Dear SAHM: There Are More Important Things

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Growing up, I remember doing many chores.  I remember all of our responsibilities. Dishes, vacuuming, dusting, Windex glass, picking up after ourselves, daily floor sweeps, any other assignment either parent assigned, plus homework.  It was life.  It taught us all a great deal. We learned how to be responsible, that actions had consequences, that what we do affects others, how to be considerate, etc and how to clean. Even now, as adults, all of my three siblings and myself, can clean a house spotless.

Our house did not go past a certain messy point. Clothes never stayed on the couch for too long. Dishes were never in the sink for more than a meal. The floor never crunched with food or any other substance. We didn’t grow up in mess. My home, however, is not that.

Right now, there are clothes on our couch; clean clothes, but clothes nevertheless. The sink is full of dishes. Clean dishes are in the dishwasher and on the side of the sink.  The kitchen floor has food in the crease where the wall and carpet meets all along the wall. I have two piles of laundry on the floor of our bathroom. I could go on but you get the idea.

A while a go, I posted that I was going to have Jazmine follow a chore chart. It is going pretty well. She is developing good habits and, gradually, learning to choose not to do a half-way job with her chores. I am a task oriented person. I practice not stopping for any kind of break until all or at least the vast majority of a task list is complete. I want to instill this in Jazmine. The thing is, I am sure I was born with the wiring for this kind of thinking but it did not present itself right away.  It was groomed and allowed to grow. I have to give this same time allowance to my Jazmine.

I have a habit of measuring how well my day has gone by how my home looks.  I get where this thought process comes from. I am a SAHM. I don’t work outside of the home. I don’t have a desk or a boss to please. No one readily recognizes my work and says ‘good job’. Not that that is a daily occurance at any job but I don’t get performance reviews etc. All I have as a showcase, if you will, is my home. When people come in, my home is what reflects me. If, by the time I go to bed, my home is tidy, I feel great.  If it is not, I tend to beat myself up.  I think I spent my day doing too much of everything else and did not incorporate tidying up. This evening, it occurred to me that, on a scale of importance, the nurturing of my husband and children’s hearts and their spirits is vastly more important than having a tidy home. Not that my house should remain untidy but if I spend far more time grooming my children and nurturing both them and my husband, while allowing everyone to grow, I have invested my time well.

The state of my home is no longer a personal measure of my worth.

 

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Mommy Who Is Scared Of Chore Enforcement

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First of all, I understand.

You are not alone.

Let me relay my story.  I hope you take comfort.

My daughter Jazmine is 8 years old. If you are new to this blog, for the first 7 years of Jazmine’s life, we lived with my mother-in-law.  Life was very different then.  I had a lot of “help”; most of which was an easy fix to a current situation. During this past 11 months of living under our own roof, I’ve had to grow A LOT! Jazmine had to grow a lot. It could not and did not happen all at once. Discipline is an area where I’ve had stunted growth. I am not talking about behavioral discipline. I am talking about enforcing chores and household responsibilities.

Jazmine has chores, meaning I’ve assigned them and she knows what things she is responsible for doing.  She also knows how to complete each task to Mommy’s specifications. However, I have not done a consistent job of enforcing those responsibilities. She knows she is to vacuum after dinner but, often enough, because I dismayed at having to address her non-verbal unpleasantness at being told to complete the chore, I would not say a word but let it go.  Other times, it’s not that I didn’t feel like enforcing but that a greater need arose. Namely, Baby Grace needed and eye kept on her while I finish something in another part of the house. Jazmine can not yet vacuum and watch a toddler so, I nixed the vacuum for babysitting.

My husband and I just got back from having some time away.  Now that we are back home, and our weekly routine gears up again tomorrow, I have had time to reflect. I can not be that worn out anymore. I can not stay up late after our girls are in bed to clean, fold, and wash. My husband does not need to stay up after working to straighten up.

The Bible is clear. It says, “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:19).  Although that verse is referring to the Israelites teaching their children to carefully obey God’s commands, you will notice that the children are with their parents. The children are with them in the house, on the road, at bedtime, and in the morning. I’ve not had Jazmine by my side while doing most of the things needed to run a household. I’ve let her entertain herself while I completed my chores. I’ve done her and myself a disservice.

I was afraid to enforce before because of what it would cost me. Time.

It’s like teaching her to tie her shoes all over again.  When she was 5, I had to add an extra 5-10 minutes to the get-out-of-the-house routine to allow her time to work at tying her shoes. It was worth it but oh so labor intensive. Until today, I’ve shied away from enforcing chores because I did not want that labor intensive work day-in and day-out for the next few weeks (months) on end while raising a toddler whom, I swear to beans, has hit the terrible twos at 14 months of age!

But the Bible says, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17) I can take comfort in that, as much hard work that will go into this next stretch of mothering, delight is awaiting me on the other end.

So, fellow scared Mommies, let us journey on together shall we?

Disclaimer:  My decision not to act was selfish and unloving. My desire for perfection (regarding cleanliness) in my home effectively killed much-needed instruction from me to my child. I am armed with laminated and posted chore charts (one of which is pictured above) and a determination to make household responsibilities just as important as school. I will enforce the chores she knows how to do.  Whatever task I am about to do in our home that is new to her, my Jazmine will be by my side.  I will be teaching and she will be observing and learning. We will be conversing. I will not expect perfection when she first attempts task nor when it’s her 50th attempt. I will, however, expect improvement.