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Weekend Life

Tales From the Motherhood: The wistful and woeful tales of house cleaning

A few days ago, a friend mentioned a piece NBC’s “Today Show” did about a mom who went on strike after becoming fed up with her kids for not cleaning up after themselves. Apparently, she’d already taught them how to do this and, apparently, they’d begun to slack off.

She’d had enough, and she wasn’t going to take it anymore, she said.

I’m not sure I agree with her methods – like her choice to not tell them she’d had enough before going on strike, for example – but I can certainly relate to her frustration.

Years ago, another mother made headlines when she pitched a tent in her own front yard for similar reasons. I could totally go for that, some days, but it wouldn’t be because of the mess.

No, the thing that would drive me into my tent would be the bickering, the loopy back-and-forth nonsense with no end in sight, that nothing but playing really loud music (mine) interrupts. It does me in. That’s when I daydream about living completely alone with only a cat and a geranium for company, but I digress.

In my house, it’s my daughter who seems most stressed by the mess. In fact, this week, Holly announced that she’s planning a family meeting to deal with it.

She even wrote up an agenda, titled “New Rules.” Among other things, she wrote, “Keep every room in house clean! We R slobs!” Well, yes, we are.

I always loved my Aunt Meg’s rousing Saturday morning clean-up routine, a non-negotiable event in her home, even for visiting nieces and nephews. It was a drag at first, but I always ended up feeling good afterward – like I’d belonged, however briefly, to a “team” with a shared mission. 

Not a bad thing for a kid to feel. I’ve been meaning to do this with my own kids, but I confess: Though my kids generally understand that they should pick up after themselves and sometimes do, I don’t police them. Like other moms, I find it simpler to just zip through the house and get stuff done on my own when the spirit moves me (which isn’t often enough, apparently) or when company threatens to visit.

But, I do get tired of cleaning up after other people. I tend to pick up first thing in the morning, after Todd and the kids leave for work and school and before I start my own work, but not even five minutes after each of them returns, the house looks like a crime scene.

You might even be able to retrace their steps and reconstruct their every move simply by noticing which cupboards were left open, where the crumbs are, whether the toilet seat is up or down, and by following the trail of the contents of their backpacks.

My personal favorite is the socks. Noah doesn’t even slow down to toss his down the basement stairs to the laundry room, let alone into a corner where the rest of us won’t trip over them.

Instead, he peels them off and leaves them behind as he continues on his path of destruction. It’s comical. Yes, I’m easily amused – Holly, not so much.

So, we’re having a meeting. I love that my daughter took the initiative and is shaking things up, and silently cheered when I saw her list, which also includes “Help with general things: Washing windows, vacuuming,” (Halleluiah!) and “Don’t use others’ socks!”

I second that emotion, as mine seem to disappear from my sock drawer without my ever having worn them.

We’ll see how this goes. If things don’t improve, I suppose I could go on strike and refuse to kick Noah’s socks down the basement stairs into the laundry room, like I usually end up doing, or even to wash them. But then he might resort to wearing even more of mine.

It seems I have room for improvement, too. In huge block letters, taking up half the page, is the last of Holly’s new rules. “Don’t walk in on people! Knock! This means Mom and Noah!” it says.

I swear, I almost always knock before entering her room, but I’ll work on that, I promise.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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