Things need to change…


I was watching ‘The Voice’ last week and in between fawning over Will.i.am’s amazing eyes I did catch a snippet of an interview with one of the contestant’s mother’s descriptions of her. She seemed to find it funny that her daughter at the age of 16 couldn’t even turn the oven on let alone cook. My ears pricked up because at this age I was working 3 nights a week in a pub and also Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I was cooking for myself and also being responsible for washing my own clothes as well as making sure all my school work was done and that I practised my ‘cello as I was of a high standard. I sometimes begrudge having lost a lot of my childhood to my parent’s messy divorce but I now think at least I know how to turn a cooker on…

When I left home at 18 I was more than capable of living on my own. Although I lived with another girlie friend I was still able to get to the centre of London with a ‘cello at the right time with everything I needed. I was able to manage my own money, I didn’t have an overdraft as I worked on the weekends to make sure I didn’t and I could make my own bed, cook my own food and be totally sustained by myself. I had no parental help either financially or any other and totally relied on myself.

So when I heard that this girl couldn’t even turn an oven on and her mother thought this a funny, quaint, almost endearing thing I felt annoyed. If your daughter can’t do the most basic thing that is needed to keep her alive then surely, as a parent, you have failed. I did notice though that the daughter was excellent at applying makeup and was very handy with a pair of straighteners as she looked immaculate, almost beautiful, far more than I ever did at 16. She had obviously spent a lot of time learning how to use makeup and how to make the best of herself which, unfortunately, in this day and age seems to the only thing that youngsters (‘ark at me!) are supposed to be interested in.

A while ago I watched a programme called ‘Living With The Amish’ which I found to be a really interesting series where teenagers from this country were sent to live and experience the Amish way of life. I expected a ‘teenager from hell’ type programme where the children were out of control, rude and the Amish would be shocked and all this would make a cracking TV programme. This image in my head couldn’t have been further from the truth as the teenagers were very interested in seeing the similarities and differences between the 2 cultures; they were very respectful and joined in all that was expected of them. The thing that stood out was that once again, most of the teenagers; one in particular who was lovely though, didn’t have much experience of household chores or looking after herself. The lovely girl actually said (at the age of 19) that she’d never washed up and really enjoyed it and that she would also try to help her mum more at home. We had a flash back to her at home with her mum where we were shown that she wasn’t expected to lift a finger and her mum did everything for her and thought this was fine. Is this fine?

Another of the girls was having trouble with the apparent sexism that existed in the Amish culture. She didn’t like the idea that the men went ‘off to work’ and the girls stayed at home and did the cooking, cleaning and ironing and tending to the house. I saw this as fascinating but have things gone too far the other way where we are now breeding young girls who don’t just want more than to be a housewife but have mothers who don’t think it’s important to have any knowledge of cooking, cleaning and household chores at all. Don’t think I’m just talking about girls though boys need to know the same skills as they have no idea how their life will turn out as they could be a househusband and need the skills of looking after themselves and a family. I think we need to move away from ‘girls do this and boys do that’ and just start from the middle ground of ‘what does my child need to know to enable them to be self-sufficient without me?’

I have 3 sons but if I had 3 daughters I would feel the same. They need to know how to cook, how to make their beds and they need to know where the washing machine lives and what it does. Already my boys have to put their washing out on the landing as they know ‘if it’s not on the landing it doesn’t get washed!’ as I see teaching my boys about housework as a drip feeding activity so I’m starting young. I don’t want a situation in the future where I am castigated (as a mother who lives where I used to live was sworn at by her 20 something year old son because his shirt wasn’t ironed when he needed it) for not providing a washing an ironing service that my sons demand. They will learn how to load a washing machine (and I don’t mean stuff as much washing into the machine as you can and then try to pull it all out again noticing that all the whites have gone a grey colour) separating whites from darks, they will know how to wash woollen items so they don’t come out fitting a Barbie and, when they are older, I will show them how to iron their own shirts. We already do the odd bit of cooking but not enough in my opinion and they are expected to clear up their own toys. I do feel a little mean as I have said that any toys still out after they’ve cleaned up will go in a black sack and they won’t have them for a week. Bad mother? I don’t know but I don’t want to be ever having a conversation with whoever giggling whilst saying ‘my sons can’t look after themselves – isn’t that funny!’ as I may have well be saying ‘I’ve not been very good at teaching my children how to feed themselves – isn’t that funny! No. It’s not and you should have.

So it’s not a boy versus girl thing, it’s not a sexist thing it’s a life skill that’s essential. Children need to be slowly shown how to look after themselves and that doesn’t mean being able to turn on a pair of straighteners or apply flawless make up. How are my sons expected to show their children how to look after themselves if they have no idea themselves? I know it’s going to be a rocky ride as the teenage years slowly creep up on us and the boys retreat into their rooms with strange smells, pots of paint, clothes strewn on the floor and magazines everywhere (is that just my brothers?) they will become spotty no doubt and grunt at me rather than talking but I hope that once they leave the nest –and even that is taking much longer these days and then they come back again!- they can invite friends round to their tidied flat, wearing clean clothes having cooked a simple meal. After all that’s the very basics of life isn’t it?

