5 Reasons Why Moms Should Go On Strike

Etc.

Ever wondered if moms should go on strike? If you’re of the mindset that mothers should be endless founts of support for their kids, that showing them love means doing for them, then it probably sounds like a mean thing to do.

But there are some healthy, valid reasons for moms to go on strike as I discovered years ago when I went on one myself.

Why Moms Should Go on Strike

Why Moms Should Go On Strike - Fist bump

Life Before I Went on Strike

When I first went on strike (yes, I’ve done it more than once), I had a teenage daughter and pre-teen son who acted as if I had nothing else to do besides clean and cook for them. After thirteen years of marriage, my husband seemed to think I should find such tasks personally fulfilling.

It felt like every waking moment of my life was spent doing for them, while my own needs and dreams were on the backburner. Things got so bad that there were times I’d be on my way to pick up the kids and fantasize about driving until I found somewhere else — anywhere else — that looked like a nice place to live. Solo.

wanted to nurture my family; I also wanted to have space in my life for myself, too.

I Didn’t Sign Up for This!

One evening while I was making dinner, my daughter brought down a load of dirty dishes from her room and dumped them in the sink. She was on her phone the entire time and only paused long enough to say, “Happy now? I cleaned my room.”

My son, meanwhile, came and grabbed a handful of the cheese I’d shredded for dinner, then went back to playing his video game. He left a trail of cheese on the floor behind him.

Then my husband got home from the nine holes of golf he’d decided to play after work and collapsed in front of the TV where he napped until I called him for dinner.

Once we’d eaten, everyone disappeared. My daughter went back to her phone, my son went back to his game, and my husband went back to his recliner to watch football all night. Me? I was stuck in the kitchen putting away the meal I’d made and doing the dishes. After that, I still had a load of laundry to fold and put away.

It didn’t seem fair because it wasn’t.

So, I Went on Strike

Only partway through washing the dishes, I chucked the washrag into the sink and loudly announced: “I AM ON STRIKE!” Of course, no one heard me: they were too wrapped up in their entertainment, so I called a family meeting to explain.

I promised to get them to a doctor if they got sick, but otherwise, they had to take care of themselves. They needed to wake themselves up, pick out their clothes, make their breakfasts, pack their lunches, and work together to make dinner. They’d have to do the dishes, laundry, and other household chores. They’d have to do their homework without being reminded. They’d have to referee their arguments.

I was on strike, and I planned to spend my time doing things for me, not for them.

What Happens when Mom Goes on Strike?

Over the next week, both my family and I learned some things about when Mom goes on strike that surprised us. Things I’d tried expressing to them but couldn’t get across. Things they could only learn through experience.

Yes, the first couple of days were rough, but by the end of the week, I was proud of how well my kids were doing. Going on strike changed their attitudes toward me, toward each other, and toward their responsibilities around the house. Here’s what we learned.

Why Moms Should Go on Strike - Dirty dishes in the sink that people just left there

1. It restores gratitude.

In this age of “helicopter parenting,” it’s easy for us and our kids to forget that we do things for them by choice.

Teaching our children good manners includes teaching them to thank others for things they do. Being a mom doesn’t mean the kids shouldn’t say thank you. After all, valets park cars, hairstylists style hair, and food servers bring food and drinks to the table, but we still say thank you when they do. It’s only right that children should express gratitude when their parents do things for them, too.

When I went on strike, my kids figured out that meals don’t just appear on the table: someone puts effort into cooking. They decided they wanted spaghetti for dinner. It took them nearly two hours; then they had to wash dishes after. When they realized bedtime was in 30 minutes, they just about lost it. “We get any time for fun?” they both argued. I nodded sympathetically and said, “Yep, it’s frustrating, isn’t it?” as I grabbed a book and went to soak in the tub.

2. It rebalances expectations.

Although what we do for our families is by choice, sometimes they forget we do have a say in the matter.

Kids who don’t learn that Mom isn’t required to do things for them grow up feeling entitled. Kids who expect Mom to do everything for them don’t learn to appreciate how much of her time and energy she’s giving to them.

Once they have to do for themselves, they start to understand, and they learn not to make more work for Mom, too.

Reasons why Moms should Go on Strike - Boy vacuuming

3. It teaches kids new skills and independence.

As the saying goes, “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” The same is true for kids, whether we’re pouring them a glass of milk or dropping what we’re doing to help them search for an overdue library book.

