I won't live in filth and I won't clean up after them
Besides, I will not live in filth
There are people who don't live in filth who don't make their children clean up.
nor will I clean up behind them.
There are people who don't make their children do chores who don't have to do everything.
Those aren't the only two choices!
Neither Kathy Ward nor Cheryl Seelhoff who have over 8 kids need to live in filth nor clean up on their own behind them.
You are seeing only 3 choices: Living in filth, cleaning up after them, making them do chores.
Most people are certain those are the only 3 choices. When they realize there are more choices then they realize they don't have to make the compromises that appeared to be part of just how life is.
If you've never made a child cry or angry over the things you're certain they "have" to do, then there isn't any reason to find another way.
But many people do come to the realization that they have been choosing to take daily withdrawals from their own joy and their children's joy for something that will be gone without a trace by the next day. (Or in the next hour sometimes!)
It hits some people hard when they realize they've been making their child cry or be angry over a toilet that will be dirty again next week. We extract a permanent price from our relationship with our child for something that isn't permanent.
If they mess it up it is their job to clean it up.
In life people get to chose the (paying) jobs that match their interests. If they don't like the job, they know they can quit anytime and get a new one that suits them better.
In life there are unpleasant tasks that adults choose to do (taking out garbage, cleaning toilets) that they would rather not do. They don't have to do them. They choose to do them because they don't like the consequences of not doing them.
When it first hit me that I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to it made it a whole lot easier to do the unpleasant tasks because I realized I was choosing of my own free will to do them.
What will happen to your children if they aren't made to clean up?
My daughter at 12 happy and gladly helps unload the groceries and do things she feels she can handle.
UPDATE (2015): By being invited to clean up, my daughter grew into a helpful teen and young adult. I was mindful of when I asked for help and nearly always she answered with, "Sure!" When she couldn't, she respectfully asked if she might do what she had planned with the time. Now, as a barista, she spends her days cleaning -- even public toilets.
unschooling doesn't mean that you are a slave to your children.
One thing I've seen really help people move in the direction of unschooling is a deliberate and thoughtful change in the way they think about and talk about their children.
I think we very often repeat things we've heard without fully considering them. They might seem to make sense on some level (usually the level of our wounded-in-childhood selves) so we hold onto them and reuse them but haven't really thought about them. I think the phrase "slave to your children" is one of those things.
Somewhere along the way some people come to feel they have no choices. How did that happen? It happens to some people who are told "we all have to do things we don't want to" by parents who want to dismiss the worries, hurts and complaints of their kids. But we do have a choice. Having kids was a choice and knowing that kids create a lot more work for us we made that choice anyway. Looking after and helping other people is a choice. How we think about helping others is a choice.
And if someone is a "slave" to their children are the children then the overlords? How did they get that way? I mean, who treated them so unkindly, created such an example for them that they grew, in a few short years, into heartless beings who would happily enslave their own mothers?
There was as study about altruism and the researcher found that little babies are good for the sake of goodness. Little babies. Who turns them into slave owners? Moms who feel like slaves to their children have more going on than a messy house and I think very little of that, if any, has to do with the kids or the mess.
If we're doing it right our kids lives are full of fun and possibility. Kids don't see messes, they see fun. They are not "leaving messes" for their mom they are doing what children do. They are playing and being and growing and learning. Children don't think "I'm going to make a mess and I'm going to leave it for my mom because I want her to feel like my slave." They play. That joy and imagination is just so cool. If we think that we might become enslaved by the work of looking after a home and kids we're turning their innocent joy into something sinister. If a mom is determined to feel abused by her family she's going to look around at her happy kids and think they're happy because they have a slave. She's going to see their inventions and creations, not as evidence they were having fun but as "messes left for mom to clean up." It is a really unkind way to think of our kids.
It is choice and it is choice-in-attitude and at the heart of that is philosophy. Some people don't think they have choice, don't think they can benefit from choosing a different attitude, haven't ever considered what might be their life's philosophy. But it's worth looking at because anything that keeps moms thinking resentfully of their children will stand in the way of unschooling.
I've seen some people get mad at the suggestion they stop using some words or phrases to describe their kid or their relationship or what they're doing. The language might be an indicator that the thinking could use some tweaking. Sometimes it turns out we don't even really think that way but we've been using the language for so long we forgot to look at our kids in the positive light of love. It's one easy step in the direction of a happier and more respectful life with kids. It will make it easier to really understand unschooling.
Julie S. (jnjstau)
I think you most definitely CAN be a slave ... but it isn't because of your kids. It has to do with things like not setting priorities, not being comfortable with personal boundaries, etc. If you feel as though you are a slave, it is because of you. It has little to nothing to do with your kids. Most of the time when kids stop to think about what is going on in a situation, they are gentle and giving (my 7yo just gave a party favor to his older sister because she accidentally didn't get one) but a lot of the time, kids don't think the situation all the way through. Neither do adults all the time, adults have just had more practice. So yes, sometimes kids step over boundaries. It is our job as a parent to gently and lovingly show them where that boundary is (not with yelling and threats, but with love and compassion in our hearts).
If you find yourself doing things for your child that you resent, it has nothing to do with the child. It has to do with you either having unrealistic expectations of what being a parent is or not knowing how to meet your own needs. For example, my 15yo has a part time job that I drive her to 4 days per week, which means we have to cut short anywhere we go so we can be back so I can drive Adriane. She wanted to add another day to her workweek. I really didn't want to have to be available another day so I told her so. We brainstormed other ways for her to get to work, etc. I could have just driven another day but I would have been crabby about it.
If you are feeling like a slave, you need to take a long look at your boundaries and expectations. It is not your kids' job to make you feel like a whole and honored person, it is up to you to do that and the only way to have that happen is by interacting with others through love and compassion.
AMEN! That was where my big shift in thinking came in ... I had to realize that my priorities were what was giving me a hard time, I was idolizing the idea of a clean house, I loved everyone saying "I don't know how you do it". However my kids were sad because I spent so much time saying "in a minute" or "later, when I'm done here".
And I think that's where dh and I are struggling, he stayed up late one night because he had to clean up the kids' mess at the end of the day, and I was saying that he CHOSE to do it.