Chores. The word falls with a clunk from the tongue. It is neither romantic nor poetic. When we describe something as a chore, we say it with deep, heavy sighs and dramatic eye rolling.
“Oh, that was such a chore.” The word is just not endearing.
And yet, chores are a daily reality. I have read many mommies who eloquently throw off the oppression of chores for the better task of child-rearing. With them, I wholly embrace my children as my first priority, right behind my Savior and my husband. What I don’t understand, though, is how chores, also not-so-affectionately known as housework, and child-rearing became mutually exclusive. At what point did it become noble to neglect the tasks of homemaking in order to dote on the kids all day?
Please don’t misunderstand. I LOVE my kids. I LOVE being with my kids. I LOVE playing with my kids. I LOVE caring for my kids. I LOVE taking my kids places, both for activities they participate in and family outings. I cringe at the messages we send our children when we refuse to spend time with them or ignore their needs in order to complete our daily to-do lists. People are more important than agendas. Who wouldn’t agree with that?
And yet, there’s a problem. We need clean dishes and clean underwear. In order to have these things, someone has to clean them. Like actually, physically clean them. That someone is usually Mom. Yes, the kids can help, and they do, but honestly, even in a house where the labor is well divided, as it is in ours, Mom still does the most. It’s just reality. That’s okay. It’s part of the job. I did sign up for this, after all.
I just wonder, what am I teaching my kids if I always put off the chores till later? As I like to remind them when they want to put off their chores until later, the problem with later is that it never comes. It is always NOW, and there is always something else I’d rather be doing NOW.
When a grown-up is being whiny and demanding, we say (or least think) things like, “Don’t be such a child.” We don’t mean it as a compliment. But when children are whiny and demanding, we imagine that it must be because we are neglecting their needs, and the oppressive beast called Mommy Guilt tugs our heartstrings away from the responsibilities of everyday life.
Of course, we want to meet our children’s needs. We should meet our children’s needs. But what are we teaching them when we immediately drop everything every time they have a need? Because, let’s be honest, children ALWAYS have needs. They have needs 24 hours a day. And they want them to be met.
TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY.
Child-rearing naturally varies across time, cultures, and families. But something that has morphed into this ugly child-rearing monster of oppressive Mommy Guilt is the belief that our primary role as parents is ensuring our children’s immediate comfort and happiness. The Bible has a lot to say about child-rearing, but I am telling you, I can’t find a primary concern for their happiness anywhere.
In generations past, children came alongside their parents to learn life skills, help the family, and learn a future trade. I am not longing for the “good old days.” I know better than that. But I do humbly submit that parents then got something right that we are getting horribly wrong now. The children were part of the family, and were expected to work for the good of the family. The children were not the center of the family universe.
Spending time with our children doesn’t always have to center around doing what they want to do, just as completing the daily tasks of life doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to happen without them. Family time can be productive, bonding, and beneficial to the children when it is spent making dinner, doing dishes, washing windows, cleaning the yard, washing the car, or doing whatever else needs to be done, and can be done together. We already know this, of course. We all agree with this concept in theory, because we all lament the entitlement attitudes that pervade our culture. But we have to remember that the children feel entitled because they believe they are entitled.
Who taught them this?
We did. We congratulated them for showing up and rewarded them for participating.
In order to change the pervading culture, we have to change our own little cultures. The cultures in our own homes.
The best part?
When our family cultures naturally expect our children to contribute to the good of the family, they feel more connected, secure, and happy. They aren’t as whiny and demanding, because they’re learning how to fend for themselves, how to look to the needs of others, and sometimes, even how to go without. We are not raising our children to be childish, we are raising them to be good citizens, spouses, parents, friends, neighbors, and professionals.
We are raising future adults.
Work is something adults naturally understand we have to do. Why? Because it is necessary, yes, but even more so, because we were created for it. When God made Adam and Eve, He put them in a garden to cultivate it. In other words, they had chores to do. Imagine! In a perfect garden there were chores. We are often restless and bored without work, because we were made for work. Children with meaningful work develop a much deeper sense of self and purpose than any accolade or trophy will ever provide. And the help they give helps Mommy keep her sanity, and slays that nasty Mommy Guilt Monster in the process. When the work is done, everyone is available to play together, even Mom.
So I say, Yeah! Chores!