We had some tremendous upheaval here at the house a couple weeks ago.
The maid quit.
Just like that. No two week notice or anything.
She was gathering up dirty dishes off of the table, picking up toys off the floor, listening to the sound of the kids playing upstairs, and she just quit. Called all the kids into the living room and announced it right then.
“Guess what, kids, the maid is quitting.”
“The one you call ‘Mom.’ That maid. No more cleaning up your dirty dishes or doing all the housework myself. I quit.”
“But, Mom, that’s your job!!”
“No, my precious children, it’s not. I’m pretty certain that God has given me talents and priorities that don’t involve spending all of my time picking up after you.”
See, downsizing and simplifying our lives had an unintended consequence: It is technically possible for me to keep up with all of the housecleaning by myself. It takes pretty much all of my available time, but it is possible. And that’s what I had been doing since we moved in. The kids needed a break from the stress of having a house on the market followed by a big move, so I took over the things that they would normally do around the house.
After a while, I found myself a little resentful of the attitudes they were developing. The fewer chores they had, the more they whined about them. They were feeling entitled to any service that they thought I should be performing for them at any given time. And when I started to think, as a friend of mine said, that I should just wear a t-shirt that said “STAFF” on the front, I asked myself, “Now whose fault is that?”
I’m the one who’s responsible to set the chores in our home. A good manager delegates. A good mom wants to see her kids develop diligence and a strong work ethic. Human beings aren’t known for working hard without at least a little shove in the right direction. We’d all rather play than work.
So we had to get back on track. There was some grumbling to begin with, but we’re starting to get into a routine. The chore chart, revised to reflect the new house, went back up and I reinstated the “no whining about chores” rule. I included the kids in the process so that they’d have some ownership in it. And, yes, I pay for chores. I’ve found that having monetary incentive gives me the leverage I need to make sure the stuff actually gets done. With no whining. (I really hate whining.)
It’s impressive, actually, how much kids can do if you just expect it of them. Carsten, at five, keeps up with the big kids at chore time.
I try hard to cultivate a team mentality when it comes to chores. We’re all in this together. It’s our house. It’s our responsibility. I think it’s important for kids to understand that they have a role to play. It gives them a sense of worth and purpose. They may not always like their jobs, but they’re learning the sense of accomplishment that comes from diving in and doing it anyway.
I’ll be honest. There are days- many days- where it would be a lot easier to do it myself. I could “do everything around here” and then complain to my friends about it. I wouldn’t have to spend time convincing a three year old that he is indeed capable of putting ALL of the toys in the bin. I wouldn’t have to mete out consequences for whining. And the house might be just a tad cleaner.
One of my friends teaches a (really fantastic) workshop called“Managers Not Martyrs.” It’s all about the importance of being a good manager of the home. Her title is more spiritual than “The Maid Quits” but it’s the same concept. It’s a parent’s job not to do everything for our kids, but to train our children to work and do things well.
It’s harder to teach that than it used to be. We like to read aloud and listen to audiobooks, and my children and I are continually impressed by how HARD kids used to work. The Little House books and the Little Britches series are great examples. Those kids milked cows, churned butter, helped build things, plowed fields, pitched hay. It’s amazing.
We’re blessed to live a life of convenience and comfort, but it’s important to remember that what our kids do today will shape their expectations of the future.
When they move out on their own, I’m pretty certain there won’t be a maid.