My husband grew up without chores. I kid you not. His mother had some philosophy about her husband’s household (13 kids by the time they stopped) having far too many jobs, and somehow equated that with her children needing none.
My upbringing was more typical: keep your room clean, rotating dishes assignment, and more labor-intensive Saturday Jobs. Even with that; my mother did the floors, toilets, laundry, and decorating.
When I first birthed a child, I had no plans or outlines for his future chores. When he started being mobile and ‘helped’ anyway, I began formulating rough ideas.
My first assisted me with:
Unloading the dishwasher
Sorting and folding laundry
Watering or weeding the yard outside
Toy pick up
In practical application; that meant:
Putting some plastic items away and being chased after for removing a glass dish and running
Swimming through the clothes, usually without any on his person
Playing with everything, especially mud, and needing a bath within five minutes
Fighting over how to run a vacuum over carpet, since he did not want to follow any sort of grid
Waaaay too much polish
“I’m too tiiiii-iiiiired to pick up!”
Not that I didn’t persist. After all, he always tailed me and wanted someone to do something with him all day.
What’s been interesting to me is that years and years of chore expectations and (sometimes sporadic) patterns of assigned jobs has led to them all (A) knowing chores are expected and (B) teaching the younger brothers by example.
Today, I can whip out a chore chart my FIVE YEAR OLD can do; jobs that include:
Clean the bathroom (toilets, sink, counter, mirror, floor; refill soap and TP; empty garbage)
Fold and put away your clothes (including hanging up dress clothes)
Dust and polish the furniture (they still use enough polish to slide off the railings)
Unload and load the dishwasher (a lot of spilled water, but they do it)
Pick up and vacuum a room
The moral of the story? No matter how tiiii-iiiired the kids think they are, they actually are capable. No matter how reticent you feel to assign something as monumental as toilets, they can learn to do it.
Most importantly: no matter how much of a favor you think you’re doing your children by not assigning jobs, THEIR WIVES WILL WANT TO KILL YOU IF YOU DID NOT TEACH THEM.
D’ya know that question everyone likes to ask children?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
There’s a trend lately of adults complaining about no direction in life. To be funny, they/we have coined the term ‘adulting.’ I see t-shirts with the word on it, as in “Adulting is Hard,” or “Tried Adulting Today / Gave Up.”
Why are we all so bummed out about responsibility? My theory is that others have discovered what I did once I moved out: my life goal could never work. See, what I wanted to ‘be’ when I grew up was a lazy sod. I wanted to never have to do chores again.
Whenever my parents assigned us clothes-folding (my own!), dishes-washing (after my mom made dinner every night!), or sock-mating (which we were paid to do!); I assumed they were sadistic monsters whose only desire was to watch us squirm and suffer. It never occurred to me that chores needed to be done. Certainly I never thought I contributed to a mess that needed cleaning.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m as intelligent as I hope.
Because, well…. I still hold out for my goals. I still want to do what I want while someone else gets dirty. Let me tell you, nothing builds resentment quite as quickly as unreasonable expectations.
But I’ve got some working solutions, like:
Training the kids for their own future lives (AKA hounding the kids every few minutes to do their chores).
Explaining to my husband and ‘help-meet’ that maintaining a house and family is a team effort (AKA nagging).
Hiring out work when we can afford it (AKA asking for a day’s maid as a birthday present).
Accepting how things are (AKA giving up, piling up, until blowing up and cleaning the house top to bottom).
The two constants in my life are laundry and dishes, the true NeverEnding Story of anyone in charge of a household.
Likewise, I feel I am forever searching for The Secret or The Quest or The Answer to The Laundry. After many years of fruitless searching and with almost all hope lost, I am beginning to think the Nothing will win after all…
Without a powerful relic or small boy with a secret name to solve all my problems, I’ve had to accept that Laundry will continue to be a NeverEnding problem for the rest of my life. So, what’s a parent to do? I can’t pay someone else unless it’s a laundromat and I fork over $20/clothing item. I can’t buy new clothes instead of washing the dirty ones because we need money for food. I can’t force the children to wear the same outfit over and over since we have all boys.
Guess we’ll go through it.
But. But. We hardly need to go it alone. In the words of a former neighbor who birthed 11 children: if a child is old enough to dress himself, he’s old enough to operate a washing machine.
In my experience, this is true. Some of mine have needed a lot more help than others, but they can at least dump the soap in and push the right buttons. It’s not like they have to beat the garments on rocks and keep lye from getting in their eyes, after all.
I’ve even started a family rule that everyone is in charge of his own laundry starting at age 10. All I had to do was show the old-enough child how to start a load, what clothing not to mix, and how much soap to use. Then, all I’ve had to do is remind them every single time their hamper is full that it’s time to wash the clothes.
Still, it’s progress. They’re learning life skills. And, they’re screwing up their own clothes when they ignore what I taught them.