The endless repetition of that drudgery called housework.
I have yet to meet a single person who approaches their chores with joy and excitement.
Picking up and putting down, pushing here and pulling there, loading this and unloading that.
This tortuous dance between our stuff and us is indispensable to maintaining some semblance of order and cleanliness in our lives.
The hours spent twirling from room to room are endured, because we know a great sense of relief and peace awaits us.
However, that relief and peace have different meanings to different people at different times in their lives.
When I lived alone in my twenties, I cleaned my small apartment and completed my laundry in about two hours on Saturdays. Dishes were a minor daily chore. Bills were routinely paid. And everything stayed in the place where I left it.
Life was so much simpler then.
Chores as a single parent
Enter single parenthood and my life, as I knew it, would never be the same. It’s amazing how my son could catapult me into a new existence.
My lackluster one-step cleaning routine became a boogie-woogie, swing dance overnight.
My baby son needed changing, feeding, cleaning and loving, lots of loving. Bottles were boiled. Food and diapers were purchased. Clothes were cleaned. Journeys to and from here and there were incorporated into and around my work schedule.
My job as a news editor demanded so many hours and so much mental energy that I had to prioritize my own personal chores. They fell into one of two categories: must get done for my survival and can wait … forever.
During the past 14 years, my son and I have experienced some major changes in our lives.
We moved to another state and he attended three different schools before high school. My professional responsibilities have increased and my son is finding his voice.
Our world is evolving in some magical and incredible ways, but the chores persist.
Motivating the unmotivated
Motivating my son to complete his chores is a struggle — actually, it’s more like the Hundred Year’s War with the endless fights. But we manage. Eventually, our housework gets done.
Being a single parent makes housework even more challenging, placing the burden of authority on one person’s shoulders.
It can be exhausting, so I asked some single parents what they do to motivate their children to get their chores done and these are some of the ideas they shared:
“Chore chart posted for the week on the fridge. Every chore done gets X amount of money. If I have to ask them to do the chore, they don’t get the money for that particular chore but [they] still have to do it for the day. They usually rush to do them and check them off when they get home from school.”
“Yelling and bribes.”
“When my girls were little, we used a chore chart. Now [that] they’re in high school, they know which chores are their responsibilities. If they don’t get done in the time they know they’re to be done, the Wi-Fi gets turned off until it’s done. Needless to say … chores are always done.”
“I have a board with mystery chores on it, next to their regular chores. I put little notecards up with different money amounts, from 50 cents to $2, and they choose the money amount, but to get the money, they have to do the chore on the back of the notecard. Sometimes they do them; sometimes they don’t. It’s just a way for them to earn some extra money while helping me out around the house.”
“My girlfriend used to hide coins and dollars in the clean laundry as a way to get her daughter to put away her clothes.”
“I started [my children when they were] very young, so now they know it’s just expected of them. [For] extras I offer an allowance but not on a regular basis; I expect certain things to be done and they only get paid for the extras. Very seldom do I have to ask them to do something they know. For example, if they want dinner, they have to set the table and clear it off. If they want clean clothes, they have to put the dirty laundry in the laundry basket in the basement. When the groceries arrive, they don’t do anything until they’ve brought everything in. Set the expectations, be consistent and they will eventually follow through. The one that surprises me is my daughter. [She] cleans the cat litter on a regular basis and if I have to ask she says, ‘Oh sorry, Mom. If I forget, just ask me and I’ll do it.’ Lol. I did find the routine a little harder with my son then my daughter, but then he makes me a coffee every morning without me asking.”
“My daughter gets Tootsie rolls. One for each chore completed without a fit. I mean nana gives her change for her piggy bank, but I prefer bribery. That’s cheaper.”
“He doesn’t have a choice in the matter. I started [having] him [do] chores starting as early as 2, so to him chores are a natural part of life, and if they don’t get done, he gets no privileges: no TV, no screen time on devices, no toys.”
“I am diligent in my own chores and tell my 6 year old how that positively affects our lives. I have asked her to help me with small things so we can easily find things, be on time, etc. She listens to a normal extent.”
“Mine are 15 and 17, so I’ve had to change things as they have gotten older. I take things away. If I come home from work and chores aren’t done, the first thing I do is take all phones. Last week I had three phones, three laptops, an Xbox, PlayStation, and TV in my room, because they didn’t do their chores three days in a row. They spent the weekend doing laundry and doing extra chores, and I gave everything back. So far this week as I’m leaving [for work], all three kids double check with me [about] what needs to be done by the time I get home.”
“Love and logic.”
Although many of these techniques are transactional, each parent is endeavoring to teach their children the importance of responsibility and teamwork.
Everyone has a role to play in the successful functioning of the family and the household. If one person does not complete their work, someone else has to pick up the slack.
As I mentioned earlier, no one enjoys doing chores, but they can serve as teachable moments.
They show us the value of everyone’s contribution.
They show us how respecting our home and everyone in it is a demonstration of our love for each other and ourselves.
They show us the importance of working together and not against each other.
On Thursdays, I will be sharing a blog about a day in the actual life of a single parent. Every fourth Thursday, instead of a personal post, I will put together one where I assemble news on and about single parents nationally and globally.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to send any comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @parentsonurown and can be found by searching #singleparentandstrong.