Sunday, April 29, 2012

Chore Time

Kids around the world do chores. Mothers across this great and mighty land of ours organize their offspring and mobilize their activities via chore charts. Some charts are simple with stars or check marks. Others are more sophisticated. And yet others resemble the inner workings of a top secret nuclear power plant. My chore chart isn't like any of these because, well... because I don't have one.

Chores is one aspect of motherhood I suck at. One of many, but one that causes me no end of grief and gnashing of teeth. Why has getting my children to do chores always been so darn hard for me? It seems like every mother on the planet succeeds in this area, producing highly competent children who are paragons of responsible citizenship, children who could run a small republic, if need be, before the onset of puberty.

It wasn't for lack of trying, of course, but by the time I got around to the chore ideas, other families were far, far ahead. I once had a friend call me and ask if I had any ideas for how to get her 3 year-old son to make up his bed neatly. NEATLY. My three year-olds were hardly even potty trained, much less pulling up and smoothing out bed linens. This is just an example. The problem was, when it came to chores, I was out of my league.

You see, I didn't grow up with chores. We had a maid, Rose (for more info on that see my February blog post on this dear lady). Rose pretty much did everything. I don't remember anything that I HAD to do. It wasn't that I didn't want to do it, I just was never told to. On top of that, I was a pathetically compliant kid, so anything you told me to do I would have done with no back talk and a lot of guilt that I wasn't doing it well enough (such is my life....sigh). So I had no modeling on how to run an army of short, short workers.

Add to that the fact that I have absolutely NO managerial skills. Now, why on earth a woman with no intimidation value, managerial skills, or backbone intentionally brought forth four children in six years is beyond me. But have them I did. I just didn't know what to do with them once they were here. Still don't.

I bought the charts with the stickers and the stars and wrote their names and then was stumped. I couldn't even divvy up the work to be done. What if it wasn't even? What if one was harder than the other? What would be the consequences? You mean I'm gonna have to remember to remind them? And then I'll have to remember to enforce it? And then I'll have to remember to fork over consequences for chores left undone? Sheesh! And what if it needs to be done and they are not home. What then? That's a lot of work. My brain short circuited and fried itself, nice and crispy.

Meanwhile, other moms were teaching their kids to clean and vacuum and sweep and cook and sew and plant gardens and grocery shop and milk cows and feed chicks and roof the house (ok, maybe not that, but you get the picture). I had no idea how to do half of that stuff myself, much less teach my kids to do it.

I threw out the chore charts in exasperation and gave up. Eventually we got our kids to do their own laundry by the time they were 16. And that is about where it stands. My house is not run like a well-oiled machine. It's messy. There are rings in the toilets sometimes. Bath towels seem most at home on the bedroom floor. Dishes stack up beside beds.

I worry that my lack of chore training will hurt them in life. That somehow they will move into adulthood handicapped because they never had to unload the dishwasher on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays or vacuum the living room every day at 5 p.m. or get up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows before walking 3 miles to the school bus.

I would imagine that everybody that reads this will rush to defend chores and, frankly, I don't blame them. I am in no way saying they are wrong. I am just saying that I must be the only person on the planet that has really and truly failed in this area of motherhood.

It is what it is. I love my children anyway. God gave them to me anyway. And his grace is sufficient even for this.


  1. Again, thank you. Our maid was Ruth. I thought everyone had them. Thought I always would. My William told me the other day that he "can't fold his clothes because he's not good at it." Guess what his first chore is?!

  2. I haven't had much success either, but a steady diet of requests for help, asking kids to look around to see what needs doing, and being thankful have contributed to some pretty helpful kids. God's grace is sufficient even in this.

  3. Chores, schmores! At least your kids do the laundry! You have to graduate from high school in my house before this becomes your chore...I never was good at allowance either. My kids helped when they were little...some times...Talbot helps now..and I went to college without knowing how to put sheets on a bed. I still hate that! However, being CONSISTENT with anything was never my cup of tea. They may get an allowance for 2 weeks...then, that was it. Or, clean the bathroom for 3 days...Oh well..I love my kids and no one ever has to come to my house and feel like theirs is messier...

  4. Thank you! I'm new to this parenthood thing and have absolutely no idea how people do it! Usually I feel like a day has been a success if I've read the bible, my daughter hasn't made anyone bleed, there is no food mushed into the floor when my husband gets home and there is something for him to eat for dinner sometime that night... Schedules and chores are just so unrealistic I don't even ponder them most of the time!