Last night I sat at the dinner table eating all alone. My husband got held up at work, so he wasn’t able to make it. My 3-year-old was scurrying about, refusing to join me, and my soon-to-be 10-year-old was practicing her pre-adolescent independence by sulking in the basement. As I sat there, I thought of Jessica Stilwell, the mom who went on strike.
After being fed up with her daughters not picking up after themselves, she quietly went on strike. She refused to clean up anyone else’s mess. Each night she would clean her plate, flatware, and glass and return it to the cupboard. For six days she continued and blogged about her mission.
I could never go on a cleaning strike – I’m probably the biggest slob in the house. But going on strike isn’t always about teaching your kids to do for themselves. Sure, they need to learn to pick up after themselves, and put away laundry, load a dishwasher, and vacuum the floor. But we use everyday experiences to help them learn those skills. Going on strike is about appreciation.
Perhaps my kids don’t realize how many moms don’t cook a great meal every night. Granted, not everything I create in the kitchen becomes a family favorite, but for the most part, nearly every night, my family enjoys a home-cooked meal.
Making a good dinner each night is no easy feat; ask any mother. It requires planning, shopping, chopping, broiling, baking, cleaning and more — and all with children interrupting and needing your attention. For many of us, this is also in addition to our “8-to-5” jobs. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being in the kitchen, and I’m pretty good at it, but is it too much to ask for a “Wow! Mom, this is fantastic!” I’d even settle for a semi-enthusiastic “Thank you.”
What would they think if I just stopped? I wonder how quickly they would tire of frozen pizza and peanut butter sandwiches. That would free up a lot of time for me in the evenings. It would also cut down on dishes and clean up.
Maybe that’s what I should do. When they come home and look to me for dinner, I’ll stare at them like they have three heads. I will rebel against the idea that it is my “job” to create a family meal every night while they relax after their long days.
While I’m really tempted to go on a dinner strike, I probably won’t. Not because I don’t think it’s a great idea, but because I’m a mom. When I signed up for this mom job, I knew there would be times when it felt thankless. I knew that my children would sometimes behave in ways that not only infuriated me, but disappointed me. I didn’t become a mom because I needed an ego boost.
Someday, I’m sure far from now, my children will look back and appreciate that their mom made dinner each night. It likely won’t be until they are responsible for making their own family meals, but that’s okay; it’ll happen someday. And when that day comes, the one when they complain about no one appreciating them as a parent, I will simply smile and welcome them to the parenting club. If I’m feeling especially giving that day, I might even muster a semi-enthusiastic “Thank you.”
Cat Koehler is married with two children. She works full time. Read her Mondays on momaha.com
Would your kids notice if you went on strike from your household duties?
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