Memoirs of a Mum: Teaching My Last Child to Do House Chores Like Her Older Siblings

Chinwe Kalu

I remember when my first daughter went for common entrance oral interview a few years back, the interviewer asked her if she could do any house chores and she reeled off all the things she could do. ‘I can make my bed, tidy my room, cook rice…’ I was so proud of her. I gave myself a pat on the back.

Somehow, my second daughter was also able to pick these same skills. In fact, my stint in Tanzania without a full time maid meant they both needed to step up their housekeeping game. My son has got some housekeeping skills too. I taught him. I tell him, “I don’t want your future wife to curse me for not teaching you anything.” However, there is yet the little one. She was never really asked to do anything because her older sisters and brother would do it all. She would just hang around and not do much. Now, they have left home for boarding school and I suddenly realize my baby has to learn these skills herself. She knows what to do but is never motivated to do it.

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Every instruction has to be given three times. I ask, ‘Have you made your bed?’ and she says, ‘Yes, mummy.’ Then I go to check, and it’s exactly the way it was when she woke up. ‘You have not made you bed, please make sure you make it before you leave for school.’ I get another, ‘Yes, mummy.’ 10 minutes later, I go back to the room, the bed is still unmade. At this time I’m raising my voice, ‘Don’t get into trouble with me, make your bed right now.’ And she goes, ‘Alright mummy, I will, I will.’ And actually makes the bed. We do this most mornings.

It’s the same with doing dinner dishes. I don’t make a fuss about breakfast dishes but I have started to insist on her tidying the kitchen after dinner. She is busy getting ready for secondary school but needs to imbibe these housekeeping skills.

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So, she gets the dishes done but leaves the sink in a mess. I call her right back to it. She cleans the sink but, the floor’s all messed up, I call her back to it. She leaves something in the wrong place, I call her back to it. It would be much easier for me to get them done myself, but I know I owe it to her to keep sending her back until she gets it right.

There is also the issue of washing her uniforms. We can wash them with the washing machine, but I now insist she washes them herself. A few days ago, she washed them and spread them out on a mattress inside the house!!! Can you imagine? Wet uniforms on a mattress? My husband screamed. He became really concerned. I understand his concern but I know she is currently undergoing a learning process and will soon get it right like her siblings did.

To encourage her, I told her the story of a young woman who didn’t learn how to do chores at home because her family had plenty of maids who did all the work. After getting married, she couldn’t cook or clean. She depended on take-outs from eateries. Her poor cousin was brought in to rescue the situation. She eventually married her husband and broke her home. Sad but true story. This story encouraged her.

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I also tell her, ‘No boarding school until I’m sure you can take care of yourself properly.’ Her sisters come home with reports of girls who simply cannot. They become the hostel nuisances. I don’t want house mistresses complaining every time I come visiting. That made her sit up. She really wants to go to boarding school like her siblings.

As a mother, one of my concerns is making sure that I do not raise daughters, or children incapable of executing house chores. I started the training a little late for my last daughter. I’m relieved she is rising to the challenge. I have a lady who comes in to clean once a week. What that means is that we have to run our own errands ourselves for the rest of the week. So we share chores. Since it’s just three of us at home now, she has to do her bit, especially when I’m tired and need her help. It helps to keep the training going.

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It’s possible she’s also asked that question her eldest sister answered so impressively at her interview, and I’m glad she’s on the track to give a brilliant answer. She’ll be able to say, ‘I can make my bed, clean the house, cook…’  On and on. I’m working on it.

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