So far this quarter, we’ve been covering Taming the Clock. April’s theme was taming the clock by keeping our word. Living in a way that shows the agreements you make matter, the appointments you make matter, the promises you make matter is huge toward any kind of change in how you manage your time. May’s focus has been taming the clock around town although during COVID many of those subjects have been handled closer to home. June’s theme will be taming the clock in the home from chores and mealtimes to bedtime routines, boundaries and unstructured play. As the coming Thursday to Wednesday week wraps up May and begins June, June will be a 5 themed-week month.
We begin this cross-over week between months on the subject of chores. How do you handle chores in your home? Does one person do most of the chores? Do you divvy them up among those who want to help? Is it mandatory that all members have certain chores they do? Do you change them up? What age do you or did you begin introducing chores to your children?
In my home, I began introducing household tasks to my kids when they began making messes. As babies, this meant holding them as they grabbed a toy, then carrying them over to the toy bin so they could drop the toy into the bin and then congratulating them on help me clean up their toys. My daughter was such an avid bookworm as a baby that I taught her to put her books back on the shelf before she could read the words. She loved books so much as a baby that one night, my not-yet-ex and I heard a commotion in the bedroom. My kids shared a room at that time, and my son was busy pulling all the books of the shelf and putting them into my daughter’s crib. She was in heaven! We very quickly figured out how to give them separate rooms after that! When they played in the plastics cupboard, they had to put all the plastics away when they were done. Little age-appropriate measures to begin instilling the concept that we put back what we bring out.
When I became a single mother, these lessons took on more importance because now there was only one parent in the home. Putting toys away at bedtime was already a given, but getting things ready for the next day was now added to that routine. That became so much habit after awhile that to this day, when my kids work the next day now as young adults, they prep for it the night before as a matter of course. It’s just what they do.
If you introduce them to helping you put away plastic-ware in the kitchen and helping you set the table at mealtimes, helping you fold wash-clothes and lighter clothing after the laundry is dry, and helping you put the groceries away, when they are pre-school and kindergarten, you will notice something. There will come a stage when suddenly, vacuuming the couch cushions is fun! Dusting the window sills is somehow fun for them! They are declaring they’ll wash the dishes tonight, or some other chore. Grab these moments quickly and use them to teach good cleaning habits! If they are very cerebral, go ahead and explain as you go about the why’s and hows of the task and the benefits to doing it every week. This phase unfortunately tends to pass for many kids, but it will have been a shortened learning curve for various chores that you can build on as they grow.
I am reminded of a time when I was still going to college my kids were ages 4 and 6. I had come down with one heck of the flu so bad I could hardly walk or talk and spent most of my time in bed. My kids, bless their little hearts at the time, tried to help out by
- a) plugging in the kettle on my bed which meant me spilling it when I shifted, all over that end of the bed!
- b) trying to do the laundry and figuring the soak cycle meant it was done, sloshing sounds got me out of bed to discover sopping wet clothes being put in the dryer! Quickly, although with difficulty, averted that electrical fire. . .
- c) being informed (not freaked out, just calmly) that there had been a fire on the stove. I tore out of bed as fast as my wooziness and dizziness would let me, got into the kitchen to find my daughter on a chair at the stove and my son pointing to the sink. I lifted out a T-towel now sporting a huge hole in the middle. I spun around to be reassured by the kids that they got the fire out and dinner was almost ready!
