Chores. I sort of loath that word mostly because it conjures up images of drudgery. I mean, when I was a kid, chores usually amounted to a form of punishment, something you got bribed with money to do, or something you got punished for not doing. No matter how you sliced them, they really weren’t fun.
I made a promise to myself when I became a mother. I would not force my daughter to do chores. Nope. Instead, I would model how to be a PART of a family unit. A family unit that works together to do what needs to be done.
Now I’ll admit, the daily care of and maintenance required to keep the household running can be a bit tedious and, well, not fun. After all, who loves getting knee deep in cleaning the toilet? But I try really, really hard to focus on the outcome of the cleaning task – how nice it will be to have sparkling toilet.
On days when I grump around about how much there is to do and how no one is helping me, I stop myself and really take notice of my attitude about the tasks needed. Am I making it seem like drudgery? Am I complaining about doing things that result in a living environment that I enjoy being in? Am I feeling entitled – as though I shouldn’t have to be responsible for the care and maintenance of our family home?
When I model a poor attitude about ‘chores,’ my 5 ½ year old is definitely more inclined to NOT want to help, whether I ask her to or not. But when I make the daily monotony simply ‘what we do’ and something that can be enjoyable, my whole family gets more motivated to help.
So what exactly does the division of labor look like in my household? Let me give you a small glimpse into my days.
I’m a stay-at-home mom who homeschools 20 hours per week AND works a good 15-20 hours a week creating content for this site as well as a couple of others. Let’s not forget all my special projects I find myself saying yes to. So I’m pretty busy with ‘non-household’ stuff. But as the chief, cook, and bottlewasher, I personally do the bulk of the household management which includes the cleaning, the organizing, the errand running, the meal planning, the cooking, the animal care-giving, etc… Obviously, there are not enough hours in a day or a week to do it all.
But this doesn’t mean I expect people to do certain tasks. I don’t assign out chores. I ask for help when needed and give gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) reminders of what needs to be done. I also use “we” statements to include my daughter in what I am doing. “We are going to make the beds.” “We are going to organize the art closet.” “We are going to take out the recyclables.”
I’ve done this since the day my daughter came into this world. I included her in every task. I showed her how to do it. Because of this, my daughter simply just does what she thinks needs doing. Sometimes she grabs the mop and literally washes every hard surface in the house. Other times she gets to work on the bathroom mirrors. Sometimes she puts away dishes. Other times she gets out the earswabs to deep clean little nooks and crannies. She always loves to dust and clean glass surfaces. (What kid doesn’t want to be turned loose with a spray bottle?)
Certainly there are some things I expect each individual to be responsible for. For example, while I am happy to do the laundry, if I am short on time or just not feeling up to it, my husband is welcome to handle his laundry business. My daughter is a bit young to operate the machines but she can help load, unload, and put away her clothes in a timely manner. Same goes for cleaning up after yourself. If you made a mess and it wasn’t part of a family project, game, or part of playtime, I expect the mess maker to clean up the majority of it.
The only time I get a bit miffed is when I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off doing things that need to be done and the other members of the household are sitting on the couch vegging out like bumps on a log. In that moment of annoyance, I might make a pointed comment. But then I check myself and remember that *I* am the one who has decided these particular tasks need doing right then and there. And if I need help, then I should ask or let my family know that morning that we all need to pitch in and get a few things done.
I’m sure assigning out chores works for some families. I just find that I get more help when there isn’t a daily expectation to help with a set list of tasks. Plus, I think including my daughter in the running of the household from day one has empowered her to take pride in her home and motivated her to be involved in everything from the mundane to the occasional large project.
What do chores look like in your family? Do you ever feel like they could be handled differently?
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