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.