This is a poster in the kitchen of student accommodation at the University of Bristol. As you can see, it’s instructions on how to boil a kettle and use a microwave.
When I saw this picture, I assumed the poster was there because the students weren’t used to industrial-scale machines in the shared kitchen. Or maybe because foreign students needed help with dodgy UK electrics (as someone who has had to figure out dishwasher instructions written entirely in Chinese characters, I understand). But apparently not. My pal who showed me this picture said the posters were necessary because all those clever-clogs kids can’t actually make a cup of tea by themselves.
Once I’d got over the shock, it really made me think. Firstly, if all these children can’t carry out the most basic daily activities, who’s been doing it for them all their lives? Parents, obviously, and most likely mums, who tend to take on more housework hours. How do they find the time - seeing that five million mums in UK are also working (ONS figures)? No wonder wine o’clock got invented.
Secondly, and more worryingly, if kids can’t live independently, they are much more likely to drop out of university. It’s not just about microwave dinners and toilet roll running out. I’m beginning to hear more stories about children quitting courses because they’ve spent all their student loan in three months or they simply can’t budget. And that is an important life skill not to have mastered.
Obviously we love our children but do we do too much for them? I’m ashamed to admit that although the mini Minteds can stack a dishwasher, neither of them has ever pushed the start button. Nor have they ever used a washing machine or iron.
Why has this happened? Mainly because it’s quicker for me to do it than to teach them. Also I don’t have to shout to get it done (as per homework). And then someone’s bound to put a red sock in the white wash and Mr Minted’s shirts will be ruined. But, by being Supermum, I’m actually doing the kids a disservice. How can they learn these things if I don’t give them the opportunity?
At least they both now have a monthly allowance with which they have to buy clothes, shoes and whatever tat they also want. (I still fund school uniform and nightwear.) If they have to go barefoot to get the latest edition of Call of Duty, so be it. I hope it’s a learning experience. I just need to apply that model to cooking and cleaning. Here’s an idea. This is your homework for the holidays, kids: an introduction to Macbeth and the basics of laundry. Out, out damned spot and all that. Hmm, could be a long summer break…
See our SMM guide to teaching kids about money here.