Jessica Stilwell's house may as well have been a hoarder's pit: used tissues, empty Gatorade bottles and dirty socks flung about everywhere, dog hair billowing, crusty dishes reeking atop every surface, milk curdling into cheese in one glass.
And that was just after six days.
It started earlier this month after Stilwell, a Calgary mother of three adolescent daughters, spent a weekend alone with the girls while their father played golf. On the Monday after, she looked around. The place was a sty, none of it her mess.
So Stilwell decided to go on strike: no "picking up, tidying, washing, cleaning, clearing, reminding or nagging."
As part of the domestic experiment, Stilwell decided not to tell her girls – 12 year-old twins and a 10-year-old sister. Instead, she kept track of her deteriorating household on a blog called Striking Mom, while pounding back red wine.
- “Cereal left sitting in milk in the bowl begins to stink much sooner than one would expect.”
- “Ginger beef sauce and plum sauce left out on plate over night creates a product similar to crazy glue.”
- “If you leave the dishwasher open all day long with dirty dishes, the extra large dog will eventually lick the entire thing clean.”
After a few days, her daughters start clueing in, one yelling constantly to no one in particular: "This kitchen is disgusting!" Others used subtler head games, writing "I love you mom" in the dust on a shelf. It's war, but Stilwell and her husband are up to the challenge. Since the girls routinely fail to clean their fancy insulated lunch bags, Dad starts popping their lunches into dog poop bags instead. Subtle it ain't.
By Day 4, the daughters' sanity slowly erodes. The 10-year-old begs her mother to "help" clean up but Stilwell isn't stirred, pointing out that none of the mess belongs to Mommy or Daddy. The urchin cleans for a few hours, then gives up. By Day 6, it's Lord of the Flies: The children are attacking each other.
When Stilwell calls off the strike, she gets only a tepid apology and this doozy from one of the twins: "That's what parents are for, to clean up after their kids." And with that, the children are tasked with a two-day cleanup. Two bottles of Pine-Sol and a half a bottle of bleach later, the house is sanitized.
Today, the girls have learned how to load the dishwasher, but dirty socks still litter the stairs. The lesson came, ultimately, for Stilwell: "I had NO idea how much I did for them without even realizing it," she wrote on her blog.
In response, Mommyish blogger Eve Vawter posted a sanctimonious diss of Stilwell's parenting choices. (The post's below-the-belt headline reads: "A Mom Went On Strike And Proved She Is A Sucky Mom For Raising Slobs.") Vawter describes her own household where the children have been whipped into shape. Nary a stray sock in sight, the home is always "company-ready."
"She really should have been doing this all along," Vawter chastised.
Would you ever go on strike at your house? Would it be more work than it's worth?