Saturday, September 1, 2007

How much housework should children do?

I just read an article on the Guardian about a topic I have recently given a lots of thought to: children and housework. As a totally spoilt only child, I never did much. I helped preparing the table (at 7-8), filling and emptying the dishwasher (at 10-12), and keeping my stuff in order whenever I was yelled at.
I didn't make my bed since my grandmother found I couldn't do it right anyway. I never cooked anything or used the washing machine; only halfway through my teenager years I discovered how the vacuum cleaner works.
As a result, or maybe not, I am a total slob. My dream is to live in a room-and-board situation when someone else cooks for me, washes, irons and folds my clothes, and cleans up my room. Funnily enough, this is precisely how I lived in my years as a student, and I loved it.
So I feel kind of awkward asking my children to do anything. Still, I think I will soon start having C#1 prepare the table and put the dishes in the dishwasher, maybe introducing symultaneously a weekly pay. That's what my parents did: the money I received was supposed to be payment for my household work. Is 7 old enough? Should I wait until she turns 8?
As for C#2 and C#3, I have started yelling at them to put away their toys, with as good as no success. I am also meditating a "from now on you wipe your own ass" official declaration when they turn 5, but maybe I should wait a bit longer. I'm just so fed up with it.
Anybody has thoughts or suggestions on this? WS is not able to give competent advice, since he never helped much in the house either, and his mother is the only woman I know who's even more of a slob than I am (thankfully, or he would find it very hard to live with me).


Ellinoora said...

I've been reading your blog for a little while now, and enjoying it :) just thought I'd say that before commenting on the issue at hand.

My parents have 4 children, and all four of us learned how to do dishes, set the table, cook, iron, clean and do laundry before we turned 15, on the premise that we should be self-reliant by the time we went to university (or didn't want to join our parents on holiday any longer). I believe we started setting the able around the time we were 6.
We also got a weekly allowance, and some extra if we cleaned our room, from the time we were 8. At first, cleaning our room was making sure the cleaning lady had no problems, from 10-11ish onwards this also included dusting, vacuuming and wet cleaning (or however that's said in English).

There's a terrific blog where a lady explains how she combines housework and children, but I just can't find it at the moment, sorry. If it turns up again I'll let you know.

estraven said...

Thanks a lot! Actually, I think what I mostly miss is any previous experience of a family where the grownups are outnumbered by the children.

I was an only child, and as a result was indeed quite unable to care for myself when I started living alone at the ripe age of 24. I am still a very poor cook.