Here is last night’s conversation with my 10-year-old son. It was a typical school night where Chinese food delivery was squeezed in between a particularly busy workday and a long evening to-do list, his homework and basketball practice…
“You and your brother need to start helping me out around the house more,” I screeched from behind the gigantic mountain of laundry I was carrying up two flights of stairs.
“What do you mean?” he asked innocently, barely looking up from a game he was playing on my iPhone.
“It’s called ‘running myself ragged,’ is what I mean,” I responded firmly. “It’s called being a Single Mom!” he said.
One in four working mothers cry alone at least once a week, according to a Care.com survey. I am determined not to be one of them. Not surprisingly, the survey found juggling it all can take a toll on a mom’s life. One-third of the women surveyed feel they’re always falling behind, but the same percentage said they won’t hire outside help, because they feel guilty for not being able to do it themselves.
Over the years, I’ve tried nearly a dozen things to get my two boys, now ages 10 and 13, to regularly do their chores. Paper charts; email reminders; lists on the dry erase calendar on the kitchen wall, on Post-It notes, on the fridge, on mirrors. There were apps for that. But nothing worked. So I’m going against professional advice of financial and parenting experts and going to try something crazy — tying their allowance to their chores.
I’ve never been one to conform to everything “normal,” so I am comfortable trying this approach — even if it makes some cringe. I was the mom who tried to sleep train her babies for one night (ok, one five-minute period that seemed way too long) and went flying in to grab them on their third whimper. With expert advice in my mind, I do sit down to a family meal at the table at least a few times a week — but sometimes we watch “Nashville” or “Impractical Jokers” while we eat. I know nutritionists and pediatricians stress the importance of kids eating vegetables. I don’t sneak them into everything, like parents are supposed to do, but I do roast broccoli and crisp Brussel sprouts weekly (yep — they love them; so do I).
I feel like if I am happy with doing most things right, and the kids seem happy and healthy, I won’t be one of the moms crying once a week. With a glass of red wine in my hand after carpools, I try not worry about keeping up with all the contradictory studies in the news about whether wine is bad or good for women, about what makes a good parent and about what moms should or should not do daily.
So, how is it going, making my sons do chores in order to get their allowance? I’m just not sure yet.
After last week’s snowstorm, my 10-year-old actually schlepped out with the snow shovel to shovel the walkway the very first time I asked him. That was new. He did it quickly, and on my quick check, he appeared to have cleared it all. I was proud. This was working!
But the next night, on the dark porch (I had been meaning get my other son to change that burnt-out lightbulb that’s been sitting in that porch light for three weeks), in my rush to get into the house in the freezing cold, after the gym, I went flying on an unforeseen teeny tiny patch of ice. He’d left it by mistake. I went down. Hard. I have a gigantic bruise all over my backside to prove it. I think my behind may even be permanently indented from the fall.
Change is hard. It can hurt. You could say the same for motherhood. Finding the right parenting strategies so you don’t end up in tears has no global solution. Every Mom needs to find what works for her. Single or not. Working or not. Not just to get through the day, but to enjoy at least part of the day and stay positive. Expert advice is great, but so is a mom’s intuition. My kids are doing their chores!