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Chores and Children

Yesterday as I stood sucking up the pile of lint that had accumulated behind and beside the clothes dryer my teen, running to drop her sister somewhere, paused long enough to ask, “Mom why are you cleaning?”

This was the same question that my husband asked a month ago as I knelt over the baseboards in the bathroom wiping off the winter’s dust with a damp cloth.

My answer to both of them was this, “If I don’t do it, then it won’t get done. And if it doesn’t get done, then the house will go to seed around us. And if it goes to seed around us it will take a lot to get it back to where it should be. Besides, who do you think would do this if I didn’t? This is part of what I do.”

Each time, and many other times – especially since my parents moved here – I have had another conversation on this topic with myself. Over and over again. It goes like this:

“You should hire someone.”                                                    

“I don’t want to spend money on hiring someone. We have many other costs that need to be taken care of first. I can get to it.”

“No you can’t and shouldn’t have to, not right now. Bill your parents, since it is – lately at least – their care that has caused your cleaning to become a frustration of time spent doing something when there are other things more important to be done. Your siblings think it is okay to do so.”

“I can’t bill my parents. My husband does not feel that is an appropriate use of their funds, and I guess a part of me agrees.”

“Then get your kids to help. For goodness sakes that is why you were reluctant to hire a housekeeper overseas – even though everyone had one. Because you didn’t want them to grow up to be spoiled, and waited on. Well, I would say that given that you are the one doing all the cleaning and they are the ones benefitting from it that has indeed occurred.”

“But they do their own laundry. And they do help set the table, and clear when asked with only a little grumbling. And the youngest of them is so helpful, doing whatever is asked.”

“But do you ask? And I mean ask often enough and of all of them?”


Yes, mistakes have been made. I have reared three children who are kind and compassionate and helpful when asked, but two of whom struggle to take the initiative when it comes to helping to maintain the house they also live in. The other, our youngest, thankfully is still young enough to want to help and who is so called by an inner need to be moving that she often takes the initiative. So, so far I have reared two children who sleep until ten on Saturday while I get up at 7 and do laundry, sweep and mop (but not often enough), vacuum, clean out cars, wipe counters and toilets and showers.

And so the conversation continues:

“I have failed.”

“No you haven’t. But you have shirked your duties in this area. Mistakes have been made. But it is not too late to fix this. We learn from our mistakes don’t we?  And then we move on.”

So this week I will be taking out the markers and making a chore chart delegating to all children of this home the work that needs to be done to keep our house a home. Here’s to learning. Oh and hoping I don’t make mistakes on the follow through!