I was hovered over the toilet scrubbing with my magic wand – the toilet brush.  Sophia, then 6, paused at the top of the stairs next to the bathroom door and peered in at me.  Sheer delight spread across her face.  “Mom! Are we playing Cinderella?” she asked with enthusiasm.  I wiped a bit of sweat from my forehead, “What??”  She seemed as confused as I was.  “No, I am not playing Cinderella.  I am cleaning the bathroom.”  “Oh,” she sighed dejectedly and walked away to her room.

I sat back on the white tile floor and leaned my back against the bathroom door. “Where did that come from?” I asked myself.  Cinderella?  Why would she think her sweaty, apron-wearing mom was playing a game?  What did she think – magical fairies came and cleaned our house at night when we were sleeping?

It hit me like the Fairy Godmother herself had arrived in my bathroom.  I was making a rookie divorced parent mistake.  Forget Disneyland Dads, have you heard about Cinderella Moms?  You know who we are.

We are the moms who hustle and bustle during the days we do not have our children.  You may have been jealous when you saw us doing our shopping in Target without our kids.  We get our haircut, do our grocery shopping, take silk shirts to the dry cleaners, not only clean the bathrooms, but do dusting, vacuuming, magic erasering, and light switch cleansing.  We work late.  We stock the cabinets for the week ahead – maybe even plan a weekly menu.  We get treats ready for the classroom or the soccer field.  We do it all in the time we do not have our children.

What do we do then when we do have our children?  Whatever they want!  We bake cookies, go on play dates, go the zoo – a movie – a museum.  We are up for whatever fun thing they want to do.  We are perpetually the Yes! moms born from the “Yes Day!” book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

We are doing all the fun things to make them forget they have divorced parents.  We are over-compensating.  We are setting them up with unrealistic expectations.  We are creating a fairytale world for them where errands do not need to be run, parents do not work late, and house chores are non-existent.

I saw immediately the damage I was doing.  My girls were never seeing me do household work.  They were not present for the hour I was hunched over my laptop paying bills or gathering my tax documents.  They were not seeing me cram all of my household management duties in a few hours.  Sophia was clearly surprised to see me cleaning a toilet.

That night I put together a Household Chore Chart.  Up until then, that concept was foreign to my 6 and 8 year old daughters.  Thereafter, every other Saturday when they were with me, we spent Saturday morning completing our tasks.  They would help with dusting, swiffering, and tidying.  Soon they learned how to do laundry, the dishes, and taking out the trash.  They learned the critical skills of maintaining a household and being respectful of your family members by minding your space and taking care of it.

This likely would not have a been a wish they wanted granted from a Fairy Godmother, but I could see the magic in learning this valuable lesson and passing on an even greater one to them.

Angela Dunne

CategoryDoing Divorce