Friday, February 6, 2009

Confessions of a Closet Autocrat

Monday morning I woke at 4:30. Tuesday at 4:00. Wednesday was 3:30. Yesterday was 1:00.

Transition stress has entered the building. 

The upside of insomnia is remarkable productivity: the Christmas ornaments are bubble wrapped and boxed; books have been sorted and bagged for donation; the garden tools are clean and ready for American soil. I've even eradicated my podcast backlog, a true accomplishment if there ever was one.  The down side is that I've been incredibly short tempered and irritable. I'm sure the girls are wondering where their real mommy went to.

On Friday, January 30th, Rachel Melville Thomas, child psychotherapist and host of Kids in Mind on WRS, did a program on parenting styles. She outlined three basic types--autocratic, permissive, and active--and how each style effects child behaviour and self-esteem. Over the course of the show she mentioned an online survey evaluates one's parenting style by assessing both one's beliefs and one's actions. Given that I'm a compulsive measurer and had a solid three hours of quiet time in front of me, I decided to give it a go.  Here are my results: 

Autocratic: Beliefs 11 Actions 16 Total 27/50
Permissive: Beliefs 11 Actions 11 Total  22/50
Active: Beliefs 18 Actions 21 Total 39/50

Both in beliefs and actions I weigh-in heavily toward active parenting, which didn't come as a surprise. That's what makes my behaviour this past week that much more hard to swallow. I have become the quintessential autocrat, barking orders and expecting quick responses. I've not stooped to hitting or name calling, but I've become angry enough to understand the temptation.  Truth be told, I always drift toward an autocratic style by about 7 p.m., but all day is more than any of us can handle. I begin to really dislike myself, and that only makes things worse. 

Last night, I woke at four. This time, instead of getting up, I switched on my book light and read until sleep took over, waking again at seven. I feel better. Most importantly, I'm behaving better, too. 

Sometimes it's really hard to be a grown-up. 


  1. I love your honesty in this post. It made me feel like I'm not the mom this happens to during a relocation. It's stressful. Cut yourself a break.

  2. Moving, divorce, death, job loss are the great stress factors in life...You're human girl. Good chance to say to your kids you're stressed and you're trying to cope. Perfect moms are too much to live up. Rather that they can say, I saw my mother really wrestle with this but she eventually won. I imagine that being ambigious about the move doesn't help either. Plus there's tons to do. Let me know the move date just in case I can make it back to say au goodbye...we'll be in touch through blogs and emails and maybe just maybe some day face to face.

  3. As usual, Melissa, you are the hardest on yourself. Perhaps if you talk to the girls about your stress, they won't be trying to figure it out on their own (who knows where that may lead) and they will be more likely to talk to you about theirs instead of bottling it up or acting it out.

    Love you,