Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chores: should they have to?

Do you ever find yourself having a pro and con conversation with yourself that you already know which side you stand on?  Arguing the other side at yourself?  Well if you don't then you're strange.  Certainly.  Because I do this all the time and I know I'm completely normal......

Today a friend posted a link to a list of chores by age that they had come across on pinterest and asked if anybody really follows the list.  I've seen lists like this before and to be honest the first time I saw one I thought "These people are NUTS!"  But over the past two or so years I've changed my mind.  They aren't nuts.  This particular list that I'm going to discuss specifically today was created by The Happy Housewife and is a free printable so head over and grab it if you're interested.

Now I have children in three of these age categories.  And I looked at this list so I could give an accurate count of whether I really do follow this thing.

So let's start with Sierra at 2yrs old.  It would be faster to list what she doesn't do on this list.  She doesn't dust because I am not big on dusting.  There you have it.  The dusty truth about me.  She doesn't swiffer either - but then we don't own a swiffer.  She LOVES to hold the dust pan and carry the dirt to the trash though.  She doesn't make beds.  One, she's still in a crib so really bed making isn't necessary.  Two, I'm not a bed maker.  We don't make our beds in this house.  I'm ok with that.  I have NEVER been a bed maker.  Ever.  And she doesn't wash baseboards though she has the ability to do so should I ever decide to wash my baseboards.  She does help transfer laundry, she helps wipe the table, cabinet fronts, etc., she puts her dirty laundry in the hamper and her diaper in the trash, and she helps pick up the toys she gets out.

Moving on I have two in the 4-5 category.  Ok so technically Sawyer is not quite 4 yet but he operates as a 4yr old would.  They don't load the dishwasher, only vacuum once in a while, and have never washed dishes. 

My almost 7yr old falls on the third list.  He only does a couple of the things on the list for his age category. Note though that the list goes from 6 to 8 which is three years.  So at age 6 he is able to do a few items on the list plus all the previously mentioned chores.  At age 7 he will learn a few more and at age 8 he will most likely learn the last few. 

A list like this isn't meant to intimidate.  I was initially intimidated by this list when I saw it or something like it a year or two ago.  I felt defensive.  When I feel defensive it generally means I've hit upon an area of parenting where I don't feel completely confident in what I'm doing.  And I was NOT teaching my children the things that lists like this told me my children were capable of.  There were a few reasons for this.

One reason was that I wasn't aware of all that my children could be capable of at such young ages.  It never occurred to me when Kayd was two that he could help with laundry in any way. 

A second reason was that I was busy.  I had four kids in just under 5yrs.  I didn't have a space of time where life wasn't chaos with a baby in the house.  I went from one baby to the next and teaching most of these chores really requires an amount of energy, time, and attention that I wasn't able to muster during those years.  Now Kayd and Colton and Sawyer could certainly do a couple of the things on the 2-3yr list when they were 2-3yrs old but those were things that had been learned out of necessity.  You put your own diapers in the trash/hamper, you put your own laundry in the hamper, you clean up your own toys.  But mostly it was faster and less chaotic to just do things myself.

Sierra is now 26 months old and I do not currently have a needy baby in the house.  It's amazing what can happen once the baby turns one and there isn't another on the way.  I made a point of teaching the boys chores that it never occurred to me before that they should be able to do.  Kayd can fold towels, the boys all put their own laundry away in their drawers, they put away the hand towels and wash cloths in the kitchen.  They unload the dishwasher and they can empty the dryer into an empty hamper. 

Now there is a camp of people out there who might say that my children shouldn't HAVE to have so much responsibility around the house.  I think that's just hooey.  They live here, the clothes in those hampers are about 3/4 theirs, the dishes in the dishwasher are half theirs, the dirt on the bathroom counter is all theirs.  My children don't spend their days slaving away keeping our house spotless.  Anyone who has ever visited my home or looked closely at the background of pretty much any photo I post on my blog can see very clearly that spotless is not a word my house experiences often, if at all.  My children help with the chores that are necessary to maintenance in our home. 

A few things come to mind on this matter.  One thing that occurs to me is that my children are home schooled.  They spend a fraction of time on school each day in comparison to their same aged peers.  Nobody would look at their peers though and say that they shouldn't have to clean up after themselves after arts and crafts time, that they shouldn't have to keep their desks tidy, help straighten up the toy areas or reading areas after play.  It's logical that in a classroom setting if the children aren't picking up after themselves to some extent then the teacher is having to do it all and that is time she could be spending with the children.  Why then is it any different at home?  Why then should I not expect my children to help with daily maintenance and keeping up after themselves?  My children aren't also spending time on a school bus traveling to and from school so the bit of extra time they're busy helping around the house isn't cutting into the precious couple of hours of "free time" they have between school, dinner, and getting to bed.

I'm raising my children with the future in mind.  Sure I could wait and teach them all of these home ec types of things their last year under my roof.  But why wait?  My children are learning at a young age what being part of a family is about.  They are learning at a young age that the more they help, the more we all work together, the more that mommy can be a part of things too.  How many pictures do we see where the mom is absent because they are behind the camera?  Isn't life a lot like that sometimes?  Where we're not there for moments because we're too busy doing it all by ourselves while our family lives life. 

Should children HAVE to do chores?  I wholeheartedly and unashamedly say yes.  They absolutely should have to do chores. 

Are lists like the one above too demanding?  In my experience with four very different children - NO they aren't.  Unless of course you mean too demanding of us as the parents having to find the time and energy and patience to teach each of the chores to our young children, in which case yes it's demanding.  But I haven't found a part of motherhood yet that isn't demanding - or I'd still be there wallowing in it.


  1. I have this same list printed sitting in my desk HA, I have been so turned off by chore lists that I just gave up lol...Its easier for me to do it myself, BUT in reality I have come to the fact that my kids arent going to learn to contribute to a home if they arent showed how/told to help out any. I found a contribution "chore" list that lets you edit it to your liking for the kids, I laminated ours and put them in the kitchen. Heres the link to where I found ours

    Have a great Friday, blessings!

    1. We don't use a chore list at all. I've tried a few different charts but nothing has stuck. I'm going to post more on how we actually do chores today. I have come across that one that you linked before though and I do love that it's contributions to our family rather than chores. It's such a great way to think of it. Thanks for stopping by!