It is not my job to entertain my kids.
Yes, I want the best for them. Yes, I want them to experience great moments. Yes, I want them to have opportunity and see new things. Yes, I want to have fun with them too. But, it is also not my job to provide them with constant entertainment and things to do.
When I was little Saturday morning meant cleaning at my house. I hated Saturday as a kid, honestly. But, my parents knew that I needed to learn that life isn’t always expecting the fun and being entertained – it also meant learning to do the hard things. So I would be stuck vacuuming or folding clothes or picking up toys. Work.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I have to say no to doing fun things with my kids. I don’t say no because I don’t want to do stuff with them, but rather because I have to work or save money or just the build up of chores and housework is more pressing. And then I feel guilty that I’m not being a good mom or they’re missing out.
But here’s the deal – when we teach our kids the balance they don’t always expect to do something. And then they learn to appreciate the special things for what they are – special, not expected. They learn about real life and work.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to say no. Or it’s hard to make them do chores because, let's be real, sometimes I would be way faster than they are or I don’t want to deal with complaining.
I’m not letting them down when I have to do hard things instead of fun things. Instead I’m teaching to them the hierarchy of needs. You can’t eat unless you work. That’s a basic one in life, but in today’s world, it’s easy to forget. I work so that food is on the table. And sometimes, I have to work so we all can eat.
So I make them do things.
If they leave a dish on the table I’ll call them down, from upstairs and have them put it away. And not just on the counter, but rinsed in the dishwasher. And if the dishwasher needs emptying I’ll make them start there. Why? It teaches a code of responsibility.
Doing the hard things makes room for the good things.
Do you know the neatest thing? I remember one night, as a kid, when my parents had all of us kids sitting at the table cutting corn off the cob so that they could freeze it. Well, after an hour or two of this, I said, in the way kids do, to my dad, “could we have ice cream afterwards?” And I remember him looking at my mom, winking. Well, instead of ice cream from the freezer they packed us up, drove four miles and stopped at Dairy Queen. And, unlike normal, they let us order whatever we wanted.
Do you know why I remembered it?
Because getting the Peanut Buster Parfait after chores wasn’t normal. It was a gift. A reward. And I remember my dad saying to us kids about how hard we worked and how grateful they were for our contribution.
So remember that. When the kids grumble or you feel guilty. Because my parents didn’t entertain us – they made us work and taught us to value the moments, the freedom, and the space of the rewards of work.
Sometimes the simplest moments and best memories happen in the fabric of life and work.
Rachel Marie Martin is the founder of FindingJoy and author of The Brave Art of Motherhood - where she celebrates the power of showing up and provides moms with the steps they need to celebrate their stories and find joy again. She also talks about the importance of work and teaching our kids the value in doing hard things. The personal stories, coupled with real advice have motivated millions of moms to fight for their hearts and to dare to be brave. Click here to grab your own copy and reclaim joy in your life.
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