Thursday, March 1, 2018

Hestia/ 'Athena Mode'/ Greek Myths and A Creative Cleaning Mentality. The Importance of Chores (and Music) in Childhood. A Weekly Chore Guide.

Post Edit: I added a new chore schedule to the bottom of this post. 2020.

Hestia, in Greek Myths, is the goddess of hearth and home. She is not considered one of the most powerful of the gods, yet she is probably the most crucial in concept. Rick Riordan understood this in his Percy Jackson series. He wrote; “Hestia shook her head. "I am here because when all else fails, when all the other mighty gods have gone off to war, I am all that's left. Home. Hearth. I am the last Olympian.”- Rick Riordan.

Hope begins at home. Without the importance of home, what is the point of protection?  When the hearth is taken care of, in both body and spirit, there is nurture and care. See THIS (CLICK) post for more on home making mentalities. There is a deep importance of home that many in our current culture are forgetting.

In the post cited above I wrote, "I know that many children do not get to experience safe, nurturing homes. First parents need to find home within themselves before they can provide a haven for children. There are many factors involved that sociologists have studied and personality and psych also come into play ... I am not going to cover that home can be a terrifying place. Instead, I am going to show how we have made our home making part of our healing..." (click HERE for more on the concept of Home and Hearth.)

Most adults of all genders, have to spend a certain amount of hours each week cleaning, tidying, booking appointments, budgeting or care taking in some shape or form. Most of us have to learn skills to keep us alive like food prep, making money, creatively engaging in life, and driving ect. Due to disabilities or differing abilities, our family has a unique twist on this. But I required each of my children, while they were young, to attempt within reasonable age limits, each of these tasks. While they were still safely under supervision, we gave them age appropriate tasks to learn over and over until they were somewhat mastered. The goal was to make this process as easy and pleasant as possible. Music playing, friendly competing, enjoyable chats whilst engaging in work, helped build fond memories while some of these tasks were done. It became easier once they passed eight, but they were aiding in cleaning bathrooms earlier than that.

My husband says I have something called "Athena Mode." What he is referring to is a mixture of battle like strategy mixed with gut intuition wisdom, and truth telling advice. At first I was a little upset about this. I was optimistically hoping he would relate me to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty- ha ha. Dream on...but deep down I knew I was not an Aphrodite at all. I tend to enter "Athena Mode" when I am brainstorming with people, healing, offering advice, or strategizing life goals for my family. In other words, it is probably a default mode of mine. If I had to choose two Greek gods I am most like, because that is what weird people do, it would be Hestia and Athena. Luckily, the Hestia side of me balances out the times I want to charge fully into situations with weapons raised. But 'Athena Mode' serves my family well when I need to teach them the skills of life. It is especially handy when I have to work counter culturally or parallel to culture.

Due to the varied disabilities, I learned 'helping hacks' unique to each child. For instance, my youngest has Dyspraxia and slow processing speed. He will take 4 times longer at any task. He also struggles with attention due to this and movement. He was often in tears during chore time. I was his partner, doing most of his chores, while helping him in the process. But I did not want him to only associate chores with pain, crying and frustration. He loved music so I ended up strapping a back pack on him with the Ipad inside and headphone attached. Beforehand we spent a few hours making playlists for his chore time. This made him feel invested in the process and then he had something to look forward to. At six, he hilariously picked angry songs like "Enter Sandman" or Avenge Sevenfold choices mixed with Rock and Roll and displaced amongst the list was the lone country song "Hard Working Man."(*1)

Even if my children attended traditional school, they would still have been required to learn each chore in the house by a young age. Obviously, they would do less than they are now weekly, due to the time demands of school. I know, without a doubt, that I would argue with the teacher on homework and generally refuse for my children to do most of theirs. Most home work is unnecessary when children are sitting in school already for 8 hours everyday. I realize it’s more complex than this which is probably why my kids are found at home. I would cut down in our schedule elsewhere, so that they could still have both free time and chores.

