Tag Archives: domestic labour

Domestic Labour 101 for Kids

As a feminist parent, I’ve thought a lot about gendered role models, what I’m teaching my boys about women, the effect of the current political climate on gender issues, and domestic labour issues. Recently, I had an interaction with my barely-four-year-old that smacked me in the face with the need to start re-framing the way we do domestic labour in our house – and it’s not, I was surprised to realize, through hammering in explicit ideas of equality.

I asked A a simple question: “Can you pick up your toothbrush?” It was on the floor of the bathroom.

He responded equally as simply: “Oh, no, Mommy – Daddy actually knocked that over. And you always say, ‘If you make the mess, you clean it up,’ right?”

I paused. I do always say that – when I want him to clean up a mess instead of expecting me or his dad to do it for him. I don’t want to raise no boys to men who don’t understand that they are responsible for their own actions!

At the same time, I realized instantly that I’m contributing to a very patriarchal ideology here: every-man-for-himself, avoidance-based individuality.

In this very small pause, I understood intuitively that if I really want to raise my boys to be equal partners with another human someday, I need to teach them not just equality, but community and nurturance. I need to teach them not just accountability, but helpfulness and generosity of spirit.

“You’re right,” I said. “I do say that. And now I think you’re old enough for me to explain to you that three different things are all true at the same time in our house,” and I explained to him the following rules, which my beloved and I have since talked about and agree that we want our kids to internalize as part of the fabric of our family:

of earth

So much of what I’ve seen of domestic labour organization and rules, both in my own life and in the stories I’ve heard from others over the years, comes from such a place of negativity or avoidance. We emphasize personal accountability for one’s own things in order to avoid someone else having more than ‘their share’ to do. We emphasize cleaning up a mess you made to reinforce warnings about undesirable behaviour and instill a sense that you are ultimately responsible for your own actions. We focus on division of tasks in an effort to make things ‘fair’, only to find that people become attuned to doing the bare minimum required. We use rewards and allowances with kids to inject some positivity into ‘chores,’ unintentionally perpetuating the dichotomy that work/helping = necessary evil, leisure/no responsibility = ideal end.

What bothers me most is that using these methods operates from an assumption that in our families and close communities, we will be taken advantage of, and we will be unfairly burdened with ‘someone else’s’ mess or consequences if labour is left unchecked; and that the ultimate goal of human life is to avoid effort and work – especially work we don’t deserve.

I’m trying to start from scratch. I’m hoping I can begin instead from a place where we’re all in it together, where we’ll all help whenever someone else is working on something, and where we understand that together, our efforts knit the beautiful fabric of our home and our life. If each member of our family follows all three rules, there will be less work and stress for all of us, and we’ll all feel supported.

If someone’s going to be a jerk about it, take advantage of others, or shirk responsibility, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, and my attention to that will, likely, be swift and relentless (I have zero patience for that shit!). But in the meantime, I’m going to assume the best, and try to teach my boys a way of life that I hope will serve us all well.

Since I’m new to this, anyone else have some strategies, framings, or words you use with your kiddos in this light? I’d love to hear them!

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Dear Mom of Two Tiny People At Home: I See You

As a mom of two little ones, I count myself incredibly fortunate to have a fantastic support system, which gives me the ability to be at home with just my younger son during the week, since my older one still goes, for the most part, to the child care arrangements we had for him when I was still working. On those few days where I have two tiny people at home, I am amazed at how much more the day takes out of me, and I am struck with admiration for the moms I know who do that every day. So this letter is to them, and to all the mamas out there who have more than one kiddo home with them all day, every day:

Dear Mom of Two Tiny People at Home: I See You

I see you in the middle of the night, hunched over this crib or that mattress. I see you shushing, gently patting and rubbing backs, breathing and comforting as quietly as you can so as to not wake up your other child.

I see you sneaking back to your own bed, fingers crossed for a lasting calm, unable to go back to sleep because you’re primed to respond to any further noises that might mean one disturbs the other.

I see you accepting 5am as the start of your day, and snuggling (with only a bit of a death glare) the little person whose incessant early wakings have transformed you into a zombie – because you can’t nap when this baby naps: the other child will be awake then, needing your attention.

I see you making the best of things and getting some laundry done before 7am to take advantage of the non-peak-time electricity rates, because with two kids, there is ALWAYS more laundry.

I see you greeting your second child to wake, acting as refreshed as you hope they feel so as to ‘start’ the day off cheerfully.

