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Last night, after I made my 3 children frothy hot chocolates, my seven year old son approached me. He said, “Mum, you say all the time that you aren’t our servant, but you kind of are.” Mmmm, interesting. I asked him why he said that. He replied, “Well, servants are people who serve other people, right? They cook and clean and do all kinds of things for other people as their job, right?” I grudgingly agreed, not really liking this conversation very much at all.
He continued, “Well, there is a problem then, Mum, because you act like our servant because you wash our clothes and cook and fetch us from school and help us with homework, and clean our rooms sometimes even when we were supposed to. You do lots of things for us kids but we don’t have money to pay you, so that means you do it for free. That’s really bad, Mum. It means you are a slave!”
I was gob-smacked. What a thought. Deep breath, Michelle, deep breath.
I replied that I do all these things for him and his sisters because I love them and because everyone in our family works together to keep things going. I tried to get him to see that I’m just doing my part in the same way that his Dad and siblings do theirs. I told him that I love taking care of my kids and that I know that they try their best to do their chores (most of the time) and that part of being their mother is doing lovely things for them simply because I love them and that it makes me happy to do so. I hope I imparted to him that families need to operate as teams and take care of each other in the best way they know how.
He wasn’t satisfied. He started asking about odd jobs he could do so that he can earn money, because he wants to pay me for what I do I the house. He was totally mortified at the thought of me working so hard and getting nothing for it. In his mind, the injustice was huge. I laughed and hugged my sweet, earnest boy and explained to him that just knowing that he notices all I do and is grateful for it is payment enough. That I love his huge heart and the fact that he took the time to think these thoughts and express them to me.
I thought the conversation was over and didn’t think much of it. We had a fabulous family evening, complete with spontaneous jamming on the musical instruments (we murdered Adele) and cuddling on the couch to watch the Olympics. It was a rare weeknight treat. I was enjoying this family time so much that I decided that tonight, the dishes could wait. I wasn’t going to nag the kids about clearing the table or helping me with the dishes. Tonight, we’d just have fun. The girls decided to put on a dance show (a whole other post) and I vaguely remember wondering where Little Man was during their performance, but figured he was probably all girled-out and was likely playing Lego instead.
After much hustling (and waaaaaay after their bedtime) the three kids were finally in bed and I realised I had to go face that horrendous pile of dishes in the sink.
I. Did. Not. Want. To. Do. Dishes.
But, they weren’t going to wash themselves. I cynically thought to myself that Little Man wasn’t far off in his description of me as a slave. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with dishes, laundry, mopping, sweeping.
Uninspired, I trudged to the sink and then stopped short.
The sink was empty. In the drying rack was a lopsided stack of half-clean, soapy dishes. There was a giant puddle on the floor under the yellow Ikea stool, dragged from the playroom.
It seems this slave got paid.
Thank you, Little Man. Mama’s proud.