***This is the first post in a series called Quit Your Job as the Maid. Post 2
A couple of Sundays ago, I was frantically trying to clean up what looked like a recent tornado touchdown in my tiny little house because I absolutely hate starting the week in a disaster zone. My husband and kids were sitting on the couch, watching a movie together while I resentfully paraded in and out of the living room carrying everything from orange peels to dirty socks to broken toys. Every time I said, “Hey, are you guys going to help me?!” Without looking up my 4-year-old son would say, “With what mom?” Then my husband would look at me blankly, “What’s left?” My 2-year-old daughter would mutter, “Kween up mom?”
Yes, I wanted to say. Yes, mommy is cleaning up because nobody else seems to care. If I don’t do it, it will never get done. And while you all get to sit and watch a movie on a lazy Sunday evening, I get to run circles around this house putting crap away, wiping up sticky messes, and vacuuming up clumps of dog hair. How delightful!
Yeah I know, I sound a little immature. But isn’t there more to being a mother than just cooking and cleaning? It’s easy to get mad at my husband (however, to his everlasting credit, he helps me out A LOT) but I can’t forget that my kids are every bit as capable as I am at putting their toys away and their dirty clothes in the hamper.
“Never do for a Child, what a Child can do for himself.” –Rudolf Dreikurs
How did I get here?
Let’s get real. We suddenly look down at ourselves and realize we have become the maid, complete with frilly little apron. We want to blame our husband or even the kids but if we’re truly honest, it’s really our fault. Nobody strapped that apron on us, we tied it ourselves.
A few years ago, I found a gem of a book called, “Duct Tape Parenting” by Vicki Hoefle. It totally aligns with my beliefs on parenting and the fact that we aren’t only loving and caring for our children (although that is obviously a crucial part), we’re trying to teach them how to become responsible and successful adults.
Most of us didn’t purposefully take on the job as maid. Vicki (do you think she minds I’m calling her by her first name?) shows us there are 4 main reasons, attached to false beliefs, that we end up strapping that apron on without even realizing it.
Belief #1: Kids just want, and deserve, to have fun
I think sometimes we take on the role as maid because we think it is just part of motherhood. We want our kids’ childhoods to be magical and filled with adventure. They’ll have plenty of time to clean up and be responsible when they’re adults, but let’s let them be children.
While I am all for magical childhoods filled with adventure, I am also an advocate for teaching children to work. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Part of being a good mother is teaching your children skills. If you don’t teach them when they’re young, it will be infinitely harder for them to learn when they’re older.
Let’s not be a martyr. Doing everything for our kids isn’t making their childhood more magical, it’s making them feel entitled, ungrateful, and incapable of taking care of themselves. It’s making us feel resentful, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Let’s do away with this belief and embrace the truth of teaching our children invaluable skills. Childhood will still be magical and now, adulthood will be manageable.
Belief #2 I’m faster, better, neater, and a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s just easier if I do everything
I think we’ve probably all had this kind of a moment. You tell your kids to clean the bathroom and you go in to do your business and can’t help but notice all the filth they missed. So you go back over everything they did and come to the conclusion that it’s just better if you do this kind of stuff.
Or you’re running late and instead of taking the time to let your little one tie his own shoes, you just do it for him. Believe me, I’m totally guilty of this. Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the fight to get your kids to pick up their messes, it’s just easier to do it yourself after they go to bed.
The problem is our kids end up feeling like we don’t trust them to make good decisions or we don’t think they are capable. How many times a day do you hear your toddler say, “I can do it!” If we deny them this learning period, they will never get it back. There’s a reason our kids want to be independent and we need to allow them that. It’s important for them to develop their own tastes and preferences, not just what works for us.
Belief #3 If my kids don’t look good, behave politely, play fair, and do the right thing all the time, I’ll look like a slacker parent with loser kids
We have pictures of me when I was little, dressed in all kinds of nonsense. My grandma used to call me, “garberetta.” A staple in my wardrobe was slips; of all sorts. I would wear them like dresses with underwear as a fancy hat. I remember fighting with my mom constantly, about what I wore and how I did my hair. I was curling my hair, with a curling iron, by age 3.
Now I have a little boy-me, his name is Misa. From the time he could walk, he wanted to dress himself. He insists on things like “little pants” (meaning, they can’t be long enough to touch the floor) and all sorts of character costumes. He wants me to draw “whiskers” on his face with my eyeliner pencil and before he goes with his dad to feed the horses, you better bet on him wearing every single article of clothing or accessory that resembles a cowboy.
In the beginning, I fought with him and tried to teach him how to match and the fact that hiked up pants that don’t reach your ankles look ridiculous. I tried to explain that we don’t wear costumes to the store, that being an alligator hunter complete with shorts, cowboy boots, gardening gloves, and a cowboy hat was something we played at home and not when we’re out in public.
