I’m preparing myself for a collective gasp from the internet as I make my revelation: I don’t make my kids do chores. They don’t even clean their own rooms.
Now hold on: This doesn’t mean they don’t lift a finger to help. I differentiate between chores and basic good manners (clearing plates from the table, tossing dirty clothes in the laundry basket, putting the mountain of LEGOs back into the box it was just tipped from).
You won’t find my kids cleaning windows, hanging out laundry, emptying the dishwasher or sweeping the floor. I only give them one job to do, and that is to be a child. Their carefree days don’t last forever. They will both have many, many years of doing mundane adult things like housework. I’d much rather see them have fun, enjoy their hobbies, nurture their passions and simply enjoy being children.
Because even as kids, they have plenty of responsibility to deal with. Pressure from school. Friendship dramas. Getting their heads around the fact that not everybody is kind and loving and that bad things happen to good people. While they’re busy dealing with all of that, I’m more than happy to clean their rooms for them.
My decision is likely influenced by the fact that when I was a kid, I didn’t have to clean my own room. My siblings and I helped out around the house, but we never had specific chores we had to do. And guess what? I don’t live in a shithole now. I like a clean, tidy house. Just because my parents didn’t make me vacuum and sweep and scrub on a regular basis didn’t mean I didn’t know exactly how to do all those things as soon as I lived independently. It’s not rocket science. I watched my mom keep our family home nice and that’s what I’ve gone on to do as well.
Very occasionally, I do ask my kids (5 and 8) to clean their rooms. I always regret it. Kids that age don’t know how to tidy. Or maybe I’m too type-A to be able to deal with their, um, unique style of tidying. Whatever the reason, I always end up re-tidying. The outcome? Two tired, grouchy kids and a tired, grouchy mama, two rooms that have been tidied twice and an hour of our precious non-school time wasted.
I have no problem with moms who give their kids lists of chores to do. That’s none of my business and I don’t think they’re being wrong or unfair. It’s just different from how I bring up my kids, and surely we all know by now that there’s no “right” way to be a parent.
Before you jump to conclusions, I can tell you, categorically, that my kids are not spoiled brats. I mean, I spoil them sometimes because they’re my kids and I’m not so old that I can’t remember that feeling of pure excitement when you get the LEGO set you’ve been pining for for weeks. The world is a crappy place a lot of the time, and I want to see smiles on their faces as often as possible.
But they’re not spoiled brats because they don’t expect to get everything they want, they appreciate what they do get, and they are sweet, polite, good-natured little people. They know how to behave in public and how to treat other people with acceptance, kindness and patience.
My children might not clean their rooms, but they spent a morning at a local warehouse helping me sort clothes and shoes and toiletries for refugee children who have nothing. They regularly gather up toys and books they no longer use and help me take them to the local charity shop. They know they are so, so lucky to have this life and not the lives of the children who live without food on their table, without love and security, or in constant fear of abuse or attack. I know they know this, because we talk about it. We talk about the big stuff, the stuff that will shape them into the adults I hope they will become.
If it’s a choice between spending time with them doing that, or nagging them to fold their laundry, I know what I’d rather do.
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