It had been a particularly long day. It was my husband’s birthday, and though both jet lagged and sick with a cold and fever, I woke early to make him his favorite French toast soufflé for a little surprise. Then after I cleaned up breakfast, the girls helped me make a homemade birthday cake. There were loads, and loads, and LOADS of vacation laundry from our trip to Alaska, in between grocery shopping and making a special birthday supper.
After the candles were blown out and the cake was devoured, I looked around the house coughing and sniffling and was in shock. I couldn’t believe over 12 hours later that I was still on my feet cleaning up their mess.
Shoes were strewn across the floor, dirty dinner and cake plates on the table, and the sink was filled with all the dishes I used to cook the feasts of the day. All the while my husband was putting on the golf course in the backyard and the girls were watching TV.
And I cried. Not the ugly cry, just tears of sadness, so I locked myself in the office for a few minutes of quiet.
I wasn’t mad at them, I mean I allow this to happen every day. I was just tired and overwhelmed with the mountain of work still ahead of me, and dumbfounded that no one offered to help me.
That’s when it hit me, I remembered an ABC After-School Special from the 80’s. I used to love watching them with my mom after school in the fall, or while we were decorating the Christmas tree. One of my favorites was when Sarah Jessica Parker’s mom went on strike. Seriously, she pitched a tent in the front yard and refused to do any housework. Like our children, her kids didn’t appreciate her, so she decided to teach them a lesson.
It was genius, and I decided right then I would too.
Of course our girls aren’t teens like in the movie, but at 4 and 7 they are capable of dressing themselves and fixing simple foods. I mean, they could get through a day without me right?c. After I explained what appreciated meant…they said with giggling smiles, “OK!”
Of course it wasn’t quite so easy to understand the next morning. When the whines started, “Mama I’m hungry, get me juuuuuuuuuuiiiiiiiice!, I politely reminded them that I mom was on strike, and they can pour it themselves. When our littlest cried that she might spill, I happily brought her a mop and paper towels and said, “That’s OK! Accidents happen, and when they do you just clean them up!”
Breakfast cereal and nuked pancakes was breeze for the kids, and they even put their plates in the sink when they finished. And then it was time for morning chores. Our littlest loved putting away the silverware, and made her bed without a peep. The sevenTWEEN year old though was tired of the new arrangement and had had enough.
She huffed to her room yelling, “This is too muuuuuuch WORK!!! I’m tired!” After she slammed her door and pouted for a good 30 minutes we had a little talk. She was reminded of her chores and actually did all of them (with the threat of losing her iPad), including the litterbox. Not with a smile of course, there was plenty of muttering under her breath, but they were completed.
When snack time came I told them they were on their own, so they grabbed some fruit from the fridge and an approved snack from our snack cabinet. I keep the girl’s snacks, cups, bowls, and plates in a lower cabinet so they can easily serve themselves. Lunch was pretty easy too, it consisted of bread with jelly, carrots, goldfish and some lunchmeat. Not bad for two resourceful little girls!
Luckily since I wasn’t feeling well, my husband came home early from work and took the girls to eat and to a movie, so I was off the hook for two whole hours!
The purpose of this exercise was to enlighten our family on how much moms (and dads!) have to do every single day. I am surprised with how willingly our girls took on so many chores, and at their eventual compassion for how tired I was feeling. I even received the sweetest apology note from our seven year old who now totally appreciates all I do, and says she wants to help more. (We’ll see…)
So mamas, if you too are feeling underappreciated and overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to stage your own little strike. You don’t have to make picket signs, unless you want to. But you just might learn something about yourself, and your kids.
“Do not do for your child, what they can do for themselves.”
Kristen Hewitt is a two-time Emmy Award Winning Reporter and Host for Fox Sports SUN and the Miami HEAT, and writes a the parenting and lifestyle blog called mommy in SPORTS. Her work can also be seen on The Huffington Post, Bundoo, She Knows, Scary Mommy, to name a few, or you can
follow her on Facebook &Twitter. Kristen’s favorite job though is raising her two daughters. She tries to teach them to live every day with grace, gratitude, love…and a lot of laughs!