350: Rethinking Chores: A Quick Mindset Shift to Help with Overwhelm

Chores and Kids.

These two words mesh about as well as oil and water, and even though I’ve always recognized the importance of teaching my kids how to contribute around the house, it’s been a struggle for me to implement systems we actually follow through with. 

Keeping up with housework is overwhelming! And… over the years I’ve come to learn it’s not only my job! I’ve become more conscious of this after reading books like Fair Play by Eve Rodksy and How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis. It’s been empowering to shift the way I view housework, even subconsciously, as not completely my responsibility just because I’m the mom. 

Before I read those books, I would’ve told you that I didn’t believe this should all fall on me, but how I was acting and talking about housework proved otherwise. As women, we have some deep social conditioning that is hard to unpack and can make us feel guilty when asking for support, even when caring for our homes and our families shouldn’t be totally on us!

So, with all of this rolling around in my mind, I want to share with you a simple interaction I had with my son, Noah, a few days ago. To give context, I’ve been preparing for my upcoming masterclass on Overcoming Overwhelm for the past few weeks, and ironically, I was feeling super overwhelmed that evening as we prepared to host houseguests for the weekend. 

After the interaction with Noah, I jumped on Instagram and recorded a little Reel about what happened. I was happy to see so many moms comment that it was helpful. Clearly, this struck a chord. So, just in case you’re not on Instagram, I wanted to share the transcript of the audio from that Reel here, so you can hear about my experience too.

Something that I have not been great at as a mom is teaching my kids how to contribute around the house, but I’ve been working on it. Yesterday, I told my kids, “We’re having some house guests this weekend! I’m super excited about it, but we all need to come together and pitch in to make sure that our house is ready for them.”

My oldest, Noah, really stepped up and helped me a lot. So at the end of the evening, I gave him a hug and I said, “Thank you so much for helping me.”  And then I had this thought: I don’t want to train him to believe that taking care of this home is my responsibility. Because it’s all of our responsibility! I realized that he wasn’t really “helping me”…he was doing his part.

And so as I was hugging him, I changed my verbiage and I said, “Thank you for doing your part.” So from now on, instead of saying, “Thank you for helping me” to members of my family, I think I’m going to make that small shift and say, “Thank you for doing your part to contribute to our family.”

So what do you think? Is this an epiphany for you too? Have you ever thought deeply about the words you use when you talk about chores and kids and all of the tasks to do at home? As the caption to that Reel, I wrote: 

 

I want to share with you three responses from some of the women who commented on this Reel. The 3 in 30 community is the wisest group of moms ever: 

1. First, some encouragement for chores and kids. 

A friend of mine named Chelsea gave me a little bit of encouragement when she commented:  

“I think it’s not that you weren’t good about getting your kids to help before, but that it was SO. MUCH. EFFORT. to get little kids to help. My kids are a couple of years older than yours, and chore charts FINALLY started working just two years ago! Before that, it was like teaching piano lessons to a toddler. I mean, it can be done, but it’s so much extra work!

I’m grateful to Chelsea for the reminder that I’m not too late, and it’s okay if I didn’t have the stamina to teach my children more about family contributions when they were younger. Those of you who did manage to do this are incredible, but I’m also grateful to know it’s not too late. 

I thought it was interesting that she used the example of starting kids in piano when they’re young because I recently had a conversation with my daughter’s piano teacher about this. I said, “She’s nine, and I know I should’ve started her in lessons so much younger, but better late than never.” And she said, “Well, not necessarily. In my experience, kids have a hard time making much progress when they are super young, whereas someone Sally’s age will likely learn quickly and feel successful sooner. Some young kids burn out on piano before their dexterity and intellect have even really developed and given them the chance to succeed.” 

I have to say that made me feel so much better! (And for the record, if you started your child in piano young, I don’t think you made a big mistake–most of the stories I’ve heard of concert pianists say they were like two when they started!) But it’s nice to know that it’s not too late for our kids to learn skills that we hope to teach them when they are a bit older, whether that’s piano or working around the house. 

