A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about some parents who were so fed up with doing 'everything' for their offspring that they went on strike. The parents continued to cook, wash up and do their own laundry etc whilst they did none of those things for their children. The house quickly turned into a health hazard and after a matter of a week or so, a rapprochement (such a great word, don't you think?) was reached between parents and children whereby the children cleaned the whole house to their parents' satisfaction and a more equal division of duties in future was agreed.
In the little house on the prairie, things are not in quite such a calamitous state but there's a lot of things that go on to which the majority of the residents are seemingly oblivious. And straight away, I want to point out that this is not because I am a hero, I am just a mum.
Most days start with me waking about half an hour before the alarm goes off. I have no idea why this happens but even at the weekends when a small lie-in of half an hour or so could be achieved, I wake up. And once I am conscious, my brain starts lining up the things that need doing. So most days, with very few exceptions, I hop out of bed (actually that's attaching more agility than I have in all honesty so let me just say heave myself out of bed) and start the day. And in that half hour or so, I usually manage to let the dogs out, feed them if it's daylight (our shed where the dog food lives is probably rodent-infested so I'm not doing that one in the dark with bare feet), clean out the grate and lay the fire, make tea and wash up. No, it's not that I don't wash up after supper the night before but number 3 gets peckish about 9 o'clock in the evening and makes himself another meal. And plump the cushions. I could write at length about cushion-plumping because I love cushions and my children don't see the point of them but I must have my small pleasures in life and cushions are one of them!
Sometimes all this makes me feel like Dobby, JK Rowling's house elf. We have friends whose two older children spend a lot of time playing tennis with ours. Their youngest son is not old enough to partake in sport at such a high level (!) and sits at the side of the court until one of the older ones hits a ball on to the cricket pitch, car park, playground etc. The cry goes up: "Dobby!" and off he goes to get the ball and throw it back on to the court. One day, someone will give him a sock (you need to read Harry Potter to understand the significance) and he will rebel!
At this time of year, the Dobby-type activity at the little house on the prairie is drawing towards its seasonal high. Already, in addition to the usual stuff, there is the whole pre-Christmas organisation going on: presents bought and wrapped (last year's wrapping paper has ironed up wonderfully for another turn), cards bought and anyone whose surname begins with an A or B is likely to be a lucky recipient. I can't at this point promise to complete the whole alphabet from the address book but it usually gets done - just in time. And I am about to write an enormous cheque for stamps at the post office because I have decided that although stamps are obscenely expensive, I like Christmas cards too much to be bah humbug about it.
And I know that all my fellow Dobbies will be doing the same. All the ones with high-powered, stressful jobs, all the ones who work tirelessly for charities and give their time for free enabling our cash-strapped economy to limp on, all the ones with small children who require even more time, care and attention than the hulking teenagers in this house - yes, we're all at it. And the ones who are dear to my heart will be coming here for our annual girls' Christmas lunch (I may decide to rename it after this in honour of Dobby) in a couple of weeks before we throw ourselves into giving everyone (and all our relatives) a wonderful Christmas.
So, no, we won't be striking - we will be doing it for love.