Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chores

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      "Why don't you do the dishes?" I whined.

      "Because I have you," my dad informed me simply, with a smirk - probably the millionth time he'd made such a proclaimation.

      Both my brother, Boo, and I replayed this banter with our parents on a constantly repeating basis over any number of tasks - the dishes, cleaning, dusting, pet care, you name it.

       When I was growing up, it was no secret that we were free labor for our parents.  When I was a little older, even my friends knew that staying too long at our house put them at risk of being put to work.  Growing up, for us, there sure as heck wasn't any sort of free ride.

       Everyone in our house contributed.  My parents worked long hours at hard, physically demanding jobs in order to provide for Boo and I, and we were expected to do our share.  We had a lot of chores over the years - regular, everyday chores like clearing the table, doing the dishes, chopping, stacking, and hauling firewood, feeding the animals, and keeping our rooms cleaned - to periodic tasks like dusting, window washing, and couch "fluffing."  (we had a really strange couch when I was growing up . . . ) We were also routinely wrangled into all manner of home improvement and landscaping tasks.  One of my friends still bemoans the ditch she ended up helping me dig one beautiful summer day when we were both about 12 (or maybe a year or two older?) and thought we would be spending the day sitting around gossiping. 

      Given my upbringing, it goes without saying that my kids have chores.  Too often today, I see kids (or, even worse, young adults striking out into the world) who are accustomed to having everything done for them.  Eighteen year olds who don't know how to do their own laundry* or prepare themselves a meal, and who, even if they did know, don't see why they should have to do those things for themselves.  I see 10 year olds who take their parents' actions completely for granted, who think laundry is Mom's "job," and believe that money comes from ATM machines.

      I find this a very disturbing trend.  I can see why some parents don't want to give their kids chores.  They want their kids to have happy, carefree childhoods.  They want them to have it better than they themselves did.  Our kids are so overscheduled anyway, why throw one more thing on the pile?  And, really, if we're just going to have to go behind them and fix it anyway, it's faster to just do it ourselves.

      Unfortunately, the consequences of these seemingly innocent thoughts can be dire.  The "real world" is a much harsher reality for individuals who grew up feeling entitled.  A young person who isn't accustomed to doing things for themselves and contributing to a group is extremely poorly equipped to function as a productive member of society.

       And what sort of examples are we setting for our children's future homes if we teach them that every chore that needs to be done is someone else's job?  We end up with adults who either expect their spouse to do everything for them or who don't expect their spouses to contribute at all, feeling like they have to now model their mother who did everything herself.

       Ultimately, even though they may will complain, chores are good for kids.  Chores make kids better people.  And, eventually, they lighten the load around the house.  Chores help children feel more like a cohesive and contributing member of an integrated family unit.  They give a sense of pride in one's actions and contribution (as opposed to the much more negative pride just for the hell of it).  There have been thousands of articles written and numerous studies done on the benefits of having children to chores.  I personally like this article from Psychology Today (because it is written from an anthropological standpoint, which we all know I LOVE).

      So it goes without saying that Punky has chores.  She has a dry erase chore chart on our fridge (that used to have little magnets, too, but those are long gone - thank heavens!) that details her daily tasks.  They have changed as she has grown, starting with little things like picking up all the toys in the livingroom and feeding the dog, to her current chore set, which includes:

-  Feeding and watering the dogs and cat, and cleaning out their bowls periodically
-  Cleaning out the litter box
-  Setting the table for dinner
-  Taking the silverware out of the dishwasher and polishing it (though on many nights I do the dishes too late or while she's doing homework)
-  Getting herself ready for school
-  Folding and putting away her laundry
-  Collecting, washing, and dating eggs from the chickens
-  Checking the mail

      Those are her daily chores.  She is also responsible for cleaning her room and her bathroom (not with chemical cleaning products), and she helps out with a wide variety of other tasks, depending on what we're doing.  She will wash windows when we're cleaning the house.  She takes the compost out to the bins and brings in the recycling bins after they've been emptied.  She is also a major source of entertainment for Flintstone while I'm getting dinner ready.

      All in all, the kid has a lot of responsibilities, and she is better and happier for them (though she may not recognize that right now ;-)).