I see you preparing toddler breakfast with one hand and holding a squirming infant with the other.

I see you alternating between each child, tackling one mini-crisis after another, doing the never-ending dance between empathy, discipline, distraction and kissing it all better.

I see you basking in the in-between moments, where two giggling kiddos lay side-by-side on the floor as you alternate kissing their bellies or toes or noses. Continue reading

Mom, You Already Have Your “Shit” Together

I hear this phrase from moms a LOT.

“I’ll be there at 2, assuming I have my shit together.”

“Sorry we’re late – we just couldn’t get our shit together this morning.”

“I just need to get my shit together.”

“For once I’d love to have my shit together!”

“Why can’t I ever seem to get my shit together?!?”

etc…

I say this all the time – like, really all the time. I never feel like I have my shit together. There’s always laundry to do, toys all over the floor, dishes that need washed, random piles of crap that need to be put away or organized or moved to another floor of the house or otherwise dealt with but I never seem to have enough time to keep on top of them. Seriously, this is my house today (and more or less what it looks like every day):

dead flowersCopy of dead flowers

There are always two running to-do lists in my phone: one for big-ticket things I’ve been meaning to get done for awhile (submit receipts to my insurance provider, sell that damn dresser we’re not using on Kijiji) and one for more timely things (go to the hardware store, return those library books). I can usually only manage to shave one part of my body in a single shower (is it the armpits today or one half of my legs?), and even though I think about it every single time I’m at the washing machine, I keep forgetting to order a new laundry ball online by the time I get upstairs, because I get distracted pretty quickly. I’d love to be more regular in posting on this blog, but spurts of activity followed by long pauses seem to be more in line with my life. (I know, I know, these are all first world problems.)

But what if I actually already do have my “shit” together?

“Shit” implies something bad, right? Something that should ideally be eliminated (excuse the pun) – neatly, cleanly and regularly removed with the quick touch of a button. So when I think of my lateness, my mess, my schedule, my to-do items, my own daily hygiene, as “shit,” what am I really expecting out of my life? That I won’t ever be late for anything? That I won’t have things to do? That I won’t get tired by the end of the day? That my family and I won’t use dishes, get toys out, make messes… live? It’s unreasonable. Do I think I’m living at Downton Fucking Abbey and someone else will come upstairs and take care of it all? So maybe the first thing I need to do is to try not to think of all this stuff as “shit,” but just as, well, life.

But maybe it’s also time apply some #goodenough logic to the idea of having my shit “together.” Maybe having my shit together just means keeping all these things going to the point where I can make it out of the house to an event at all, even if I’m five (okay, forty-five) minutes late. Maybe it means just having the to-do lists in the first place; at least I know what I need to do. Maybe it means accepting a certain level of mess and clutter in my house that necessarily comes with actually living as a family; we’re nowhere close to being candidates for an episode of Hoarders. Maybe having my shit together means having 50% of what I needed packed in the diaper bag – having absolutely everything would be awesome, but just having my shit together? 50% sounds about right.

We’re all going to have “shit” in life – every day, all day, forever. That’s the nature of human life. We have to feed ourselves, house ourselves, clothe ourselves, and then everyone has their own shit that they add on top of that list. So maybe all I should expect is that I have my shit together – that I’m holding onto it and I know what it is. I’m never going to eliminate it, and really, if it means not living, I wouldn’t want to anyway.

LISTEN: Check out our interview with the ladies at “One Bad Mother”!

onebadmotherlogoHey Mamas!

We are so excited to share this week’s episode of our fav podcast “One Bad Mother”, which includes an interview with….you guessed it – the two of us!

Listen to the podcast here

We had a great time chatting with the lovely OBM ladies, and both came away with our heads buzzing with more ideas for Raise a Mother. Stay tuned!

We’d love to know what you thought of the conversation – add a comment or send us an email to share your ideas!

 

#goodenough – Because It REALLY Is

I think most parents of young toddlers know the frustration and chaos that is their kid’s toys. They get everywhere, they’re disorganized, and you don’t have time as every new toy is brought into the mix to go back through and carefully choose all of those no longer developmentally-appropriate for redistribution to the Goodwill. So what you may end up with is a giant crap heap of some stuff that your kid is really into, but a lot of things they have zero interest in. Either way, they can’t really find things because it’s all a crap heap that just keeps growing.