One day during my strike my daughter screamed, “My jeans are dirty because you aren’t doing the laundry thanks to your stupid strike!” Now, I should point out she was 15 at the time and had a learner’s permit for driving. She could operate a car, so there’s no reason why she couldn’t operate the washer and dryer.

That day, she learned how to read the instructions on the washing machine and launder clothes herself. She’s been doing her laundry ever since.

Going on strike prompts kids to discover their own independence, whether by doing age-appropriate chores that Mom’s been doing for them or by learning new skills. Isn’t childhood, when Mom’s around to help in an emergency, the best time for them to learn to do such things?

Reasons Why Moms Should Go On Strike - Woman reading a book

4. It Gives Mom Her Life Back

When you’re a mom, it often feels like your To Do list is written for you. From the moment you wake up, your day is about someone else’s needs: getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to school. Meeting deadlines at work or getting housework done at home — or both. Getting the kids home, supervising homework, making dinner, cleaning up, and getting them off to bed.

At some point, you’re supposed to find time to fulfill your own needs, too. As most moms know, that tends to happen when (if) everything else is taken care of first. Whether we need sleep, time with friends, or just a guilt-free hour of peace, we feel selfish and wrong if we meet our own needs first. Is it any wonder moms are often full of resentment and anger?

Going on strike gives Mom time for recreation. Look closely at that word and what do you see? Re and creation. Time off from the 24/7 schedule of motherhood gives moms time to re-create themselves, so they’ve got the energy to care for their family. It’s not selfish — it’s a way to ensure you’ve got more of your self to give to them!

Why Moms Should Go On Strike - Man golfing

5. It’s fair.

We hear a lot of lip service about how “motherhood is the hardest job,” and with good reason. What job would expect you to be on call round-the-clock all year long, without scheduled vacation days, without sick leave? It’s a job filled with incredible responsibility, constant worry, and incessant self-doubt. Oh, and it’s unpaid.

“But this is what you signed up for,” people sometimes say when a mom expresses how worn-out she’s feeling. Bull. No one knows, before having their first child, what motherhood is really like.

The fact is, Moms get tired and stressed. They get sick or have low-energy days. Sometimes they feel burned out. They need a break just as much as anyone else does from their daily routine, but rarely are they told to take a week off to themselves.

They’ll Survive Your Strike. I Promise.

In the years since I first went on strike, I’ve needed to do it less and less often. In part, that’s because my kids are growing up, so it’s natural for them to be more independent. But it’s also due to my kids learning how miserable life can be when every moment of it is spent cleaning or cooking for others, and having no time to one’s self.

It wasn’t always that easy. When I went on that first strike, I’d never have imagined getting to this point. I felt stuck in a rut and taken for granted — as if everyone had a claim on my life except for me.

If that sounds familiar, if you’re burned out and have been snapping at the kids for not respecting the things you do for them, the effort you make around the house, the time you take preparing their meals or doing their laundry, then maybe it’s time for you to consider going on strike, too?

Call me, and we’ll have a nice, long lunch together — no kids allowed.

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23 Comments

  1. While everyone is usually pretty good at maintaining a distribution of helping out, sometimes they get a little lazy around the edges because they know I’ll pick up the slack… until I don’t and they realize they were being giant butts. So yeah, I’m all for the occasional strike when necessary 😉

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’ve nailed it: like most things involving kids, they don’t learn from just the one time. But every few months? Once or twice a year? It gives Mom a much-needed break and gives them a good reminder, too.

  2. I recognise all of this, particularly the part about answering questions through the toilet door! On top of having a job that most people don’t value (be honest), we househusbands also have to deal with public ridicule and jokes about our masculinity(or lack thereof)

    People actually look at you differently once you tell them you’re a full-time Father. As for the section in my resume that says “househusband”, well, it’s almost impossible to find a job now that my kids are at high school.

    You looked after your kids for 12 years? OK don’t call us, we’ll call you.

    Steve.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s sad that we talk about wanting men to get more involved in caring for the house and kids, then belittle those who do. I’m sorry people don’t understand that you’re making the same hard choices, and doing the same hard work, as a housewife. It doesn’t make you less of a man — it makes you a stronger, braver one than most!

    2. Sandra Richards says:

      I think we need more Dads like you! You know what it feels like to try to figure out what to make for dinner, for example. I give you A lot of Credit! Some people don’t want to know what’s it like or care to know what’s it’s like to run a household. Good for You! God Bless You!

  3. I need some advice, and I was hoping that someone here could help.

    My husband believes that I do nothing all day, because he comes home and sees me playing a video game while our daughter naps. (You know that peaceful 2 hour nap break, every mom loves.)

