It happens almost every time I walk into the children's bathroom: a wet towel on the floor. It's not going to dry there, and it seems like it takes such an infinitesimal level of energy to hang it up, but here we are, the towel and I, eyeballing one another. (Well, I'm eyeballing the towel; it's just lying there.)
I do my regular mum sigh and eyeroll, and then I call my 10-year-old son and tell him to come and pick it up, even though it's lying right there at my feet.
My eight-year-old daughter loves to help out in the kitchen. Emptying the dishwasher is her favourite job – and she's terrible at it. She puts large plates on top of small ones, and she puts glasses where the cups should be and cups where the bowls should be. But she tries, and she does it all with a smile.
It would be easier to put things away myself. Everything would be where it's supposed to go, and I wouldn't have to open six cupboards before I find the saucepan I want. But I'm not going to do that.
My 16-year-old loves to cook but for some reason, he doesn't seem to be able to manage washing up after himself without noticing oil and food still stuck to absolutely everything. But still, I let him do it, and then I call him back and show him what he missed. Multiple times.
It would be easier to just do those things myself, right? I know. Pick up the towel, put the dishes away in five easy minutes, wipe that spaghetti sauce off the inside of the saucepan lid. Easy. Done.
But I don't, and I won't.
Because chores aren't just about getting stuff done. They're also about teaching our kids about life and expectations and consequences.
If you don't pick up that towel, it will lie there and be stepped on and never dry. If you don't put dishes away, there's nowhere to put your corn flakes in the morning, and if you don't wash those dishes properly, you'll be eating week-old caked on Bolognese when you next want to make pasta.
Plus, if I go around do do all of those things, I won't have time to sit on my deck with a glass of wine and read a book. I like sitting on my deck with a glass of wine, reading a book. I'd be irritated if I couldn't do that, and my children will be the first ones to tell you, nobody wants to hang with Irritated Mum.
This parenting gig is a long game, and I am not here to be a martyr or to build a slow, simmering resentment towards my children. And I'm sure not here to do everything for them until they leave home (which they probably never would if I kept doing everything for them – why would they?).
So I've done the only thing there is to do: I've lowered my standards and become accustomed to repeating myself, without emotion.
Because, sure, it would be easier to do everything myself, but my children would learn nothing.
And more importantly, Irritated Mum gets to have a nice long holiday.