What was your least favorite chore as a child? Who does that chore at your house now?
Chores are a fact of daily life. “Mom, it was so smart of you to try to get us to do one chore a day and not leave them all for Saturday! I’m so sorry I didn’t listen! Now I understand!” That’s what my married daughter said to me after my wise words and chore charts finally sunk in after all those years.
The chore chart first appeared when my girls were in preschool. The weekly chores in the younger years involved bringing me the little trash cans on trash day and helping to dust or deliver piles of clean laundry to the bedroom. I remember once buying a new feather duster and toilet brush and bringing them home like prizes! Being young, my girls were excited about the new tools! The weekly chores grew into a daily chart that listed each person’s name and a chore that could be done in less than 5 minutes that day. (Saving them until Saturday was NOT an option then!) Dad and Mom chores were sometimes listed so everyone could see the shared workload. As the years grew, the methods of assigning chores changed. In the middle years, typically 2 or 3 times a year we redid the chart, asking them to name their favorite and least favorite chore and then assigning things from there. As they grew, they learned to occasionally trade chores, to ask for an extension, and to surprise someone by doing their chore.
Daily chores of making beds and doing the dishes was just expected, not necessarily on the chart. When we moved to a 3 story house in their teen years, I asked their opinion of how to equitably divide up the labor in a much larger house. We decided that we could split the chores by floor and rotate the floors by the week (the third floor was not used all the time so that person had an easier week). The expectation was to have all the chores done by Saturday. They started putting off the chores until Saturday! But I let it go since they were teenagers, and I was just glad to have the work done and their input on the expectations.
Teaching them to keep house didn’t just begin in the launching years. It started in the younger years, but it started slow and methodical. As they grew, so did their responsibilities and their education. So by the time they got to their launching years, they could keep a house, grocery shop, prepare meals, do laundry, organize an event, take the car for an oil change, take care of an elderly relative or a baby, welcome a guest, and drive someone across town to the airport.
There are plenty of parents who find joy in doing all the chores for their kids and much can be said about that. However, it brought me joy to instill independence in my kids and to know that if I couldn’t take care of something they could. This became very obvious when my dad’s health deteriorated, and I began spending more time at his house after work than my own. My kids stepped up to the plate and kept things running at home. I was so proud and thankful! Now they are doing these things in their own homes, and I didn’t have to worry if they were prepared or not. They were! Daily chores and homework schedules prepare kids with life skills necessary for future homes and jobs.
Wondering where to start? List out your daily and weekly chores. Consider your kids ages and abilities and start there. If they are older you can even present a list of chores that need to be done and let everyone pick one to do that day. Back to school time is a perfect time to set expectations for household chores and homework schedules. Even if you don’t have kids, it’s a good time to address the chore list with your roommate or spouse!
Table Talk: What chore would you like to have someone else do for you? What’s your favorite household chore?