Last week, my daughter called me in a panic. She had a soccer game and her uniform was dirty.
“Put it in the washer,” I said.
“I don’t know how!” she was nearly in tears.
Lovely, at age 14, she literally didn’t know how to use the washer or dryer.
My fabulous daughters, God bless ’em, have almost no concept on what it means to run a home. They believe that clean clothes magically appear in their closet and drawers, food simply grows in the refrigerator, and that angels come in the middle of the night to clean the house. And, quite frankly, I am sick of it. But, really, whose fault is that? Mine. I haven’t taught them, nor have I expected them to do anything. And certainly, there were no consequences if they didn’t do a thing. So I went on an official quest to teach them some valuable lessons about chores and pitching in.
The reality is that giving my daughters chores is far more work that it was worth. When I asked them to do anything, they complained and argued and made a mess that I had to clean up anyway. My younger daughter actually loves to help but she is super klutzy, so I have been afraid to let her do much of anything. It was time that I got over it and simply allowed mistakes to happen. After all, they’ll get better and more proficient at their chores if I simply back off and allow them to do it and hold them accountable. And some day, it will save me loads of time if I get help around the house. After all, doing it all myself is exhausting (not to mention, thankless).
So I made a handy list of things they can (and should) do around the house and divided it up between the two of them. I put their assignments on the refrigerator door and if they don’t have a good week of doing their chores, they don’t get their allowance.
Feed the cat and clean the litter box
My 14 year old daughter needs to be reminded many times per day to take care of her cat. She still sometimes forgets and it makes me very unhappy. I have finally taking a “no excuse” policy– I wake her up to do it if I must. (And she wants to get a puppy! Right…) Some day I hope that she just does it without my nagging. When she becomes a non-complaining pro at this, we’ll talk about that dog.
Make their bed
There is no excuse for leaving the house without their beds being made. It takes less than a minute and I check it every morning to ensure it’s done.
Clean their bedroom
Before they go to bed each night, their bedroom must be organized. Every weekend, they must also vacuum their bedrooms.
Take out the trash
I don’t mean just the kitchen trash, but all trash throughout the house.
Clear the kitchen table
I am so done with putting my daughters’ plates and glasses away for them. They now must, at a minimum, put their plates in the sink. Better yet, load them up in the dishwasher.
Help cook dinner
This has actually become a really fun activity. Most nights that I cook dinner, I invite one of them to help me out. Siena, my nine year old, loves to help me cook. I still have anxiety attacks when she picks up a knife and starts cutting vegetables but I’m allowing her to try (using a dull knife of course). If she can work with needles and irons at sewing class, she can start cutting some vegetables while I watch her closely. It’s actually quite funny as veggies fall onto the floor but she’s more than willing to sweep them up afterwards.
My daughters tend to fight so allowing my 14 year old daughter, Morgan, to kid-sit her sister while I go out on a date was initially a terrifying thought. Would I come home to broken furniture and injured children? But I did it. The first time I headed out, I ordered them a pizza, allowed them to pick out a couple of movies, and left. Turns out, they get along far better when I’m not around than when I am. I paid Morgan $2 an hour and she loves the responsibility.
We have started grocery shopping together. This allows us to decide what we want to eat throughout the week and they don’t bother me too often for help with snacks. It’s our Mommy-Daughter outing and I think we all look forward to it.
Put laundry away
I absolutely hate putting laundry away, yet I’m obsessed with having a spotless home. I’ve started putting their clean laundry on their beds and I give them an hour to put it away. I often need to remind them a few times to get it done but they’re getting much better at it. We’ve lost some clothes along the way (who knows where those items are lurking) but it’s worth it.
This is one area where it’s pretty hard to mess up. I hand Siena a dust rag and set her loose. She’s quite good at it actually.
In addition to vacuuming their own rooms, Morgan is required to steam clean the rest of the house every weekend. Before she goes to bed on Sunday night, it must be done.
I am still spending far too much time reminding them to get their chores done but we are making progress. I have had to ground Morgan from her phone and Siena from her iPad a few times and I’ve had a few weeks where I haven’t paid out their allowances. Some day, I hope that things will just get done without my begging. I can dream, right?