A House(work) at War

The kitchen floor detests my mop;
It’s been on strike all year.
The great room carpet, as you see,
Has developed vacuum fears.

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Meanwhile, the toilets, yellowed raw
Fear brush and boy alike;
While nearby sink and faucet friends
See sponge and yell out, “Yikes!”

The piles and piles (and piles) upstairs
Of clothes shy from my hand.
Our blankets, sheets, and pillowed beds
Won’t lay as I demand.

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And so, you see, oh dearest spouse
I’ve tried hard as hard can be.
One simply cannot fight a house
Nor law of entropy.

 

Photo Credit:
The Creative Exchange
Tracey Hocking

Just Don’t Buy It?

Toys are so overrated. And expensive. And messy!

The kids play with them for about five hours less than the time they play with the box it came in. Our stomachs growl in hunger for the lunch we skipped to pay for that toy (and its box). Then, to add insult to injury, we find the toy and its brothers everywhere.

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And so, I have concluded that we need to no longer fund this operation. My husband decided that long ago, and continually reminds me of this resolve every time he has to walk in the house.

I’ll hear his voice from the boys’ rooms: Who left all these Legos on the floor! We need to put these all away till they learn to clean up!

Then there was the time of The Battle of the Art Cupboard. I’d hear everything from, Who painted the floor? to Who didn’t clean up after his papier-mâché? to Why is there confetti all over?

I tried. Sort-of. I limited birthdays and Christmases to number and cost. I encouraged thrift and order. I devoted about a decade to teaching (yelling at) our miniature houseguests the meaning of “Clean up.” I cleaned on my own; again and again and again.

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In frustration, I moved most of the mess out of general sight and set up a toy room in our unfinished basement.

As my husband and I snuggled in to immediately fall asleep all romantic-like, he said, We need to keep the kids’ toys in their closets. The basement is getting too messy.

Photo Credits:
Markus Spiske
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Get Those Lazy Kids Working

My kids do not like to do chores. I can’t blame them, because I’m in a similar boat.

But I’ve noticed that boat gets rather dingy and near-sinking when the entire crew gives into laziness. Whether the surly crew likes it or no, they live here. They keep eating in the mess hall, pooping on the deck, and shredding the rigging.

Now, to my credit, I’ve had my kids do work around the house since they were big enough to reach the dishwasher and not fall over. Mostly that was because they were already ‘helping’ with any cleaning I tried to do -but I ran with it.

The inspiration for today’s advice comes from an odd idea I formed at the start of this school year: that they shouldn’t have housework because they had schoolwork to worry about.

My boys still had weekend housework jobs, of course, but nothing on the weekdays.

For months I saw them come home, tell me they didn’t have homework, then laze around until computer time (also monitored and restricted, thank you very much).

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We-e-e-e-e-ell, it turns out that I got terribly overwhelmed, resentful, irritated, etc. I also had no time for me, even not counting the times I snuck off to my (messy) closet to type up advice I don’t follow.

It turns out they are more than capable of doing some work after school, especially if they have to finish said work before playing.

I guess this post has two pieces of advice, then.

Let them work; it’s good for everyone.

and

Never underestimate the power of a video game.

You’re welcome.

So You Wanna Help a Mother, Do Ya?

-Mothers have a tough job.

-I have never worked so hard in my life as I did as a stay-at-home-mother.

-Motherhood is underrated, undervalued, and underappreciated.

-If you added up the salaries of every job a mother does, you still wouldn’t compensate her for a day’s work.

-I know I couldn’t do it.

I’ve heard a few commiserating comments about motherhood in my day. They’re scattered here and there amongst the glares when my children scream, or the *tsk* *tsk* looks when I reprimand the screaming, or the slight lift of nose-in-air as they walk by with their dressed and not-brawling children.

When I’ve had brain and time to think, however, I can’t help but wonder: if motherhood is so great, why don’t you do it? You could all support it, at least.

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Instead, I feel abandoned. I feel I sit in the muddy gutter of life with my little, half-me guttersnipes and get shown exactly what the negative voice inside says:

-Your children are monsters, and it’s because of you.

-The house is a mess; guess who gets to clean it forevermore?

-Don’t raise your kids this waythat way, or -for heaven’s sake!- that other way or you will screw up their entire future.

-Besides raising decent humans, keeping floors spotless, maintaining bills, finding everyone’s lost pants, and feeding the local inhabitants; you must also be cheerful, inspirational, encouraging, loving, and a whole person.

-If you are sad and depressed, it’s because you simply don’t believe in you.

Some parents (again, with brain and time to think) lobby for government support to fill the gaps. They ask for extended maternity leaves, an in-home nanny, free preschool, and childcare centers at workplaces. That’s all well and good and job-saving, but is not the real answer.

The real answer is always more difficult. It’s not a bill to pass nor a wad of money to throw. I believe the answer is a need for actual, hands-on, real-life support.

Think about my idea in relation to other problems that don’t go away with a friendly comment; like needing help with moving house, requiring an organ donation, or being trapped beneath a fallen timber at a logging camp. Does it help that poor lumberjack for his workmates to pass by, smile in commiseration, and say, “Been there, mate. Bit of a rough spot, eh?,” and keep walking?

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In the same way, it does little to tell a mother who is struggling to restrain her toddler at the grocery store that, “Mothers have a tough job.” I think she’s aware of it at that point.

I don’t mean to make anyone feel too shy to speak up at all. Instead, I suggest alternate reactions based on what a few, kind souls have actually done for me:

If commenting is your thing; try what an older couple did. A grandmotherly woman and her husband approached me in the grocery store and said, “You are a wonderful mother. You may not feel like it some days, but I know it and I know your boys know it.”

Another time, a fellow mom came up to me in the parking lot while I was putting children and groceries into the car. “Can I take your shopping cart for you?” she asked. Receiving a nod since I couldn’t manage much else, she smiled and pushed hers and mine over to the return.

Twice now when we were on vacation, an older man at the breakfast table near ours said something like, “What fine boys you are! I’ll bet you help your mom out, don’t you?” Then, he dug into his wallet and handed each of my boys a silver dollar.

Not only have these behaviors actually improved my spirits and helped me to feel supported, they have been examples to my children. There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child; one that many people look over in these technological times. Thing is, that adage is still true. As much as I try to micromanage my children’s behavior, they simply do not listen to only me. Sometimes they do not listen to me at all.

Occasionally a boy will come home, bursting with a lesson taught at school, on fire with how it’s changed his thinking. It’s a lesson I’ve tried to hammer into his head before -but do I resent the teacher for it? A bit. Still, it’s more than worth biting my tongue because my son learned it.

If you want to support a mother, do so. Oftentimes we parents are hesitant to receive help because of child-molester fears or judging-my-parenting fears. Don’t worry; start small. Work on turning the judgy face into a sincere smile. Think about offering a hand or an honest compliment. Remember your own childhood or your own children.

And, if you’re feeling really generous, I’m open for that in-home nanny or wad of cash as well.

 

Photo Credits:
Sharon McCutcheon
Luz Fuertes
Markus Spiske