If you ever feel like the weekend is spent desperately trying to get the house in order, this may change your life. Do you ever feel like you don’t get to go do fun activities because there isn’t enough time in the day and you have too much to do?
We recently started a family chore time, for lack of a more creative term. Each of us, baby excluded, gets a list of 4 chores to do and we all set out to do them at the same time. This is something I am sure many families do. Until the not so distant past, we didn’t have a system like this. Don’t get me wrong, we ask our kids to contribute and they are very capable and helpful… sometimes. We’ve never had a set list to do nor a specific time to do it.
How does that work for us? Terribly.
Most weekends, I would panic inside because the house was a mess and there wasn’t enough time in the day to get it all done if we wanted to do anything fun. The old me would skip the detail cleaning, do only the surface level and go adventuring. This gave us so many great memories but they were clouded by my uneasiness about the state of the house. It set me up for an anxiety filled week. Surprise, surprise, I was then a snappy & unhappy mommy. More time with my family and less cleaning is great unless the less cleaning makes me miserable and keeps me from enjoying the time we are spending together. It’s vicious cycle. Things needed to change.
Flash forward a year and here we are today. It is 10:34am, the house is 95% clean and my stress level is at an all time low. How? Family chore time. Some of you are thinking, yea, have everyone pitch in and get it done, then the house is clean and you can move on with your day. You are right. Sort of. The reason this works is not just because I get some help. This is wonderful, but it is so, so much more.
Something magical happened when we started family chore time.
Not only did our house get cleaned earlier but there was no friction. I try not to yell but it happens to the best of us. I’m sick of picking up the same mess, over and over and sometimes snap. I’m not proud of this but I am aware of it and working towards adjusting this reaction. Often, we need to identify our ‘yell triggers’ and then adjust so they don’t happen. This is what brought on the family chore time. My stress level has dropped and this makes everyone happy.
So let’s see, the house gets tidied and cleaned and there is no tension. Pretty good right? Wait, there is more.
Each person has a manageable, age appropriate list and they tackle it at their own pace. We are done when all the lists are checked off. Our kids are lovingly hugged after completing theirs and reminded that they have just helped our family. We are trying to instill a sense of ownership in maintaining our space and caring for our things. Joe and I want our kids to feel that the family needs to work together when things need to get done. It’s not my job to clean the house. It’s our job and together to maintain an orderly and engaging environment to help us love, learn and play.
Pro Tip: Focus and comment on the effort your kids put into a task. We want to grow their sense of pride in how hard they worked to accomplish their chore. Trade “Good Job!” For “Look how hard you are working!”
Interestingly, our two older ones both love this chore time. How do kids who whine when asked for the 4th time to pick up their books enjoy this time? What happened to my kids? Wait, they are my kids right?
Honestly, I think that they feel immense pride and a sense of value when we do it. They also love that we are all doing something together, even if it is cleaning. Being together is what makes them the most happy, something I need to remind myself sometime.
Often, they even ask for more chores when they’ve finished their four. Since our jobs are more time consuming, we are thrilled to oblige. In fact, we will give them some money to do more than what was on their list. They are able to do other things that need to be done around the house and earn a quarter or a dollar for a big chore. Today, they each did 3 extra chores and that $1.50 was money well spent. When they held their coins, they literally beamed with pride. This extra items for money thing may not work for everyone but it works for us. They are so young but we hope to teach them about money and business over time and without them having some money, its difficult to learn. Rather than just giving it to them, we give them opportunities to earn it.
So here’s the deal. In one simple family activity, you can reduce your stress, get your house tidied, instill a sense of pride and value in your children, all while spending time together. One hour of our week does all of that for us. If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.
Instead of spending the day stressed out that our house is a mess and doing one tiny thing at a time, while the kids make three new messes elsewhere, we went to the park and soaked up this warm fall weather. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your home and its affecting your happiness level, you are not alone. Stop, take a deep breath and give this a try. Sometimes children need more structure to be their best selves… and sometimes adults do too.