Chores: Today’s young generation have never had it so good – Jim Duffy

Kids have never had it so good on the kitchen chores front – thanks to modern technology – but they just don’t realise it, writes Jim Duffy.

The good old days, when dishes were done by hand and a show called The Good Old Days was on the telly (Picture: Susan Burrell)
The good old days, when dishes were done by hand and a show called The Good Old Days was on the telly (Picture: Susan Burrell)

Cast your mind back to the 1970s. Some may call this “the good old days”. In fact, I think there was a TV programme called exactly that. And for me as a youngster it was a total rubbish programme with old-school singing and songs I didn’t recognise. But, I guess for my parents it was a good watch as they never missed it.

I would rather have had Top of the Pops (TOTP), where David Bowie, Boney M and Blondie were far more interesting. It was a very simple and straightforward format. But, I was not allowed to watch TOTP until I had “done the dishes”. And quite a big deal I made of this in my tenement kitchen.

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In the 1970s, the kitchen was a fairly simply place. I recall a small fridge with an ice compartment that was always frozen. The ice tray was made of metal and I had to use both hands to prize it out, as it was stuck solid to the compartment. There was a basic sink. This was metal and had a hot tap and a cold tap. There was a bread bin, kettle, teapot, tea cosy and not much more to be honest. No dishwasher, no front-loading washing machine with built in tumble dryer, no microwave, no fridge freezer with ice dispenser on the front with cold-filtered water, no wine cooler and no double eye-level oven with rotisserie built in. No, suffice to say, when I did the dishes, I was not surrounded by kitchen technology.

It was cold and I always felt a little hard done by that I had to do the dishes, while the rest of the family chilled and drank their tea after dinner – no posh coffee in my house.

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Nevertheless, reluctantly I would use the cloth and washing-up liquid to clean the dishes and stack them on the draining board. But, it didn’t end there. Leaving them to dry themselves was seen as a cheat by parents at the time. No, to properly complete the job, I had to dry each dish and piece of cutlery and put them away in the drawers and cupboards where they belonged.

Only then had I accomplished the nightly chore, and was now ready to watch the grand total of three channels on the TV. No satellite of streaming services back then by Jove ...

How things have changed in the kitchen for so many of us. It’s a big business with big margins for those who manufacture and fit them. Not to mention those who design, engineer and sell the white goods that we have grown to love and take for granted. We now have programmable, ecofriendly “AAA” dishwashers that can consume huge loads of dishes, pots, pans and cutlery. The wash settings can churn out a full set of dishes within 30 minutes. That includes a pre-wash cycle, a wash, rinsing and, of course, covering them in a post-rinse shining fluid that makes them squeaky clean and smell great.

And guess what, I do not have to do the dishes any more! It is what one might call a “Godsend” in the kitchen. Home tech that works and removes stress and kitchen histrionics ... well, maybe.

It seems that Generation Z, those kiddies and teens we love to bits don’t quite get the utility and amazing wizardry of the 21st century dishwasher, not to mention washing machine.

No, while I had to fill sinks with hot water and blend in some cold so I would not scold my fingers as the heating immerser only knew one temperature – roasting hot – wash manky dishes, re-fill sinks to rinse them off, stack them on the side, then dry them with a sub-standard dish towel made from material from Remnant Kings and then finally put them away, today’s teens only have to stack and empty a ruddy dishwasher. But even that, it appears, is a hardship.

Only this week, as my daughter visited, I experienced how awful it is having to “do the dishes” in today’s modern world. It all seems so complicated for them, not to mention tedious.

Of course, nowadays they don’t have a TOTP’s deadline to make. It’s all social media and they can get on that anytime they want. But still, the arduous task of sticking on the dishwasher seems anathema to them. It hasn’t been easy cajoling her into her contribution to the kitchen chores.

When I explained what I had to do when I was younger I was met with “that was then, now I’ve got to stack and put away the dishes – a lot more dad”. Oooft!

The reality of the situation did not click with her and while she managed to “do the dishes” by stacking the dishwasher, I had to empty it and put them away. Ostensibly, I gave up and opted for expediency.

It seems that it does not matter in which epoch one is born when it comes to doing the dishes. For my generation, it was a cloth and all done by hand. It was a chore.

Today, it is simply stacking and putting way. But, it is still a chore. I guess in 100 years when we have a kitchen robot that does it all, it will still be a chore, as the robot will need some form of instruction.

As one generation gets old, they appreciate new technology, but for the next generation it feels normal and they don’t quite see the improvement.

Alas, when it comes to “doing the dishes”, it is going to take a massive leap for kids in 2119 to feel the love.