Oh my word! I will NEVER forget that day! In their young little minds, they were trying to help mom out (had become a single mom when they were 3 and 5 hardly 6 months earlier)
[bctt tweet=”By all means as a #singlemother, when your #kids hit grades 1 and 2, start divvying up the #household #chores.” username=”songdovemd”]At that age, they can fold all the laundry minus the bed sheets. They can take turns washing the dishes. They can learn how to wash windows and mirrors and counter tops. They can learn how to work the vacuum cleaner and how to wash the floors. They can learn how to cook simple nutritious meals and can begin finessing how their toys are put away. Some will prefer by colour, others by size, others by type. Once organized, take pictures of their work and be super proud of them to begin with. As they mature and grow, change up who does what so they get experience learning how to do all the household chores. This takes some of the load of all the chores off your own shoulders. Some days you will spend more time helping them and less time being productive elsewhere, but if you are ensuring they are doing as you are teaching, you are not robbing them of this important learning period. Eventually you will be able to remind them and do something else while they do their assigned chores. This will give you time to relax a moment, or handle that phone call, get that bill paid, write that blog article, have your devotions, etc.
Another tip for managing household chores is to take your own list of chores, and break them up into a weekly list. I share this concept with graduated high schoolers in my book: Mom’s Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate available on Amazon. Pull out a calendar or planner, and write in which days of the week you will do which chores. Your kids’ chores can be written in this way too if setting aside one day for chores doesn’t work in your home. Having one day just for chores works best if possible, as you all know that on that day, the house gets cleaned and only smaller chores like cooking, dishes, and putting away toys are ongoing. But if your schedule is such that there is no single day when the housework can be attacked, spread it out over the course of the week. This has worked well for me for many years!
Be flexible! If one person’s schedule suddenly take s drastic shift and they can’t do their chore very well anymore, shuffle the chores so that someone else gets those chores instead. If someone develops a long term mobility issue or health problem that prevents them from doing another chore, do the chore shuffle again. You will be glad you taught them how to do all the chores by the time they hit their tweens, because now it’s just a matter of adjusting who does what and the chores continue to be handled.
One thing that I see many parents doing that can honestly be a source of stress for the single mom, is that of assigning allowances to chores, as if they are paying their kids to help around the house. Don’t do this!!! Never give the impression that one should be paid to keep house and home clean and healthy! Your kids are not paying you, and no one else is paying you either. If you have a dirty home, you will get sick and so will your kids. If you have a clean home, you will be healthier and so will your kids. Many single moms are living pay cheque to pay cheque, and get stressed out thinking their 10yr olds should be getting allowances. Allowances are seen as the only way to teach them money management.
Here is where I am counter-cultural and my two young adults will tell you they were none the worse for it and actually can use their money better than many of their peers. Instead of allowances, include them in discussions around how to spend the grocery shopping budget. Include them in discussions about which bills will be paid this month and which will be put off till next month if your income is genuinely that tight. Mine was for quite awhile so this was quite seriously, me back then. No judgment if this is you too. When they are given gift money, teach them to spend part of it on what they need, part of it as a thank offering to God for the gift, and part of it to something they want. When I was a child, these took the form of three envelopes under the bed: Saving, giving, spending. The saving envelope was not to be spent until it had enough in it for what I wanted to buy. The giving envelope was to be emptied every Sunday at church. The spending envelope was for things I needed. I did not grow up with an allowance either, so these envelopes did not always have anything in them. Whenever my kids wanted to spend their money, we would discuss needs versus wants and why. But I never ever ever paid them to do chores. EVER! This is a bad precedence to set and can cause trouble down the road, especially when they get friends convincing them to sit you down and discuss a raise because Johnny two houses over gets paid this much to fold his laundry and you’re only paying this much! Not a wise move. You want the household chores to be done because you are family, not employees. Anyone who lives there pitches in with the chores simply because it is their home too. Everyone has a stakes in keeping house and home clean and reasonably tidy and workable.
Give some thought to how you handle chores around your home, and if you are not already divying up the chores to your children, ask yourself why and reach out if this is something you could use a little help in. Simply use the free SPA session (single parent assessment) form to give me a shout and we’ll take a few minutes to go over your situation and how you can handle it better. If you decide you could use ongoing assistance for awhile, we will discuss payment for my services and get you started on a regular coaching schedule as we work toward workable daily routines in and around your particular home’s dynamic.