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Parenting

Get A Job!

I mentioned in a prior post about my disdain for cooking and, subsequently, domestic household duties. I have tried to instill some basic household organization by trying to maintain basic cleanliness and order, but when you have a kid, that’s pretty much impossible. Between the toys, the papers, and the stuff they collect, it’s a never-ending battle you probably can’t win and shouldn’t fight anyway.However, one thing I think is key to keeping order is that duties are divided amongst everyone who lives in that home. That includes the little ones. It starts with the good “˜ole adage “you make the mess, you clean it up.” When they do something, or play with something, they should be required to pick it up and put it away in the place it belongs.

I was watching some repeat of Oprah the other day, (YAY FUNEMPLOYMENT!) where a mother was complaining about how much work she had to do, while her husband and kids didn’t help out around the house. Her kids were 8, 10 and 13, or somewhere in there. I was appalled watching the segment; the woman had a full day of work, raced home and shuttled her kids around, Swiffered the floor while on the phone, all while her husband watched TV. My first thought was “Why the fuck is that woman doing so much work”’, but my other was, “Why the fuck is no one lifting a finger to help her?”

Of course the program focused on her deadbeat husband, but I wanted to scream at her kids. What children would sit there and watch their mother work herself to death while they played Wii? I think that children learn, even when they’re young, how to take care of themselves if you actually give them responsibilities. Cleaning up after one’s self is about as basic as it gets. Furthermore, if you do, you won’t end up like that woman’s husband, who admitted during the segment that he didn’t know how to do anything but grill and fix things. Now we could debate over the obvious sexism and bullshit related to all of that, but if he was never required to wash a dish, mop the floor or fold his clothes, then he how would have ever learned? The same goes for those kids. If they never put their laundry in the basket, their coat on the hook, the recycling in the bin, how do they ever deal with life when they’re grown-ass people? These skills don’t magically appear when one becomes 18 and leaves the nest.

I hate the word “chores” to describe basic household tasks that everyone should be required to do. It is not a “chore” to make your bed or wash a bowl. It is not a chore to sweep up a dirt pile or feed the cats. Children, adults, whomever lives in that home together should all perform these tasks. Not only does it equalize the gender roles in the home, but it also teaches everyone how to help each other. Children are just as responsible for their home’s upkeep as anyone else. If they don’t start young, too, then they are ill-equipped to actually take care of themselves later.

9 replies on “Get A Job!”

As the older child of a single parent, I vividly remember mopping the floor when I was nine. I am an all-star when it comes to domestic chores.

My younger sibling, on the other hand, has consciously cultivated a reputation for incompetence. This may be fun at the time, but it can backfire when you’re 22 and your mom thinks you need your older sister’s help to set up a credit card account. Just sayin’.

My mom split the days of the week into “Your Day”. On “Your Day” you had to do the dishes, make coffee, etc. But on “Your Day” you also got to ride in the front seat (Big deal you guys).
We all had our chores, and if we didn’t do them, Momma was not a happy camper.

I’m with you on the “chores” thing, and to add to that, when men say they are “babysitting” their own children. No, dude, you aren’t babysitting, you are caring for the fruit of your loins. You don’t get extra points for that. It should be assumed and expected.

True story: a close guy friend once called me to ask me how to make pasta. Another time to ask me how to do a load of laundry. We were 17/18 at the time. His mom has just always taken care of these things for him. Whereas, my mom, when I decided to be a vegetarian at age 11, told me that I could start cooking for myself if I wasn’t going to eat what she made. When she washed a pair of red overalls with lights and ruined some of my clothes, well, there was another thing I could do for myself if I didn’t like the way she did it. Granted, these things were done out of spite rather than helping me to be an independent person, but I am happy that I at least knew how to take care of myself when I moved out.

As much as I hated the chores at the time, I’m very glad that they were enforced in my house. The consequences were pretty reasonable. For instance, if you didn’t put your laundry where the laundry goes, my mom would never go around the house looking for your stuff. You would just run out of clean clothes.

So now, as an adult, I don’t have a perfect system down, but I know how to do things.

My housemate? Is 40 years old and literally does not know how to mop.

I had Chores, Man, for as long as I can remember. I hated every minute of them, but I accepted that was my part of chipping in as part of the family. My mother once decided I wore ‘too many clothes’ and was from then on to do my own laundry — I think I was about 7.

Fast forward 15 years or so — I’m now the oldest of 4, who are significantly younger than I am (7,9, 18 years younger) and who are all living at home while I have a life 5 hours away. I came home on weekends the year I spent planning my wedding, leaving my night job at 3 am and driving 5 hours straight to Philly, to go to wedding appointments and errands, and eventually getting to go to sleep somewhere around midnight that night. Having dinner with everyone, my father singles me out in front of the family and tells me to build ‘more time into my trip so I could help my mother clean the house when I came home’ in front of my teenaged siblings, who did no chores.

Now that I have my own child, she has chores too, but so do I and so does my husband. We all pitch in, because that’s how it’s fair to everyone.

When I was really little (like 4 or 5) I still remember helping my mom fold the laundry out of the dryer (I was in charge of washcloths) and it was actually fun because I could hang out with my mom but I could keep my hands busy, especially as I got older and helped with sheets and stuff. Even now when I chat with her on the phone I generally sort my laundry or fold or put it all away because it gives my hands something to do.

It should be seen as a teaching moment but also a way to bond, because down the line when you’re older and things get weird at a Thanksgiving dinner, it’s pretty invaluable to retreat to the kitchen to do dishes if only to get some breathing room.

While my mom cooked mostly and did our laundry, she would also show me how to cook some meals for myself, and teach me how to do the laundry, so when I got to college, I knew how to do both those things to take care of myself. She would encourage us to clean up after dinner and help her with clearing the table, though she liked being left alone mostly to do the dishes, like clearing her thoughts. My parents took care of a lot for us, but if we made a mess, we had to clean it, not wait for our parents to do it, and they encouraged independence and self-sufficiency, not to have us babied constantly.

File under: things I wish my parents had done.
My folks were very, very serious about looking the picture of upper-middle class normalcy and success, so they had a cleaning person come weekly since before I was out of diapers. Subsequently I moved out and realized I didn’t know how to do anything.

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