Thursday, January 08, 2015

on chores


I'll never be the kind of mom who can happily play with her kids while the house descends into disaster around her. Messes make me grouchy. They make me impatient. They make me feel overwhelmed. I am at my best when the beds are made and the floor is clean and the toys are picked up. I've come to terms with this part of myself.

Someone recently asked me how we deal with chores at our house and I had to laugh, because the answer is that we don't. We don't have a chore chart or a sophisticated chore system. I do the daily chores at our house, not my children. In my 12 years of motherhood, I have decided that maintaining a peaceful home is my number one job. Nagging my children to get a job done is the quickest way to shatter that peace for me. And it is the last thing I want to do when they come home from a long, stressful day at school. I want them to be able to step into a clean, organized, quiet, and peaceful place. And you know what? My kids don't care if their beds are made or not. I'm the one who cares, so I don't mind doing things like that for them (because it is really for me, after all).

This is not to say that my kids never work. They put their laundry away and pick up their rooms. They clean up any messes they make (often times with my help). We work in the yard together. If we have a big job to do, we all pitch in. Sometimes I assign special Saturday jobs. Mabel always cleans her birdcage. Oliver takes out the recycling trash. But I make the beds and do the laundry and clean the bathrooms. I dust and vacuum and do the dishes, and complete any other daily chores. And if I need help, I ask them to help me.

This is what works for us right now, and I feel good about it. That's the key right there: finding a method that feels right for me and my children. The thought of sticking to a chore chart feels unnatural to me, so I don't do it. Sometimes I get tricked into thinking that I have to do things a certain way, or how someone else is doing them, to be "a good mom". But the truth is that there are a million right ways to do things, and here's the best part: I get to choose what works best for us! So I say that if you want your kids' beds made, make them yourself. Or make your kids do it. It's your choice.

20 comments:

  1. I appreciate this. I was just reading something online about how it is age appropriate for my 10 year old to be doing all the deep cleaning in the house. I think back and realize I could do it at that age but you know? My kids only have a few hours between school release and bedtime. I have all day while they are gone and I want to be purposeful in what I require them to do vs. what I can do. So they (8 and 10 yr old boys) are in charge of emptying the dishwasher, getting trash to the dumpster, putting away their laundry (they can fold it if they want because I just throw their clothes together in a basket unfolded), keeping their bathroom, bedroom, yard, and public areas picked up. During school breaks and summer they do have more jobs and I'll probably teach them how to do some of the deep cleaning jobs but I have more time and would rather get it done so we can play together. I am like you though and get cranky when things are a disaster.

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  2. My parenting style was very much like yours. My daughter is 19 now and she has never had a chores chart or anything, and while she is responsible for keeping her room and bathroom clean, and for doing her own laundry, etc., she probably doesn't do very much around the house, but I was raised the same way as her and somehow when I got on my own, I knew how to do everything (even though my Mom - a stay-at-home Mom for all of my school years, did everything for us at home). I do work full time outside of the home and have all of my daughter's years of school, but I still have always handled virtually everything. It's just how I like it. I'm not the cleanest housekeeper (when it comes to major cleaning that only gets done occasionally), but I DO have to have everything in its place, beds are made each morning, no clutter.

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  3. Wonderfully written! We did things about like that in our home and other women would say how will you teach your daughters to be good "house-keepers? They lived in a clean home and they pitched in when they were asked to - and they are each wonderful "house-keepers" today. (you could probably "eat on the floor" (it's an old phrase) in any one of their homes today and not have a problem- and the beds are made....and their children (most wonderful "Grands") are happy...

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  4. i LOVE this, steph. it's so wise. and what mom did for us too, if i remember right. it doesn't mean we all turned into entitled snobs. it means we had a really peaceful home too.

