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Ah, those early days of parenting when a mother can't use the
bathroom alone without being followed or fearing that her toddler might wreak
havoc on the house in those few minutes away from her. I remember showering with
my infant daughter bawling in her bouncy chair propped on the tile floor and feeling as if I had completely given up my body, certainly my breasts, to my
two babies. I wondered if I would ever have time to myself again.
Then something amazing happened. My kids got a little older,
a bit more independent. I was not their only food source. I could take a shower
without having to put on an entertain-the-baby show. And I could start to see
that my life actually had its own outline.
But the theoretical separation of mother and child is one
thing; putting it into action so your whole family thrives is another. With
that in mind, here are some small steps you can start taking when your
kids are young to lay the groundwork for bigger things, such as you having time to
yourself again and your children taking responsibility and learning how to be more
You'll invest some time upfront training your kids on
various tasks, but I promise it will be worth it.
1. Kids Cook One Night
At the age of 4, my daughter started making scrambled
eggs. She loved cracking the eggs, the sizzle of butter in the pan, the gooey
fun of stirring in cheese, then gobbling up her own culinary creation. She
needed supervision and always made a mess but slowly she learned about the
cooking process, including stove safety. By the time she was 6, she could
cook a meal for the family and has been doing that once a week since the age of 10.
While she cooks, I often take a few minutes to read. It's a
way to treat myself and show her that we all get to take breaks now and then.
2. Kids Do Their Dishes
How often do you load and unload that dishwasher each week? A
lot, right? Well my feeling is this: When kids are old enough to open it, they
can certainly learn to load their own plates. Don't get hung up on insisting on
your one perfect system and never belittle their efforts, just get them in the
Nothing stinks more than my son's hamper after a soccer
game, except for a soccer game played in the rain. After several years and
countless cycles of wash, dry, fold, put away, repeat, I realized my son, at age
9, was ready for the task. Now, at 16, when his soccer clothes aren't clean,
it's his fault. Of course he's a boy, so he doesn't always care about that
sharp revolting smell of sweat, but mostly he has come to understand that
having clean soccer clothes is his own responsibility.
While he pairs socks and folds T-shirts, I often hang out
in the room and chat as I take care of another task. It's a way to spend time
with my teenager without him knowing what I'm up to.
4. Kids Take Care of Recycling and Garbage
On Sunday night, my son and daughter gather the garbage
around the house and bring it all to the curb. They've been helping with this
since they were young and now take it on themselves.
While my husband and I prepare for the week ahead, we are
happy to leave this task for our teens, letting them learn the value of doing a