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I was fortunate or unfortunate (depending on the way you look at it) to have parents who weren’t watching my every move, scheduling my activities or even doing my homework with me.  They really only jumped in when something appeared to be wrong.  Other than that, I was left to my own devices to do what I wanted to do..to a point that is.

I did have to contribute to the household by doing chores such as cleaning the kitchen after dinner, doing the clothes washing, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and even ironing my parents work clothes.  I didn’t have to do all of that every week of course, it was spread around and rotated through me and my 3 sisters.  We didn’t like doing it but we did it.

As a parent, I have brought that into my own home.  It took some negotiation to achieve but in the end I have stuck to my commitment to ensure that neither I or Tony (hubby) are solely responsible for the household running.  I just couldn’t give so much of my time to doing all of that work plus run the kids around, shop, work, run a business etc without exploding.  I need time for me!

Something had to give..  I remember the conversation well because I called a family meeting and explained my feelings about having too much to do and owned my own frustration at what little some members did (I didn’t point fingers).  Of course the first reaction was to tell me not to do so much, who cared if the house was clean blah blah blah..  I explained that our house needs to be run smoothly, chores need to be done and we needed to work as a team to achieve that.  I was happy to let some mess slide, but not for it to back up into piles.  I told the kids how I felt about having to do it all, that I didn’t like resenting them, that I wanted to enjoy our family time together and make even more of it and we couldn’t do that if both Tony and I were running around cleaning, cooking, shopping and playing taxi.

Well Ben (my teenager at the time) didn’t like it, I could tell by the look on his face, he wasn’t happy.  Jaymie (who was probably around 6 years old at the time) started offering to do jobs way out of her league (bless her) and Tony started to problem solve.  But the first thing I knew I had to get was their agreement that it was fairer to share the work around and that we needed to work as a team.

With a bit of listening to Ben’s concerns and allowing him to voice his fears about being bogged down with chores everyday along with homework, he came around when he realised he wouldn’t be our slave.  We tried a few various ways of doing chores lists and rosters, (swapping those chores we didn’t like with others) and we had a number of follow on conversations when things didn’t happen.  In the end the result was that the whole family contributes to keeping the house running, the veggie patch loaded and the animals seen to.

When I spoke to everyone with respect for their views and didn’t try to take away their dignity by enforcing rules, the result worked.  I had cooperation!

Now that was sometime ago now, Ben’s left the nest and he left it with the ability to cook, do his washing, ironing and clean a house (so he makes a great person to share with).  In the end, I’ve empowered him.  Some of his friends had to learn from scratch or get girlfriends who were willing (suckers) to do that for them.

As I’ve travelled this parenting pathway, I’ve watched many friends and even family members go through the same struggles with giving so much of themselves, spending much of their time doing chores and such and in the end resenting the kids, the hubby and even the dog for being one more burden.
When you give too much, you empty yourself, you feel resentful while they sit and relax, call you for a drink or to play games or ask to go out.  It’s at that point you generally snap and start yelling at them.  They look surprised or react with their own anger and BAM! you’re into a fight.  Whether it’s your kids or husband, it does not make for family or relationship bliss.

If you take the time to negotiate a better outcome and fair spread of the work and keep the conversation going about it at a reasonable (no snarling please) and respectable way (just like you have to negotiate with adults), you’ll have a better chance at making it a long-term change.

I do bring drinks to my daughter, make her a snack or help her with her homework.  And I love it!  I can do that because I don’t have to do everything else around the house.  It goes both ways too.  They make me a drink or invite me to watch a movie and I can, I have time.

That’s not to say there’s not some resentment from them about doing the housework.

I remember my son saying to me (while he was doing his ironing) “You know mum, other guys at my age still have their ironing done by their mum”.  He said it with a smile, so I know it was a little bit of a bait to see what I’d say.  My reply was “Well isn’t it good that you’ll know how to look after yourself when you do move out of home and you won’t be dependent on me to do your ironing”  I said with a smile back.  He just laughed.

I remember the only struggle I had when I left home was in knowing how to cook a meal.  My mum was the owner of her kitchen and we really didn’t get to play in her area unless it was making dad something sweet on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon (when she wasn’t in there).  So when I kept ringing mum to ask how to cook something, she ended up sending me this massive Women’s Weekly cookbook which tells you how to do everything.  I still have it!  Now, most of my cooking is done from feel and taste as a result of lots of experimentation, but still, I won’t let that cookbook go. My kids have used it on occasion to cook something from.  Perhaps I’ll give book to my daughter when she decides to fly the coop..

Give a man a fish and he eats for the day, teach him how to fish and he’ll feed himself forever.

Are you giving too much?

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