How I got my family to help around the house

Recently, I looked around my home and realized I WAS DOING ALL THE THINGS.

I am lucky enough to have a husband who cooks and does most of the grocery shopping. But guess what? With church and community events and family obligations, we can go days and days without eating dinner at home, which means he is basically off the hook.

But breakfast? Packed lunches? Laundry? Picking up? Cleaning up? Plain ole KEEPING UP?

That was ALL. ME.

Add in the time I spend feeding, changing, and generally caring for baby Felix and suddenly there was no time leftover for my work… much less leisure.

I like to think of myself as hardcore when it comes to household chores. I like to think of myself as a mom who pushes her kids towards independence and responsibility. 

One of my proudest moments was at Griffin’s pre-K Mother’s Day luncheon a few years ago. When asked “What’s your mom’s favorite thing to do?”, LOTS of children answered that their mother’s favorite thing to do was wash dishes or cook dinner or go grocery shopping.

I was pleasantly surprised when Griffin’s answered, “Reading Harry Potter.”

BINGO! An actual leisure activity! My kid knows I don’t enjoy household drudgery because I say so on a pretty regular basis.  

And yet… assigning age-appropriate chores takes thought. Teaching children to do chores takes time. Following through and making sure your children actually do the chores takes energy.

With a new baby, I'm lacking on all three, which is how I ended up doing all the things.

This is how I stopped.

1. Announce a change

First, I told my children and my husband that I wasn’t going to do ALL THE THINGS any more. I needed help so I started by asking for it. 

2. Take the time to teach

Next, I taught Griffin how to drag our laundry out to the washing machine every day after school. We use one laundry basket at the end of the hall. Everything goes in. Everything gets washed on cold. I made that change a few months ago on the recommendation of a friend and it makes all the difference. No more sorting and worrying about who needs clean clothes.

I also bought Tide PODS so Griffin can load it and start it himself. Then, I informed Nicholas he would need to switch it to the dryer every day when he got home for work. 

Folding and putting away still falls to me, but I’m finding it’s not such a chore when I’m not also in charge of the washing and drying.

3. Make the chores kid-friendly

Next, I spent an entire day cleaning out our kitchen cabinets and moving ALL of our dishes, glassware, cookware, and utensils. Everything is now where the under-7 set can reach it. I moved our plates and bowls and glasses to the open shelving on each side of our island so that Griffin and Amos can now unload the dishwasher. 

I could practically hear angels sing as I wrote that last sentence. 

My kids now unload the dishes. ALL the dishes. Not just the silverware. THE DISHES.

Bonus: They can now clean up their places after every meal, unpack and put away their lunch boxes, AND set the table. 

How did I know I’d gone WAY too long shouldering most of the household chores myself?

The first day Amos had to put his own dishes in the dishwasher he looked at me and asked, “Why are you making us do all the work?”

I laughed manically in his face and then went back to sipping champagne as Griffin fanned me with giant peacock feathers.

Just kidding!

I went back to feeding Felix and told him that everyone in a family helps out. He was a big boy now so he could start helping out around the house!

So far, it’s going GREAT. Turns out slaving away resentfully without actually asking for help wasn’t the best approach. Go figure! It was work putting the new systems in place and I’m sure we’ll have to make changes here and there to keep things running smoothly. 

But - in the meantime - I’ll be over here reading Harry Potter while my kids set the table. 

P.S. The Truth That Changed My Marriage