Have you ever come home to a sink full of dishes? I’m sure we all have. The is how I came to the biggest revelation as a mom so far 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 out of the question. 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, but this summer they took to trashing the kitchen during that time. The first time, it wasn’t so bad only some cereal on the counter and milk in bowls on the table, but as the summer continued the mess worsened.
The Big One
The biggest mess occurred while the oldest also had a friend over. I’d worked a little later in the day than I typically do so when I finished 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 ice cream cake left on the counter, dripped from the box, melted across the counter, down the cabinets and onto the floor.
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 informed 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. I was tired of late night cooking and cleaning because of the mess so something needed to change. As it turns out, just a mere few days later this punishment was enforced.
Kids Push Back
As I waked into the kitchen the day, faced with another glaring explosion, I simply turned to the kids said clean it, and handed over my recipe. At which point, 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, not that I was in the bath for 3 hours, but simply they “cleaned” for 3 hours, the kitchen still looked the same. Dinner remained uncooked and pleas began for me to help. At this point, I could either be serious about the enforcement or break down and assist. I took the youngest and I walked away.
The husband arrived home at 8 pm, still no dinner, still no clean kitchen, and still no overall progress. He’d already been well informed about the situation via text message earlier in the evening, even if he failed to see my post on social media. The kids implored him to cook dinner and he simply informed them there was fair warming so get it done. At this point the friend, who was still here also went on strike, exasperated with the previous days 8 hours of cleaning and the lack of assistance in the kitchen. Until then, he’d really been the only one making any progress.
Finally at 8:30pm reality hits that mom is serious and if we want to eat, we’ll have to make this happen. So they clean the kitchen post haste. Once the kitchen is clean, there’s a knock at my door: “Mom the kitchen is clean.” Walking out, I note it is indeed clean. “Wonderful,” I tell them, “now cook, pointing to the recipe.”
The recipe isn’t complex. It was a simple chicken and noodle dish with sauce, something alfredo-esque. Overall, it should take 30 minutes to prep and about another 30 minutes to actually cook. The oldest suddenly can’t remember how to cut chicken. Seriously, he’s been in the kitchen and done these things several times, but now faced with having to do it he cannot 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 almost minute detail.
The boys have cooked before. In fact, many breakfasts they handle on their own. I’ve been taking them under my wing in the kitchen since they were very young. However, now faced with cooking after cleaning up their mess was an issue. Tired, hungry, and realizing mom really means business they finally began the recipe. Now this quick dinner took another 2.5 hours to prepare. However, in the end it was delicious and they served it up to the family with pride.
The Infamous Social Media Post
I mentioned earlier I made a post about the mom cooking strike. It immediately gained attention. There were several supporters, but a couple of people who chastised me for refusing to cook for everyone. Apparently, no matter how large of a mess kids, even ones old enough to nearly drive, I should be mom enough to clean it up. I’m sorry no. I have at least one kid who is almost old enough to drive, 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, who 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 almost a week. 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. 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, but 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 because the reality is one day these boys will be MEN. What kind of men do I want them to be? Moreover, I want men who help their wives not add extra strain, treating their wives like slaves with male entitlement. Now I’m no feminist. However, I believe in this world often with 2 working parents that everyone needs to throw their hat in the ring.
Cooking as punishment is not a good solution for this. So this year for my 15 year old, he cooks a meal every Monday evening. It’s his job to plan the meal on Saturday, provide a shopping list, and then Monday enact the plan. Monday is typically his easy day and conveniently my busy day. 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 present in there.
Even more, 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 a few of those and gave him some tips. The rest he found on the internet. Pictures of his success are below!
How do you feel about this? Great idea? Terrible idea? I’d love to hear from you. We all mom in our own ways and do our best to raise amazing children.