I’ve been thinking about responsibility a lot lately.

Mostly because I have more than I can handle at the moment.

My mom’s in the poor health she’s in because she didn’t take very good care of herself. Maybe because back in the day, SHE had too much responsibility. A failing marriage, two (fabulous) daughters, ailing parents, ailing siblings…and she was always the classic martyr.

It didn’t serve her well.

I was at Dunkin Donuts the other day with my family, grabbing a quick breakfast before we hit the Pumpkin Patch Trolley. I was planning to be good…ordered an iced coffee and an egg-white flatbread. And then my husband came back to the table with six donuts…for four of us.

I ate my 3 donut halves.

And as I did so, that word popped into my head.


Don’t I have a responsibility to take care of myself? So that my daughters won’t have to? Eating those donuts, I concluded, was…IRRESPONSIBLE.

Later that night, after my husband had put the girls to bed, he mentioned that he had heard a report on the radio that cited a study that said most parents of overweight kids don’t even realize they are overweight.

I thought about our kids.

Little Sis has always been pudgy…such a cute baby. And now that she’s four, she’s grown out of it some. But not completely. She’s my grazer…she’d rather munch all day than sit at the table to eat. And she often makes good, healthy choices: an apple, or yogurt.

But not always. Sometimes it’s a lollipop from the pharmacy (gee, am I there often enough?).

Big Sis has always been long and lean. But lately, seeing her in her dance leotard…there’s a little pudge. Not much, but still. She’s always been a junk food junkie.

And it occured to me that it’s MY responsibility as their mother to ensure that they make good food choices.

When my depression was bad, I didn’t care who ate what at my house. As long as they didn’t bug ME about it. As a result, I bought a lot of (too many) convenience foods. Chips, crackers, granola bars….

I used to be a big foodie. When I first lost a lot of weight before Big Sis was born, I became a bit of a food snob. Once I’d educated myself on how to make healthier choices, I didn’t understand how I could ever go back. I knew our kids would be healthy eaters.

And then Big Sis came along. Ever since she learned to talk, she’s been rejecting most of what I serve her. But I persisted. “I’m such a good cook!” I thought. “She’ll grow up to be a good eater if it kills me!” I vowed.


Fast forward seven years. The kid and her food critique had worn me down. I had gone from making nutritious four-course meals with gourmet ingredients to nutritious kid-friendly meals to just macaroni and cheese and then finally, a bowl of (nutritious) cereal. Poured by her dad.

I do actually think it may have contributed to my depression. When one of the most important people in your life tells you 3-5 times a day that you SUCK at one of your major responsibilities, it stings.

I took Little Sis to the doctor yesterday for a suspected urinary tract infection (UTI). The doc pointed out that she’s “on the chubby side” and showed me on his chart that she’s…well, off the chart.

Another slug to the gut. That’d be my responsibility.

And the UTI? After literally an hour, a threat of catherterization, much crying (both of us) and screaming in pain (Little Sis), and three separate attempts at peeing in a cup, the doc tells me she’s got “four-year-old wiping syndrome.” Basically, she’s not drying herself off well enough, the area’s irritated and it burns when she pees.

Whose fault would that be? Oh, right. MINE.

So it seems someone’s been trying to tell me that I’ve been slacking on my responsibilies.

And even worse, history is repeating itself. My mom was overweight, I’m overweight (though I’ve been battling it for years), and now, so are my kids. Both of them. So even though we’re just typical Americans, I still feel like a failure.

A failure at fulfilling my responsibilities.


About Kathleen

Kathleen Heuer is a serial arts advocate and volunteer. She is the mom of two beautiful girls, wife to a brilliant nuclear engineer, and referee between her golden retriever and her hissy 18-year-old cat. For more, go to
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4 Responses to Responsibility

  1. askcherlock says:

    Hey there mom, go easy on yourself. You gotta take care of YOU and love yourself. There are no directions on how to raise kids. Use your heart, forgive your flaws and know it’s all part of the process. Consider the people who criticize you as “lint” and flick it off your shoulders. If you expect your kids to be perfect, i.e. Barbie dolls, they will be depressed too if they are not a size 2 when they get older. See the beauty in your soul. You are not failing; you are simply human. And you do sound responsible.

  2. Nessie says:


    I read this post a few hours ago, and it has been on my mind. I have to say generally YEAH! My health and how are eat to definitely a model for my child. And, if I take good care of my self I will get to see a larger part of his life and maybe (dare I say it out loud?) enjoy grandchildren.

    But here is the divide, 4 year old wiping? Honestly, you can only do so much. And after observing YEARS of college freshmen away from home the first time I KNOW we can do too much.

    Some of them never learn consequences. You don’t wipe, you will be in pain. You don’t do your homework, you will get low grades. You don’t go to bed at a decent hour, you will fall asleep in class. With things that are not dire, show them, tell them why, stand back. “Hover moms” stink. I don’t blame them, but they can get to a point where they do more damage than good.

    I now have a set consequence speech that I give often and I suspect is mimicked late at night in the dorms. Making choices is like picking up sticks. The end you grab is a choice, at the other end is the consequence. You can’t pick up one end of the stick without getting the other end too. Look at the whole stick before you pick it up.

    Oh dear. I have ranted. I’m gonna go back to my kitchen full of healthy food. 😉

  3. Sandwiched says:

    Good point. I do try to let Natural Consequences be the bad guy as often as possible. Makes my job easier, really.

    And I remember my mom nagging me an awful lot as a kid, especially on homework. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but she’d nag at me from the moment she knew I had an assignment. I remember telling her to back off, and I’d just accept the consequences if I didn’t get it done.

    Not that it helped. She still nagged. But I bet if she’d backed off some, at the very least we’d have had a more peaceful home. And maybe I wouldn’t have been so resentful.

    But that’s a discussion for my therapist. 🙂

    I like the stick metaphor! I’ll have to try that one on my kids!

  4. Nessie says:

    One time I tired to embellish it by saying, “if you didn’t look at both ends of the stick you might discover that it was the tail end of a poisonous snake.” They didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

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