After her divorce in 2007, housewife Aspalella Shazali became the sole breadwinner.

“I had to start from scratch after the divorce. To support the family financially, I took on two jobs, a house cleaner by day, and a baggage service supervisor in KLIA by night. This meant that my children had to shoulder the load of running our household,” said Aspalella, who now works as a nanny.

She had to train her seven children – who were between the ages of three and 15 years old – to do all the household chores. Aspalella’s two older children were 14 and 15 years old at that time. They took charge of cleaning the house, doing the laundry and seeing to their siblings while the younger ones did simpler tasks like folding clothes and washing the dishes.

“My older children had to grow up very quickly. They had to look after their younger siblings while I went to work. Thankfully, they didn’t fuss about having to help with the chores,” says Aspalella, who used to wake up at 5am to prepare meals for her family.

Aspalella is grateful her son Daren doesn’t complain about having to do house chores.

Because money was tight, Aspalella had to be creative with the rewards she gave her children for completing their chores.

“There is no way I could fork out extra money to pay them for doing chores. My deal was simple – they could play with their friends if they finished their chores. Occasionally, I’d give them some money for a movie or new clothes.”

The same rules apply today with her four sons who still live with her. Her only daughter is married, while her two older sons are in college.

Her youngest son, Daren Haikal says, “We have a WhatsApp chat group where Ibu tells us what to do each day. Most of the time, my brothers and I help each other so the workload is lighter. We have seen our mother go through a lot of hardships and we want to do our part for our family,” says the 15-year-old student.

Aspalella is happy that her children have grown into responsible individuals who can take care of themselves and their home. She feels that getting them to do their part from young played a large part.

“Not doing house chores is a handicap. It will become an issue when they settle down and have to manage their own homes,” says Aspalella wants her children to excel in both academics and life skills.

“I want my children to be self-reliant and independent. I was raised the same way by my parents and I strongly believe children should be resilient. My only daughter is a mother now, and she can juggle all her responsibilities because of the training she had received from young.” – By Elim Poon