It’s been about two months since I instituted my new attitude about housecleaning and chores. I have to say that it has been a resounding success. Not only is my home a more peaceful place without the cleanup battles, but I’ve seen countless examples of how ready my children are to help. I didn’t see that as clearly before because I was frequently concerned about what they weren’t doing. But it’s more than just seeing what was already there. I do believe that my change in attitude has affected them in a positive way, too.
I’m always fascinated by the ability of a change in perspective to affect actual change. I don’t have any less housework than I did before I switched my perspective, and yet I have not felt burdened or overwhelmed by it since then. (Okay, there was one day I almost lost it: the in-laws were arriving for a two-day visit and I felt pressured – by myself of course – to have everything “perfect”. When I realized that I was the only one expecting things to be perfect I slowed down and chilled out). Otherwise, and I know this is going to sound a bit hokey, but I have actually found more joy in what I do around the house.
For example, I love it when the kids’ room is tidy. I love walking in and seeing their beds made, with their colourful sheets and blankets, beloved stuffed animals tucked in around the pillows. I love the soft, warm glow of their kid-friendly lamps. It used to be that tidying up their room brought on mixed feelings. A part of me felt that I should be making them do this, that somehow I was being a bad parent by not making them clean their room. I questioned whether or not this was really “my job” or theirs; and whether I was somehow enabling them in some capacity by doing it. Having simply accepted that I’m going to be the one to clean their room and that I don’t expect them to do it has freed me up to enjoy the task. Because **I** love it when their room is tidy, and I don’t mind doing it at all. And you know what’s really cool? On more than one occasion my kids have walked into a room that was crowded with toys, only to see everything neat and tidy, and have actually “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” and thanked me for making it look so nice! I felt honestly appreciated, and that I was setting an example of the joy of a tidy room without attaching a power struggle to the issue.
But truth be told, it’s not like I’m back to doing everything on my own. Quite frankly, there have been very few times when I’ve asked the kids to clean something up and they’ve said “no”. The key seems to be my involvement. For example, “Hey guys, I notice there’s Lego all over the floor. It needs to be put back in the box. Would you like me to come and help you with that?” and they not only say “yes” but I can see that they are participating with intention. There is no grumbling or complaining, no trying to do as little as possible. I find this particularly fascinating. There are some who would argue that by helping them I’m somehow cheating them out of a lesson. From my perspective, I can’t see how this is a losing proposition for anybody. If the kids had refused I’d have had to clean it up all by myself anyway. If I had coerced them into it, I either would have lost the battle (having chosen not to escalate it) or I would have ended up with two kids doing something that they feel resentful about, that they feel powerless and manipulated into doing. How could that ever engender a good attitude about tidying up? Had I insisted they do it themselves, what sort of message would that have sent about helping out?
I have also seen my relationship with my daughter improve significantly. She’s a stubborn one and can smell a power struggle a mile away. Like me at that age, she deeply resents being manipulated or forced against her will. Yet at the same time she’s a kind and loving girl who adores her mother and wants to please. We seem to go through periods of calm and then strife or, as I have referred to here over the years, equilibrium and disequilibrium. Lately we’d been in a period of disequilibrium and I was saddened that she and I were clashing so much. Perhaps we were due for a shift anyway, but sharing with her my new commitment to accepting that which is offered as well as that which is declined, she has responded noticeably. Things have been very peaceful and loving between us. She quite often agrees to help me with various tasks (sorting the laundry has become a favorite). But more noticeable has been how she will ask me for something by prefacing it with an appreciation for what I do, or an understanding that I may be busy or may have just brought her something recently. She apologizes if it seems I’m busy at the moment. And she thanks me, a genuine and internally-sourced thank you.
I think it’s a very good example of how, in parenting, we can often lose focus of what’s important – our relationship with our children – and instead focus too hard on “teaching lessons”. If unschooling has taught me anything it’s that kids don’t need to be taught, they just need to be supported, encouraged, and given a peaceful and safe environment. The rewards from my simple change in attitude have been numerous and tangible. I make my fair share of mistakes and screwups as a parent, but this is one thing I feel I’ve done right and we’re going to stick with it.