There are more days than not where my house is a total disaster.
What would you expect from nine people, a large ratty dog, two cats, four chickens, a rabbit, a duck and a turtle? Our stairwell doubles as the laundry chute, and sometimes you can literally surf down the steps on the dirty clothes to where you’re going. Chores, you ask? What chores? Dirty dishes pile up on every square inch of the kitchen counter. The baby, Leopold, starts trapping and then naming the dust bunnies he’s caught from the floor. Sometimes I consider walking to the nearest 7/11 just to use a cleaner bathroom. Our house can sometimes double as a petri dish. Come on over if you need a healthy dose of penicillin.
Unfortunately, just looking at the level of mess exhausts me before I’ve started.
Sometimes I tackle it like a champ. Other times, I wonder if I should just light a match and walk away. But every once in awhile, a little voice in my head chimes in: “You have seven children. Put them to work!” But I don’t. And even though I could Google why they should be doing chores and turn up a zillion brilliant articles in favor of kids and chores, I just can’t get on board with it. So then, even if I need the help badly, I don’t enlist the family. At the risk of sounding like a 1950’s housewife, let me explain.
I think chores are just a natural part of Momhood; it comes with the territory.
It is part of what makes me feel like a So-Called Mom. It is the unspoken language of caring: clean sheets have magically appeared on my bed, and therefore I am loved. Or maybe it is what helps them pardon me for not doing other things well, like cooking and driving. Then again, if I do all of the housework, I know where everything is at all times. It makes me superhuman—a miracle worker. That’s a hard earned titled that anyone would love.
The other side of it is, frankly, I’m lousy at delegating tasks—believing rightfully or not that someone else is going to screw it up. It takes time to teach how to do some of these things, and I don’t have time on my side. I don’t really do the allowance thing, either. I don’t get an allowance for helping out, so why should they? Now this doesn’t mean they get nothing—it is just more spontaneous than: it’s Friday, pay up. I believe the thinking is closer to: I don’t know when I will get another $20 again. I should probably use it wisely.
A friend once told me that my older kids, the teenagers, should be helping me with the younger ones. I thought that was the most ridiculous suggestion I ever heard.
First of all, it implies that I do not have my household mayhem under control. While this is possibly true it is not something I’m ready to admit. Or hear others say to my face. It plays in the same arena as: I can say my butt is out of shape but you cannot. Second, there is condescension buried somewhere in that statement, which I loathe. It’s as if I woke up one morning to discover seven kids I must’ve had against my will, and my life has turned into a freak show. Third? I don’t want their help because to be honest—it improves my odds of having some grand kids once day—without these guys saying they’re opting out because technically they “already put in their parenting time”.
I don’t mind asking the older kids to babysit—when I go to the store or out to dinner for an hour – which I pay them for. But I think asking them for help beyond this is far too much to ask. I prefer to watch them excel in singing, accordion, skateboarding, and yes— even video games — than watch their dishwashing game flourish. They have their whole lives in front of them. They have to get it under them now, so they can grow into who they’re meant to be. They aren’t going to be made into rocket scientists by doing chores.
However, the fact of the matter remains that there is too much for one person to do to keep a household this size running smoothly.
So sometimes I do ask them to do things here and there, but it is far too inconsistent for me to call it “chores.”
I get help with dishes. The older four teens are great at keeping themselves on a rotating schedule, but they do not do this like clockwork. While I have asked them to “simply notice when the countertops are piled high with dishes”, I still have to summon them from the depths of the basement to get it done for me.
The teens also do their own laundry. That’s a blatant lie. Half of the teens do their laundry. Earth and Milla are great at this, Jake and Phoenix are not. So, until recently I always did the boys’ laundry when I noticed the basket was packed full, and their drawers were empty. They would play video games, and I would just waltz by and pick up their basket like Cinderella (but without the luxury of a Fairy Godmother). One day, very recently, I just stopped. It was because I swear I just did an entire basket the other day and here it was, packed full again. I was officially being taken advantage of. So I said to the guys, “Don’t you need clothes for school tomorrow?” They actually got as far as bringing the clothes two feet into the laundry room, but it took the rest of the day to sort things out. Several hours later, the laundry had made it into the machine, but nothing was happening. One of them actually said, “Oh, you have to push those buttons?”
Jake will be 17 shortly and Phoenix will be 16. I guess it’s time they not only start noticing when they are out of clothes, but what to do next. Not to mention the basics of self care, like it’s time to change your shirt or put on deodorant. OK…I divert.
I’m not going to lie: anything beyond laundry and dishes, I find I need to micromanage.
If I don’t, I am asking for more work than I already have in front of me. We used to have a chore chart, but it was a logistical nightmare. As the kids come and go between their other parents’ house, it’s almost impossible to schedule any kind of cleaning that I don’t wind up doing myself anyway. So the chart was more like a sad reminder of poor parenting, hanging on the wall in the kitchen with stickers of a thumbs up that said “Great Job!”, when they really should’ve been middle fingers. So instead, I just make a day of it—and when I run out of time, c’est la vie. Sometimes I can get someone else to vacuum a room or two, but I hardly bet on it.
Here’s a sick thought—am I subconsciously keeping them dependent on me?
Or is it that having young ones still, makes it hard to release my grasp on the older ones? I lean on the latter, knowing that there is deep rooted truth in the former. Or are they versions of the same thing?
As of today, it has been a full four days that Jake has slept in his bed without sheets on it—just a comforter. It isn’t that there aren’t sheets to put on his bed. As a matter of fact, the fitted sheet is now balled up in the corner of his room, clean and waiting. Could he not figure it out? Did he not see it? Does he not care? Or is it all too much of a pain in the ass?
More importantly, will I have to come over and make his bed up every week when he is on his own? Do I really have to respond to that, or do we already know the answer? And the worst part is, will I actually enjoy that?
Pardon the mess,
So Called Mom
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