Chores are more important than extra curricula's. Why? Learning how to pleasantly and thoroughly do the mundane practices in life is an essential part of living. For both boys and girls. If, from an early age, children can build some good memories around their chore load, their adulthood will benefit. If they learn how to appropriately and efficiently clean and care for what they have, they will be able to not only take care of their own needs, but have a work ethic for their future jobs. No job will be beneath them because they have cleaned toilets and made beds. By being accustomed to chores at an early age, adulthood chores do not seem so blah. Especially if there are good childhood memories attached.

Most adults I know are miserable when it comes to their chores or daily mundane. Yet, a fair amount of life involves these tasks in some ways or form. I am glad my husband knows how to cook and clean and takes part in these tasks. He is glad I can budget, organize and take care of a large amount of the home front. In every relationship it will vary. And if my children do NOT have relationships, it is even more crucial for them to learn these skills. This is more important to me than advanced math or dissecting sentences. Of course, I teach these concepts too, but if I had to choose, I would pick the practical life skills. Which ironically, I struggle with. Part of my process, was calling my mother a few years ago, asking her to help me make a list of all the chores and reasonable amounts of doing them, because even though the children were learning all the tasks, it felt like our home was still messy more often than not. I needed help organizing the tasks.

I make sure I balance their chore load with their free time and educational time. These two concepts go hand in hand. Most of their free time is spent building, being creative, reading, writing, engaging in physical activity or doing art or imaginative play...all of which teach math, physics, english ect. I guard their time like Cerberus guards the Underworld.

When they were little I would dress up for big chore day. I would draw a Moustache on my face and talk like a pirate. I would draw treasure maps of what they had to do. There would be a picture of the 'tickle shark' for the stragglers who did not complete their map. The end treasure would be a family game or special time with mommy. As they aged this turned into song time, friendly competitions or a practice of philosophy.

A few years ago their favourite Chore Day ritual was playing, "It's a Hard Knock Life" ( *2) from Annie. They would pretend they were poor orphans forced to do the evil hag's cleaning (that would've been me. ha ha.) They would mop and sing and probably would have made excellent extra's in the Broadway original. Another favourite was pretending they were versions of Rupunzel stuck in her castle locked away by Mother Gothel (me again. Ha ha) and they would croon, "When will my life begin?" (#3)

Now, I will often remind them that they should view 'Big Chore Day' ( a title they came up with and it stuck) as part of their epic story. It is their middle of the week battle to conquer or perhaps their midday respite of gratitude. They can choose either way to look at it. It fluctuates most weeks. On some occasions big chore day is calm, with the sun streaming in. The sun catchers make the rooms sparkle and the chore load seems easier. Smells of citrus, vinegar and tea tree mix into the air. It feels like a fresh re- set and we are almost honoured and proud to be part of the process. On those glorious chore days, I see them singing or talking to each other or contemplating life as they wipe the dust off of a beloved object. On other days the chores seem to take forever and the clouds cover the sun. As in life, the practiced is not always easy. It is all perspective. I tell them that sometimes it is ok to view the day as a battle or competition. On these days they must persevere, slay their darkness and overcome. They may not enjoy it fully, but when they look back, they can see what they did and enjoy the 'spoils' of hard work. That is usually is a fun activity in a clean space. But it is the little things in life that matter.

These times are also a practice to engage with materials. Chore time also teaches financial responsibility. I remind them, that if they find their rooms too hard to clean, that they should get rid of anything that does not bring them joy or is useful. If they are left with what they find useful or beautiful, then they will realize that care taking of such choices takes time. That time should be filled with gratefulness or appreciation for the object. It also makes them think twice before they spend on objects they will have to take care of. You would think, with that philosophy, that we are minimalists but we are probably more Maximalists. Our house takes longer to dust because of all of our stuff. But we thoroughly enjoy and use what we have. So it works for us. You must find what works for you.

