I won’t be winning mother-of-the-year award anytime soon.
And I am far from having a beautiful, always-clean home.
And I don’t want one.
And I could never achieve that standard even if I did.
And I am not the infamous Tiger-mother kind, who wants her kids to perform at Carnegie Hall or collect sports trophies or go to Ivy League.
However – I do believe that one of my most important tasks as a mother is to teach my kids to complete their assigned tasks (usually practical, physical ones), complete them reasonably well, and in a relatively timely fashion.
It is not an easy fight, but an important one, and this is why:
If children learn how to work, they will be able to do anything they want.
Obviously, my kids are young, and their list of age-appropriate chores is relatively short, especially in the household that also places high value on free, imaginative play. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any.
This is something they do with the greatest regularity:
Unsurprisingly, this is also something they do best – pick up the two rooms that comprise their play space at the end of each day (they vacuum, too).
I don’t feel like it’s a lot to ask, given that they spend all day playing and approximately half-an-hour to forty-five minutes picking up. I think it’s just right.
In addition, I often ask them to help out with food-processing, baby, and laundry-related tasks, although less regularly. Here is what else my daugther can do (note that everything involving the baby, the stove, or sharp objects is done exclusively under my close supervision):
- change a wet diaper on a baby (though not a poopy one)
- dress her 3-year-old brother (if he’s not running away)
- do dishes (although I don’t ask her to do that often)
- wash produce
- cut vegetables
- turn on the stove and soft-boil an egg
- fold, sort, and put away her own laundry (though I usually just fold it all myself and have her do the latter two tasks)
- fold, sort, and put away kitchen towels, washcloths, and cloth napkins
- make her own sandwiches for lunch
- feed the baby
- dress the baby
- sweep the floor (this one is on the harder side)
I’ve got proof:
Here is what my three-year-old son can do:
- spread his own bread with butter
- feed the baby
- cut produce
This isn’t easy, and it often requires more effort than simply doing the tasks myself (which is why I don’t try to have them help me with everything), but it is what you’d call “fighting the good fight.” Not because of what it can do for me (well, a little), but because of what it can do for them. I figured, if they can stick with picking up the living room, it gets them that much closer to being able to stick with school homework, college prep, higher-education- and workplace demands, and so on.
But make no mistake – this is not some sort of Cinderella model. Most of the day they do things like this:
And watch Mighty Machines and Thomas the Tank Engine.
Not all at the same time.
In the end of the day, it’s all about striking the right balance.