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.
When you become a parent you soon realize that there are a million things you CAN and WILL do, only you never suspected you were capable of doing them.
You might gag the first time, but trust me, after a few rounds of ‘fish the poop out of the bath’ or a couple of midnight sessions of ‘guess what the baby threw up’ you will be surprised at how big that ‘I can handle this’ list becomes.
But what about the things you cannot do anymore? Here is my Top Five. Feel free to add your own.
1. Splurge a big amount of money on a whim. I’m not a Kardashian, a Hilton or the owner of a money tree. Life is expensive and kids cost a Gazillion dollars/Euros a day. Just feeding them might cost you a small fortune. So I budget and think each purchase through. Carefully.
2. Seeing a movie/ reading a book where something bad happens to a child. Along with the muffin top and the dark line on my lower abdomen came a strange new sensibility. Or rather an inability. Books, movies and documentaries featuring children getting hurt or dying are a NO GO these days. I cannot sit back and watch a drama about how a sick child tears apart his/her parent’s marriage and how they deal with the loss of said child through music/pottery/becoming crazy cat people. Tears will drop at an alarming rate and there will be sobbing. Because that could be my child. That could be me, grieving the most terrible loss a mother can experience. Just the thought of one of my children getting hurt or sick is enough to cut my heart in two and fill my chest with the blackest despair.
3. Get any satisfaction from cleaning /tidying any room or space in your house. Even though I’m a notoriously messy person I too experience those rare moments when I can no longer stand the filth or mess of my entire house or just certain rooms. It is at times like this when you might stumble upon a ‘Cleaning the basement: found the whatnots again! Thought it was lost forever!’ tweet if you follow me on Twitter. These little episodes used to leave me with a deep feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction that I was – after all – a responsible adult.
Having kids sucked the joy right out of that feeling. As soon as they could walk, their tiny grubby feet left muddy footprints everywhere, and every room they entered immediately looked like a tornado had gone straight through it.
At first I tried to keep up, but honestly, what is the point in cleaning/tidying up when you know it will only be spotless for about a millisecond?
4. Be a dirty, disgusting schlob. Picking your nose? Scratching certain body parts? Drinking straight from the carton? With children in the house these actions will either be ancient history or something you do in deepest, darkest secret. One of the delights of parenthood is that society expects you to educate your children about the many Dos and Don’ts of polite behaviour. To put it bluntly : you are expected to lead by example. Little Freddy/ George/ William will not see why he cannot adjust his boy-parts right in the middle of the store when daddy did so the last time he took the little angel grocery shopping. Nor will little Betty/ Grace/Jennifer refrain from digging that booger out of her wee nose and inspecting the find before putting it in her mouth when mommy did just THAT a few minutes ago.
5. Sleep in on a Saturday. No explanation required.
What are the things you can no longer do as a parent?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tinne at “Tantrums and Tomatoes” from Belgium. Photo credit: olnetchannel. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
More than a month ago, our home was always clean and tidy. There were also nice home-cooked meals (complete with soup) every evening for my family.
Fast forward to today: dust is gathering around the house while home-cooked meals have been reduced to no more than two dishes at any one time. Soup? It would be a bonus to have that once a week.
You see, our live-in helper left us…without notice…after going back to her home town, supposedly, for a two-week break.
She didn’t come back. Didn’t send notice. Didn’t even call. I later learned from friends that this is not uncommon.
At first I was angry. Not only had we wasted money on her return ticket, she also left me stranded without a back up plan.
But as the days go by, a rhythm is slowly but surely developing. I’m beginning to experience the blessings her departure brings.
- Gone are my leisurely breakfasts, escapades to the library and social media time. But I now have greater focus on what I do.
- House chores and cooking are challenges for me but I am slowly getting the hang of things.
- While there are no set days as to when chores get done, since my work takes focus in the early part of the week, I am trying to tackle the bulk of cleaning mid-week. Strangely I sometimes find cleaning rather therapeutic.
- When it comes to cooking, I am learning to exercise creativity. One dish meals are great: simple to cook but nutritious and tasty enough for most fussy taste buds.
- When the laundry is done, he helps remove the clothes from the washing machine, grabs the pegs and passes them to me “as a set” – to quote his exact words. I wonder when he might get bored and stop helping me so I am cherishing every moment.
- Might I add that my husband has also chipped in to do his part now!
I am not sure if I will cave in and get another helper again. At the moment, I am busy but happy. I appreciate the quietness (when my son is at school) and extra space I now have, and I meant that quite literally. The best part is I get my spare room back! That is something I have been wishing for and for which I can’t be more thankful.
I know that for many moms living in other parts of the world, having live-in help is rare. Some may have cleaners come a few times a month but many families manage the bulk of cleaning and household chores alone. Here in Asia, having live-in help is common.