With that in mind, I am leaving our list of jobs below as a construct for people wondering where to start. I admit that we have a slight spin on this original list, but it is almost the same. It took a few weeks to get into our groove but now this works for us. Sometimes we move 'Big Chore Day', if we are sick or busy, but we never skip it. Our house is manageable now and on Big Chore Day, there is less to clean due to the regularity of it.

Big Chore Day (there is a simpler schedule in edits below too):

Child #1:
*Your room and *Your bathroom kept Tidy every day. 
*Your Room and bathroom; dust, sweep, vacuum, and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes, Closet,*Empty garbages in areas.
*Change and wash sheets
Rotating starting with area One. (See below)

Child #2:
*Your Room and bathroom2 kept tidy and nice every day.
*Your Room and bathroom2: dusting, vacuum, sweep, and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes. *Empty garbages
*Change and wash sheets 
*Rotating starting with area Two ( See below)

Child #3:
*Your room and *Your bathroom kept Tidy every day. 
*Your Room and MAIN:dust, sweep,vacuum and mop, fresh linens/towels, laundry to laundry room, Put away your clothes,*Empty garbags*Change and wash your sheets 
*Rotating Area 3 ( See below)

*Room, Down Stairs hallway and Closet Tidy every day
*Your Room and closet : dust, sweep, and mop, vacuum, laundry to laundry room, Clothes. Change and wash your sheets.
*Empty fridge of gross leftovers and clean
* Do Budget /Errands/ book appointments /Mail ect./ organization of papers/ Lists for family/ Schooling projects and Trips
*Any seasonal changes with a picked helper rotating, once a month curtains or walls or a big 'spring'
*Wipe down outside of cupboards and any extra utility care
*Decor details
*gardening in summer
*plant care
*Rotating area 4 (See below.)

Daddy (sat):
*take garbages to curb
*Meals daily. Soak any pans you use right away ( For curious people see my Dyspraxia posts for why my husband does meals. He has his own hours and we have readjusted the budget so he is home one hour early a day to do meals instead of work plus lunches.)
*Plants watered once a week and outdoors tidied.
*General Maintenance once a week (check lights, dust high up fans and lights, anything that needs fixed or extra renos and keeping area clean)
*Once a month clean out Van and Truck.
*Once a month do your work hours
*Once a week clean inside Microwave and Coffee Maker
*Recycling to Depot once a month
*Mowing in summer, shovelling in winter when needed

Below the Four Areas Rotate through my three children and I, starting with the order written above. We each get a turn throughout the month with varied areas so it is fair.

Area one: 
*Kitchen: Tidy all surfaces, Sweeping and vacuuming, breakfast and lunch dishes washed and put away before supper daily
*Kitchen: once a week thorough - dusting, vacuuming and mopping

Area Two: 
*Living Room and Upstairs Hall: tidy, vacuumed and swept
*Living room and Upstairs Hall: Dust EVERYTHING, wash floors, sweep and mop

Area Three:
*Library and Entry: tidy, vacuumed and swept
*Library and Entry: Dust EVERYTHING, washing floors, vacuumed.

Area four:

*Pantry and Laundry Room: tidy, organized, vacuumed and swept
*Linen closet: organize, fold, floors


ROTATE BETWEEN four of us;
* Daily Dishes: Hand washing, Unloading/ Loading, cleaning all surfaces. Counter, stove and table, Sweep.
* Quick Tidy of general areas you are in charge of (see above)

Rotating Laundry;
*Monday: Free for All (whomever needs to catch up or do an extra load)
*Tuesday: Child #1 clothes
* Wednesday: Mommy clothes
*Big Chore Day: Linens, Dishtowels, Towels
*Friday: Child #2 clothes
*Saturday: Daddy clothes
*Sunday: Child #3 clothes

Note: If your laundry is not done on your day you will have to work with whatever clothes you have. You CAN ask the person on their day if you can have a turn if they are done or are generous but otherwise you have to wait till your turn again or remember to put a load on Monday's free day.

