I ask very little of my boys (ages 6, 9, and 12) in terms of chores around the house. This is partly because you’re only a kid once and should enjoy it….and partly because when I ask them to do things, I often wish I had done them myself.
But I also believe in responsibility and independence. My mother never let my brother and me do household tasks. Her visions of overflowing washing machines, broken dinner plates, and untucked bed corners were too much to bear.
My house now is not as tidy as the one I grew up in. I’m trying to make my kids more self-reliant and maybe get a little help keeping the house from looking like an MLB locker room post championship celebration.
Responsibilities include making their beds in the morning, putting dishes in the sink and clothes in the hamper, and keeping their rooms neat.
My reasonable requests are routinely ignored. Every time I look in their rooms after they’ve gone off to school all smiley and cute, and I see their crumpled bed sheets and the floor littered with wet towels and dirty socks and underwear, I fume.
Why is it so difficult to do so little? Do they know how hard kids in other parts of the world work? Kids who have no home to clean or food to eat?
This line of reason is usually met with blank faces. “Here she goes again,” they’re thinking. “I’ll just stare at her until the noise coming out of her mouth stops.”
Recently, I got so infuriated by the indifference, I decided to go on strike. I sat them down on a Sunday night and told them very calmly (I might have even been smug) that since they weren’t respecting my rules and fulfilling their family obligations, I was going to stop making their lunches and cleaning their rooms for a week.
While they could too easily live in an unkempt room, losing lunch making was rough. Nine-year-old Aden and six-year-old Eli like buying lunch twice a week but there are many school meals they don’t enjoy, so they prefer I make custom lunches most days. 12-year-old Jacob has not purchased lunch once this year because the line takes too long, cutting into his socializing. So losing me as their sous chef was a blow.
On Monday morning, when I entered the kitchen beaming, Jacob asked me incredulously if I was serious about my strike.
Forced to make their own lunches in the morning, there was less complaining and bitterness because I was not being ordered around like a servant and they were learning how challenging it is to make lunches come together quickly. (Since Eli’s only six and mostly has good intentions when it comes to cleaning up, I “helped” him make his lunch on the few days he didn’t buy.)
By the end of the week, all beds were made and rooms neat. They even accessorized pillows with stuffed animal displays, taking pride in their housework.
But more important than the order, was the satisfaction of taking back the power. My boys were humbled.
It’s been several weeks since Mommy Strike 2012 and order has been restored to our land. We all learned some lessons, but the takeaway was: don’t mess with the Mom or you’ll get the chores.
Brooke Lefferts is a freelance journalist, wife, mother, and pop culture addict. A former producer for ABC and Fox News, her news and feature stories have appeared on foxnews.com, the huffingtonpost, Yahoo, thefrisky.com, cafemom, and several AOL/Patch sites.
Brooke has three boys who have made her an expert in playroom clean up negotiations, exceeding grocery budgets, and speaking at parent-teacher conferences. When not watching TV or looking for lost socks and overdue library books, she blogs about family life and pop culture at carpoolcandy.com.