Chores and Chil­dren

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - BY RINKA PEREZ

Ex­pat chil­dren and house­hold help usu­ally go handin-hand when you’re liv­ing in In­done­sia. It’s al­ways been ad­van­ta­geous for us to have help around but as my chil­dren are get­ting older, I’m start­ing to be­lieve that house­hold staff is ac­tu­ally detri­men­tal to their de­vel­op­ment. Why? The main rea­son is be­cause it hin­ders their in­de­pen­dence and cre­ates the mind­set that re­spon­si­bil­ity can be out­sourced. Al­though I am not rush­ing to let my maid go, there are many changes that I can make to en­sure that my chil­dren grow up with a sense of ac­count­abil­ity and own­er­ship of their du­ties. The best way to teach them this is by al­low­ing my chil­dren to com­plete their own chores and help out around our home.

Truth­fully, it’s not an easy task be­cause chil­dren are more con­cerned with play­ing rather than clean­ing. The fol­low­ing are some mon­u­men­tal steps that fam­i­lies can take to­wards hav­ing a bal­anced house­hold:


When my chil­dren were ba­bies, they weren’t aware of their sur­round­ings there­fore I could have full-time staff with­out wor­ry­ing what im­pact it would have on their per­cep­tion of the world. As my chil­dren have grown up, I have slowly worked to­wards cut­ting back on hired help. I have cut down on my nanny’s hours. She now plays a more in­ac­tive role and helps with co­or­di­nat­ing my chil­dren’s con­flict­ing school hours and ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. She has never been and will never be the type of nanny that fol­lows my chil­dren around, cater­ing to their de­mands. The chil­dren un­der­stand that she is my helper and not theirs.

I am also cut­ting back on the hours of our maid, align­ing them with my chil­dren’s school hours. This helps tremen­dously with our fam­ily dy­namic be­cause my chil­dren no longer sense her pres­ence around and won’t have a fall back per­son to clean up their spills. They also can’t go to her ask­ing for a bis­cuit, af­ter I have said no. Week­ends are staff-free – we fo­cus on fam­ily time.


Al­though I hire some­one to come in and clean my house, I did not lose my dig­nity, nor did my arms and legs fall off! My maid does not need to present our meals on sil­ver plat­ters or serve us like we are roy­alty. She is a re­spected em­ployee in our house­hold and we ap­pre­ci­ate her. We ac­knowl­edge that she is ul­ti­mately our “helper” only and not our scape­goat to pick up af­ter us or cater to our every need.

How can we be good role mod­els for our chil­dren if we can­not sweep the floor when nec­es­sary or wash our own dishes? My hus­band and I like to dis­play pos­i­tive be­havioural mod­el­ling to our chil­dren be­cause we want them to know that ul­ti­mately it is our own re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep our home clean and tidy. I want my chil­dren to wit­ness us tak­ing pride in this. House­hold re­spon­si­bil­ity is also not gen­der bi­ased. Males and fe­males both take equal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.


I have started to shift my mind­set on house­hold chores. Of course, when I was sleep de­prived with three young chil­dren, I re­lied heav­ily on my staff to help me. But I’ve come to re­alise that just be­cause my maid is ca­pa­ble of com­plet­ing a par­tic­u­lar task around my home, that doesn’t mean that she has to do it for me! For in­stance, she doesn’t need to do our laun­dry or wash our dishes, es­pe­cially if del­e­gat­ing these re­spon­si­bil­i­ties onto my chil­dren will have a more pos­i­tive im­pact on their morale. More so, if the out­come of my chil­dren wit­ness­ing me com­plet­ing a chore is re­in­forc­ing good be­hav­iour, then this in­tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit clearly out­weighs the tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit of out­sourc­ing it. Once I started to view house­hold chores in this light, my whole per­spec­tive changed.


I have seen first hand that chil­dren are never too young to start help­ing out with chores. There are many ageap­pro­pri­ate chores that chil­dren can par­tic­i­pate in and al­though they may seem in­signif­i­cant to adults, they are huge mile­stones for them. My two-year-old makes his own bed, puts his shoes away and is ex­pected to pick up af­ter him­self. Yes it’s dif­fi­cult to con­stantly en­force these rules and he needs a lot of help, but I talk him through them and I make him ac­count­able. If he leaves a dirty sock on the floor, I ask him if that’s where it be­longs. At this age, he en­joys help­ing out.

All of my chil­dren help set the ta­ble at meal time and clear their dirty dishes. They rinse the dishes (in­clud­ing my two-year-old) and clean the din­ing ta­ble.. They know to get a mop if they’ve spilled a drink and en­sure all toys are packed away in the evenings, oth­er­wise those toys will be do­nated and taken away. Of course, at their age, mis­takes are made and the task isn’t done to per­fec­tion. I def­i­nitely need to re­fold their clothes and make sure the dirty ones hit the in­side of the laun­dry bas­ket! The most im­por­tant thing is that they know that it’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity. They know that I will ul­ti­mately hold them ac­count­able for it. Hav­ing chil­dren help out with chores is much harder for the par­ents be­cause we need to fol­low through and check that they have done them. There is a lot of nag­ging and en­cour­age­ment but all of this ex­tra ef­fort is a part of par­ent­ing, and I ac­knowl­edge that par­ent­ing isn’t al­ways fun and easy.


My long-term goal is to have our house­hold run­ning self suf­fi­ciently with no house­hold help. I want to cre­ate a space where each fam­ily mem­ber is equally re­spon­si­ble for all of the chores. I want them cook­ing, clean­ing hy­gien­i­cally and most im­por­tantly, learn­ing that they are a part of a team where we help each other out and feel proud of our con­tri­bu­tions. This, I hope will be a life­long habit.

“My hus­band and I like to dis­play pos­i­tive be­havioural mod­el­ling to our chil­dren be­cause we want them to know that ul­ti­mately it is our own re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep our home clean and tidy. I want my chil­dren to wit­ness us tak­ing pride in this.”

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