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Archive for September, 2008

Chores and Allowance

piggy.jpeg“I don’t have any money at ALL in my bank and I need more!” While this sounds a lot like the front page of the WSJ these days, this is actually the sad and slightly scary voice of my almost-seven-year-old daughter. I think it is high time to introduce the idea of chores, allowance, and fiscal responsibility.

Who knew what a difficult subject that would be to tackle?

I was raised with chores, and loads of them, and I received an allowance. How else would I have been able to sport those dangly hot pink triangle earings? I don’t know how old I was when I started doing chores– and getting paid for them, but I remember high school (boy, do I ever!) chores. Obviously, my Tiernan is not going to be mowing the lawn at his point, so I need to figure out what she can, and more importantly will do.

Here is what I have come up with so far: make bed, clean up table after meals, unload dishwasher, clean up room. I don’t think things like “brushing teeth” should be considered a chore, nor should be paid for with an allowance. Which brings me to my second point: why should children be “paid” to clear the table, and help  in other ways around the house? Since I have started thinking about this whole development, I have gotten a little confused about the meaning of chores and allowance.  I mean, if the “experts” suggest that rewarding a child with a desert for eating a healthy meal is bad news, what must they say to paying a child to clean up her dishes?

But still- they need money in that piggy…

So, what I think I am going to do is slowly start asking for more help from Tiernan around the house, without any real explanation. (How do you think that will go over?) I am also going to talk to her about an allowance- separate from the chores. I will add a dollar a week into her piggy, and more if she does a special project, like organizing the toy bins or washing the car. I guess I could hang the allowance over her head as a threat/bride/punishment, but then I’m wading in murky waters again. Still, tempting…

A final decision to make about allowance is how to teach them to use it. I have heard of the “thirds” rule, where they can spend one third on themself, one third is to save, and the final third is to give away. I think this is a lot to ask of anyone, whether it’s a mom making $100,000 a year or a seven year old making $1 a week. I might lean more towards one half for her to spend on herself, then divvy up the other half into savings and charity.

I am painfully aware that all these plans could change or never even take off, as most of my attempts at new things with my children go (especially those that I spend this much time thinking about). I would love to hear if your children have chores or receive an allowance, and how you decided to approach that. Maybe by the time my daughter reaches her 21st birthday, I will have figured out the BEST way to teach her about family and financial responsibility. By then, she’ll have maxed out her credit card (if they will still exist), have two cars leased, and have a pigsty for a bedroom. Oh, the pressure…

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Having It All

mom.jpegSince school started, I have one child in 1st grade all day, five days a week, one child in preschool all day three days a week, and a two-year old at home with me. This now leaves me with six hours a week of guaranteed nap time, and four more hours a week of possible nap time freedom providing my preschooler finds something more fun than me to play with for two hours on his days off. So, what to do…

Though I should sweep and mop the kitchen floor, fold the pile of laundry on the chair, and get dinner prepared so I’m not running around like a lunatic at 5:00, I don’t want to. I feel like I have found this fold in time that never existed, shouldn’t exist for a mother of three, and it’s MINE! So every day, after I lay Dylan down for his nap, I start walking around in circles frantically trying to decide upon the best way to use this precious time. Do I read the week-old newspaper I haven’t yet finished? Do I check e-mails, knowing that I will get sucked into the cyber vortex only to resurface when I hear Dylan’s cries two hours later? Do I start writing that children’s book that has been burrowing through my mind? Do I practice yoga? Meditate? Sleep?

I end up doing 10 minutes of everything, accomplishing nothing, and feeling exhausted by nap time’s end. Does this happen to anyone else? I’m a little concerned that I have lost both the ability to organize and the ability to chill.

So, remembering that I once, in another lifetime, used to organize business programs for maximum efficiency, I decide to treat my six (maybe ten) hours a week like a business schedule. Here’s how it looks:

What are my top objectives (other than loving and feeding my children)?

1) Write

2) Keep up with the news (only by reading the daily– but it NEVER seems to happen)

3) Yoga and exercise

4) Engage in creating positive change

I could go on forever with things like: make children’s scrapbooks, learn how bake, frame all those pictures- no, develop all those pictures, paint the dining room molding, etc.

You may have also noticed that I did not include folding the laundry and all those other activities that make staying at home with the children such fun. That is because I have decided that, though it may make life a little easier- and prettier- to mop that floor, when will I ever get anything done for me– for my soul? I don’t know if you stay home with your children or not, or if you care if the floors are mopped or not, but one thing we can agree on here (I think) is that we have got to take a little time aside for ourselves. Right?

So I take my list of priorities, my day keeper, and my pencil and I get to work scheduling. Because we all know once it’s written in the day keeper (or Blackberry for you super cool, can’t accept that you’re not working in an office anymore moms) it’s done. Right? Here’s how mine looks from Monday through Friday from 11-1:

Monday: Finish Sunday paper, read Monday paper

Tuesday: Read paper, make huge meal that will last for many days

Wednesday: Read paper, Write

Thursday: Read paper, make another huge meal (even if still working on Tuesday’s) that will last for another many days

Friday: Read paper, Write

I squeeze yoga and exercise into the week by taking Dylan with me to the Y, where they have amazing, and therefore guilt-free, child care M-F mornings.

I squeeze work related to politics and the environment into the evenings since hubby is never home anyway, and politics are much more fun after a glass of wine, or two.

Whew– and there you have it: a brain, a body, and a hot dinner. Bring it on, Palin!

Afterword: I only just devised this plan. Though I am a die-hard optimist, parenting (and the current administration) have made me painfully realize that not everything nothing goes as planned. I’ll let you know how this goes… or maybe you’ll chance upon my published book one day and say, “Ah-ha, now I know it is possible to have it all!” If you have a plan to have it all, please share.

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Starting School

I dropped my daughter off at her first day of First Grade today and, though she was utterly fine, my heart felt heavy as I left the school. Not because I’m concerned about her school or teacher but because, my God, my baby is growing up! Kindergarten still felt like preschool to me: lots of play space, singing and dancing, and doodles to bring home. First grade, with the desks, workbooks, and the pencil cases, threw me over the edge. It feels like she’s on the fast track, now that first grade has begun, and soon she’ll be stuffing her car with books and music iPods, pillows and pictures and heading off to Godknowswhere while waving out the window…to a sobbing mother. I need to grow some thicker skin, or I am going to be a constant embarrassment.

Being an American, and not belonging to a particular religious sect, I am always on the look out for ritual, tradition- activities that make specific times significant and special. Like the first day of school. Following American tradition, I took my daughter out yesterday to go school supply shopping (though she didn’t need anything).  Though she LOVED picking out a notebook and buying a pencil sharpener, I am, as usual, looking for more. I just called up a couple friends who’s children just started first grade as well, and invited them to join us for an after school popsicle party.  That’s a little better– at least it doesn’t take place in a store. But what else can we do to celebrate starting school… and growing up.  I would love to hear if you do anything special for your children at the beginning of the school year, or if you have heard of any cool traditions others do. Do share!

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