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HOUSEWORK… UNEQUALLY YOURS! An Assistance Plan

Mom… wife… nurturer… housekeeper… income-producer… businesswoman. You’re all of these, as are most women in today’s obligatory dual-income families.

There’s no doubt you’re a world-class juggler of never-ending chores, deadlines, and personal and business demands – as well as the caretaker for house and family. Impossible to do it all but you somehow manage to accomplish the impossible when you need it accomplished. You pull off the birthday parties, the grocery and clothes shopping, the bake sales for school, and all holiday demands. You do it, admirably, day in and day out, month after month, but at what toll?

It probably goes without saying that of all your well-earned titles, housekeeper is one you wouldn’t mind some assistance with. How much more efficient do you get at the other titles, if you have more help running the house?

Today, with women earning an income (whether inside or outside the home) in larger numbers than any time in history, it has caused a collective conflict in their lives. How to fit in all life’s demands and satisfy housekeeping duties as well?

Recent research reveals women do two-thirds of the household chores, regardless of how many other titles they own. The obvious answer is to do less while getting other “house denizens” to do more. What isn’t as obvious are ways to accomplish this. That’s where this article comes in.

First and foremost, a family meeting needs to take place. Perhaps set in a “family-friendly” atmosphere, such as pizza night. From there, you state your case. Involve your spouse (and other adults) and get their buy-in before requesting help from the children. The general theme to the family is you love and respect them, and now the time has come for them to help with your needs. Tell them the amount and burden of housework is interfering with the efficiency of your other duties (as mom, as income-producer, etc.), and from today forward, the new rules apply. Everyone’s input is expected, and a little help from everyone goes a long way.

Family members should know that responsibilities for doing the laundry, maintaining a clean house, and preparing meals are shared by everyone. The whole family benefits as a result.

You should look at your family as a corporation, and the corporation won’t be successful unless each member contributes and shares responsibilities. Working together develops a sense of family spirit and pride, and contributes to the success of the (YOUR FAMILY NAME GOES HERE) Corporation. Children learn that they are a valuable part of the whole, and you do them no favors by taking care of everything yourself. Even toddlers can pick up toys and put clothes in the hamper.

To get started, here are some suggestions:

  • First and foremost, you need a plan. Start by making a comprehensive list of chores, and the length of time a family member is responsible for each chore. Don’t overdo it (especially at the beginning) and rotate chores often. Some moms include on the list what is earned by completing the chores (time with friends, video games, TV, an allowance, choosing dessert, etc.).
  • Put it in writing. Make job cards that reveal, explicitly and step-by-step, how to complete each task. They need to know exactly what you expect. This way, no one can say they weren’t sure how the task was to be done. That is, no built-in excuses.
  • You should include on the job cards, what products are needed and where to find them.
  • Chore specifics (who, what, when, etc.) should be open to negotiation, but only within reason with fairness to all concerned.
  • Set levels of reward for accomplishing jobs, but give better rewards to those accomplishing tasks not everyone is clamoring to do. Likewise, there should be consequences for incomplete tasks and tasks done poorly.
  • Remember occasionally to emphasize how much you need everyone’s help, and how each is a vital part of the family unit. After a certain age, each family member is counted on to maintain the home.
  • Don’t overwhelm, as there’s plenty of time to add or alter later.
  • Don’t hesitate to make immediate adjustments to the plan, if necessary (or whenever needed).
  • Sometimes it helps to have children choose their chore, as it gives them a sense of ownership.

In the beginning, your plan will be time-consuming and a continual work in progress for all parties. You will hit periods where you’ll feel little progress is being made; however, this is all part of the process. Keep in mind that it takes time to teach others how to share in household chores, but the final outcome outweighs the teaching time.

Change happens slowly, so be patient, give compliments, and be grateful for whatever you don’t have to do yourself. Less housework for you means more time spent elsewhere. And from that, everyone wins.

Good luck!

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