Jessica Stilwell, a Calgary mother of three, let the crusty dinner plates pile up in the kitchen and left the stinky laundry scattered on the floor to teach her messy kids a lesson.
After six days, she declared victory in her “mommy strike” and gained worldwide attention for her comical blog detailing the struggle.
“Could I ever have imagined this? Absolutely not. It’s very overwhelming,” Stilwell said over the phone Friday following an interview with TV talk show host Katie Couric in New York.
The 37-year-old social worker appeared earlier in the week on the Today show and got a high-five from host Matt Lauer for her parenting experiment. She’s off again next week to do The Jeff Probst Show in Los Angeles.
Her story has appeared in newspapers from New York to London. Her blog has attracted comments from other mothers as far away as France and Finland.
Stilwell said the strike worked for her family and she encourages other overwhelmed moms to launch their own boycotts.
“I think we all learned that despite us being a really busy family, we can’t let it slip. My girls have responsibilities.”
Stilwell’s blog — called Crazy Working Mom: Diary of a mother on the brink of snapping! — details how she got fed up with her three daughters and decided to go on strike Oct. 1.
She quickly let her husband, Dylan, in on the plan but they didn’t tell the girls — twins Olivia and Peyton, 12, and 10-year-old Quinn.
The couple cleaned up each plate and fork they used for themselves but left the girls’ dirty dishes untouched. Stilwell wrote that the plates slowly stacked on top of each other like a gross game.
Mould and fruit flies gathered. One pet dog licked clean the dishes that made it into the dishwasher when the door was left open. “Which begs me to question,” wrote Stilwell, “if the children will think it’s actually clean and proceed to use the dishes in the morning?”
She also posted photos of the mess, including one of another pet that got stuck in a backpack as the pooch tried to get at a rotting school lunchbag.
When the girls didn’t clean out their lunch sacs, their parents packed their school meals in the only other containers they could find — dog poop bags.
Stilwell said she had to summon super-mom strength to fight the urge to clean up. She turned to getting her nails done, sipping red wine and venting on her blog.
“Olivia continues to tell me that the kitchen is disgusting. At last count she had made this statement 17 times today alone.”
Her youngest girl cracked on Day 4. “My little love broke down in the kitchen tonight as she was trying to rinse a glass to use and began to cry. Through her sobs she said, ‘I don’t wanna eat out of pooh bags anymore. I don’t want paper plates or beer cups for breakfast. Can you please help me clean up?'”
Stilwell said she refused to fall for the tears or cute dimples. She tried to negotiate, but it took two more days before all three girls realized they had created the mess and apologized.
They spent the next two days cleaning the house as a family.
“I know some of you are sad ‘The Strike’ is over. But feel happy for me please. I WON!!” wrote Stilwell.
One parent commented: “Thank you again for inspiring so many parents to take the control back. The patients should never run the asylum.”