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. 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.
Sometimes I feel guilty because I have to say no to doing fun things with them. 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.
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.
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.
So no guilt if sometimes you have to say no to the fun things. No guilt if you have to work. No guilt.
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 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 happen in the fabric of life and work.
For more on the value of hard work and learning the balance, check out Rachel’s new book, The Brave Art of Motherhood.
This piece originally appeared at findingjoy.net, published with permission.