Honey, I Fired The Kids

So, I’m the Queen of Chore Charts.

It was about 15 years ago that I started requiring my children to do chores. It would have been quicker to get the stuff done myself, but I wanted to teach them how to take care of a household so that they would be able to take care of themselves when they reached adulthood.

So for the past 15 years, my house has existed in various states of tidiness, or lack thereof.  Generally lack thereof. I consoled myself (and excused myself to visitors) with the thought that our home was a Lab Class in Home Ec and that kids had to get stuff wrong before they could really start getting it right.  It’s part of the learning process.

I had to use this Lab Class line a lot.

Because no matter how ingenious my incentive program, no matter how cool and colorful my chore charts were, no matter how evenly I split up the tasks among them, there was always someone who felt it was unfair that they were asked to wash a dish, or sweep a floor, or take out a bag of trash.

It was always someone else’s fault that the dishes were backed up, or the bathroom was dirty, or the trash was overflowing, and therefore it just wouldn’t be FAIR should the protesting (and apparently totally free of ulterior motive) child be forced to take care of the chore.

No matter how I explained, cajoled, threatened and incentivized, my family could just not come to terms with the fact that there is no “fair” in chores.  They just have to be done.

The injustice of it all. Each and every child took it upon him or herself to self-protect.  At all times.  Without fail.  Except perhaps for the day, about once every quarter, when Mom had had enough and dissolved into tears over the state of the house.  They would usually bravely take it upon themselves to do chores… even (gasp) UNFAIR ones…. for at least 24 hours.

Or if we were having a party.  They would generally do a little extra clean up if people were coming over.  I’m not sure that they realize this is one of the main reasons all their birthday parties were here at home rather than out at a park or other cool venue.

Anyway, the youngest is now 14.  They are still all circling around each other with fangs bared when it comes to pitching in around the house.  I still have to read the chore chart to them.  No, seriously.  Every day.  I have to tell them what it says.  Usually more than once.

A couple of weeks ago my mother came to spend the night unexpectedly. I had a couple of hours to prepare a bed for her on the couch and make sure the bathroom adjacent to that room was usable. The bathroom with the chart on the wall that clearly delineated who was supposed to give it a once-over each day of the week, as well as a detailed list of what a “once-over” entailed.

That bathroom was so disgusting I literally gagged as I was cleaning it.  About halfway through cleaning it I started to cry.  As I did, something inside me snapped. I suddenly realized that I am tired of living in a pigsty.

So I ripped the chart off the wall.  Then I marched upstairs to the other bathroom and ripped the chart off that wall too.  On the way through the kitchen I grabbed the one off the fridge too.  With great liberation, I tossed all three into the trash can.

A day or two later they noticed that the charts were gone.  It actually UPSET them that I had taken them down and they asked me to reprint them.

I refused.  I told them that they are fired.  I will clean my own house from now on.  I’m done with living in a Lab Class.  They will still be expected to clean up after themselves, of course, but I’m done homeschooling them on house cleaning. Because if they haven’t learned it yet, they just aren’t going to.

Is it fair? Probably not. But neither is sacrificing my own peace of mind in the name of them learning a lesson they are hell-bent on ignoring.

You’re probably thinking, “Hmm, how’s that going to work out?”  Well, so far, I can spot their messes more quickly and get them to clean them up right away, without having to wait for someone else to empty the draining rack or wipe the counter or whatnot.  And then there’s this:

A few days ago, my oldest daughter, who is away house-sitting for a few weeks, dropped by while I was out.  I came home to a clean kitchen.  She had done the dishes. 

So somehow, I’m thinking this might work.

And I am really, REALLY enjoying my clean house.



2 thoughts on “Honey, I Fired The Kids

Add yours

  1. I feel you on this one. We’ve tied chores to not only money, but also if you plan to go somewhere time, which fortunately for us, our girls always wanna go somewhere. We’ve also started deducting money when you don’t do your chore on the assigned day to show how jobs work. Congrats to you for taking your house back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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