By JENNIFER STEUER
Chores are a good way of helping kids feel like a valuable part of the family (or just irritate them). We definitely share chores in our family in order to get all the work done.
When Benjamin, Olivia and Rebecca were cute little 6-year-olds they had cute little chores like putting napkins at everyone’s place at the dinner table or putting the placemats away. Now they are big 11-year-olds that need 11-year-old chores. Except that 11-year-olds aren’t as eager to be “Mommy’s little helpers” anymore. All 11-year-olds want to do is eat, sleep and do “whatever it is that annoys others.” To get help, a mom must be ruthless, crafty and organized.
There are so many different ways to do chore lists, charts, wheels or whatever. In the beginning, I didn’t care just as long as the work got done. With the three kids, we have a three week rotating schedule for chores. Right now, the weeks are still handwritten because we are still in the stage of adjusting what might be too much work some weeks. Some chores that rotate are: sweeping various rooms, loading the dishwasher, setting and clearing the table. There are no jobs that only Ben gets other than putting away his laundry. He takes out the garbage, recycling and compost, and so do Olivia and Rebecca. A weekly rotation helps with minimizing the feeling that they are stuck doing the same thing for too long. I like having the weeks written down so that Harlan, my mom and I know who is doing what.
There are some chores that aren’t on a rotating basis because they are for each individual: make the bed, take care of belongings and basic self-care. These are spelled out at this point. If I don’t tell those space cadets to brush their teeth every morning and every night, they would probably forget for a good long time.
The outdoor work is hard to divide sometimes because of blizzards or an overly wet or dry summer. Sometimes “extra work” can’t be avoided because mowing the lawn and taking care of the clippings has to be done as one job. We have gotten good at dividing up who takes care of what parts when we have snow. None of us like getting cold, dirty, dusty and hot, but if we work together, the work gets done faster and we can get to the point where we are able to enjoy the day.
School, including Hebrew School, is always a priority. Homework beats housework. When Rebecca, Olivia and Benjamin give us grief about doing chores and ponder how lucky their ancestors may have had it, a quick reminder that at least they don’t have to build pyramids all day, every day makes them quite happy.
After my initial shock from hearing that NONE of their peers had to do chores, I did a quick poll on Facebook and found out that every adult who answered did have chores for their kids. I also found out that chores did not guarantee an allowance. My kids don’t earn money for their chores. My kids do work because they live in a house with a family and as a family, we all do the work. All of it.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 11-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.