One of my two-year-old daughter’s favorite books is called Little Mommy. It’s the story of a little girl who goes about the day taking care of her baby dolls and playing house—taking her dollies for a walk, doing laundry, having the neighbor over for tea, cooking dinner. It’s rather old-fashioned, but also charming and sweet.
Much like the little girl in the book, my daughter finds great excitement in day-to-day tasks, whether I’m sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathrooms, or putting groceries away. Through watching her and being mindful of the fact that she’s watching me, I have gained a new perspective on chores, and it has made the work much more meaningful.
Her enthusiasm changes my view
Seeing my daughter’s fascination has helped me see tasks differently. I don’t enjoy cleaning the floor. But when she sees me grab the Swiffer, she wants to have a turn. When I eventually acquiesce, she proudly pushes it up and down the hallway, as if she is doing the most important and satisfying work in the world. While I see it as a responsibility, she sees it as a game.
My toddler’s cheerful attitude about all things housework-related reminds me of a scene from Mary Poppins, which happens to be one of her favorite movies. Just before Mary Poppins sings “A Spoonful of Sugar” while tidying the nursery with a literal snap of her fingers, she utters a bit of wisdom we would all do well to remember: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game.”
It may sound silly, but my daughter helps me find the “element of fun” as she tries to join me in whatever I’m doing. Emptying the dishwasher takes much longer than it used to, as she daintily picks up the silverware and hands it to me one piece at a time, but it’s much more enjoyable because that toddler excitement is contagious.
Her presence changes my demeanor
As much as my daughter influences me, I know that I also influence her. Knowing that she’s watching has helped me reshape my attitude. I don’t want her to develop a disdain for chores, so I try to be intentional in how I do and discuss them. Yes, there will come a time when she realizes that chores are, in fact, work, and some resistance will be inevitable, but I don’t want to cultivate a spirit of complaining in her. So when it’s time to fold the laundry, I muster all the enthusiasm I can: “Look! Mommy’s going to fold the laundry so our clothes won’t be all wrinkly!”
Speaking of folding, some of my inspiration here also comes from Marie Kondo, folder and organizer extraordinaire. In her Netflix series, she tells one set of clients that when her own children see her having fun tidying, they want to join in. As her Instagram attests, Kondo has included her daughters in her tidying efforts since they were babies. She regularly posts about them being her little helpers and tidying with joy. Kondo doesn’t hide the fact that her children have helped her let go of perfection, and I expect there are plenty of days when they don’t want to put their toys away. But I admire the way she sets a joyful example.
Chores aren’t just chores anymore
Reflecting on all this has helped me see life’s mundane tasks as acts of love. When I vacuum the living room, I’m not just cleaning up crumbs and dust; I’m creating a clean space where my eight-month-old son can play. When I disinfect the bathrooms, I’m protecting the health and well-being of my family.
Gary Chapman talks about this in The Five Love Languages. The book describes five different ways people give and receive love, and one of those ways is “acts of service”—doing tasks you know the other person wants you to do. Cooking a meal, vacuuming, maintaining a vehicle, doing yard work, and emptying the litter box are just a few examples of this. “They require thought, planning, time, effort, and energy,” Chapman writes. “If done with a positive spirit, they are indeed expressions of love.”
“Acts of service” isn’t my primary love language, and it’s also low on my husband’s list, so I hadn’t spent much time thinking of chores in that way. But finding the fun in each task and striving to be a joyful role model has helped me look at my housework through a more loving lens.
There’s nothing glamorous about housework, and it’s easy to become negative, and even a little resentful. But seeing my daughter at work—and seeing through her eyes—is teaching me to view household tasks as acts of love, which provides fresh motivation to do them.
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