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On a message board I frequent, a woman asked whether she should pay off her 10,000 dollars in credit card debt or send her children to summer camp, because otherwise she would be depriving them of an enjoyable time. Of course, an outcry ensued, as most women thought it unfathomable to spend money on frivolities when there are debts to pay off.
Some parents get into the mistaken thought process that fun must equal money, and in order to insure that their child doesn't grow up in a deprived environment, they view spending money on fun times to be a "necessity". These women rationalize, saying that "they must keep their kids entertained, and they must run a household. The only way to do this while keeping their sanity is to pay someone to entertain their children ."
To be honest, I truly feel sorry when an average parent (meaning, without something additional on her plate, like a special needs child, or some disabilities, or whatnot) feels that running a household and having happy, entertained children, are mutually exclusive.
With little effort, you can easily have happy, well adjusted kids, maintain a smoothly running household, and not spend a fortune on entertainment.
Once a week, I'll be making a Frugal Fun Friday. Good ideas for cheap quality fun.
The Laundry Game
One day, I was busy nursing Spike while Lee was entertaining himself in his bedroom. When the minutes passed and I heard nothing from the other room, I decided that I needed to check out what was going on. Leaving a 2.5 year old by himself to play and then not hearing anything is usually a sign that the child is getting up to some mischief, as I'm sure most experienced moms know.
Slowly but surely, I snuck up to the door of Lee's bedroom and peeked inside. Not only was Lee not making trouble; he was, in fact, helping me. Lee was taking the clothespins off the laundry rack and dropping them into their storage container. After he finished doing that, he removed the dry laundry from the line and dropped it into the laundry basket.
For a long while, I stood there watching Lee work. He finally looked up and realized I was watching him and asked to be allowed to complete the project. Of course I obliged.
When the work was done, Lee looked at me entreatingly and said "Mommy, can I please play the laundry game?"
I wasn't sure I heard him correctly the first time, but then he repeated his request, dragging the laundry basket to the living room in the meantime.
"You want to sort out the laundry, Lee?"
"Ya, mommy. I want to play the laundry game!"
You know, Lee taught me something that day. I mean, I knew it in theory, but my son reinforced what I already knew.
Housework can be fun. Children like to help. By including children in your housework, you end up giving them an enjoyable time and save yourself work. No need to spend exorbitant money on entertainment so you can get housework done; kids (at least when young) usually enjoy housework and it entertains them plenty.
How do you get your children, even older ones, to enjoy housework? That's for next week.
For now, I'll tell you how we play the sorting part of our laundry game.
I take our clean laundry and dump it on the couch.
Then, I take out a bunch of large, reusable shopping bags and open them up. I show Lee that "This bag is for Mommy's stuff, this bag is for Spike's stuff, this one is Lee's clothes, this one is Daddy's clothes, this one is for diapers, this is for towels, etc."
Lee takes it up from there. Occasionally, he has to verify with me that those pants are really his, and that that undershirt is really Spike's, but for the most part, he can do the whole thing by himself. How? Practice makes perfect. (I then have to go put it all in the drawers, but that is so much simpler once its pre-sorted.)
Some parents are so hesitant to do any housework with kids, as they say that its easier to just do it themselves. Perhaps this is true at the very beginning, but a little effort (and doing the work with your child, even if it takes longer) pays off; and in no time, you'll have a little helper so eager to lighten your load.
I have a confession. I hate sorting laundry. Lee doesn't know that. He thinks its the best game in the world. And why not? They sell sorting games for kids; why buy them when you can just sort laundry instead?
I try to keep my attitude positive regarding housework, kids pick up on negative vibes... but more on that next week.
Do your kids help you with your chores? Which ones? Do they make your life easier or harder by "helping" out?