I am not a fun mom.
And I’d be lying if I said that it was the four kids who sucked the fun out of me.
I’ve never been fun.
I was a very serious little girl, a melancholy teenager, and am now a mostly grumpy adult.
When grocery shopping, strangers frequently tell me to “enjoy your kids” (which I hate to hear) and worse they tell me to “smile.”
So it boggles my mind a little when I see posts about “Making Chores Fun for Kids” and “How to Have a Fun Bedtime Routine.”
All I can think is, “WHY?!?”
And if the answer is “so that kids won’t get bored,” I’ll just go ahead and tell you I don’t care if my kids are bored.
The amount of mess out there about millennials and their unrealistic expectations of the world is overwhelming. And yet here we are millennials sitting at home in yoga pants, drinking organic tea, blogging for a living and raising our kids to have even more unrealistic expectations.
Because seriously, why does work need to be fun?
The very definition of the word work lets you know it’s not supposed to be fun.
According to Merriam Webster the definition of work is “to exert oneself physically or mentally especially in sustained effort for a purpose.”
The work is for a purpose.
The purpose isn’t to have fun while doing the work.
When my kids get their first job at Chick-fil-a like all good pastor’s kids, I really doubt that the shift manager is going to encourage them to use a fidget spinner to make the chicken frying more fun.
Because in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re having fun while you do your job.
What matters is that you do the job well.
So why not raise our kids to be diligent?
We encourage them to be hard workers not entertained workers.
I can see the flip side of this.
I understand the argument, “If they’re going to have to do work, we might as well make it fun because after all, they’re just kids, and we want them to have a magical and wonderful childhood.”
The whole purpose of parenting is to prepare kids to go out into the world without you and be successful.
We’re supposed to get them ready to live life without us. This is a major paradigm shift from what we see all over the internet.
This is about viewing your role with the end in mind and parenting deliberately.
If you think your child is old enough to help with chores, then they are old enough to understand the necessity of work.
I’m not saying that we should be raising the next generation of menial laborers. I don’t want to only teach my kids to clean the house and complete rote tasks without question.
But in every job I’ve ever had, I’ve had to work for my paycheck. And most of the time it wasn’t fun.
I’ve never been a Disney princess so maybe that’s a job that you get paid to have fun??
Now understand, I’m not a slave driver.
Sometimes we do turn on music while we put away the laundry and dance our clothes to the right basket (we don’t have dressers anymore).
But as soon as the shenanigans get out of hand, the music goes off.
Because the whole point is to get the clean clothes put away. We aren’t having a dance party with a little laundry distribution on the side.
I’m not going to lie, it’s hard.
It’s hard to teach kids to be hard workers.
When my son takes an hour to sweep the dining room and tries to use the broom like a flag in a choreographed dance routine, it takes everything in me not to snatch it out of his hands and do it the right way.
Because I am a fantastic sweeper even though I don’t consider myself a homemaker.
But the point of parenting isn’t to keep clean floors, or even to teach kids how to clean floors.
The whole point is to teach our kids how to finish a job even when it isn’t fun.
If you decide you are tired of being a fun mom, let me give you three tips to make the paradigm shift smoother.
1. Make sure your family is on board.
Your husband can’t undermine you.
Chores are a necessary part of living together as a family. It’s unrealistic to think that the parents can do all the work, and kids can just play. So talk to your spouse and figure out a plan that works for your whole family.
For our family, we use a chore chart and pay the kids for chores.
They don’t get paid for things that we deem responsibilities.
For example, unloading the dishwasher is a chore. Cleaning up their own place after each meal is a responsibility.
2. Explain it to your kids
My seven-year-old son desperately wants to have big muscles. To that end, he exercises several times a week. (Mostly he does Pilates videos with me and picks up heavy things three or four times before running to the mirror to flex.)
He exercises because he understands that activity will eventually produce results.
I am a firm believer in talking to kids like they are smart and capable of understanding big ideas, so we always talk to them about big family changes before we implement them.
We sit down at the dining room table because everyone has a chair there and we can all see each other easily without anyone touching.
Then my husband and I explain the change.
We do it quickly and thoroughly and then ask, “what questions do you have?”
And then we answer every. single. question.
3. Be realistic about each of your kids
Each kid is different.
I am constantly amazed at how my four children can be so completely different.
It seems like there would be some overlap somewhere.
Every child will have limitations because of age or personality or whatever.
Don’t set expectations that they can’t reach. Doing this may sound easy, but it will require you to carefully consider each of your kids.
You want them to feel successful and challenged. It’s a fine balance between so easy they don’t feel challenged and so difficult they don’t feel successful.
We often require all the kids to do the same chores but with modifications.
With our ten-year-old, we expect that when she unloads the dishwasher every single dish will be put away where it goes – glasses, knives, etc.
With our four-year-old, we expect that all of the dishes will be out of the dishwasher but things that go in the upper cabinets will be set neatly on the counter.
Each of them gets credit for completing the chore at their level. And our four-year-old knows that by the time she is ten, she will be responsible for putting away all the dishes.
We also pay for chores according to age. Because we expect more of our older kids, they get pay increases as they age. It’s much like getting a pay raise at work for doing a good job for a long time.
And let me clarify one thing – we do have fun.
Lest you think we are over here living the family version of Little Orphan Annie, we do fun things together all the time.
We go on vacations and trips several times a year despite the difficulty of traveling with kids.
We have days that we go swimming and to the park and to the movies and all kinds of fun places.
My husband and I think it’s very important to have fun with our kids, as a family. We also think it’s important that our kids don’t expect everything to be fun. If everything is fun then the fun times aren’t special. If everything we do with the kids is a game and nothing is work, then fun is routine. It isn’t memorable.
Work time makes playtime sweeter.
Life is supposed to move in seasons. Proverbs says there is a season for everything. In the last year alone we have experienced death and life, mourning and dancing, failure and success, work and fun.
And while I enjoy the dancing more than the mourning, recognizing that everything comes and goes in time helps us to stay centered, to weather the storms of life, to work and play, and to appreciate God’s goodness through it all.