Suddenly it occurred to me, am I worried about him looking ridiculous or me looking ridiculous for letting him wear all that garb? It was clear that he didn’t care what people thought, not even what I thought! So I let it go. This kid has his own sense of style and it is constantly evolving. He has now learned how to comb his own hair. I try to ignore the fact that it’s all combed in different directions and standing straight up in the back because he thinks he looks handsome. So be it. I’m not going to fuss over him, or my house for that matter, just to avoid dirty looks or judgmental glares from strangers.
When we are constantly worried about how other people see us, or our kids, we are implicitly teaching our children that other people’s views and opinions about us are more important than our own. We are teaching them that appearances are everything. How do you think that will play out when it comes to peer pressure? How do you think it makes them feel that we fuss over them and are trying to mold them into what we think they should be instead of who they really are? If the only reason we clean our house is to appear clean when we have visitors, I don’t think our kids are ever going to get it.
Belief #4: I don’t want my child to grow up and not want me around, so I’ll just make sure she needs me enough
There is nothing like the feeling of being needed. I have distinct memories of holding my babies and breathing in their absolute innocence and knowing I am 100% responsible for this little human being. I woke up multiple times a night to nurse and rock my babies, change their diapers, and sing to them softly.
The thing is, my babies aren’t babies anymore. While they still depend on me, they are becoming more and more independent everyday. On one hand, it’s kind of nice to not have to be counted on for every little task. On the other hand, it kind of breaks my heart to see they need me a little less every day.
However, it would be completely selfish of me to impede them from learning and growing just because I need to feel needed. I think it’s totally understandable how this kind of thing happens but it’s imperative that we see it for what it is and stop ourselves in our tracks before we sabotage our children’s growth.
Children will always need their mother, especially if that mother has taught them to believe in themselves. It is a totally irrational fear to think our children won’t come around when they’re older unless we keep them shackled by keeping them incapable.
If we continue with this kind of thought process and continue to do for our kids what they can do for themselves, we will hinder their growth and they will become resentful. It will get to the point that they will either rebel or become incapable of making decisions on their own. Do we want our kids to be willing to sabotage their own happiness in order to keep mom happy? I certainly doubt it.
Why should I quit?
“You can be the maid or you can be emotionally available to your children, but you can’t do both.” –Vicki Hoefle
I know that it is much more important to me that my children know they can talk to me, that I love and care about them, than it is to have my house clean.
Not only that, I want my children to grow up to be responsible, capable adults and those kinds of skills are not often taught in formal education. It is my responsibility to teach my children how to survive in the real world. It starts at home.
Kids want to be self-sufficient, feel capable, and take ownership of their lives. They want to be responsible but if we aren’t letting them because we’re being the ultimate “Helicopter Mom” meaning we’re constantly hovering around them and checking up on everything, they’re just going to get frustrated.
I want to live in a balanced home where everybody knows how to contribute, in their own way. I want my children to learn how to care for themselves and pick up their messes. This will allow them to learn and allow me to take a breather in order to ensure I am more patient, open-minded, and loving to my children.
What changes will I make?
This month on the blog, I am focusing on quitting our job as the maid. Each Monday I will be sharing more thoughts on this subject and how to actually execute a plan in order to teach and motivate our kids to help with the housework. Everybody’s situation is different depending on the number of children we have, their different ages and developmental stages, as well as how our home is set up. However, the techniques we will be talking about can be used with all children, no matter what age.
If you want to get the book “Duct Tape Parenting” and read chapters 3 and 8 on this subject, it will be most helpful. The entire book is great but these two chapters are genius when it comes to teaching our children how to care for themselves and keeping us from going insane!
I know I am always searching for ways to be a better mother. Not because I feel like I’m a terrible one, but because my children are my responsibility and I only get this one shot at guiding and leading them into adulthood. I hate to let trivial things, like a clean house, get in the way of spending time with them or listening to them when they want to talk.
One day while vacuuming my kitchen, my son, who was only a year old at the time, came in the kitchen holding a book and said, “Mommy! Weed!” At first I said, “Just a minute buddy, let me finish vacuuming…” Then I looked at his little angel face and immediately turned off the vacuum, scooped him up, and we went to his room to cuddle on the rocking chair and read a book. I don’t EVER want housework to get in the way of making memories with my children.
That being said, I also know that my anxiety level goes waaaayyyy down when my house is clean. I feel like a better person all around and have more patience in general. However, it isn’t my sole responsibility to keep my house clean all the time, I need to share the love and allow my children to learn in the process. I hope you’ll try it too!
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Am I the only one who is like this? What does housework look like at your house? Do your children help? Is it a screaming fight or do they do it willingly?