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Am I a Slave to My Kids?

August 12, 2012

Last night, after I made my three children frothy hot chocolates, my seven year-old son approached me. He said, “Mum, you say all the time that you aren’t our servant, but you kind of are.” Mmmm, interesting. I asked him why he said that. He replied, “Well, servants are people who serve other people, right? They cook and clean and do all kinds of things for other people as their job, right?” I grudgingly agreed, not really liking this conversation very much at all.

He continued, “Well, there is a problem then, Mum. You act like our servant because you wash our clothes and cook and fetch us from school and help us with homework and clean our rooms, sometimes even when we were supposed to. You do lots of things for us kids but we don’t have money to pay you, so that means you do it for free. That’s really bad, Mum, it means you are a slave!”

I was gob-smacked. What a thought. Deep breath, Michelle, deep breath.

I replied that I do all these things for him and his sisters because I love them, and because everyone in our family works together to keep things going. I tried to get him to see that I’m just doing my part in the same way that his Dad and siblings do theirs. I told him that I love taking care of my kids, and know they try their best to do their chores (most of the time), and part of being their mother is doing lovely things for them simply because I love them and it makes me happy to do so. I hope I imparted that a family needs to operate as a team to take care of each other in the best way they know how.

My son wasn’t satisfied. He started asking about odd jobs he could do so that he can earn money to pay me for what I do in the house. He was totally mortified at the thought of me working so hard and getting nothing for it. In his mind, the injustice was huge. I laughed and hugged my sweet, earnest boy. I explained that just knowing he notices all I do and is grateful for it is payment enough, and that I love his huge heart and that he took the time to think these thoughts and express them to me.

I thought the conversation was over and didn’t think much of it. We had a fabulous family evening, complete with spontaneous jamming on the musical instruments (we murdered Adele) and cuddling on the couch to watch the Olympics. It was a rare weeknight treat. I was enjoying family time so much that I decided tonight the dishes could wait. I wasn’t going to nag the kids about clearing the table or helping me with the dishes. Tonight, we’d just have fun. The girls put on a dance show (a whole other post), and I vaguely remember wondering where Little Man was during their performance, but figured he was probably all girled-out and was playing Lego instead.

After much hustling-and waaaaaay after their bedtime-the three kids were finally in bed. I realised I now had to go face that horrendous pile of dishes in the sink.

I. Did. Not. Want. To. Do. Dishes.

But, they weren’t going to wash themselves. I cynically thought to myself that Little Man wasn’t far off in his description of me as a slave. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with dishes, laundry, mopping, sweeping.

Uninspired, I trudged to the sink and then stopped short.

No dishes.

The sink was empty. In the drying rack was a lopsided stack of half-clean, soapy dishes. There was a giant puddle on the floor under the yellow Ikea stool, dragged from the playroom.

It seems this slave got paid.

Thank you, Little Man. Mama’s proud.

What has your child done that melted your heart? Please share. My box of Kleenex is ready.

Michelle is a copywriter, artist and mum of three children under ten. Read more of Michelle’s work at They Call me Mummy.

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