I don’t like doing most chores. In fact, during my entire freshman year of college, my sheets never made it into a washing machine once. I know, it’s disgusting and totally sickens me now, thinking of how they were a very light shade of beige by the end of the year. At some point in early spring, I almost couldn’t take it anymore and was getting ready to tear them off my bed, but my roommate made a suggestion: “Well, you’ve made it this far, you might as well just keep it going.” I was easily persuaded.
Come summer, I think I just threw them out and vowed I’d do better the following year.
But my while my “better” might have meant a few more trips to the laundromat, my hatred for doing chores, especially dishes and laundry, hasn’t subsided that much since 2003, the year I graduated from high school. I do these things now, and frequently, but I only do it so that my kids aren’t running around in filth. It appears I value their health a bit more than I did my own.
I’ve always suspected that a little too much was done for my sister and me when we were young (and not so young). My room was often cleaned for me. My laundry was washed and folded. On occasion, I rinsed a dish and put it in the dishwasher, but usually, I just put it in the sink and left it there, as if that was half the battle. I really don’t remember doing any chores as a kid… ever. And while I think there is some value in letting kids be kids, I also think doing chores as a child makes adjusting to doing them as an adult much easier.
So while my daughter is only 4 (almost 5), she definitely has certain jobs that belong to her. This is equal parts me not wanting to do everything for everyone in my house until I’m dead or they move out, whatever comes first, and also wanting my child to get comfortable with small tasks that are age-appropriate. Let’s face it; with one kid on the boob and the other in a constant-state of extreme mess-making, I’m not really in a position to turn down her willingness to help around the house. She is a tornado, so of course, there’s no real way to avoid helping put back together what she leaves in her path of destruction. But aside from a constant game of pick-up, I try to let my kid “help” with other tasks.
Here are eight chores you should definitely pawn off on your kids whenever possible:
1. Swiffering. Specifically wet swiffering, because anything that involves water = fun. This one is actually sort of helpful in that you can sit and stare at your phone in the other room for a good 7-12 minutes knowing the kitchen floor will be at least a tiny bit less disgusting when you come back in.
2. Bagging up toys to give away. This is not just reserved for the holiday season. We do this about 18 times a year. But you can always frame it as “we have to make room for what Santa (or family) is bringing!” and thinking about all the new schwag makes it a bit easier. They’ll be stuffing sh*t in bags so fast they won’t even know what they just bagged up! Drawers will be overturned and shelves cleaned off before you can say “hell-mother-f*ckin-yeah” (in your head, of course). Also, it’s probably good to mention, “Some kids don’t have any toys at all, so let’s give a little before we take in a whole lot more crap we don’t need,” in your own words, of course.
3. Cooking/baking. You have to let them help very carefully with this one and it’s more educational/fun for them than anything else. No, it’s not actually helpful. There are a few safer tasks, like stirring and pouring in pre-measured ingredients, but generally, you will definitely have to clean up after them. Keep in mind, if you let them help then maybe, just maybe, there will be someone to make you dinner one day. BOOYAH.
4. Sweeping. My kid would happily sweep all the live long day and nickname herself Cinderella if her attention span lasted more than six seconds. Luckily, there’s always a mess for her to practice this skill on. While she usually just sweeps messes in a circle or dirt under the refrigerator, hey, at least it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind! In fact, she’s the only person who has swept the fall leaves off our sidewalk this year before they got covered in snow. She has a preschool-sized broom and she definitely uses it more than I use my grown-up-sized one. This one rakes in at just a shade under “moderately helpful.”
5. Putting away clean clothes. If your kid is anything like mine, he/she definitely knows where their clothes go. Mine is rummaging in those drawers about 17 times a day putting on new clothes that will end up dirty in three seconds. And need to be washed. Folded. And put away. OK, sometimes we skip the folding. But there is absolutely no reason my 4-year-old can’t put her clothes in the right drawer. It might take her all day to do it. But if the clothes are still sitting on her bed at the end of the day, her ass is getting called OUT. Just kidding! I’ll just steal her blanket, bury her in clothes and make her sleep that way.
6. Getting dressed. As long as they aren’t freezing their butts off at preschool, I suggest you turn the other cheek. Who cares if it’s tacky, oversized or people might wonder “what is wrong with that child’s mother?” Letting your kids dress themselves will save you so many morning battles, so just do it.
8. Feeding the baby. On the rare occasion I saddle up with my breast pump, a form of cruel and unusual punishment I’ll likely never fully embrace, my kid is first in line to sling that bottle. Now, if only she could pump for me, too.