All of this made me really admire fellow moms who have to take care of the whole household and a few kids, not to mention those who are working from home. You are amazing. How do you do it?
Really, I mean it. How do you handle your house chores? Please share some tips! Hopefully some day, I might become an amazing mom like you, who seem to be able to do it all.
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our blogger and live-in-help-less mother of one, Ruth Wong in Singapore.
The image used in this post is credited to clogozm. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
It happens every night when I lay my head on the pillow. I replay many of the day’s events back over in my mind. “Was I good friend, wife, sister, daughter, etc.? Was I good mother to my children? Did I set a good example?”
However, the events which have been playing over in my mind more and more frequently are the times I am not sure if I really listened to my children. “What was it my daughter was telling me about a friend of hers at school as I was hurriedly sending a text to my friend? What was my son showing me that he learned on his new video game as I nodded and pretended to see him play it while I sent an email?”
I know we all get caught up in this thing called life, but are we really present for our children?
At any one minute during the day, I feel like I have a laundry list of things to get done. A lot of times, I find myself sitting listening to my daughter read, and I am making a mental list in my mind of what I need to get from the grocery store. When I’m driving the kids to school, and they are in the backseat laughing, I am thinking of the things I need to get done that day while they are in school. What were they laughing about? I don’t know because I wasn’t really listening. And, that makes me a little sad.
I know one day, I’ll look in my rear-view mirror and they will be in junior high and then high school and they won’t be my little children anymore.
I have read so many articles and talked to so many friends about our kids being able to pay attention to what we, as parents, say. We have talked and discussed how too much time on electronics isn’t good for their attention. What about us as parents? It became crystal clear to me a few weeks ago when I took my children to the park. My son was on the swing, and I received a text from a friend. I was replying to her text while my son was saying something to me and I remember nodding and saying “Okay.” It turns out that he asked me if I would pay him a quarter for every time he jumped off the swing. You can imagine how surprised I was when he told me I had to pay him $4.50 for jumping 18 times!!!
These past few weeks, I have been thinking about how I have approached mothering, and I think I had something wrong. For some of you this may not be earth shattering, but for me it was ground breaking. And here it is…I will never be done with a grocery list, laundry list, cleaning, cooking, etc. There will always be broken things which need fixing and plants needing to be watered.
I was approaching things in my mind as things to check off like a list. I was thinking of my days as a destination, and that just isn’t how life is. In my head I thought if I get that grocery list done, then it is complete. If I finish this load of laundry, then it is done. But, the truth is, neither of those tasks are ever done, and unfortunately, I feel that I have wasted some of my precious time with my children using that approach.
I have started to look at my life as a journey and to try to enjoy it more along the way.
Coming to this realization has freed me to sit with my daughter and just listen to her read for 20 minutes without my phone right next to me. I don’t have to answer texts right away. I am able to watch my son play his new video game and show me his new trick because the laundry will always pile up, and I can get to it after I take 10 minutes to listen to him. I am waking up 10 minutes earlier to get lunches packed so I can talk to my kids in the morning while they are eating breakfast. I am taking a little of the pressure off myself to get everything done. I am getting most things done, and the things I don’t get to can wait until tomorrow if it means I can have some extra special moments with my kids.
I have found that slowing down my mind and my “to-do” list have made me a bit more calm, and in turn, it has helped me to be in the moment with my kids. Every night, we have dinner together and there is a “no toy and no electronics rule” at the table. It’s a time for our family to really listen to each other and make sure that we have a few minutes to “check in” all together as a family.
The one thing that won’t always be there are my 5 and 8 year olds. They are only like that for one year and then they just keep growing and growing and there isn’t anything I can do about it. As I look at them in my rear-view mirror, I want to know that I have really enjoyed them and not regret not spending precious time with them.
Do you have a way to really be “in the moment” with your children?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can check out Meredith’s life in Nigeria and her transition back on her blog at www.wefoundhappiness.blogspot.com.
Photo credit to the author.
Teaching Responsibility. Responsibility comes in many forms.
I have two girls. They provide constant blog fodder. For the most part, they are okay with that. I even run certain posts by them for approval – after all, it is their story as much as it is mine.
As a parent, we get to help write the stories of our children. The ebb and flow of day-to-day becoming the chapters of their lives through experience and exposure to the world around them.
About a year ago, I wrote a post here called Raising Responsible Citizens. Raising children who are globally aware and are understanding of the need to make a difference in the world is something that is very dear to my heart. It makes me proud to say that my girls have an awareness of the plight of others and the need to be involved. They know the positivity their actions can achieve in bringing change and that their voices can indeed be heard around the world.
This post is a chapter in that book of life on responsibility…because responsibility is a funny thing. We can teach our children about the world and its people, we can teach them laws and rights, and we start when they are just toddlers with the basics of what is right and what is wrong. But what about basic responsibility…let me clarify. (more…)