       The author of the Psychology Today article mentions three results of having her children to chores, and I wanted to share them because I see exactly the same things in Punky:

1.  Punky glows when someone tells her what a help she's been or how shoveling the sidewalk has made it easier for some of our older neighbors to navigate. It's not a big deal - something said in passing.  But it's another little positive in her day.  And it happens a lot.
2. The number one thing that EVERY teacher and EVERY adult tells me about Punky is that how polite and helpful she is. 
3.  Punky has an enduring and pervasive sense of gratitude.  She thanks strangers, friends, MacGvyer, and me for little things we do for each other.

     Even Flintstone pitches in!  He loves to help me put away silverware (he takes it out of the dishwasher, one peice at a time, and hands it to me to put in the drawer).  He is very good at putting all his toys back in his bins when asked to, and he really loves helping "fold" laundry (read: throwing already folded laundry on the floor and dragging it all over the room).

       Do your kids do chores?  What are their chores?  How do/have their chores changed with age?

*  Ok, I actually didn't know how to do my own laundry when I was 18.  I had to call my mom from the laundry room in my dorm at Tulane and have it explained to me, but that was because we were so tight on money growing up that my mother was extremely protective of the washer and dryer.  After many years of lugging all the laundry and both us kids to the laundrymat, once we got our own machines in the house, NO ONE under the age of 18 was allowed to touch them.  Or even look at them.  Twenty some years later, she still has the same washer and dryer - very much worse for wear.  The washer is missing the knob, so you either have to turn the flat surface with friction from your fingers or use a wrench, and the dryer door has to be held closed by leaning a sledghammer against it while it does it's job.  But they both still work, which is pretty darned impressive.

7 comments:

Diandra said...

Want to know what happens if you do not let your kids participate? Let me tell you.

The BF is 35 (almost 36, actually). He

* leaves his dishes, empty yogurt cups etc. wherever he stops using them.
* doesn't know how to operate the laundry machine.
* makes a mess out of the kitchen every time he cooks something.
* thinks vacuuming once a month is fine (after all he needs his breaks, right?).
* simply pushes his clothes into the wardrobe in a pile.
* never even thought about cleaning the bathroom when we moved in (finally, after a month, I caved and did it, and over breakfast he said, "Considering how long we've been living here, the bathroom looks really clean!" I could have strangled him. ^^ )
* doesn't know how to keep a proper meal plan.
* ...

His mother did everything for him and his brother. Even the laundry, when they were already living on their own. She would still do so if I let her. (I don't.) These days, the BF has got his chores and gets in trouble if he doesn't do them, but it's a miracle he even found a stupid girl willing to put up with all this.

Nadine Hightower said...

yes my kids had chores. I had chores to do as a child. I think it's a good thing.

Impulsive Addict said...

Diandra makes great points. Now that I don't work, M doesn't do much around the house. However, if I ASK him to, he will. I totally believe in chores and Emma (who isn't quite 2 yet) has chores. She picks up all her toys and puts them in the toy box and when we're getting ready for bed, she takes her clothes to her hamper for me to wash. She "helps" me with my chores too. I think what you're doing is important and they will definitely appreciate the lessons later.

BRAVO MOMMA!

Thanks for linking up with us! I always love reading your blog....even though I'm really behind with all my favorite reads. =(

MiMi said...

Seriously, this just makes me think of something I heard today on the radio...people over the age of 30 say Thank You approx. 5000 times a year....Under 30 it drops drastically. Kids these days....HA. I am way old.

Karen Peterson said...

Chores aren't fun. They were never intended to be fun. But I totally agree with you that they are SO important. It drives me crazy to see parents that never give their kids any jobs to do and that end up doing every last thing for them.

Lourie said...

I am guilty of some of this...because it is just easier to just do it myself. BUT....you are right they need to do it. It's a battle...rough... really rough. But I was doing my own laundry at age 12 plus the house holds. We all pitched in. My mom worked. My kids need chores. I don't enforce it enough and I know I should.

Shawn said...

I am one of the odds wives that feel that doing that stuff is my "job". My hubby works, my girls go to school (they do have chores but they're simple) so all of that stuff really is my responsibility. If I worked than that would all change. I'm blessed to stay home so I try not to complain too much!

Thanks for linking up!

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