Why the agony of watching your kids cry, can sometimes be worth it

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled “A new perspective on self-isolation“.   I explained how I wanted to use this time to focus on my family and give my children the attention they crave and deserve.

Since writing that blog, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating our family’s interactions, observing the children’s behaviour, considering how I can improve things for everyone and wondering how we’ve managed to create a family environment that’s really quite harmonious (most of the time). 

As a stay-at-home mum for the last 8 years, and as my husband regularly travels for work purposes, I feel a lot of responsibility for the children and their behaviour, attitude and upbringing, as well as home-life in general.  Having all this time at home together has really provided food for thought! 

We may not get paid for the jobs we do at home, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less stressful or important. 

Like so many parents around the world right now, I’ve done the same thing every single day for over 5 weeks!  No work, no play and hardly any alone time.  Just cooking, cleaning, refereeing, teaching, consoling, nursing and more cooking and cleaning.  It’s relentless.

However, it’s also the reason I’ve had the opportunity to think about how we can be more tolerant of one another, and what values I’d like my children to embrace as they get older.  How can I be a good role model to them and what bad habits am I encouraging?

Any expats reading this know it’s extremely common to employ someone to help out around the home, and it’s no different at my house.  Our “Pembantu” has worked with us since we first arrived in Bali, and she’s an absolute God-send!  I am grateful for her every single day – she’s an extended part of our family.  However, since the start of self-isolation, she too is following government guidelines to stay at home and help prevent the spread of Covid-19, which means we have to do all the housework ourselves.

Now, to anyone who’s not an expat, I know how lucky we are.  I know you do this every day of the year and I take my hat off to you.  Working, bringing up kids, cooking, and doing the housework (++) …… you absolutely rock, really you do. The emotional stress women are under to keep their homes running smoothly and their families happy and content, is immense.

However, I’m not complaining about the housework, much the opposite.  I’m actually very grateful that I’ve been able to find a positive amidst the crisis the world is currently experiencing. 

As a parent, I’ve always believed chores are a very important part of a child’s upbringing (my sisters will laugh at this because, as the youngest member of our family, I never did a great deal around the house), and the fact that we have a Pembantu has always meant my children do minimal chores.  I’ve tried creating reward charts and setting schedules, but they’ve never really worked.  Now, with the situation as it is, chores are a must and my kids are finally learning why they’re so important:

  1. The whole family should contribute to a happy home-life.
  2. We all have to do things we don’t want to do sometimes.
  3. Yes, some chores are hard and/or boring (as are a lot of things in life), but it doesn’t mean we can just forget about them.
  4. How can we make this job easier or more fun in order to complete it?
  5. How can I help someone else to make their job easier or more fun?
  6. Be grateful for the things you have (clean laundry, a freshly made bed, a nice meal, clean toys, a tidy bedroom). Someone put in a lot of effort for you to have it that way.
  7. When chores are hard, we can’t just give up.  We have to find a way around the hurdles we face in life.

So, why is it sometimes worth watching your kids cry?  Well, this weekend my 5 yr old son learnt a very valuable lesson. 

When he cried because he didn’t want to pick up the leaves on his own, rather than rushing to help by picking up the leaves together (as I usually do, so know I would have ended up doing most of it myself), I rushed to help him in a different way.  I consoled him as he cried, we tried to come up with ways to make his job easier, I explained how life is sometimes hard but we can’t just give up.  I supported him while he cried and he told me how hot and bored he was.  While he took a break, I gave him a little chocolate milk to cool off and to help motivate him. 

When he’d finally finished (the chores as well as the crying), the whole family gave him a high-five and told him how much they appreciated such a tidy garden, how nice it looked and how strong he was for not giving up.  We talked about how he could make that particular chore a little easier next time and how he felt about all the complaining and crying.  Did he still think it was necessary? 

I was so proud of him and really felt he’d learnt something.  On any normal day we probably wouldn’t have found time to even ask him to collect the leaves, I would have ended up doing most of it myself and we’d have rushed off out somewhere afterwards.  None of us would have learned a thing.

It broke my heart to see him so sad and alone picking up the leaves, but it was worth it.  He’d forgotten all about his sadness within minutes (if not seconds) of finishing the job and later told me how next time he’s going to do it lots faster and get it over and done with.  He’d experienced a bit of hard work, he was uncomfortable and sad and was feeling very needy.  Defeat was knocking on his door but he didn’t give up.  

All the while, I was right there, supporting him and helping him through all those negative emotions.  I encouraged him while he learnt a valuable lesson.

My entire day felt worthwhile for doing this. I felt so intentional in my parenting. I don’t do hashtags often, but today this one seems to sum it up……… #winningatparenting.

VT