parent opinion

"Hands-off parenting" might just be your secret to managing the mental load.


For a few months now, I’ve been withdrawing my services as a mother.

Other parents/judgey people may call it giving up. The law may call it criminal negligence. But I call my new “hands-off parenting” the secret to managing my mental load.

And I strongly suggest you try it if you can.

What’s the sexiest thing in the world? Sharing the load, of course. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

First, let me reassure those who might be concerned/the police that I adore the crap out of my 12-year-old son; he’s brilliant, funny, observant and wise. I’ve been a sole parent to him for a decade, and it’s been a labour of love. Yes, I’ve loved being a mum, and yes, I’ve made all the sacrifices without even noticing most of the time.

But he’s now closer to 13 than 12, and I’ve decided it’s time to become more hands-off with him to encourage his independence. The way I see it, if my kid doesn’t get these things by now, the only way he’ll learn is by suffering the consequences.

And okay, I’ll admit: I am tired of doing this stuff, too. (Thank you, Holly Wainwright, for putting it into words.)


Here’s what I’m doing – or rather, what I’m not doing anymore, after doing it for so long.

I’m not enforcing bedtime. I used to be so worried about brain development and how he’d function at school the next day. Now I know that if he’s had even one late night, he’s out like a light at 9pm the next night. So, I’m saving myself the anxiety of clock-watching in the evenings – and fighting his constant need to assert that he’s too old for a bedtime.


On the weekends, I will often go to bed before he does. I cannot tell you how liberating that is.

It. Is. Glorious. (Because I. Am. Tired.)

I’m not fighting about vegetables ever again. I’m not even spiking food with hidden nutrition – there is outrageously visible nutrition, and I’m not talking about it for the 3000th time.

I’m not reminding him of (aka nagging him about) basic stuff: brushing teeth, homework. Those things are no longer discussion points (unless he needs help with the latter, of course).

When he needs a note signed, he now knows to fill it out as much as he can, and bring it to me with a pen. Do not ask me to find a goddamn pen on top of everything else I’m doing in that moment.

I’m not turning washing inside out when I do it; if that’s how he puts it in the basket, that is a choice he’s made. He’s capable of putting it right when it comes out of the wash. This is such a time-saver, and means I don’t do ‘hate laundry’ anymore. I’m no longer standing there, hanging out washing and thinking of a million things I have to do, and putting 700 socks the right way out with tears in my eyes.

I’m watching horror movies when I want to. I’ve never done that; we’ve just got one TV, so I’ve always waited until my kid’s in bed. Now, when his bedtime often coincides with mine (what? I’m 43), I’m putting on scary shit when I want to because that’s my me time and I need it.

Oh, and I’m also now listening to explicit versions of the badass rap I like #gangstamum.


So, yes, I am basically done with the basics of parenting little kids, which is appropriate, because I don’t have a little kid anymore. I’m lucky that I can withdraw these ‘mum services’ and know that he’s capable of doing things for himself; or that he’s learning to.

These things were part of my ‘job’ back then, but I have a different job now. So in some ways, I don’t have a choice.


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#tbt A time when this kid could fit in my lap ❤️ (and also when thin eyebrows were cool) #feelingsentimental

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I have a tween, who talks to me non-stop, for whom I’m there constantly. Being just the two of us in the house, we’re very close, and I’ll be honest: what I give to him emotionally as he turns into a young man means I don’t have the capacity to give without taking a little of myself back.

I just have to; the mental load of being a parent, especially a sole one, is sometimes overwhelming otherwise.

So far, it’s working. This hands-off parenting means that my kid is on school camp tonight, and on a domestic level, nothing much has changed except that I miss his gorgeous freckled face more than is healthy (it’s been one night), and no one is here to hassle me about buying stuff on Minecraft.

The Quicky discuss the solution for managing the mental load. Post continues below.

Mia Freedman has written about the sadness of ‘lasts’ as a parent. The last time you read to them in bed. The last time you bathe them. And I feel that, keenly.

Letting go of parts of parenting to make way for new firsts – big ones, like chats about major grown-up stuff – is a thing you don’t realise you have to do, until you have to do it.

Hands-off parenting – it’s the circle of life, my friends.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.