Meals and Baking:
*Meal prep on weekends: Each child helps daddy and learns a meal. They can practice this meal once every few weeks on their own.

A clean house makes such a difference in Being in the world. I have to thank my mother for getting us into 'Big Chore Day.' We used to have random days where we would be so frustrated with the mess, we would clean and clean...and it would take more time and the house would be a mess again soon. Now, with 'Big Chore Day' and organized Laundry/ Dish duty the house almost feels like it takes care of itself. As my son mentioned when I read him this post, "In the end, I can't imagine what it would be like without Big Chore Day. Sometimes I hate it but in the end, I look back and think it's fun and the day after is awesome. I'm thankful Nanna helped us organize the entire list so that stuff like clean sheets are a weekly indulgence."

In care taking our home it becomes our 'Soul Friend' or 'Anam Cara' (see side label for more.) We are able to experience frequent, magical, ordinary hearth time because of the gentle work of chores. I wrote in this post (CLICK HERE) "On a night that sings softly of Autumn I feel the magic of being alive. Sometimes living is bone weary exhausting, but on soft nights with spilled lamplight, nurturing food and beautiful surroundings it would seem that the abundance of simply breathing can sometimes beget the simplest magic. Sometimes being alive is at it's most profound in the mellow beauty of meetings. Where nature and materially crafted collide in a fusion of elegant, inspirational beauty. The moment was too tender not to share..."

"Heaven is waiting for me my friend...gee it's good to know I am near the home fire. All of the folks that I love are there. I've got a date with my favourite chair. With every step, every hope grows higher...oh how I missed the home fire..."- Louis Armstrong. (*4)

As the kids are older now and we have found a new groove. This is our new schedule for big chore day:
Child 1:
- Their Room fully ( dusting, floors, laundry, bed, tidy)
- One bathroom (dusting, floors, deep clean.)
- Dusting the entire home

Child 2
 Their Room fully ( dusting, floors, laundry, bed, tidy)
- One bathroom (dusting, floors, deep clean.)
- Vacuuming, Sweeping and Mopping the entire home as well as the day's dishes.

Child 3
 Their Room fully ( dusting, floors, laundry, bed, tidy)
- One bathroom (dusting, floors, deep clean.)
- Tidying all rooms, in house and keeping all the laundry rotated, folded and put away.

The rest is shared between my husband and I or them depending...(Plants watered, extra rooms or organization ect.)

(*1) Hard Working Man- Brooks and Dunn

(*2) It's A Hard Knock Life- Annie

(#3) When Will My life Begin- Mandy Moore

(*4) Home Fire- Louis Armstrong 


CalledtoQuestion said...

You have created a marvellous home environment for us. You are a wonderful mother, teacher and an inspiration to us all.

Kmarie said...

@c2Q: Thanks baby. Love you...

S said...

I liked reading this post. When I was younger, my own room was a mess. It was only when I went to stay in a hostel in my college days that I became super organized:)) Now, I can't think straight if the house in not clean. I am perfectionist too and it takes a toll on my health. That is why thanks for sharing your idea of the "Big chore day". I do daily cleaning and it is stressful ( also because I do the cooking ). In our home, one time dish washing and floor mopping is done by a helper (we don't have a dishwasher). So, the concept of this big chore day will be useful for me. Since I am not a "S" person, housecleaning and homemaking does not come naturally to me but with the help of creativity and beauty (by beautifying everything, i.e. by decorating the mundane stuffs), I can achieve that goal. For me, my home is not only an organized or functional place to work and rest, but a dream ( or a place of imagination and escape) so, I make sure that it comes as close to my dreamland, as much as I can :))

Kmarie said...

S: Lol my room was a mess too as younger...but still every surface was covered with images and things I loved. I find life easier when the house is clean. THat would be stressful to do all the cooking AND cleaning. Lol they do not come naturally to me either so I get that. Yes I find it also easier to clean if I am decorating too...its def a place to ream and escape and I think that philosophy is brilliant!