And if you Google things like, “how to organize your kids toys,” you’re greeted with beautiful, Pinterest-worthy ideas that will not only have your kid’s toys sensibly organized, but also in lovely containers that match your home decor!

Well, you can probably guess where all those images remained in my life – in the online desert-mirages from whence they came. Continue reading

With Love & Respect, “Get That Shit Out of My Way,” She Said

This morning a dear friend shared this article by Scary Mommy with me, called “Why I’m Done Asking My Husband To Help Me Out.” As I read it, internal bells ringing Yeah! and Exactly! went off more than a few times. This is something I’ve discussed with my mom, my sister, my husband and I’m pretty sure more than one girlfriend, but Scary Mommy sums it up well, with excellent reasons why specifically not to ask your partner to “help you out” or “do you a favour” when what you’re really looking is for some good-new-fashioned partnership participation. She explains that by taking the asking-a-favour route, a woman a) diminishes her partner’s value, b) puts undue responsibility on herself, c) sets an unwanted example for her kids, and d) diminishes the partnership itself. If you’re like me (female in a hetero relationship), I’d wager there’s a fairly good chance it might resonate with you, too – so give it a read!

equal housework
Should she have needed to ask for ‘help’ to make this happen? (Source: healthland.time.com)

(I should note first that there is a time when I think the asking for ‘help’ approach is apt – namely, when my partner and I have clearly determined that x job is mine or his, and we want help with that particular job. So in our house, if he asks for help with gathering garbage for collection day, or if I ask for help with folding laundry, for example.)

I’m always interested in the “why do we do this?” part of any social question, so naturally, my brain went to, “Why the hell am I still doing this?” I’ve thought about this for years. I often correct myself in the moment when speaking to my husband – “Can you do me a – actually, no, wait, not a favour, can you just do this?” Yet I still find myself phrasing requests for him to do his share as requests for ‘help,’ I think for two main reasons:

1. I’ve internalized the overwhelming fear of being a ‘nag.’ 

Among the things our culture encourages women to stress about in their domestic life, fear of being a ‘nag’ is pretty high on that list. So no wonder we ask for ‘help’ instead of reminding our partner that they didn’t clean up their own coat/socks/papers/plate again. Asking for ‘help’ lets me seem more sweet, feminine, and likable – definitely the opposite of a nag – and increases the likelihood of a positive response, because my partner gets to feel like he’s doing something great and gets a gold star for going above and beyond, so everybody’s happy… right? Except… not. Because I’m still left holding the bag of responsibility for all things domestic, and I never really get to respect myself as a feminist who asserts her desire for equality in household management. I end up catering to fear and shame instead of self-respect, when I really dig down to the heart of it. Which brings me to reason #2:

2. On some level, I’ve internalized the idea that domestic work really is my responsibility as the woman in the partnership.

As much as I try to deny it, I think this nugget is still there. Sure, I’ve attempted to justify and couch it in enlightened, post-feminism rhetoric about how my partner and I simply have different personalities, and I simply care more about cleanliness/organization, so it’s not a sexist thing, it makes sense that I’m inclined to do more, and yadda yadda yadda. And there may be some truth to that – some. But it’s also very likely that we’ve each been, at least to some extent, socialized to have these personalities and tendencies to care more or less about domestic tasks/management. So am I happy to just accept that the socialization has happened and live out my life that way? Not really. Do I want to contribute to socializing my kids according to this status quo? Not if I can help it. These are not glamorous labours, nor ones that society really places a lot of value on, and I think if I was a man, I certainly wouldn’t be motivated to learn to take more initiative on these things. But at the end of the day, clothes need picked up because we each eventually need clean clothes to wear, so whose job should it be to make sure each item of clothing ends up in the laundry bin? Probably the person who was wearing that item of clothing. At the end of the day, dinner needs cleaned up because eventually we’ll need clean dishes to use, and we want to avoid bug infestations or health hazards of rotting food all over house, so whose job should it be to make sure that dishes get picked up and leftover food goes in the garbage or back in the fridge? Probably anyone who ever needs dishes or dislikes bug infestations. Again, asking for ‘help’ with these tasks reinforces a socialization I don’t like, instead of presenting myself as an equal partner in my home.

I want to act out of love and respect for the equal partnership my beloved and I have been building for fourteen years. So if love and respect means creating an environment where it’s sometimes okay to say, to borrow Scary Mommy’s words, “Get your shit out of my way,” well then, I guess that’s what we’ll do.

 

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