I believe that I must learn to love my daily responsibilities if I’m going to live an enjoyable life.
“Ben has my Bionicle.” “I’m thirsty…I want juice.” “Can I have a treat?” This is the typical dialogue in my home over a two to three minute span. Between cooking dinner, keeping the kitchen clean, washing clothes and maintaining order, I’m a very busy sister. I am the oldest of soon to be seven children and I try to help my mom out all that I can. The age difference between my siblings and me is also a big factor in my level of responsibility. I was an only child for ten years and five days, until my first brother Ben was born. Every eighteen months to two years following, Mom had another baby, leading me to joke: “Yeah, there are six more after me and no end in site!”
Often, the general public is very critical of my position in the family. They argue that I need to be a teenager and that I shouldn’t be expected to help out so much; that I am missing out on life because I have so much to do at home. In some ways, they may be right, since I don’t get to hang out with friends very often. But on the flip side, I don’t have as much opportunity for getting into trouble, so I’m not really missing anything.
The fact is that I love being a help to my family. I cook because I want to and I wash clothes so I’ll have clean ‘jamas’ to put on the little ones each night. Don’t get me wrong—my sisterhood is rarely ever easy, but I choose to be optimistic about it. I figure that there’s no way to change my circumstance, so I might as well make the most of it. Cleaning the kitchen is a lot more fun when I think: “As soon as I get done with this, I can sit down with mom and have a cup of coffee,” rather than “I hate doing dishes and I hate my dumb family for making me do them.” I make a decision every day to simply do what’s asked of me, instead of making every chore into a fight.
I believe that the decision to be positive in my personal thoughts and attitudes is what keeps me from getting burned out. And although there are plenty of setbacks, such as the lack of quiet, privacy or free time, there are also many advantages. I get to give and receive love all the time. If I give a hug to one of my siblings, I’m sure to get a huge, full-body, bear hug back. And each day when I come home from school there’s a chorus of, “Emily!” They are really that happy to see me, and these are the moments that make all my efforts at optimism worth it. Is having a super-sized family a lot of work? Absolutely, it’s a ton of work! But I wouldn’t trade all the time and freedom in the world for my brothers and sisters.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.