, affirmation of mothering, indeed! I look forward to the day when I come back home and the house ins't ripped through like a tornado. I know it will come. ;) haha

    Sarah M



  • Adrienne

    Adrienne on May 31, 2013, 7:16 p.m.

    Beautiful! Thank you for the inspiration!

    I've been lurking for a while and really appreciate your writing. You're inspiring us to be very intentional about our family life and priorities. My son is 18 months so we are far away from the current season of your family life, but it's that season I remember most from my own childhood. It's a great time in the life of a kid and you're showing me that it's a great time to be a parent, too!

    I love seeing the pictures of your kids when they were younger, too. That's a little closer for my family. :)


  • Christi {Jealous Hands}

    Christi {Jealous Hands} on May 31, 2013, 8:04 p.m.

    What a lovely post, one that echoes my feelings very closely!  Growing up is bittersweet, yes?


  • Mama

    Mama on June 1, 2013, 12:43 a.m.

    "You can start very attached and dependent and move towards independence, in ways that feel right for your family and for your kids."

    My thoughts exactly! As babies and toddlers, my kids rarely stayed with anyone else, but as they get older (and I do realize they are still young) it is a pleasure to see them, and encourage them, to pursue their interests and grow their independence, learning how to help around the home and be a less dependent member of the family. It is a beautiful (although hard-earned) process! I really enjoyed this post, so I'm glad you followed your bunny trail :)


  • Michelle @ The Parent Vortex

    Michelle @ The Parent Vortex on June 1, 2013, 4:59 a.m.

    It is so encouraging to see how growing independence works for a very attached homeschooling family. We are still in the littles stage, and it helps so much to see that all the hard work on my part encouraging the kids to help out with the housework will in fact pay off in the end!


    • renee

      renee on June 1, 2013, 11:59 a.m.

      Yes, it totally pays off in the end. I'm still a little amazed actually, pleasantly amazed, that I'm not needed so very much. And very satisfied too (smile).


  • Alaina

    Alaina on June 2, 2013, 12:45 a.m.

    By the way- I wanted to say how encouraging this is.  I have been thinking about what you shared here a lot.  It is so encouraging to see a mom like you who is further down the road from me.  A mom who has poured so much into her kids and then is now seeing the benefits- like I said before, sowing and then reaping...because for moms like myself with only young children, sometimes life just feels like a whole bunch of sowing and very little reaping!  Its nice to see the photos of when your children were at similar stages of dependence!  So, thank you.  This has been a big encouragement to me.


  • Jessica

    Jessica on June 2, 2013, 2:42 a.m.

    Hi Renee, I've been "lurking here for a while" also and seeing pictures of your kids when they were little inspired me to comment since that's the stage I'm at now. It makes me feel like you GET IT because you've experienced it. So often while reading your posts my spirit echoes 'yes, Yes, YES!' So thank you for your genuine sharing and giving us glimpses of your life. It's good. It's inspiring.


    • renee

      renee on June 2, 2013, 8:20 p.m.

      Jessica, thank you so much. I do totally get it. And sometimes it's fun to share the "picture proof" of that! (smile)


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