Dropping Your Basket in the Garden of Domestic Responsibility

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“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”  ~Milton Berle

Many Moms, not matter what their working status, can attest we carry the bulk of the domestic vocation in the household. I’m not discounting those Dads’s out there who are helping, kudos to them!

 In our family dynamic I’m the person who carries the “domestic accountability”. I often tell people “if you know me, you know our house is clean. I pick it up once a day, and if you came when it wasn’t picked up then you came at the wrong time if you were expecting a perfect house.” I am grateful for our family and life; I take great pride in my home, I love and enjoy what I do. However, sometimes it seems after I’ve had the therapeutic experience of a freshly cleaned house, I go out for five minutes, walk back in and it looks as if an atomic explosion happened in a place which was until that time serene and welcoming. Bits and pieces are casing each surface and hidden corner of a 1,500 square foot house I just spent four laboring hours cleaning and organizing. How is this likely!? I have one husband, one teenager and twin six year old girls, it’s not like I’ve got an army!

 Every once in awhile, this very instance of what I consider blatant disaster, (especially if we are having a family function shortly) causes me to “drop my basket.”  If you’re a Mom you may be familiar with this term. If not, it’s similar to wanting to go in a room with a lock on the door – and have a good earnest cry. Not because of the disaster, which was previously the sparkling clean area, but because an adequate amount of emotions has built up over extended time with all the ironing, cleaning, picking up, laundry, driving, errand running, phone calls, doctors appointments, events, extracurricular activities, homework, disagreements, disciplining, referring, cooking umpteen meals a day, putting discarded empty glasses in the sink, finding dirty clothes under the bed, stepping on small pointy toys in the middle of the night, sweeping the kitchen floor for the umpteenth time in a day, throwing out empty snack containers put back in the pantry, tripping over a pile of discarded shoes by the back door and finding some unfamiliar sticky substances on the table which looks suspiciously like maple syrup with a napkin stuck to it. Plus the hundreds of other thankless less obvious tasks parents do. At some point you say enough is enough! H-E-L-P!

After a recent moment of “dropping my basket” in front of my family (because why would I want to save myself some embarrassment and do it in private, ugh!) I realized it was time to enlist some daily help. For the last two years I’ve been trying to implement chores. I’ve used money, candy, shopping, computer time, free time, TV time and just short of anything you can think of to bribe the kids to understand chores are important. Not just because they want to earn something, but because they need to have pride and responsibility in their home. I’ve reached out to other parents who’ve said yes, chores are great, and no, they don’t always work. Others have said they would never dream of asking their kids to do chores. Others rule like Stalin in the chore department. I say ba-humbug, responsibility is the lesson here (that and Mom isn’t a one woman army!)

 So once again we are writing out a weekly chore list. For those of you who are about to say “that’s child labor” I say get real, I’m not asking them to make tiny shirts in a sweatshop or scrub the floors. The kids chores consist of this: make your bed, brush your teeth, put your laundry in the hamper, pick up your bathroom, put your toys away, clean your room, practice piano and read for 15 minutes. Occasionally, we throw in something like feed the dog – but we tried that one week and the poor dog would of only ate every three or four days if we left it to the kids. Now, they ask for additional ways to help and they’ve come up with some of their own: taking the laundry out of the dryer, putting away their laundry and occasionally the attempt to sweep the kitchen and the porches for me. Lesson learned, have pride in your home and help out where you can.

 As for the husband, he realizes he needs be an “enforcer” with the kids as well. He helps out and sometimes I have to remind him that there’s been a light bulb out in the back bathroom for the last three weeks and pretty soon the kids will be taking shower by candlelight if he doesn’t change it soon. He thinks this is really funny because we will be saving on our power bill, but he always jumps in and helps out. He even comes home sometimes and stands and folds the laundry and puts it away. Most nights I cook and he cleans up after dinner. For me, that’s heaven and I am grateful because it is help.

 Let’s face it being a stay home mom is a job, no matter how people decipher it. As with a workplace sometimes you have to ask your co-workers for help. The difference is I love my co workers because their family, we are all responsible for our home and need to work together. Besides I really hate to “drop my basket” no one needs to see that, it’s the ugly cry and it’s rather embarrassing. Ask for help, it’s worth it, even if it’s just for peace of mind.

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