    I have explained to him on multiple occasions that her nap time is my “me time,” and rightly so because he comes home to a clean house, clean laundry, animals feed, grocery shopping done, and whenever he needs anything done, I take the lead and get it done. I also take online classes finishing up my degree, and take care of the animals, and our daughter, whose three.

    My attention is always on him, our 3 kids, (2 live with thier biological moms except on the weekends) which is a 24 hr job in and of itself.

    My sleep schedule is also an issue with him. We all go to bed around 10, but I have trouble falling asleep, so I play brain puzzles until I get tired. (I have anxiety issues, so games really help relax my mind from over thinking) It is a problem, because I end up sleeping until 9:30 or 10 most days, and our daughter is on my schedule. He says that type of schedule is only kept by bad housewives, but I always have the house chores done before he gets home, and before I allow myself to play any sort of games.

    I feel like he just doesn’t want me to have anytime to myself, and that he expects me to be doing something all day while he is at work, and after he gets home, to spend with him, until he declares it bedtime. On weekends, either we are doing something as a family that I either have to plan, or he tells us we are doing, or it is family time, or he works on his cars, and I entertain all the kids alone. So, their is definitely no “me time” on the weekends for me.

    What should I do? How do I get him to see that I am allowed to take my breaks from everyone else, and the only time I really have is while my daughter is napping during the week?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m sorry you’re going through so much frustration! I’m not a marriage counselor, so the only advice I can give is from someone who’s been a SAHM for 25 years now. But here it is: you’ve already said he “comes home to a clean house, clean laundry, animals feed, grocery shopping done” so you know you’re not slacking off.

      And, yes, you’re entitled to “me time,” whether that’s gaming while your daughter naps or before you fall asleep. (Though brain puzzles, if they’re on an electronic device won’t help since blue light disrupts sleep cycles.) You’re an adult; you’re entitled to choose how you spend your life, period.

      Why not try keeping a “Done List” for a week or so? It’s a “To Do: list but rather than listing things you want to accomplish, you record things you’ve done throughout the day. (I describe it a bit more fully here.) At the end of the week, sit down with your husband after your daughter is in bed and show him how you spend your day because clean houses and stocked pantries don’t just happen — you’re doing them.

      I found it was tough for my husband to imagine how I spent my day while he was at work, but a “Done List” gave him a more concrete picture. When we had a very similar discussion to the one I described above, it helped him see that there’s more to staying home with a child all day than playing Candy Land or Go Fish a gazillion times.

      At that point, my husband was used to taking the kids for a couple of hours on the weekends so I could get some cleaning done, or an afternoon if I wasn’t feeling well. He figured being a stay-at-home mom was the same thing, only stretched out over the course of a day. Since he’d never been in the position of staying home to care for our kids and the house and the groceries and the cooking and the laundry and the pets, etc., he had no way to imagine what all was involved.

      The “Done List” helped him see that I wasn’t just sitting around, and it gave us a good starting point for a discussion about our expectations of each other’s involvement around the house and with the kids.

      I hope that helps!

  4. Thanks for the sharing of your revolution

    1. Katie Berry says:

      🙂

  5. Elizabeth Ramos-Boyce says:

    Well Done. Im 50 a mother of two adult kids still living at home. My strike began today. Hopefully my husband and two adult kids will get it.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      How’s the strike going?

  6. Priscilla says:

    I’m moving out of the kitchen. I go to my grandmothers every day. I cook and clean for her. I love doing that for her because she raised me. Then I go home and cook and clean at home for my husband and 3 kids. Someone always complains about dinner. Last night my oldest son now 14 ate soup instead of the baked chicken and green beans I made. My husband threw a 2 year old fit because he wanted hamburgers. When I left for grandma’s this morning I text my husband who was still asleep that he is cooking dinner. I’m not cooking when I get home. This kitchen strike is going to be 2 weeks if desired results are achieved. No one gives me a mother’s day present usually but mother’s day is almost here again. Can I be so hopeful as to get a card or flowers. Probably not. We shall see

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m sorry you’re so frustrated, Priscilla. It sounds like going on strike for a bit might help your family appreciate what you do for them. At the very least, it’ll give you a bit of a break.

