I’ve posted before about how controversial my most popular free list is: Chores By Age. I get hundreds of comments from people – mostly negative ones about how these chores are too much, especially for 2-3 year olds. I’ve already written a blog post about how this list is intended to be a guide for when you can introduce a task to a child to help them learn it over time, not a list of chores every child should be expected to perform on their own at each age.
I continue to be surprised at the number of people who assume chores are to be assigned to children to get labor out of them, rather than understanding that chores teach kids important skills they need to practice and learn be become self-sufficient.
I read a blog post recently from Positive Parenting Solutions that explains this very well. I highly recommend reading the whole article. I like her idea to start calling these “Family Contributions” rather than chores in an effort to help parents internalize they are not trying to reduce their own workload, they are helping their kids learn how to take care of themselves, and that it’s important for everyone to contribute to the work required to keep a household running.
Which brings me to the second theme I see as I read all the negative comments about my chart. There is a very strong and consistent underlying assumption that these tasks are definitely the mom’s job.
I get many, many comments like these from people who clearly assume that the default owner of this work is “mom”. I’d like to encourage moms to teach their kids and their husbands that everyone should be doing their own share of caring for themselves as much as their age will allow it.
If you wear clothes, you can help keep those clothes clean. If you eat, you can participate (at an age appropriate level) in preparing and cleaning up from meals. If you use a bathroom, you can help keep that bathroom clean. As adults, dads are fully capable of doing all of these tasks end to end.
Many of you may be thinking right now “sure, if mom and dad both work outside the home, they can share the housework”. The fact is that often they don’t. Even when they both work outside the home, even when mom is the primary breadwinner, women do the bulk of the housework (Japan, Britain, Canada, USA). It is assumed to be her responsibility by default.
That disparity is even worse when the woman is a full-time mom. Most families assume that if mom is home while dad goes to work, mom should be responsible for the housework. It’s true that childcare, while dad is at work and mom is at home, is the mom’s responsibility. But once dad gets home, they are both done with their day jobs, and the second shift work can and should be divided between mom and dad, and as they are able, the kids. The second shift work includes cooking dinner, doing the dishes, putting the kids to bed, and any other work (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning) that couldn’t get done during daytime hours because there just aren’t enough hours in a day to do childcare and all the housework between 9am and 5pm.
If you don’t agree with me, I challenge parents (moms and dads alike) to track how much free time they have over the course of a week. You may be surprised to discover how little time off many stay at home moms get even though they “don’t work”. Dads report coming home, eating dinner, and watching TV or doing hobbies. Moms report very little if any free time during their day, and after 5pm they cook dinner, do the dishes, help with homework, run some laundry, and get the kids in bed before they have time for TV or hobbies – and that’s if they don’t need to be in bed early so they can breastfeed during the night or be up at 6am with the early risers.
I’d like to change the assumption that this work is mom’s work, and that anyone who contributes is “helping mom”. Here is how I’ve redesigned my chart to try to send a different message. I’d love feedback on what you think about this chart, and if you think it will help at all with setting the tone that everyone, mom, dad, and kids, can and should participate in taking care of the themselves and household.
Sprinkled in among the negative comments I occasionally run into some who understand the importance of kids learning the skills they need to take care of themselves:
You can use these ideas to make your own picture chore charts for your kids with The Trip Clip.