What a Chore

I had children for the love, laughter, and sheer joy they bring into my life.

Oh, who am I kidding? I had children because someday, they will be big enough to wash dishes, fold laundry, scoop the cat box, and other such menial tasks, thereby reducing my own workload. Bwahahaha.

I'm joking, of course, but I'm not gonna lie - you know that's a perk of parenthood. They say chores were invented in order to teach responsibility, which is true. (I know adults who were brought up never having chores, and it totally shows.) But personally, I think their primary purpose is for parents to pawn off the chores they dislike onto their kids, who don't have a choice but to do them. I can't tell you how many times, as a petulant adolescent, I snarked at my mom: "The only reason you had me is so you'd have somebody to wash the dishes!"

So now that Colin's four, I'm pretty sure it's time to start giving him some easy little household duties. The problem is, at this age, even the simplest of chores is ... well, a chore. For me.

I've read parenting articles regarding age-appropriate duties, and they all sound great in theory: letting them help you prepare dinner, set the table, water the plants, pick up their toys, etc. Fantastic. But when it comes to actually doing these things, it seems to backfire and create more work. Let's consider the following scenarios, which have honest-to-God happened in my house:

Colin waters the plants: I partially filled the little watering can and asked him to water the plants for me. He dribbled a little on one plant, then disappeared to his room - where I found him "making a volcano" with the water (lava) and a cone-shaped piece of aluminum foil. His carpet was soggy.

Colin helps prepare dinner: He spends more time spilling things, eating the ingredients, and pushing his brother off the chair that he uses to reach counter-level.

Colin puts his toys away: This he will do ... in about forty minutes. After playing with each thing all the way to his room and being threatened umpteen million times or until Mommy's voice is nearly gone.

So you see? Giving him chores, though I know they're necessary, almost always makes for more work on my part. I know, I know ... I should be one of those cool, laid-back moms who understands that a learning experience sometimes equals a mess. But rather than watching the heartwarming process of a child learning a new task, I'm sitting there cringing at yet another mess I have to clean up after.

One thing I do like is to give him a baby wipe and let him "dust" with it. I tell him to run it over the window sills, the desktop, the TV screen, and whatever else he can reach. He enjoys doing it, and it's something that I don't have to stand over him and referee ...

... until he tries feeding pieces of the wipe to his baby brother.


  1. LOL, yes, I remember you fussing about doing dishes! I also remember Michelle doing the same thing when she was a teenager. (Amy chose to be the full-time laundry-folder instead.)
    I totally get the whole making-a-mess scenario, too. My worst nightmare was doing craft projects that involved glue or glitter! Why do you think I always sent you to Grandma's for those fun projects?!

  2. I completely agree! i hardly ever let my kids help because I don't want to be doing to chores in the first place, so I really don't want to have to do it twice after they mess it up. I let my daughter put the clothes away in the drawers after I have folded them or hold things for me while I bathe the baby. My son LOVES picking up the toys and actually does a really good job of it. But right now that's it. I jsut can't stand the mess - my mother in law will always plan little activites like baking and decorating cookies - and when she asks my permission she always adds that she'll clean up all the mess! I guess she knows me pretty well LOL. And while I think chores are important, and my daughter, at three, is getting to where it is wirth it to argue about picking up the toys, etc., I also think there is time to work on that too. Real chores and real helping can happen closer to 5 when they are able to do a decent job

  3. In May, while I was spring cleaning, I was wondering how my mother did that thorough of a cleaning all those years...then I remembered that she had my sister and me to help! It's much easier with six hands than with two!
    As for Colin, I think I will be the exact same way. If I know it will create double duty for me, I'll just be tempted not to give him any chores at all. I would probably stick with the picking up of toys, since he seems to be able to do that and then trick him into doing it faster by either racing him or telling him I am timing him...so, maybe I better read a few parenting books before we get started on children!


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