Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mom on Strike

My husband called from the other side of the earth the other day and said, “So I hear you’re on strike.” Apparently, my oldest e-mailed to alert him of the dire situation at home.
Last night after cleaning up the dishes, spilled jelly, and mashed blueberries that covered the counter, I reached my breaking point. I realize those small tasks don’t seem like enough to justify a labor dispute, so let me paint the picture for you.

First of all, it was the just about the bazillionith day of six-thousand degree heat which improves no one’s mood. I had begun the day by dragging my beautiful children out of bed and forcing them to go to church with me. I was in need of some sanctuary. In the afternoon I ferried them to the swimming hole two miles down the creek and indulged them with all manner of snack food. I played an endless game of monopoly and allowed them friends, mindless TV, and unlimited computer time the rest of the day. Dinner was a free-for-all (hence the blueberries and jelly). So, with the exception of forced-church, it’s not as if I’d been taxing them all day.

For me it was the endless mess and the prospect of ten more days of solo parent/maid service/cook duty that was pushing me towards that dangerous edge of Angry-Mom. These children are smart, resourceful, energetic, creative souls. Certainly they can clean up after themselves.

My request that they put their own dishes in the dishwasher was met with disdain as was my appeal for someone to feed the dogs and cats. But it was the cheese puff bag under the coffee table that sent me over the cliff. First of all, I had turned a blind eye to the child who placed the cheese puffs in the grocery cart, so the fact that they ate them in the living room (not allowed) and then had the gall to leave the empty bag on the floor lit the fuse that I had been dragging behind me all day.

I blasted them verbally and then retreated to my room to fume to my journal. After I had written myself calm, I went back downstairs and informed them that I am on strike. I’m not doing anything for them until they start pitching in. No rides, no playdates, no meals, no laundry. Mom is on strike.

So the next went a little better. I didn’t fix anyone’s meals or do anyone’s laundry (except my AWOL hubby’s). I told them their rooms must be clean by this weekend. Amazingly, no dishes were abandoned on the counter. My oldest simply skipped lunch rather than fix it himself. Miraculously the cats and dogs got fed. My youngest even helped me bathe the dog that won’t stop scratching. (please God, let it not be fleas)

I decided to cross the picket line and fix dinner, but I didn’t put down my sign. I do realize that I have no one to blame but myself (and my husband) for the lazy inclinations of my children. It’s a little late in the game to be asking them to start picking up the slack which is precisely why extreme action was called for – hence the strike. I was resolved to hold my line.

The next day I caught myself washing the dishes abandoned on the counter before I remembered that I was on strike. I considered calling for the culprit, but was too tired for the fight that would inevitably follow. Which is how this strike ended peaceably. Later in the day I picked out broken glass from the dishwasher where some well-intentioned but annoyed worker had actually put his/her glass in the dishwasher without being threatened first.

After dinner I watched as one of my boys dumped his ketchup laden plate directly in to the dishwasher and dropped his utensils ala clothespin-in-the-milk jug in to the utensil holder, two out of three making their mark.

Was my strike effective? Hard to say, but it registered my unhappiness and it even inspired a tiny change of behavior. Will it last? Again, hard to say, but once the other boss is back in the country it may be time to renegotiate this contract.

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