Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Cleaning House


I wish I could say that I loved Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement as much as I hoped I would, but I did not. Although I found some of transparent honesty of author's personal experiences enjoyable and even funny, I had difficulty reading the book in its entirety. That may be because I am just not in the target market for the book; before I finished the first chapter, I knew that would be very little relative to my lifestyle. Unlike the author, I homeschool and part of my daughter's education is living in the real world, which includes housework, laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping, budget keeping, yard work, etc. If anything, the author's "experiment" to add chores and projects to the lives of her children was in the direction of how things are done in my own family.

Kay Wyma started simply in the first month with just having her five children, ages four to fourteen, making their own beds and picking up clutter, very doable for all the ages of her children. Each month she either added to the chores or had them work on a particular project with the last month being etiquette.

The second month was to learn to plan a menu, shop for the groceries, prepare the food, and clean up after the meal one day each week. I thought it was much for the youngest of the children, but there was plenty of help from the mother. I also thought this was an excellent regular chore for the older children, but later in the book it is mentioned that after the second month, she only required them to cook one meal a month. That is when I had to put the book down for a few days, which turned into many weeks. I thought the older ones could do a meal at least every two weeks, if not weekly. How were the older children really going to learn how to prepare meals making only twelve meals a year?

When I finally picked the book back up, I continued to read trying to enjoy it as a chronicle of the author's experiences in her twelve-month experiment, rather than a book that would share any insights that I hoped to incorporate into my own lifestyle. However, two troubling factors kept surfacing throughout the book: the family's financial advantage and the husband not being on board.

This book was published in a time when our country had not yet recovered from a long economic recession and within the writer shares that she has a maid that comes to her home twice a week. I am happy for them and for the maid they employ, but their lifestyle is a little out of touch with those of us who cannot afford a maid or work as maids. One might think that is why her children were not doing anything, but the reality is that the parents were the ones who needed to change the most, which leads into the second problem that really grated on me: the parents were not in agreement with the experiment. It was such a major undertaking to change the entire family's lifestyle and having the father not more actively involved and supportive really bothered me.

At the end of every chapter, the author summarized what her children learned during the month and what she learned as well. After the first chapter, she writes, "I had no idea the number of areas in which my enabling tendency prevails." This was quite obvious because she was making the five beds in which her children had slept each day, not to mention she was picking up after them all as well. I am glad that this experiment helped her to see this and make lasting changes that are beneficial to her children in preparing them for taking care of themselves in adulthood. Perhaps my frustration was in reading the painstaking steps of an enabling mother finally learning how to be a parent.

In the end, I am torn about giving this review. On one side, I can see it would be helpful for some families who need it, but I found it to be less helpful and somewhat irritating to read being on the other side of the fence.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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