  7. Cindy Childers says:

    I just went on a “mom strike” at the beginning of this week. I came up with this idea on my own, and I had no idea how many other moms felt like I did until I googled and found out!! I am a mom of a 15 year old and 11 year old girls. I started my first round of nursing school when my 15 year old was only two. Later on, I completed my RN degree when the girls were 9 and 5, and completed by bachelor’s when they were 14 and 10. This was difficult juggling being a wife, a mother, a full time nurse, plus taking school courses and also lets not forget being a soccer mom and the occasional bible class teacher at our church. I had some help around the house during this time, I will admit. They knew I was stressed out and absolutely could not do it all, but I have been out of school for over a year now and the burn out has settled in, full force. I feel like an under appreciated mother and am occasionally given “sighs” or a glare or a sassy attitude when I ask for help with chores around the house. I began to feel resentful and bitter and was snapping at everyone all the time. My older daughter began to call me “Miss Stress A lot”, which she was only joking, but it cut me to the core. I realized I had become a person I did not like anymore. Then, an idea like a light bulb came on!! I realized that no one could MAKE me do the house work. Why was I constantly putting such high expectations on myself and then neglecting the part that would make me happy? Like spending time with my husband or just relaxing and doing nothing. So I wrote my daughters a two page letter and explained the strike I was taking….for two full weeks. there was much upset for the first two days and plenty of long faces. My husband completely supported me. It is the happiest I have been in a long time, and I finally feel like I am myself again. I would recommend this to anyone….my kids have become more loving and respectful. They are not complaining anymore. I love it.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m so happy you found a way to get your family on board, Cindy! Kids don’t really seem to understand that parents need time to live their own lives and not just act as their 24/7 support system. And the more independent we can help them become while they’re young, the better off they’ll be once they’re out on their own. Good for you for getting through to them!

  8. I don’t feel my kids are the problem. Yes they leave their toys on the floor but I am getting better at getting them to clean them up. Sometimes I have to tell the youngest 3 times, but it gets done. My problem is my husband. We have 4 kids right now their ages are 6, 8, 11 and 12. By the end of May they will be 7, 9, 11, 13. My husband on the other hand really doesn’t do anything around here anymore. He comes home from work and either plays on the tablet or takes a nap. I get dinner and we eat. After dinner he plays the tablet or takes a nap. He used to say he didn’t help me because I didn’t like the way he cleaned. I would tell him I don’t care how it is cleaned as long as it is clean. Then he will say I didn’t ask for help. Maybe it is me, but I don’t feel like I should ask for help when he sees me folding a big basket of close or filling the dishwasher after dinner. Instead he will just say, “you left the food out again, ” when we have been watching tv for a while and he goes in the kitchen. I have said to him before, “you know you can put is away too, it isn’t just my responsibility. I will admit the house is a wreck most of the time. I try to keep it straight, but it is big. We have 3 bed rooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a dining room, a laundry room, a kitchen and a breakfast nook and they are decent size rooms. I feel that I can clean 2 or 3 a day, but when the week is over I feel like I they should have been cleaned again. There is usually dishes on the counter anymore because there is only so many loads you can do in a day along with laundry and yes I do take about an hour break to eat lunch and watch my favorite show. I do play on the computer some days more than I should but just like everyone else some days I am more tired then others. My husband said once he doesn’t help me do anything because all I do is nag. I didn’t see it that way of course. He would say I wish you didn’t leave clean clothes laying all over the couch (because that is where I fold it and the kids put their away) and I would say well maybe you could help me fold it and it wouldn’t be there. So when he said that I made it a point not to say anything about helping for a month and it has now been longer and still nothing has happened. My oldest daughter even says the same thing. She knows I have kept my mouth shut, but he hasn’t helped. The kids have even said you need to do thing else besides play on the tablet to him. I love making the kids lunches in the morning and walking them to the bus, it just drives me crazy that my husband just sits around and plays on the tablet. About the only thing he does is mows the yard in the summer. I weed the garden (the kids helped last year) and if I don’t he complains that I need to weed the garden. I don’t know if going on strike is what I need to do. Again it isn’t the kids that need to learn a lesson. Well at least not a big lesson like my husband. We are going on vacation in about a week and I am thinking about doing this when we get back. I will have to think it over a little more I guess.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m sorry you’re going through so much frustration. Sounds like a vacation is definitely in order! You might want to read my article about How to Get Family to Help with Chores. 🙂

