Get your jaws off the floor. I have not taken leave of my senses. I have not had a mental breakdown. I am not bemoaning the number of children that I have. I. Am. Still. Sane. Don’t comment on that.
So what is this about family and being a burden? Well, I’m watching large families. I’m watching mine of course, but I’m also watching some that I know personally and others that I know online. I’m taking notes. I’m trying to learn from other’s wise choices and mistakes.
One thing keeps disturbing me. It’s the “older children” syndrome. Especially older childen who are now adults. In so many families they seem expected to take on more and more of the burden of running the household, education of the younger children, and to a lesser extent parenting of the younger children. This isn’t inherantly bad but I can’t help but wonder why these young adults are expected to shoulder so much of the burden of the family.
I used to joke about working myself out of a job. By that, I meant that by the time I had three or four children over eight years old, the bulk of the housework could be done by children and it was good training for them in how to do these things. I knew that little bit, by little bit, I’d have to take that job back over. After all, it is my job. God didn’t tell my sons and daughters to be the “house despot” in Titus 2. He told them to honor their parents and gave a promise to them if they did.
I remember reading a book by Kevin Lehman. I just don’t remember which one it was. (Ok, I read several but I remember this idea from one of them.) He said that it was quite common for the oldest child to have the most work and that it trickled down from there until the younger children tended to have a much smaller percentage of work than their eldest sibling had at the same age. His suggestion was actually quite simple. Work those older kids out of jobs too. As they got older and accomplished at the work, pass it down so that the younger children learned to do it and do it just as well.
That’s always been a goal of mine. The last year at home, Challice didn’t do as much of the housework as Morgann and Braelyn. I try now to have the younger kids do a lot of the picking up on the older girl’s days even though it isn’t technically “their job” that day. Why? Because frankly, they have “put in their time.” I don’t want the running of my home to be a burden to my children. It is my “burden” if you want to call it such. It isn’t theirs. If I’ve done my job well, they should be willing to help- even offer to help but it isn’t their responsibility.
There is a lot of talk these days about daughters serving their fathers while single in the home. There is nothing wrong with this concept. However, this is not a Biblically mandated requirement. Daughters are daughters; they are not pseudo-wives. They can help their mothers in the home out of love for their family and respect for their fathers and this is a beautiful thing. However, when this becomes an expectation or a “proof of godliness” it becomes a burden.
Scripture teaches us to “bear one another’s burdens” and I believe this to be a mandate. We are to do this. Period. However, scripture does not teach us to, “give others our burdens and demand/expect/insist that they bear them.” This is where I’m seeing things going very awry.
Young women are struggling against resentment. Their contributions to the family are appreciated only so far as they continue and are tangible. The hours a daughter spends praying for her siblings, her parents, and her impact on them cannot be seen. What is seen is whether or not she stepped in so mom didn’t have to do the dishes, make the casserole, teach the grammar lesson, go to the grocery store, or vacuum the floors.
I pray I never get caught in this trap. It’s an easy one. Especially after I’ve been so sick and been forced to rely on my kids more than ever before, this is a huge temptation. I see how much they have invested, with little complaint I might add, and realize how much I have to be thankful for. I am truly blessed.
However, it’s time for me to pick up my own slack before I have the daughters who feel the weight of responsibility for my family on their shoulders. They didn’t sign up for this. They didn’t choose to marry and have these children and serve the family. They choose it now, but for how long? Will I drive them away from us with unreasonable expectations?
I love to see a child, particularly an adult living at home, choose to serve their family in various ways. This is a beautiful thing and something I hope I always see in mine. However, the day I use guilt or expectations to manipulate my young adults into doing my job is the day that I hope some other Christian brother or sister comes to me with a 2×4 and knocks some sense into me.