Did you grow up cooking and cleaning? Or see either/both of your parents doing it? Or were they jobs to be handed over to a helper?

Ah Ma cooked, Mummy cleaned

While I did not grow up having a maid or even a part-timer helper, I did not have to cook or clean much. I was only responsible for my own room (which wasn’t well kept by any standards!), and my cooking “skill” was of the instant noodle kind.

Mummy kept the house (minus my room) clean while Ah Ma (paternal grandmother) who lived next door with my uncles and aunts, cooked for both families until she passed on. This is not exactly the model I want my children to grow up with.

Cooking and cleaning is part of life

Slaving over the stove while Cooking and cleaning
Slaving over the stove?

While I think most of us would gladly farm out the daily cooking and cleaning to someone else if we had the means to do so, there is value in our children seeing us cook and clean. Not only do they see that cooking and cleaning is part of life, they also see that neither are lowly jobs that ought to be farmed out while they go out and accomplish “more important” things. And hopefully, in the process not have the I-have-better-things-to-do-than-be-stuck-at-home-cooking-and-cleaning attitude.

Side note : I have always chosen to do most of housework when the children were awake. When they were babies/toddlers, I would sling them and vacuum or dust the house. This way when they finally napped, I could nap too! Or do some other activity that required both hands. When they were older, they see that someone actually has to cook and clean up the mess in the house. It doesn’t magically appear neat and tidy the next morning waiting for them to mess it all up again. When they were toddlers and pre-schoolers, watching mama work made them want to help as well, which is a win-win situation.

Cooking and cleaning are acts of love and service to the family

I want my children to see cooking and cleaning as acts of love, acts of service to the family. Many will attest to feeling loved when their mom cooked a dish they love. Personally, I feel loved when one of my dishes is requested for by a child! It’s like wow! It made the cut!

Cleaning, however, is usually more disdained than cooking since it isn’t at all glamourous. People aspire to be chefs, no one aspires to be a housekeeper! And yet without good housekeeping, the home is neither a safe nor clean sanctuary for the family. Being willing and diligent about cleaning the toilets is an act of love indeed!

Cooking and cleaning makes you a better mother???

Dirty dishes part of Cooking and cleaning
Whose turn is it to do the dishes???

Hold on. I am not romanticizing either cooking or cleaning. So to answer my own question, I am NOT saying that we must cook and clean to be good mothers.

Not at all! Ha! You didn’t expect that, did you? 😛

I firmly believe that you can farm it all out and still be a good mother. Conversely, you can do both on your own and be a rotten mother.

By all means get a helper, live-in or not, if you have to, and can afford to. Or buy food from the kopi tiam downstairs or order tingkat lunches/dinners to save time. There are so many options and combinations nowadays.

But there is value in letting our children see us cooking and cleaning

What I AM saying is that there IS value in doing these things AND having our children see US do them. They should preferably see us doing both regularly enough so that it does not seem weird to them.

Cooking and cleaning are basic life skills. All loving mothers would want to equip their children with basic life skills. I had neither skill when I started my married life. I struggled a lot (and still do on a lesser degree) when our first child was born. I had to learn both plus care for a newborn all at once. These skills did not come easily or naturally to me.

Chores build character

Is your child helping you with chores?

Research has shown often enough that children helping around the house helps build character. In fact, our local schools have taken this to heart by implementing cleaning chores as part of the national curriculum.

But to get our children to do their chores, WE have to be their role models. If they don’t see us doing it, why would they want to do it?

Some of us have a mistaken view that getting the children to help around the house is abusive. Or that we are taking advantage of the children. Not at all. They live in the house. They eat. They make messes. They learn to clean it up. All part of life.

Here are some articles for you. Just in case you feel guilty for getting your children to do what you see as “your” job.

  1. Study finds having kids do chores is a good thing
  2. Sparing chores spoils children and their future selves, says study
  3. Benefits of chores

So while we don’t have to cook and clean to be good mothers, having our children see us do them (with or without a helper) is great modelling for them, and is beneficial to them, now and in the future.

Your turn

What about you? Do you get your children to help out around the house on a regular basis? Or do you feel guilty asking them to do it?


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