What does the term “running a household” mean to you? Is it cleaning? Is it budgeting and bill-paying? Is it cooking? Is it scheduling? Is it home maintenance tasks? Is it personnel management and conflict resolution? Is it daily planning? Is it all that? Is it more? Yes, yes and yes. For all the tasks moms do in the course of a day, MBA programs could learn a thing or two about management. And your kids need to learn it, too, on their paths to independence.
So much of this job you do as a matter of course. So much so that you probably don’t realize it! But if you had to describe to someone — and in particular, your child — what it takes to run your household, where would you start? And where would it end? This is unheralded work, to be sure. It’s undervalued and underappreciated, and we all need to do it. Rather then letting this work continue to be invisible, talk to your kids about it, and let them learn strong management skills from the best: You.
On some level, you are already teaching your children about this role in your life just by doing it. But talking about it brings it out into the light, ready for greater understanding. It’s not a single instance talk, sitting at the kitchen table. It’s an ongoing, deliberate conversation that starts with simple, matter-of-fact, age-appropriate discussions of what you’re doing and why you are doing it — as you are doing it. Especially as your kids get older, into the tween and teen years, they need to understand the kind of responsibility that comes with the life they are leading — a responsibility you have been shouldering.
Planning, organizing, scheduling, doing
Managing a household takes time. Lots and lots of time. As you are engaging in your various tasks, try to take moments to reflect on the steps you are taking, why you are taking them, and the amount of time it takes to complete these tasks. If your child is nearby, mention it, and continue the discussion about household management — age appropriately, of course. If not, make some notes for a later discussion. Yeah, your child may groan at some of the conversations (when do teens not groan when being taught something?), but keep at it. These are lessons they will remember.
For example, if you are calling to schedule an annual chimney cleaning, you have the opportunity to teach: (1) That managing a home means maintaining safety, and that includes regular chimney maintenance; (2) What it takes to choose a vendor for the service; (3) How you juggle schedules so you are home when the service needs to happen. Did your child even know that chimneys need to be maintained? Did you know at your teenager’s age? And when and how did you learn about common steps to choosing people to work on your home? (And don’t you wish you had understood some of those basics sooner?)
When you engage in this effort to teach these very important skills, don’t be surprised if your family expresses a newly realized appreciation for all that you do. It’s not meant to be guilt-inducing at all, but rather an understanding of what it takes to lead a life, even the simplest life, and giving your children the tools and skills they’ll need to build their own such life.