Do Your Kids Actually Do Chores, and if so, What?
I’ m getting tired of doing everything myself around this house. It’s just the kids and I, and until now all the work has fallen to me. I accept that the bulk of the work will be mine for the most part – I’m the mother, the adult –so a lot of the work is mine because that’s how it goes when you’re the only grown up in the house. But after talking to some friends about how they divide chores in their homes, I’ve realized that my kids have it pretty easy around here. In fact, this morning while I was warming my son’s clothes with the hairdryer I thought long and hard about it.
My kids are getting breakfast served to them in their rooms, unrestricted access to my computer when I should be writing, full use of the hot tub, and laundry and turn-down service. This place is turning into a luxury four seasons resort and if I’m not careful they are never going to check out. My daughter will be university age soon, and already I am leaving University housing pamphlets on the coffee table so she’ll be inspired to move on after high school.
I’ve broached the topic of chores with them before – even started charts and check-off lists – but they always fizzled out after a few weeks. Things would be moving along smoothly, until we hit a bump in the road with a back-up dishwasher or broken washing machine and soon I was back to hauling garbage to the curb at 7:30 in the morning in my nightgown, holding my boobs up with one hand and waving frantically at the passing waste truck with the other.
But I have problems determining which kinds of chores are actually appropriate for their ages. My own historical circumstances complicate things, in that I lived with only my father from the age of six. He worked fulltime, and it was the 1970’s. Men didn’t usually take on the primary caregiver role, then and while we certainly were not neglected, I did develop a Pavlovian response to the sound of tinfoil being peeled back from a T.V. dinner. I did my own laundry from age nine, and could clean an entire house by the time I wore a (self-bought) training bra. I’ve always been very independent and results-driven, and so I often do things myself in order to avoid then inevitable disappointment that comes with others not doing things exactly as I would have done. This results in: a) exhaustion; or b) getting mad at others in the household for my own inability to delegate; or c) a living space where it is impossible to walk in a straight line from one room to another.
I decided to consult the expert about determining age-appropriate chores for kids. Yes; I turned to the Google machine. I got some interesting results, ranging from the concept that “chores” are a self-esteem reducing idea which will lead to a child’s emotional demise, to a chart stating that twelve year-olds can be made responsible for things like balancing the chequebook and maintaining household budgets. I mentioned this one to my own thirteen year-old. She said she’d love to take care of the family chequebook, and “did it have vampires and werewolves in it?”
If I let her near the banking, we’d be living in a cardboard box, but she’d own 129 pair of jeans and hair conditioner made from unicorn placentas. My son piped up and offered to bring in the wood and start a fire. We don’t have a fireplace.
I clearly need help in this area. I’m interested; how do you handle chores in your homes? And how do they compare with what you did when you were a kid – you know, back before parents cared about things like our “feelings” and self-esteem?
Jeni Marinucci is a mom of two, writer and the author of the blog highly irritable.