  9. I googled “mom on strike” and this is the first thing I read…I have been considering it for some time. Today especially as I am sick and curious what I skip today will be left for me to do tomorrow if I feel better. Currently my hubby is at the store with my 7 year old letting him spend birthday money. I just slunked off the couch to shower and discovered an empty bottle of dog shampoo I used once and an empty bottle of Aveno body wash I used once both in the tub. I know my 7 year old has squirted them down the drain for fun. I swear to God, he is the most expensive child I’ve ever had (I also have a 15 year old daughter and a 13 year old son). I have decided when hubs and son get home from the store I am going to set punishment as “no baths only showers for a month”, as he tends to “goof around” when he’s in the tub, and that he owes me $10 worth of chores (about how much the wasted products cost). What I really want to do is confiscate one of his freshly purchased birthday items and toss it in the garbage, but I need to be effective and creative because pissing him off won’t teach a lesson. The problem is that my husband will not only not help me to reinforce this punishment, but will think I am going overboard. This is not the first time he’s done this…it is a regular thing (among other things)…the last time he got wastey with squirty stuff, he tried to squirt clorox toilet cleaner down my bathroom sink and got drips on the rug and hand towel, bleaching them. $$$
    Besides this fiasco I am just really fed up with being the life manager of one husband, two teens, a kid and two dogs. What I want is for my husband and I to be all over co-managers, for my teens to be more self-sufficient and independent, and for my youngest, to pick up after himself.,,,heck for everyone to pick up after themselves. One time my hubby said….”when I was a kid we all knew if we heard the vacuum running my mom was pissed and we’d better hide. I don’t understand why she’d vacuum when she was in a bad mood!”….I will tell you exactly why….when you are cleaning the house (and maybe it’s just me), but first you pick up the clutter. Usually it’s 10% my clutter and 90% other people’s clutter. By the time I’m done with that, I am tired and pissed off. Then I start the actually cleaning, but I’m still finding that nasty cup under the couch, that dirty counter from someone getting a snack after I made a meal for 5 and already washed the counters, the granola bar crumbs in the kitchen with ants all over it, when kid #1 didn’t bother to get their food in their mouth or sit at the table to eat and kid #2 was suppose to sweep the kitchen floor (THEIR ONLY CHORE) and you didn’t remind them so it didn’t get done. Then last is the floors and you are so tired and mad that you are a time bomb waiting to explode, so if someone complains they can’t hear their tv show or asks you what’s for dinner as they’re biting their nails and spitting them on the carpet, you want to run out the door and never come back. This is me EVERY time I clean the house. Of course cleaning is just a wedge on the pie chart of my unvolunteered for responsibilities.
    So, I do really want to go on strike….I fantasize about this randomly when I feel fed up. It is not going to go over well and my husband is going to be upset with me and probably take the opportunity (as his defense) to verbally list the things he’s pissed about that I have done over the last five years. My hubby is one to not ask much or anything of the kids. If I stop doing stuff he will try to do everything on his own and try to punish me for being overwhelmed by being distant. Do you have any advice for that situation? I’m thinking I need a list of demands and who specifically needs to meet them. Maybe that would help?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I don’t know that a “list of demands” would get anyone to respond well. Maybe you should sit down with your husband at some point when the kids are in bed and take the approach you mentioned — that you want to be on the same team. Listing demands doesn’t really accomplish that, does it?

  10. I decided mid housework yesterday to either walk out or go on strike. I am 50 with 3 adult children and a husband. The two older children gave me a mouthful of abuse when I suggested they tidy their bedrooms. Other times they play lip service, saying they’ll do it later but in reality it never gets done. My husband does help out and my youngest likes to keep her room tidy. For when friends come over. I have been home from work more and it has become an expectation that I will do everything. I have always refused to do their rooms to give them the responsibility however it sickens me if either of them took ill and an ambulance was called. The rubbish in their rooms is a health and safety hazard. Strike started midday yesterday and I am really struggling. Don’t think I could last a week.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I hope things have improved for you. Many of us are in the same boat, and it’s frustrating. My son moved home from college since the dorms just aren’t safe. He’s having to re-learn that I’m not his maid. Not long ago, I read a piece of advice somewhere that’s helped me enormously. It said to “Stop asking what they need from you and start asking what you need from you.” That helped me realize that I need my own areas of the house tidy, and to do my own laundry. The rest of it needs to be a team effort, and if no one else is willing to stop what they’re doing and help, then I’m not starting it myself.

  11. Today is Day 1 of my first strike for all the very reasons you’ve mentioned. I could’ve written this very article. I have 2 teenage boys and a husband whose free time is all their own and I have none at all for me. I’m DONE. No one listens to my cries for help so a strike has to happen.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I hope things improve soon, Kelly.

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