On Chores and Housework

Growing up in my family, children were expected to do their chores. Rinse dishes and put them into the dishwasher. Make a bed. Put away toys. As we got older, we were responsible for cleaning bathrooms, or whole spaces of the house. Sometimes we were paid, sometimes not. Sometimes we actually did them, sometimes not (I’m not sure if that was related to being paid). While we were expected to do chores, it wasn’t a major point of stress for us. I think because my Mom was pretty laid back about it; if we got them done, great, if not, well, the bathroom might stay dirty if she didn’t have time to clean it (and, once we were teenagers, we really did want a clean bathroom). There was no staying home to do chores. No missing out on birthday parties or spontaneous play dates (the only kind we had in the ‘old days’). I had friends that did have mothers that enforced chores this way. I felt sorry for them. I really think that my mom valued time spent outside or in creative play or wrapped up in a good book over a perfectly clean house. I have to say, I agree. I mean, there is something to be said for a clean house. Obviously. And our house was never filthy. Because we did clean. Because we fit it into our schedules. We weren’t forced to spot clean every inch of the house. Often my mom would make up games for us, to encourage the cleaning. She had a laid-back, kid friendly approach to cleaning. She didn’t do it all for us.

I didn’t always appreciate that we had to clean up our own messes (obviously, very few people enjoy cleaning). One time, I told my mom that the only reason she had four kids was so that we could do all the housework for her. THAT WAS THE STUPIDEST STATEMENT I HAVE EVER MADE. Yes, my mom had kids to clean up all her stuffed animals, American Girl doll stuff, and books that SHE had thrown all over the house. She had kids to clean up after HER rousing games of “Mess the Room.” Pause. I must explain “Mess the Room.” Mess the Room is a game that we would play where we would go into the family room,  chanting “mess the room, mess the room, mess the rooooommmmmm,” while throwing every single Barbie, stuffed animal, lego, Playmobile piece, block, doll, and any other object that had the misfortune of being in the room at the time. The worst part? We usually did this right after she had painstakingly cleaned the entire family room, taking an entire evening that she could have spent watching 90210 or Friends. I have some serious guilt about this game, which has only gotten worse since I’ve become a mom. I honestly don’t remember my mom yelling at us after playing “Mess the Room.” I don’t remember tears or anger. I think my mother might be a saint. If my children EVER do something like this, you can bet there will be a whole lot of tears, followed by an afternoon of time-outs, while I eat every piece of chocolate in the house, while crying on the phone to my mom. The point? NO PARENT HAS CHILDREN TO DO CHORES FOR THEM. It is much cheaper and easier to hire someone, and without said children, the house would not be a mess.

In closing, I would like to say Rose (and any other children I may have) will be expected to clean. But, just like I was as a child, they will be allowed to play, and play will always come first. Unless it is “Mess the Room,” in which case, they will be sentenced to a lifetime of cleaning the grime out of the bathroom tiles for ever even thinking of that damn game. But, seriously, children really have so little time to be children. To be creative and play, and read kids’ books, and not be afraid of getting dirty. They will have the rest of their lives to clean and do dishes and fold laundry. Let them be little. Let them be children. But still; teach them to clean.


2 thoughts on “On Chores and Housework

  1. Oooooo, “mess the room”! Here’s how I remember it….

    You usually played this when you had friends over, and it was usually the kids that lived in houses that were a little, um, more rigid (?) about kids/play/cleaning/their decor. “Mess the room” actually did not pass my play-time/clean-time test. It was quick to do and took forever to clean. But, it worked in a few other ways: 1) The kids who didn’t get to make huge messes got a chance to do so; 2) You didn’t actually like it to stay messy, and I usually did make you help clean it; 3) Whenever I cleaned that room, I worked with a garbage bag and a donation box. So, #2 meant you didn’t do it often, and #3 meant it was just a bigger opportunity to get rid of stuff. In the end, it was a win/win/win, if not immediately visible as such. I did think it was a little disrespectful of your belongings, but I believe that you actually felt that without me pointing it out to you…

    I’m so glad that my cleaning goals were actually met! I believe you rather stated all of them: 1) Children need to be taught how to do chores; 2) Children are part of the family and share responsibility for caring for their environment; 3) Life is to be lived and can take precedence over a rigid cleaning schedule; 4) People are more important than things, and relationships matter.

    Oh, and, yup, I lessened the nagging enforcement of bathroom cleaning when you were teenagers. I didn’t use your bathroom, so its mess was your problem! It was dirtier than I liked, but I tried not to look…

    • Yeah… you’re crazy. I think mess the room was the worst thing we did to you until we became teenagers. But, I do remember certain friends really liking mess the room.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s