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That Time I Stopped Being the Maid of This House

Photograph by Getty Images

"I'm not the maid of you, YOU'RE the maid of ME!"

I can't even remember what the request was. Probably something simple, like, "Put your shoes away," or "Why don't you grab that book you want me to read to you?" But that was not the response I was expecting.

From my 4-year-old son.

After I picked my mouth up from the ground, it really made me think. Do I yell out "I'm not the maid around here!" too often? (Yes.) Does he think that this makes me the maid of the house? (Yes.) Does any of this matter? (Yes.)

I immediately told him that no one in this house was the maid and that, if we wanted something, we went and got it for ourselves. He happily went off to retrieve what he wanted, but his silly comment made me think.

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I thought about teaching my kid to be more self-sufficient (um, pick it up yourself!) and also how to be thankful (didn't his pre-school start their unit on Thanksgiving yet?).

But then I realized: I may be acting like the maid more often than I admit to myself. What mom hasn't been on the floor, putting on socks and tying laces? What mom hasn't cleared the dinner dishes herself, thinking it's easier than asking a kid who was likely to break a dish? What mom hasn't responded to a call of, "I'm thirsty!" with a cold glass of water for her baby?

And then it hit me: I am the maid.

In my house, my husband helps a lot. He takes out the garbage, he unloads the dishwasher, he changes the air filters, he … you get the idea. Despite how much he does, I take the lead on most household chores. While my husband is the intrepid soldier, I am still the General of the Army.

When a glass of lemonade spills on the kitchen floor, I'm the one who mops it up. When there are grass stains on the good holiday pants, I'm the one who gets them out. When it's time to go to sports, I'm the one who gets the uniforms and equipment ready.

But that was about to end.

It started with the mornings: I let the kids get ready for school by themselves. They picked out their own clothing, they got their school bags ready to go. When they got home from school, there were new rules: they were responsible for putting their shoes and socks away, as well as their jackets and backpacks. Toys? Put them away or you won't be able to play with them the next day. Mommy may have been the designated "finder of lost things" in the past, but those days were over. You take care of your own stuff.

The kids started helping me get dinner on the table in the evenings, then helping me clean up the family room and playroom. They now know that certain things are their responsibilities and that I won't do it for them, no matter how much they ask. (My 4-year-old has recently learned to add "pretty please with a cherry on top" to his requests. That makes it really hard to say no.)

My husband and I were both raised to be entirely self-sufficient and independent. And now we want the same thing for our kids.

I want my kids to rely on themselves. To know that when they want something, they can get it on their own. They can do it on their own. There's pride in that. And that's something I want to instill in them.

But I also want them to be thankful. When they scoff at a dinner I've prepared, I talk to them about how lucky we are to have food on the table each night. When they grumble about cleaning up their toys, we have a talk about how lucky they are to have toys to clean up.

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It's important to be self-sufficient, and it's also important to be thankful for what you have. To thank someone when they do something for you.

So, in my house, no one is the maid of anyone else. We can all pick up after ourselves, thank you very much, and we're all grateful that we have stuff to pick up, grateful that we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, grateful that we have each other.

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