Chores: An Ongoing Saga

We're doing our best to soak up our last weekend of summer over here, a challenge given the lineup of soccer tournament games and back to school picnics. As we've run through the list of what everybody needs for the first day we've also come around to the topic of our annual chore-divvy.

I wrote about our philosophy on chores here years ago and reading through it today was very amusing - oh how simple life seemed before we entered the activity phase of parenting and threw a third kid into the mix! Our philosophy on chores/allowance has largely stayed the same, although we are considering other options for our soon-to-be teenager.  I'm not sure what that will look like just yet but I'm motivated to get creative.

Typically the way this shakes out is that I seal the doors and windows and force the kids to help me come up with a list of what needs to happen around here on a daily basis. I let them pick the things they want to do and then I divide the unpicked tasks as fairly as possible. To me, chores are something that are vital to a smooth-running home. By sharing the work load we all have a better gauge of what is expected of us and what fun things we are able to do. By being clear about expectations kids don't feel sidelined or put out (generally) when they are asked or reminded to do something. One thing that has come up, thanks to some advice from a friend, is being a bit more stern about complaining. She said that if you complained relentlessly or shirked your chores, you got to do your sibling's, too. YIKES! I'm not there yet but given our latest taste of what's to come in the teen years I'm not ruling that out.

So, here is what the kids will be doing for the coming school year, with items they have chosen marked with an *. I would LOVE to hear some other ideas about the whole allowance/money responsibility thing from those who are in the same boat with older kids.

Flynn, 11

  • Make bed each morning
  • Feed, water, let out bunny and clean his cage every third day
  • Pack sports bags
  • Use iPod to communicate with sports coaches, check schedules, weather delays, etc (yes, he has an iPod which has worked really well as a tool to help with his schedule)
  • Pack at least part of school lunch each day
  • Pack snacks for practices and games
  • Empty the dishwasher*
  • Load and start the washing machine when it's ready*
  • Put clean laundry away
  • Clean up dog poop in the yard
  • Cook a meal once a week for the whole family (this is a whole other thing and we definitely let him slide over the summer)
  • Vacuum room once a week

Jonah, 7

  • Make bed each morning
  • Help Indy feed the dogs each morning/night
  • Care for Sun, the leopard gecko
  • Pack soccer bag
  • Help with school lunch each day
  • Pack snacks for practices and games
  • Wash dishes on non-practice nights*
  • Sweep the floor after dinner*
  • Use the Shark mop on wood floors once a week*
  • Load and start the washing machine when it's ready*
  • Put clean laundry away
  • Clean up dog poop in the yard
  • Vacuum room once a week

Indy, almost 3

  • Put stuffed animals back in crib, pull up covers each morning
  • Open blinds in the living room (the perks of being an early riser)
  • Help set the table
  • Tidy toys and books each day
  • Feed the dogs with Jonah's help*
  • Brush dogs and bunny
  • Put dirty napkins into the laundry after each meal
  • Carry folded laundry to his room and put them in a drawer. Any drawer.
  • Sweep porch
  • Help water plants and garden

When I see it all written out like this it seems like a lot to do but it's really not, and I often find that we do our best chatting while we're all working away at our own tasks, bumping elbows in our little kitchen. I think it's also realistic that if they had a particularly long day, aren't feeling well or are just exhausted I'm quick to recognize that and we'll all pitch in to take over someone's chores for the day. 

Another point that's worth mentioning is that we have a cleaning lady who comes every other week. As much as I may want to feel guilty about this, I just don't. Over the last 6 or 7 years that we've had this service I've learned to let go of the need to justify it and just enjoy it. I thrive in a tidy house but don't get a lot of satisfaction from cleaning my own oven or wiping down wood blinds. And oddly, I know some people who do! These are also often the same people who feel a sense of dread at the thought of cooking dinner or making lunches, which I would say is my happy place. We all have our gifts and passions and delegating the others is okay. I realize that having a cleaning person come twice a month is a treat and I forego some other things to make that happen, knowing that if money is ever an issue that particular extravagance is the first to go and I'll be right back to scrubbing toilets with my headphones on at 10pm.