Side by Side Chores List for Children and Grown Ups (How I Get my Child to Talk to Me)

Post written by Lilly

There was a lot of rapid fire change for us this spring - we changed what school we enrolled our daughter in for the fall, quit attending her preschool earlier than we had planned and, to be able to feasibly pull off both, I changed my job with a work from home summer. It was crazy, but good. I reminded myself there would be struggles but huge benefits. Just think of how often we would be able to connect and talk!

Except, at first, I couldn’t get our five year old to talk to me.

“How was your day?” “What do you want to do?” “What do you think about (insert anything)?”

Was all met with “I don’t know.”

And I had no way to entertain her. And I wasn’t getting anything done around the house myself.

I gave myself a pep talk that we were going to have to up the chores game, together. Our girl needed something to keep her busy and I needed to get our home to a standard of living above the slum houses of a Dickens novel. I worked a little less apologetically and started finding ways for a little assistant to contribute to my housework load. After getting the picture I would not be relenting, she joined me. The help was actually pretty nice. And I wasn’t expecting what happened next.

She talked to me.

That’s the nice thing about tedious work. There’s literally nothing to do with a task in front of you and busied hands but chat. I probably could have known this, since I met my husband washing dishes in a commercial kitchen. Our daughter was more available to me, but I was also more available to her. The funny thing about laundry is I can’t fold and be on my phone at the same time.

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On a deeper level, I started to think about generational modeling we create when we work side by side with our children. Part of Markus’ intro into his ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure weekend was an excerpt by poet Robert Bly that discussed the loss of this modeling that comes from parent and child working closely together when our communities went from agricultural to industrial.

“Before man took up machine, the father would work on the family farm, cultivating two things: a chosen crop and a family.”

Speaking of the change from farm to machine work, Bly continues on its affect on the family.

“And the worst to suffer,” says Bly, “are the [children], who have been deprived of nourishment both emotional and physical.”

This approach, that I’m not simply knocking out chores but also modeling capability and creating an environment where I’m completely available, has finally kept us on track with housework. I’ve thrown in examples from books we’ve read together, like The Little House on the Prairie, to remind both of us that, yes, appliances take the burden off of us physically, simplifying many cores to a one Mom job, but we all get more out of it, short term and long term, when we roll up our sleeves and work together.

Now my daughter even asks to fold dish towels together, “like they did in old fashioned.”

We still do some individual chores, such as tidying our rooms and making the bed. But the lion’s share of house work is done together now, making it more fun and connective for both of us. Here’s a list of what we’ve made into “side-by-side chores” this summer if you’re ready to try some at home!

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Last week, I was talking to one of my favorite Moms at my morning dance class. She has two older children nearing phases that scare me (Junior High to be specific) and they couldn’t be a closer, more creative family. I asked her what they were doing with the rest of the day. Expecting her to tell me about some enriching group outing or activity, I was happily surprised to hear, “Laundry.” A decade into parenthood ahead of me, she told me how between her and her husband the children spend a majority of their weekly “quality time” working with one of their parents on the home or yard.

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There’s hope friends! For a semi-tidy house in the summer and children who bring their ideas and worries to you long after its been made uncool by peers. A time tested route to both of my desired outcomes is a life in the trenches together, scrubbing toy cars and drying dishes. I’m finding new ways for us to enhance our home and relationships this summer, till the baseboards shine.

What are some of your favorite chores to do with your kids?

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