If you are a wife of a husband who was lucky enough to live in a house in which the men were not responsible for inside chores, or didn’t have to do chores at all, then you are experiencing first-hand the type of man you might very well be creating in your own son. If you have daughters, is the life you live of never-ending service what you really want your daughter to believe she has to do? As she watches you, she is learning the standard that she will carry into her own marriage. Your son as well, he is learning the standard that he will hold his wife up to, possibly without even realizing that he is doing it.
I have experienced this with my own children. It was as if a sudden ball park stadium set of flood lights went off over my head the day the realization hit me. I discovered that I had believed and was living a complete lie. I am a stay at home mom. My husband and I work hard to make sure that I can always be a stay at home mom. My contribution to the family is not a paycheck. So it’s my “job” to take care of the family and house. This idea is all fine and well and completely logical. However, I had allowed this to become a giant snowball that was growing and growing with every passing week.
I believed that my “job” was ALL encompassing. I alone needed to keep the house clean, the dishes washed, the clothes washed and put away, the grocery shopping done and the cabinets always fully stocked. The floors vacuumed and mopped, toilets clean, showers clean, and on and on and on. On top of that we decided to home school our two children, so that added another HUGE amount of responsibility to me. Needless to say, it only took three months of the home schooling before the ever-increasing amount of resentment and overwhelming feeling of inadequacy finally exploded.
It was during that temper tantrum/snot – fest that the light bulbs and whistles went off. I wondered how in the world I had not seen it sooner.
I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYTHING SINCE I DID NOT, ALL BY MYSELF, CREATE EVERY NEED IN THE HOUSEHOLD.
How in the world is it only my responsibility to wash and put away my children’s clothes when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves? (With logical amounts of assistance) I did not make them dirty; I did not even wear them.
How in the world is it only my responsibility to vacuum and mop the entire house? I do not live here by myself. And I most certainly am not responsible for the disaster of crushed cereal and crackers beneath my children’s chairs.
How in the world is it only my responsibility to clean the bathroom? I am only one of four people who use the shower. I did not spray the toothbrush foam all over the mirror. I did not leave toothpaste gobs in the bottom of the sink. (I probably did in my own bathroom though).
Since when did I eat all of the food in the house? I know sometimes the number on the scale may make me think I ate the whole house, but I assure you that I did not. So why should I be the only one responsible for planning our meals and buying the food and putting it all away?
Did I cook enough food to feed four people for just myself? Did I make all four plates, cups, sets of silverware and/or bowls dirty by myself? I would be very worried if any of you answered yes to that question as you read along. So, why am I the only one standing in the kitchen scrubbing the chili out of the pot?
Did I leave the Hotwheels and Barbies all over the living room floor? Did I pull all of the pillows off the couch to make a fort for the Barbies? Some days, yes I did, WITH my kids, but not by myself. So why should I be the one responsible for keeping them out from under foot three times a day?
The list goes on and on of all the things that I do not do by myself, and yet I had come to believe that I had to take care of them by myself. I created a lot of work for myself the day I decided I would not live like this anymore. But it was a lot of work that would make my job easier over time.
I also realized that my children, after 3 years of daily routines, could still not remember a single thing they needed to take care of. For example, in the morning, a person tends to go to the bathroom, get dressed, put their pajamas away and brush their hair before heading out to have breakfast. Did my 6-year-old remember any of those steps? Nope. What about my 4-year-old? Nope, not her either. It was a constant never-ending battle of reminding, yelling and nagging them to take care of things.
It dawned on me shortly after my other revelation that they did not need to remember because I remembered for them. Why would they
need to learn to take care of it themselves when mom was always there to lead them around by the nose? So I changed that too. I made them some charts for the different parts of the day and wrote out what they needed to do, as well as putting up pictures. Since my kiddos cannot read yet, the pictures were a very important part of it.
Once I had that set up I spent two days showing them how to find the section they needed and showing them what the pictures were and how things would be set up from there on out. The new rule was that they could not move onto the next activity until the stuff on their chart was done. In the morning, this means no breakfast until they were finished with their responsibilities. AND I was no longer going to remind them what they needed to do. My answer would be, “Check your chart” if they asked. It took about four days for my son to figure it all out and not need to check his chart anymore. It took my daughter considerably longer, but she is 4 and very distractible. The point being though, that mom no longer has to remind them to take care of anything in the morning. There is no more walking into their bedroom to do something and finding their pajamas all over the floor. There is no more hounding them on the days when we need to get out the door quickly because they already know what to do and can do it easily and without guidance. This should be even more reasonable if your children are seven or older.
At first, when we needed to get out the door by a certain time, there was some hiccups. But as soon as they realized that they would leave the house in whatever state they were in when it came time to leave, they learned really quickly to take care of business.
I remember one grocery shopping trip that needed to happen at 8 am because of other things going on that morning. My son was not taking me very seriously, as we had only started this regime about three weeks earlier. This was their first real test to getting out the door, but most definitely not the first time we had gone through the drill of trying to get out the door. After 40 minutes of arguing and playing he still had not taken care of business. I ended up going to the grocery store with a very upset six-year-old. He had on only pajama pants when we left. So, he had to sit in the cart while I did my shopping. He had no shoes, no shirt and no breakfast. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened again. It only took one time for him to learn that I meant what I said and that he really was responsible for himself.