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About littlewhitecottage

Emma is a qualified teacher with 14 years of teaching in many different settings. From teaching adults and children at a music school to choosing to work in a demanding primary school that was failing (which meant moving from an outstanding school – her colleagues were aghast!) to running her own sewing business for the last 5 ½ years teaching all ages how to sew: Emma loves to teach.
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6 Responses to Things need to change…

  1. Lyndsey says:

    Hi I have two boys aged 11 and 6. I totally agree that we as parents should teach our kids how to be able to cook and to do household chores. It’s part of our role as parents to teach our children to grow up and be independent from us. My children have to make their own beds which isn’t tasking take their dirty clothes down to the utility and pick up their things and put them away correctly. My oldest also knows how to use the hoover and load the dishwasher. When me and my husband moved in together his mother had done everything for him ironed his shirts made his packed lunch for work ect. He’d been capable of doing these things for himself as he had lived on his own before too and I just couldn’t understand why she’d done it all. I had learned how to wash my own clothes and everything else from an early age we all had my brothers included. I think women who arren’t showing their children these things aren’t doing their job as a parent properly. They certainly aren’t helping their children in the long run.

  2. I completely agree. I remember being disgusted with my best friend Adam in a cookery lesson in infant school (age 9) that he had no idea how to make a shepherds pie from scratch all by himself but I do appreciate I am in the minority that I could do that at such a young age. We were taught to do things though and to enjoy the sense of achievement. When our teenager moved in with us aged 16 she had no idea how to cook because her mother fed the kids nothing but oven chips and pizza but I’m pleased to say that now she knows how long vegetables take and whilst she’s a bit squeamish over touching raw ingrediants, once a week she cooks dinner for us all at an absolute minimum, and she is responsible for her own laundry. She has chores to do on the big boat that earn her keep and does anything asked of her without complaining. She understands that the ex who rings his dad from his bedroom for delivery of a bacon butty is going to be sorely undone when he finally leaves home, but she will be accustomed to managing her both her home and her finances. As she has a little boat of her own just down the marina from us it’s been a good lesson. I won’t allow her to be a liability to herself if something should happen to us. How is that showing your love for your children? Why would you want to leave them defenceless and unable to cope in the real world?

  3. Carrie says:

    Morning Emma, I watched that particular programme and was shocked by the comment made by the mother. I also thought she had failed her child and it was anything but funny. Life skills begin when they are young and you build up what they can do according to their age. My little guy is 6 and he gets up makes his bed cleans his room and tidies up his toys after play. We try to expose him to all that we can and he loves it. There is no doubt that I will fall down in some of my parenting of him but how to look afer himself is one area I plan to cover. One day my little guy will go out into the world and face life on his own so it is our responsibility to make sure he has the skills he needs to be independent………

  4. I am a proud mum of four children three girls and a son. Is was very important at an early age that they had a routine, so making there beds even if not done properly was important and the first step to some sort of independence. As they grew older they were tough to put there own toys away run their own bath, wash up, dust and tidy after playing and all the other childhood games .
    I at the age of 14 was doing my own washing, ironing, took myself shopping for anything needed , cooked my own meals and worked after school every night in our local laundary. I left home at 18 and looked after myself to.
    As my children went to secondary school they were doing more and more, my marrage broke up so it was more important to teach them to cope. They know how to cook, use the washing machine , iron, deal with the garden, work (paper round) and such like. My son can even do needlepoint and knit though he won’t admit it to his friends.
    It was important to me they learned manners and skils more so my son.my two daughters have children of there own now and know how to cope and be good mums and I see them teaching there children the same skills to. My son is off to uni in septemberand I have no worries about him coping with the laundary , cooking and other things he will need to do.
    One of our neighbours has a boy and girl and she still cleans there rooms at there tender age of 18, I asked here if she was going to move in with them when they moved out, because they won’t know how to do anything for themselves. She said I never though of that !

  5. Roberta says:

    I have a friend who has done everything for her sons and though they are grown, two of them still live at home and depend on her for everything. They do not even do their own laundry or wash their own dishes. I keep trying to tell her she is not raising them to be very good husbands, as they will expect that their wives will be doing everything their mother was doing. Oh, and the mother works two jobs, father does nothing but sit at home. Seriously, how are these boys expected to know when this is how they are being brought up. The boys don’t even offer any financial support, though they both work. Very irresponsible, if you ask me. They will not even be very good citizens as they do nothing outside the house for anyone, no volunteer work, nothing, they won’t even recycle.

  6. Rebecca says:

    I dont want mine to grow up to quickly but I do want them to have an understanding now of what mummy does for them and for them to understand were there food comes from…. AT the moment they are 1.5 and 2.5 and they have to put there dirty clothes in the laundry basket when they take them off (or they are taken off by me) for bath/bed… they also help me if I do baking so they already know that cakes are made rather than come out of a packet… they help me make pizzas… and they know that the milk they drink comes from cows and that sausages are from pigs…

    I would like them to know how to cook when they head to uni as I did by observation and joining in should they wish but I am not sure I would expect them to cook the family a meal each week as some of the children I have taught are expected… Again the same with the washing I will teach them how the washing machine works and how we sort it (they are already watching me do this and asking what and why I am doing think thingss so are starting to learn already) BUT I dont think I would expect them to do all there own washing whilst they are still at school…

    Some young adults now a days seams to know allot less but some seam to know allot more. I wont be teaching them how to straighten there hair (wouldnt have a clue) and shall not be encourageing make up… hopefully they will learn from amother that doesnt bother with such things that they do not need to change themselves to look beutiful.

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