My niece and I were having a conversation about her kids (6,2 and pregnant with a boy) and chores. I had to confess that I really don’t clean the house. My children do. We have what we call Friday Chores (because they used to always do them on Fridays). These chores include sweeping the floors, vacuuming, emptying the cat box, washing towels (usually me), cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the glass and emptying the trash around the house. I might add in dusting or cleaning the fans. So what I consider the bare minimum gets done weekly. We all keep the house picked up and I will not hesitate to get a child up from his seat to pick up his stuff.
Each child is responsible for his own room. I do make “suggestions” when it starts looking like a pit, but in the area of personal freedom I give them some space as they get older. My Rachel’s room is a royal pit and I cannot go in there. We just throw things in from the door! It totally grates on my nerves because I am a neat freak but it’s a battle I won’t fight with her. After she is married and has her own place I have no doubt that she will treat it differently. I know she is fully capable of taking care of a home and her belongings.
How did we get to this place? Starting at a very young age, my kids always had to help. I tried to make it a fun time of working with mom. When we adopted I definitely had to develop a chore chart and take time to make sure everyone knew how to do their chores and what I expected of each one. I also checked behind them. A lot. And made them do it over if it was necessary. Every child has daily chores as well. I don’t do a lot of dishes unless I’m cooking up a storm and the kitchen is a disaster. M and S do the breakfast and lunch dishes and Tim does the dinner dishes. Some of the daily chores are pets (feeding, giving water and cleaning up their messes), dishes, folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, spot vacuuming in the living room or den and setting the table. These change over the years as the youngest get older and the older ones are away from the home more with jobs and social activities. At one time an older child might be responsible for entertaining a younger one but mostly I just asked for help when I needed it.
Was it easier to do it myself at times? Absolutely. Am I grateful that I was disciplining myself to teach my children as they learned the discipline of hard work? Absolutely. Don’t think I’m sitting around eating bonbons (although some days it’s the better looking alternative) because I still teach and run errands and shop and yard sale and I could go on and on…….I just know I determined in my heart that I wanted my children to work hard
Now how is all this affected by attachment disorder? Sometimes a lot. Sometimes not at all. If the kids want to use it for sabotage they will. Then they will just have to “practice” it again until they get it. Most of the time it’s not really a battle anymore. I still check behind them some of the time, but not all. I’ll make them wipe the counters if they “forgot”. Just to let them know mom is always watching.They have been trained and trained well. We are successful because we stuck to it when it was.not.fun. For the most part they don’t complain, just do it because that is what is expected. I know if something happened to me that the house could still function with a lot of teamwork. I will be working with M and S on meal planing and grocery shopping in the future. They already know how to use coupons and we do math at the store constantly.
Once a year I do a big whole house cleaning over a period of several days. My kids help but I make sure everything gets done very well. I do not have an immaculate house but I’m rarely embarrassed when someone drops by unexpectedly. I’m less afraid to entertain because I have lowered my expectations of perfection and learned how to accept real life living.
There are certain life skills I think every child moving out as an adult should have. Joshua and Rachel do their own laundry. I do the rest for the four of us but M and S fold the clothes. Managing money in this internet world is a biggie. For M and S it may mean learning how to read a bus schedule. We talk about learning how to think quickly and correctly so they can learn how to drive a car and make split second decisions. How to present yourself when looking for a job. Many of these things have had to be taught over and over with M, S and B and less so with Rachel and Joshua. That’s fine. Practice makes perfect (well, not really but it helps).
My advice and words of wisdom for you young moms (and even those who have not been faithful in teaching this) is that it is definitely worth the effort at an early age. Children are part of a family. They should be contributing and not just taking, especially our special kids who need to learn what reciprocity means. I don’t need to try and fill my kids up with self esteem. I need to teach them to be faithful with what God has given them, whether it be money, possessions, time, priorities, relationships. Make the time to teach and you will be rewarded. Just remember it sometimes takes a long time to reap the benefits but it will come.
(Picture is of my oldest daughter Rachel when she was probably three or so. We start early!)