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  5. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

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  6. Thanks for sharing a perspective I don't hear very often. I started off requiring my kids to do whatever chores they were able to do, which drove me nuts. Now, with my third baby (and a preschooler and grade schooler), I've finally started to just do almost all the cleaning myself. And not grudgingly, either -- it's a pleasure to keep a relatively tidy home without having to nag all the time! I figure that the little ones are learning by watching me, and the school aged child is so busy that she wouldn't have much time for cleaning anyway.

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  7. I, too, cannot relax in a messy house! But the only one that cares about the mess is me. I totally enjoying puttering around my house picking up, putting everything into place, and making it neat and tidy. It's my job. The boys have a small chore when they get home from school (like emptying the dishwasher, putting away the silverware, taking out the trash), and I usually have a boy help me make their bed in the morning if there is time. I have a hard time looking at it all day when they make it themselves! They do yard work with their dad on the weekends or the older ones can do it without dad. I have job charts in the summer only to give them something constructive to do for a short period of time. Otherwise, they would drive me crazy! My older boys tell me that I don't make these younger ones work as hard as they had to work. It's not worth the battle to me anymore in the name of trying to be a "good mom." Two of my boys are complete neat freaks (but only with their things), and the other five are pretty messy!

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  8. I love this. It's like you read the contents of my heart when it comes to my home and how I "need" it to be to function as a mother/wife/human. When my kids show interest in "helping", I usually let them "help", but in general I like to be in charge and provide them with the comfort of a clean, neat, organized home. Why else am I here? It give me purpose. It gives me pleasure. And it gives them things which cannot be put to words.

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  9. I loved this so much!!! Thank you for this perspective

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  10. After I read this I cleaned my 3 bathrooms and picked up the house. I usually left everything to be done at dinner clean-up time and it was pretty daunting. I am one if those moms with a high tolerance for mess. But lately the feeling in iur home has bean so coarse, so unloving. We had one if the best afternoon/evenings we've had in a long time! Chores were sooo easy after dinner. No one said thank you, but I've picked up the gauntlet, thank you so much for sharing a way to a peaceful home!

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  11. Thank you so much for this perspective. I've been thinking my children are old enough to keep the house uncluttered and pick up after themselves, but after reading this, I think you're right. I love a neat house and they do do Saturday chores. Maybe it's just not worth the fight.

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  12. I couldn't agree with you more. I also feel very grumpy when the house is a mess! I clean the bathrooms, vacuum, dust, laundry, etc. I like it done a certain way and would just end up going over everything they did to get it done my way anyway. Exhausting I say. But my son helps mow the lawn, all my kids put their clean laundry away and will help out around the house when asked. They live very busy lives between school, hockey and dance. I'm striving for a peaceful home as well. Thanks for posting this.

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  13. Wait, wait, wait, I don't have make kids to do chores everyday and they will still turn out to be productive hard working adults. I didn't even know that was an option. I will have to give it some thought!

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  14. I can't tell you how liberating this is! I don't have to feel guilty about doing my kids chores for them! I don't have to feel like a martyr that I do most of the housework, because I LIKE it that way! I choose it! So thankful for your quick response! I will have to write you more about it when I have a few minutes, but I love it. I think I have SO many ideas and so much information at my fingertips, I sometimes make things much more complicated than they need to be! PS Thanks from my kids too. :)

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  15. I had to laugh when I read your posts because it is the same conclusion I came to a year or so ago. Chore charts didn't work for us. I felt like I was the bad guy always nagging them to get it done and it required too much of my energy monitoring and enforcing it. So now I happily go about my chores. I expect my kids to put away their things when they get home, and they have to help out with picking up messes they make and we all work together to get things done on Saturdays. It works great for us. It's the way I was raised and I learned how to work hard if not harder than some of my peers. Sometimes simple works best.

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  16. Stephanie, I just love you and the way you do things. I've tried ALL the complicated chore systems also, and failed miserably quite soon. SOME years hanging up a piece of paper on the fridge with chores worked for me, but most of my life I've done it just the way you have.

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  17. I wholeheartedly agree…no chore charts here either for the same reasons. :-)

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