How my kids started doing the chores once The Help left us

By Sandhya D’Mello

Okay. Phew… so now that the storm has passed, I can narrate my saga of how good housekeeping merged with effective parenting. This is about the triumph of the will over the impossible. So, stay with me.

Till about two months ago, we had Arif, our domestic help, who has since upped and left; long story. Life has been different since his departure, and not all togeher in a bad way.

We have appliances at home, but the question is, without Arif, who would operate those appliances? Technology still can’t fold clothes, clean bathrooms, do the dishes, arrange the closets, etc.

Now, here’s the deal. Our brood consists of two boys and a girl. And our domestic help, Arif, used to pamper us. Everyone quickly realised the pressure he would absorb — till he had to go. So now that our guardian angel was gone, the home and the tasks glared at me and I glared at the family.

We needed the house to not be a mess. Burden on one person (me) is neither fair nor possible. So, how could we ensure that the tasks would be accomplished without any of us being to bogged down by them?

After much deliberation, the better-half and I devised a solution to divide tasks individually. Two months ago, we had a candid discussion with the children. We needed their help and they stepped up and agreed to lend a hand provided only they be accountable for the task — no parental meddling, and treated like adults. Of course, we were, and are supervising them, but this seemed manageable. We reached a deal.

The boys, aged 18 and 12, were given the tasks of making the beds, doing a bit of cooking and laundry. In fact, all three of them have taken charge of some aspect of laundry, but it’s mostly the eldest.

The 12-year-old has a weekly task to (also) do the laundry, make the beds and clean the fridge every week. Our daughter, aged 10, has been tasked with folding clothes and arranging them in closets, peeling vegetables, washing the meat, and preparing a salad daily. She also keeps track of how many clothes are sent for ironing, and tallying the bills.

The eldest now has taken charge of provisions. He shops for groceries, and in doing so, we hope he learns the value of food, and that life is not lived off debit and credit cards. His siblings and he are now on the lookout for the best weekend deals at the hypermarket

Imagine my surprise one day as I reached home from work to be greeted by this scene: kids eating their dinner (fish fry with curry and rice; staple Mangalorean fare), with salad and juice on the table. That wasn’t all. Post dinner, the plates were taken to the kitchen. One angelic face and feeble voice said to me, “It’s fine, let me clear it.” Even as I was getting accustomed to the absence of Arif, those words were straight from heaven.

Life, for most kids in Dubai, revolves around school. Post that, they step into their inseparable virtual worlds. Earlier, it would not matter to any of them if the school uniforms were unwashed, bedspreads not folded, tiffin boxes in the sink. Weekends would pass by and, like any family, we would rush on Saturday evenings to arrange school bags, uniform, school assignments, groceries, etc.

With the new routine in place, it didn’t take long to see that the kids were becoming more responsible.

They know now that if they don’t do the laundry, their school uniforms will not be ironed and ready to wear — unlike in pre-Arif times, when all they had to do was open the closet and pull out what to wear.

Similarly, they know now that there will be no clean dishes if they don’t wash them after their meals, and that unless tiffin boxes are rinsed, they cannot carry their snacks to school in them the next morning.

Initially, it was difficult for them to deviate from their virtual world and deal with realities of life. But they gradually accepted the new routine. Now, they even check weekly offers in the neighbourhood hypermarket to find out the best buys of the weekend.

Allocating tasks was easy. But there was a catch: the kids ganged up. They realised they were not being incentivised for their chores. Some folks might shake their heads thinking kids should help out at home, without being “paid” — after all, didn’t we all do chores without money? But my husband and I feel there’s no harm in giving them something to look forward to. I think we can all agree, house-keeping is tedious business.

The bargaining began and they started competing among themselves as to who would complete the most tasks to earn the maximum pocket money.

My home is now clean and well-maintained. Secretly, we are all loving contributing towards keeping it tidy, making it a home. Hubby and I are forced to take more of an interest in the upkeep. And the results are delightful. Seeing the kids busy making home better is a great feeling. But the best outcome has been that gadgets and social media are kept aside for some time.

Sandhya loves fish curry almost as much as cotton saris

sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

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