Saturday mornings are torture in my house. Well, for me anyway. I don’t really clean throughout the week, because I work outside the home, have children, and a strong desire to maintain my sanity. No, that’s not a joke, I’ve tried to do all the things—working, cooking, cleaning, being a kickass mom—and it didn’t go well. It nearly broke me. I was miserable, and anxious, and angry pretty much all the time.
So now, I clean on the weekend. If you stop by Monday through Friday, you will see my house looking like ground zero of a natural disaster. I make zero apologies for the state of my house, because my family, my work, and my sanity come first. The laundry can wait.
On Saturday morning, I drink coffee and I clean. I don’t really mind cleaning until I stumble across dirty dishes left on the coffee table, or dirty socks in the hallway. It’s those sorts of things that kill my sunshine, and before I know it, I’m practically levitating with rage. My children are four and six, but I assure you, that is not too young to pick up after themselves. There is literally no reason I should be finding trash, dirty clothes, or dirty dishes in random locations around my house, but it happens week after week, after week.
I know I’m not alone in this battle. You can’t swing a pair of yoga pants without hitting another parenting who rage-cleans on the regular. And no, I don’t just pick up after my kids, I make them join in on the fun. This is where the torture comes in, because they suck at doing chores or cleaning of any kind.
Typically our Saturdays go down like this: I give them a list of chores they need to complete and they whine and cry like I asked them to roll through broken glass. Good times.
I’m not asking for much, just simple things like, picking up shoes by the front door, cleaning their rooms, and putting personal items left around the house back where they belong. What starts as a calm request ends with me yelling and threatening to remove all the joy in their lives, every Saturday.
Apparently, there’s a better way, and Mayan mothers have found it. According to research done in Mexico and Guatemala, children with indigenous heritage not only help around the house, but do so without being asked. Helping their families with chores is not just an expectation, they want to help and take pride in doing so.
So, how are these Maya mamas raising kids who love doing chores? Well, they start them young—like real young. It’s completely normal to have children as young as one helping with daily chores. Chores like washing clothes, making dinner, and cleaning the house are part of their lives almost before they can walk.
I know what you’re thinking—having a one-year-old help with anything is counterproductive. You’re not wrong, but these mamas let their babies help, because that’s how they learn. Starting at such an early age means these activities become second nature. They won’t remember a time when they didn’t help around the house, so the resentment isn’t there. Even if they aren’t truly helping as toddlers, they are learning and developing an interest and understanding for what is required to keep a home in order.
When you think about it, it’s actually genius. Sure, it’s takes longer, and they will likely make things more complicated in the beginning, but exercising patience in those early years will pay off ten-fold when they are older, and doing your laundry. I don’t know about you, but I sort of wish I knew about this method before my kids were old enough to know how much chores suck. Maybe if I would have handed them a dish towel when they were toddlers, I wouldn’t spend my Saturday mornings rage cleaning and yelling about dirty underwear in the hallway.
I may have missed the boat on making a toddler chore list, but it’s never to late to teach responsibility. Brooke Hampton, who writes at Barefoot Five, lets her 13-year-old manage the families monthly grocery budget. She says parents often underestimate their children’s capabilities, so she steps back and lets her kids take the lead whenever possible. Hamptons notes that it’s important to allow time for our kids to try and fail, and try again. That they are as capable as we allow them to be.
I have to say, I think she’s on to something. While it would be nice to if my four-year-old could balance the family budget, it’s important to choose age appropriate tasks and chores, or let them help you with things that they may not be able to do alone.
You’ll be glad you did, because research shows that kids need to do chores to become successful adults. Chores like taking out the garbage, doing laundry, and unloading the dishwasher teach them that work is a part of life.
So, whether you start them early, like the Mayans, or wait a little longer, it looks like having your kids do chores is good for them. Who knew?