A dozen years ago, when Micah and I first moved in together, we agreed to a division of the household work which we deemed fair. Basically, we both did the things we enjoyed, and we found that this got all of the jobs done without either of us feeling stressed. I loathed washing dishes – Micah found it cathartic. My physical condition made emptying a full kitchen size garbage bag painful – Micah found it simple and far prefered this system to my myriad 1 gallon trash cans around the house which I could easily empty daily. I loved to deep clean, and far prefered to scrub a bathroom over doing a sink full of dishes. I ironed so often that our ironing board had a permanent place in our open living/dining rooms. I did the pet care, the laundry, the dusting and the floors. Micah did the cooking. And we were perfectly happy with that arrangement.
Over the years, some things have changed. For instance, we split the cooking, most of the time, and Micah has taken over a lot of the pet care. Plus, we’ve gone from the 2 of us and one small cat to 2 parents, 4 children, a large cat and a pretty large dog. The household chores take much longer than they used to, and need to be done far more frequently. When we were first together, Micah could fry a couple eggs for breakfast and I could fix myself a bowl of cereal and breakfast was over in 15 minutes. Now, pancake mix must be made a few times a week, and pancakes are made daily for 5 people. Breakfast can take an hour or more, if everyone’s wake up times are staggered just right. By the time breakfast is cleaned up (usually my job), we have anywhere from 1 to 3 hours before lunch time. I make lunch for myself and “the troops” during the week. Daddy usually handles it on the weekends. I meal plan and do most of the weeknight dinner cooking. Micah does a lot of the weekend dinner cooking. He still cleans up the kitchen and does the dishes after dinner. We’ve both taken on additional “kid” chores, like diaper duty and bath time. I still do almost all of the house cleaning, the majority of the laundry, and now 99% of the homeschooling.
So, for the past seven and a half years, there has been a LOT of household work to do. But lately, things have changed, a bit. Suddenly, Sofi and Walter have gotten old enough to make meaningful contributions to the household chores. They are able to clear their own dishes from the table, scrape their plates, and put them in the dishwasher. They are able to put lids on condiments and carry them to the fridge. They are old enough to unload the dishwasher. Sofi is old enough to sweep the front entry and throw away the dust. She is old enough to do a load of laundry by herself. She is old enough to put her own laundry away. Walter is able to put away his own laundry and feed the dog.
Now, it isn’t as though they miraculously began doing household work. They have always worked side by side with Micah and me. But now they have learned well enough that they are able to do the chores by themselves. They have gone from needing us to be beside them as they worked, to being able to do the job alone, while I work on another project nearby. It may seem small, but clearing the table and emptying the dishwasher has really decreased Micah’s work load and left him more time in the morning and evening, and less stress.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of the children mature into being able to make more and more meaningful contributions to the household. How do your children help you at home?