Thursday, March 5, 2015
The Chore Revamp That Is Saving My Sanity
There are a lot of things I like about our little house. I like that it's all charming and 100+ years old. I like how snug it feels in the evenings when everyone is home and the candles are lit and we're all just together, close. I like how someone can call and say they are on their way over and I can get the downstairs from a huge mess to presentable in about 15 minutes. It's a sweet little house and I love it. It would be perfect for someone with no kids, or two kids, or anything other than 6+ kids.
Therein lies the rub. Not because it's not enough space for us. Goodness, it's a palace compared to what families our size shared even a half century ago, and certainly meets our needs. No, the tough spot is that, while a small space is quick to whip into shape, it's even quicker to demolish. Especially with six kids, all home, all day.
This school year I've been working on a somewhat more intentional chore list for my kids. They have always been extremely helpful and often go above and beyond what I'd even think to ask for, but I still felt the need for a little more structure to this area of our life. We started with after dinner chores which quickly became just part of life with minimal crabbiness. All good so far.
The next step I just wasn't sure how to proceed on. I liked the flexibility of having my kids doing what I asked when I asked it, and worried about what making more assignments might bring (like the dreaded "that's not my job!"). But during the day I was still doing the bulk of the work and it just was not working.
Enter domains. When I met my friend Amy a few years back and she kindly invited us over to her home, I was kind of astonished by how tidy her house was. She had double the kids I did (and still does!) and only double the square footage, which put us in the same boat. I asked how she did it and she told me that she divvied up the areas of her home into domains, and each child had one. It was their responsibility to keep that area cleaned up, along with a few other responsibilities.
For the longest time I thought it wouldn't work for us. Our kids were too small, etc. But lately it has become obvious that something needs to change. With school and babies and pregnancy, I just couldn't do it all on my own, especially in this small, constantly in need of attention home.
I sat my kids down last week and explained the new system. I assigned them each a domain, plus one or two extra jobs each, and then their after dinner jobs. It's not too much. It doesn't even take that much time. It just needed to happen.
An amazing thing happened. Not only did my kids take their domain responsibilities seriously, but it gave them perspective into what their messes might cause others - and saw them cleaning up after themselves better than before. No one wants to clean up their domain after their siblings pulled out every puzzle, dumped them all over the ground and walked away. Knowing that, they don't go into another kid's area and do something similar.
What didn't happen is this: I didn't suddenly sit like a queen with no jobs and have my kids wait on me like slaves and clean my home. While I have a lot of children, I really only have three big kids. The others are still young and their domains reflect that. I still work all day every day. I still have to remind them. I still have my own domains for which I am solely responsible. I wouldn't say I work less, but I would say that there are more lasting results.
It's not perfect, or even how I would do it. But it in a lot of ways it is better. Giving kids responsibility and holding them accountable is about more than keeping my house tidy. It's about lasting lessons that will serve them and those around them their whole lives.
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