Matt Heath: Tale of domestic slavery - how I broke free

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I felt like my children’s servant, but one day everything changed, writes Matt Heath.
Historically, children were bred to make the parents' life easier. Photo / Thinkstock
Historically, children were bred to make the parents' life easier. Photo / Thinkstock

Kiwi parents love their kids too much. Obviously there are some terrible mums and dads out there but mostly we are far too nice.

Historically, children were bred to make the parents' life easier. Children were birthed strictly as free labour and old-age insurance. A farmer with 10 kids did a lot better than a farmer with no kids. It's not like that anymore. You wouldn't want 10 kids today. They don't make anything easier. Most of the time I am just my children's servant.

The other day I caught myself carefully spooning food into Baz's mouth whilst he sat on his comfy chair looking off into the distance like some kind of bored Egyptian pharaoh. He's 4, he has two fully operational hands, why the hell am I feeding him? My son Chaz starts the day being hand-dressed as if he's the Earl of Grantham. He stands in his bedroom, arms in the air, annoyed at the inconvenience of having clothes gently placed on his body. It makes no sense. They owe us, we created them out of nothing, they should be feeding and dressing us.

In a sane world, I would spend my days lying on the couch playing Grand Theft Auto V while one son feeds me grapes and the other one rubs my feet.

In summer they should pour me drinks and fan me with palm leaves. When I have a nightmare I should run into their room and demand a cuddle - not the other way round.

It's completely my fault. I like my boys too much and want to make their lives unrealistically good.

I need to spend more time reminding them that they owe me for their existence. The repayment chores should have begun as soon as they were old enough to walk to the fridge and back.

Sadly, I spend my weekends buying expensive presents for my boys' friends, signing cards on their behalf, chauffeuring them to booze-free birthday parties, spending hours of my life in incredibly loud hired celebration rooms waiting on them.

A grown man shouldn't be made to watch children he doesn't know gorge themselves on delicious-looking cheerios he's not allowed to eat. Anyone who's been to one of these parties on a hangover will understand my pain. It's not right.

The other day everything changed. I was watching Game of Thrones with my boys and I really needed it louder. I was about to get up and look for the remote myself when I remembered that there are beings in my house who owe their very existence to me.

I yelled "Chaz and Baz, fetch me the remote now!" And they did. They were happy to do it. Since then I get them to do everything. "Shoes now, food now, drink now."

I showed my 4-year-old where the dairy is and taught him how to use my credit card. "Get Daddy some chips or I'll throw all your Lego in the rubbish". Ten minutes later he's back with my snack.

Actually, he normally returns with what I wanted and a bunch of other stuff for him and his brother - but I reckon that's a fair trade-off.

I've accidentally spent thousand of hours of quality time with my sons. I couldn't stop loving them even if I wanted to. I'm addicted.

But just because you love someone doesn't mean you shouldn't use them to do the stuff you can't be bothered doing yourself. My sons have become my workers and down the track they will be forced to tend to me in my dotage.

That's the natural order of things.

* Matt Heath co-hosts the Radio Hauraki breakfast show with Jeremy Wells and Laura McGoldrick, weekdays 6am-9am. www.hauraki.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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