My parents were born and raised in Surinam. They moved to the Netherlands in the 70’s and raised their children there. Though not completely oblivious to Dutch culture, the way my parents raised me was greatly influenced by the motherland. That includes the way chores were done.
In Surinam, and I’m guessing in many non-Western (“Second World”) cultures, chores are simply a part of life. They are part of a daily routine in which all family members share the responsibility of running a household. As a kid, you go to school, do your chores and play in the time that is left. Dinners are prepared together, cleaning is a joint effort and in some cases, children even help parents with their jobs. Except for that last part, this is basically the way I was raised.
My Dutch husband has been raised completely differently. Chores were the responsibility of his parents. They took care of everything and as he got older, chores were gradually given to him as a way to teach him responsibility. I must add that not all Dutch kids are raised exactly the same and that there are many varieties, but the difference between Dutch and Surinam upbringing is apparent.
One of the thoughts behind Dutch upbringing: “Let children be children, let them play. Let them enjoy childhood without too many responsibilities. The time for responsibilities will come soon enough.”
Personally this thought appeals to me yet also conflicts me. I fear that my children will become entitled, spoiled and unable to deal with responsibilities if I simply let them play.
One of the thoughts behind Surinam upbringing: “Chores are normal and necessary and help kids to become responsible independent adults. Every member of the family has to do their share, family comes before individual needs.”
Having to raise children now myself, I need to find a balance between these very different approaches. And it is not easy to find a middle ground. My husband tends to have a “Here, let me do it for you” attitude. And I have a more “I am not your maid, I will teach you to do it yourself” attitude.
I have a sense of contentment and pride when I teach my kids to do their chores independently and without complaint. But I also understand how nice it is for a child to be shielded from too much responsibility and to simply be taken care of. I want to let my kids enjoy their free time in between school, homework and sports, but I also want them to help around the house and feel like they share some of the responsibility of our household.
And so I go back and forth. Some of my Dutch friends drop their jaws or raise their eyebrows when they learn that my kids clean, vacuum, mop their rooms and scrub the toilets every weekend. And my mother will feed my guilt by asking me why I don’t let the kids help around the house more.
My background does have one distinctive benefit. When my children moan about having to do chores, I tell them about my childhood and they stop complaining immediately.
What are your thoughts about chores? Does the way you raise your kids look more like the Dutch way or the Surinam way?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of The Netherlands. Photo credit to the author.