We had kids to increase our household workforce.
So you can imagine our unbridled joy when the doctor showed us the ultrasound showing two beating hearts.
“Boys,” said our OB.
The look on my husband’s face said it all. He was not thinking of football games or teaching his young sons about his love for wood-working. No, this dad, eyes moist with tears, was most certainly thinking of the day some 12 years from now when he would not only have one son to mow his grass but a second set of eager hands to follow alongside with the edger.
If only getting our kids to do such chores had been that easy!
As it turns out, our kids don’t love doing chores.
OK, I get it. Few kids actually enjoy chores.
And I’m rather embarrassed to say that my husband and I haven’t really given kids’ chores a surviving chance in our home.
As a SAHM for nearly 11 years, I have been guilty of spoiling my kids. I mean, I’ve asked and expected they do the basics: make their beds, pick up their toys, pick up the dog’s poop, hang up their wet towels, and wipe that oh-so-lovely collection of boy pee that clings to the sides of the toilet like Spiderman clings to a building.
But here’s the thing: Even the most well-behaved kids don’t always do these things we parents ask of them, and I’ve been pretty lax at enforcing it. Too often, I’ve found it easier to just do it myself.
When my kids return to school in a few short months and are asked to write about their “Summer 2016” it will most definitely detail, beautifully and perfectly, their adventures completing chores because of sheer love and appreciation held toward their devoted and awesome family. Period. (Insert eye roll from the nine-year-old girl.)
But dear daughter and near teenage sons, the time has come.
Our family is at a point where, as a now work-from-home mom, I no longer have the luxury or energy to pick up everyone’s crap. After nearly 13 years of cleaning toilets, locating stray socks, washing some 15 loads of laundry a week, and loading and unloading the dishwasher twice a day, I’m exhausted. My often-traveling husband who has helped me is tired. We need help with the day-to-day running of our household that greatly benefits three club-sport-playing, camp-going, pretty fortunate kids.
So we feel it’s high time our offspring help out.
“But mom, Alex doesn’t have to do chores,” says one son.
“We’re the only kids who have this many chores,” adds his twin in a voice laced with a whine grueling to human ears, followed by, “Well, maybe Patrick has chores, but his parents pay him, like, a hundred dollars a month.”
First, I have a very hard time believing most parents do not require their children to do some sort of basic responsibility action within their home. Second, if someone’s paying a hundred bucks for chores, where do I sign up?!
My husband and I believe that by giving our children chores, we are shaping them into more responsible and able adults. I want sons that, when they move out on their own someday, know how to cook, clean, and care for themselves. I would like for my sons to learn the benefits of keeping a somewhat clean home. I want them to understand that lawn care isn’t easy, and someday, should they have the means to hire someone to do it for them, they are able to show that person compassion, respect, and appreciation. I want my daughter to have that feeling of pride one often gets when she steps back to look at a clean and organized room. I want her to know that weeds don’t remove themselves, and when it comes to watering your plants, there’s no app for that. Yet.
And I want them to do it all without muttering a single complaint.
In your dreams lady? Maybe. Nonetheless, this summer I laid down the law.
First, I reiterated to our kids our expectations regarding what we’ve never referred to as “chores” in our home. These are things the kids have been expected to do since they were fairly young and able to understand the concept, just “because” they are a part of our family unit:
- Make bed
- Clean up/pick up belongings at day’s end
- Take out garbage when full
- Clear dinner table
- Feed dog
Then, when school let out for summer, my husband and I added the following, to which our kids get paid a weekly allowance:
- Unload dishwasher
- Water plants
- Sweep front porch
- Clean own bathroom weekly
- Mow/edge yard with Dad
- Fold kids’ laundry
- Take garbage out to curb and return cans
- Help with dinner clean-up
- Optional and worth additional payment: Pull weeds, dust blinds, clean baseboards
Honestly, my husband and I had no idea what fair allowance might be. Having three chore-able kids, we decided $5/week, or $20/month per child seemed fair and within our household budget. While I am pretty sure this would be considered rather low to some (our tooth fairy is probably cheap too), our kids were on board.
So the chores began.
I wish I could say my children awoke each morning like the children out of The Sound Of Music, marching toward their responsibilities in step and in tune, finishing each chore with an embrace and whisper of “I love you, Mom.”
Instead, it has taken only about a hundred reminders a day as to who’s up for what chore and whether it has been completed. But check this out! There are chore apps for app-happy kids and parents that might help with building a kid’s willingness! Just a few are Chore Monster, Chore Pad, and Home Routines. If you Pinterest, there are also a ton of super cute Pinterest-y chore charts and chore printables for more creative-minded moms.
I will admit, I have spent more time than expected checking on the kids’ chores, asking about them, and sometimes suffering a heart-crushing blow when they still complain about them. The deal was, if my sweet thoughtful children complained too much or failed to do their chore, they’d forfeit some or all of their allowance. But sometimes this agreement has been easier said than done.
To teach my kids about these newfound responsibilities, I have often demonstrated what’s expected of them. And yes, sometimes I have helped them, even if it meant I ended up doing half the chore.
But here’s the irony about kid chores: I’m not sure it saved my husband or me any real time or effort. Due to my own OCD with cleanliness, I usually end up going back over their bathroom, cleaning the spots they’ve missed. I have attacked the dishwasher with them, much like we’d attach a giant jigsaw puzzle, to show them how best to fit that odd-shaped pan. I’ve chosen to walk the dog along side them and occasionally weed with them, just because it offered us a little more time to talk and laugh, which we did. By the same token, I have also learned to relax a little about just how my kids do their chores. If they choose to fold their tee shirts on their uneven laps, so be it.
Giving my kids’ chores, I have witnessed a new sense of responsibility grow within them. I have seen flashes into our family’s future where they are well-adjusted adults familiar with getting their hands a little dirty and able to care for themselves. I have seen pride and diligence develop. And it’s not just me. Neighbors, too, have gotten light of my kids’ budding responsibility and have offered our 12-year-olds pet-sitting and other odd jobs with which they’ve been able to supplement their meager allowance.
In the end, chores didn’t kill my kids’ summer. Instead, they gave it new life and meaning.