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Parenting the Glimmering Way: Chores, Motivation, and Self Worth

Parenting the Glimmering Way: Chores, Motivation, and Self Worth

I grew up in a religion that handed my identity and roles to me, and any variations that came from my family culture were just as powerful in defining my sense of self.

Laura Camacho
Laura Camacho

This is the second in a series of what I'm calling "Parenting the Glimmering way: scattered thoughts with few conclusions." These are reflections on the intricacies of parenting using the Glimmering triad (Love Deeply, Grow Successfully, Live Justly) as a guide to instilling those same values in our kids.

I think that fundamentalism appeals to people for various reasons, but that one of them is the ability to let someone else do the thinking for you - to plug into something that has everything pre-programmed and defined for you; you just have to play along to get along.

(“Play along to get along" may feel very familiar to certain family backgrounds!)

I grew up in a religion that handed my identity and roles to me, and any variations that came from my family culture were just as powerful in defining my sense of self. So, when I evolved beyond the extent of that religious and family culture scaffolding, I had nothing to grab onto in terms of identity.

I literally had to just make it all up for myself.


A simple but profound example of this is my near-inability to do household chores. Oh, I know how to do the work just fine - I was trained to work hard and do my best in everything! But to actually get myself to do it is another matter. I have a serious intrinsic motivation deficit. Being raised in an authoritarian home (at least when it came to expectations around behavior) means that I perform extremely well for extrinsic reasons, but now that I don't have my parents' weekly chore chart glaring at me every day, I am pretty bereft of motivation. At least, positive motivation.

I do have a pretty solid negative motivator, though.

Fear of shame is my biggest intrinsic motivator. (I know I'm not alone. Hello everyone!) For many years I just shrugged and leaned on that to facilitate the cleanliness of our house.

"What if someone walked in here and saw how you really live?" I would whisper in my head, driving myself into a frenzy of "panic cleaning."

Yes, I want my house to be clean and fresh and tidy! But that desire alone has never been a powerful motivator. I was conditioned from a young age to perform to avoid punishment or disapproval, and in the absence of real threat, my chore list languishes.

This is an area where I feel adrift with our kids. I know I'm not repeating my own upbringing with them, but I don't have a clear idea of how to effectively instill a strong work ethic and a diverse set of skills into kids I'm not forcing to adhere to a strict chore schedule or limited definition/expression of Self.

Our most consistent requirement is that they work cheerfully and effectively when they are asked to help. They haven't gotten to the point of automation, yet - picking up the tasks they see that need doing - which is frustrating to me, having been taught “If You See It Needs Doing, Do It” and “Work Before Play.”

However, as the work is never-ending and therefore the rest never-coming, that holdover from my youth is what helped place me squarely in burnout crisis several years ago. I don't want to train them to repeat that tragedy!

There must be a way to temper chore automation to make it value our own energies as much as Getting Things Done, but I haven't found it yet. Add in the various neurodivergencies in our household, and it is a bit of a complicated mess (the house as well as the issue at hand!).

What I know for sure is that our kids are not growing up thinking that their value or our love depends on their industry. To me, that is more important than the state of our floors.

I would rather the kids grow up secure in our love and have to find their own way around chores, than to be the most efficient, industrious people who are forever trying to perform their way into a sense of security.