Have you ever come home to a sink full of dishes or a huge kitchen mess? I’m sure we all have. The is how I came to the biggest revelation as a mom this summer. I work at home, so the boys take care of each other for a period of time each day. The oldest is 15, middle is 8 and the youngest is 1 so this isn’t unreasonable.
They are capable of making basic food, general cleaning, and more. However, boys will be boys as they say. Typically, the oldest is in charge for only a couple of hours each day and it goes very well. This summer they began trashing the kitchen. The first time, it wasn’t so bad only some cereal on the counter and milk in bowls on the table, but as summer continued the kitchen mess worsened.
The Big One
The biggest kitchen mess occurred while the oldest also had a friend over. I’d worked a little later in the day than usual. I finished and it was bumping right up against dinner time. My plan, log out, run out and throw dinner together. However, it wasn’t nearly so simple.
Peering through the kitchen door I found boxes all over the floor, wrappers, 2 pans filled with a “snack” they’d made, and a sink full of dishes that wasn’t previously there. However, the absolute best, an entire ice cream cake left out to melt. It was running across the counter and down the cabinets. The floor was covered in gooey ice cream complete with dog paw prints.
The kids, with the exception of the friend, were unhelpful in cleaning up the mess. I ended up calling the hubby asking him to bring home pizza because there was no way I was cleaning this kitchen in time for dinner. It took his friend and I nearly 8 HOURS to clean the kitchen, and longer to run the dishes. I still cannot imagine how in a matter of just over 2 hours they used so many! This marked the end of the mom kitchen cleanups.
At first I started out simply enough. I told the kids the next time something like this happens they will NOT only clean the kitchen, but they will also cook the dinner I had planned. NO, they will not cook a dinner they plan, but what was on my meal plan for the evening. Tired of late night cooking and cleaning because of the kitchen mess, something needed to change. As it turns out, just a few days later this punishment was enforced.
Kids Push Back
As I waked into the kitchen after a long day, I’m faced with another glaring explosion. I turn to the kids say, “clean it”, and hand over my recipe. I drew a bath and had some “mom” time. During my mom time I posted on social media that I was on a mom strike. The responses, I will share later in this post.
Three hours later, the kitchen still looks the same. Dinner remains uncooked and pleas for my help begin. At this point, I can either be serious about the punishment or break down and assist. Taking the youngest, I walk away.
The husband arrives home at 8 pm still no dinner, a kitchen mess, and no measurable progress. Already informed about the situation via text message, he walks on. Immediately, the kids implore him to cook dinner and he says, “there was fair warning, so get it done.”
At this point the friend, who was still here also goes on strike. He is exasperated with the previous days’ 8 hours of cleaning and the lack of assistance. He’d really been the only one making any progress. The other two are goofing off.
Finally at 8:30pm reality hits, mom is serious. So they clean the kitchen. Once the kitchen is clean, there’s a knock at my door: “Mom the kitchen is clean.” Walking out, I note it is clean. “Wonderful,” I tell them, “now cook”, pointing to the recipe.
The recipe isn’t complex. It is a simple chicken and noodle dish with sauce, something alfredo-esque. Overall, it should take them 30 minutes to prep and about another 30 minutes to actually cook. The oldest suddenly can’t remember how to cut chicken. He’s been in the kitchen and done these things several times, but now faced with independence he can’t remember. Finding him a knife and a cutting board, I once again point to the recipe. The recipe is so basic it describes everything in minute detail.
The boys have cooked before. In fact, many breakfasts are handled independently. I’ve been taking them into the kitchen since they were young. However, now faced with cooking after cleaning up the kitchen mess, the idea of cooking is an issue. Tired, hungry, and realizing mom means business they finally began the recipe. This quick dinner took another 2.5 hours to prepare. When it was done, it was delicious and they served it to the family with pride.
The Infamous Social Media Post
I mentioned earlier I made a post about my mom cooking strike. It immediately gained attention. There were several supporters, but a couple who chastised me for refusing to cook for everyone. Apparently, no matter how large of a mess kids make I should be mom enough to clean it up. I’m sorry, not if they are almost old enough to drive.
I have at least one kid who is almost old enough for driver’s education, which means taking his life in his hands as well as other peoples’. He needs to learn responsibility, independence, and more! If I cannot trust him to clean the kitchen and cook a meal, how can I possibly hand him a set of keys to go out on the road? In my mind, I simply cannot.
Comments, mostly in support, continued on this post for weeks. One person who disagreed stated it was a “crock of BS” that I wouldn’t feed my children and under no circumstances should a mom refuse to cook dinner or clean up after her family. She is entitled to her opinion and I am in no way going to force mine on her. We all parent differently.
As I watched the post commentary I realized something needed to be done about these boys. The youngest, obviously needs me to cook and clean up after him. The older 2 need to learn more about helping. Clearly family cleaning day was not enough.
I want my boys to be functional members of any household they enter. They will not feel their wives should do all the cooking and cleaning. I want them to realize they are part of the team and that “boys will be boys” is just an enabling statement for bad behavior.
One day these boys will be MEN. What kind of men do I want them to be? I want men who help their wives not add extra strain, treating their wives like slaves. I’m no feminist. I believe in this world often with 2 working parents that everyone needs to help out.
Cooking as A Weekly Chore
Cooking as punishment is not a good solution. This year begins a new training plan for my 15 year old. He will cook a meal every Monday evening. His job will be:
- Plan the meal on Saturday
- Take stock of available ingredients
- Provide a shopping list
- Monday he will cook, serve, and tidy up after
Monday is typically his easy day and conveniently my busy day.
The First Month of Cooking (Update)
We’ve been doing this since the week after school began. Some days it works out well, other days he tries to “forget” to meal plan and throw it on me. The reality is, even if I don’t meal plan, the house still needs to eat. He’s learned it’s no fun to go to the kitchen and try to “make up” something with whatever happens to be stocked.
I want my kids to feel the pride in accomplishing something. There are rules to the meal planning designed to help him learn and grow. They are simple, you cannot make the same thing twice in a month. If that wasn’t a rule we would eat pizza every Monday! His first meal plan was, of course, pizza. However, he chose stuffed crust pizza. Luckily mom has made those before and gave him some tips. The rest he found on the internet. Pictures of his success are below!
I still struggle with the kitchen mess, but it has gotten better. Adding responsibility to each of them seems to have helped with the daily clean up.
How do you feel about this? Great idea? Terrible idea? Do you struggle with kids making the kitchen a mess? I’d love to hear from you. We all mom in our own ways and do our best to raise amazing children.