2. Second, some pushback for how I was viewing chores and kids.

The second comment I’d love to highlight is from Stefanie, who is also a personal friend of mine. She said: 

“I’ve been thinking about this lately. I want my kids to know that their contributions to me and my contributions to them help each other live more enriched lives. So I try to say things like, ‘Thanks so much for unloading the dishwasher. It allows me to get to bed a little earlier or do something I enjoy doing.” Something about “you’re not helping, you’re just doing your part” fed my exasperated alone feeling, and my kids still had to do their job. This way they still have to do their thing, but I feel a little more grateful for their contributions. Maybe one day they’ll think to themselves (or even say aloud), “Thanks, Mom, for taking time to give me a ride. It allows me to do this thing I love!

I love that Stefanie was pushing back on me a little when she said that thinking about them “just doing their part” made her feel exasperated and alone. She has had more luck with a reframe where she emphasizes her gratitude for their contributions. One thing that is interesting to me as I consider her comment is that I know Stef, and we have different personalities: whereas I tend towards feeling guilty when asking my family to do anything to contribute, she might say that she leans more towards feeling angry when her family doesn’t just automatically contribute. In my parenting, I lean more towards permissive and she leans more towards strict, and we’ve discussed this on many a long walk together. 

This is a good reminder to me that every mom is going to have to adjust her mindset around chores and kids based on her natural personality when it comes to parenting and what she uniquely needs to work on. 

3. Third, some ideas for chores and kids. 

And then the third and final comment I want to feature is from someone I don’t know personally, @amy.in.athens. She left a long comment with several great ideas. Here is an excerpt: 

 “Love the shift in wording!…In our house, a very easy rhythm for me to keep after dinner is what I call ‘Helping Hands.’ We ALL contribute and put the house back together! People can’t just walk off and leave a mess. I don’t pay or track, we all contribute. I just call out what needs to be done…laundry round up, fold a load of laundry and run it to the rooms, water plants, rack the shoes, sweep the kitchen. No complainers…we ALL help, and this has been an easy rhythm for us to stay consistent with!”

I love that this family has come up with the phrase “Helping Hands” to call this time after dinner so everyone knows what it means and it’s time to contribute. We used to use a phrase we’d call “Family Fifteen” when my kids were younger. We’d all work together for 15 minutes to get dinner and the living spaces picked up. (Sometimes, if they were lucky, it would be a “Ten-Minute Tidy” instead of a “Family Fifteen.”) Unfortunately, we’ve gotten away from this rhythm in our home since my kids have gotten older because it seems like my son is often running off to a church activity or my daughter needs to hurry to get to bed after a late gymnastics practice or I need to head up to my office to finish up a bit of work. But this mom’s comment reminded me that it’s time to get back to the old “Family Fifteen.” I’m so glad she spoke up. 

I’m also glad that another mom replied to her comment and said: “This is awesome. But what happens if someone isn’t doing their part?”

Relatable, amiright? 

It sounds lovely in theory to have a happy “Helping Hands” time after dinner, but real family life is often more complicated and contentious than that. @amy.in.athens responded to this mom with more awesome ideas: 

“After Helping Hands, we all run outside for 10 minutes and play catch, or we play a quick game of Sorry or tag before we start showers, homework, etc. That usually encourages them because if it’s not done, they miss out. Do they whine over who has the harder chore? YES! I just continue to hold ground with ‘we all contribute’ and ‘some days you may have the harder job,’ or ‘good thing you won’t have that tomorrow now!’

For consequences in general, they lose tech time or friend time. And if they have poopy attitudes, talk back, or disrespect, it’s a warning, but then I give them a chore like clean baseboards for 5 minutes, scrub a toilet, pick up dog poop….which they then think is kind of funny because I joke, ‘Stop your poopy attitude, or I’ll give you a poopy job!” 

So many good thoughts and insights.

Now remember, every mom and every family can approach this topic differently in a way that fits them and their family culture. This post is not meant to make you feel like you’re doing it wrong if you do things differently! My main point is to remind you that all of the overwhelm of keeping up with your home does not have to fall on you. It’s not your sole responsibility because you are not the sole person who lives in your house and utilizes all of your possessions and space. And this is true even if you are a full-time stay-at-home mom. It still shouldn’t all be on you! 

So, work with your family to find a good system where everyone is doing their part, and do your best to adjust your language to convey gratitude for their contributions without giving the impression that they are doing you an enormous favor by pitching in on something that shouldn’t be your sole responsibility in the first place.

I hope this discussion around chores and kids has been as helpful for you as it has been for me. I am going to continue working on building systems in our home that will encourage and expect my children to contribute. As I have breakthroughs, I will share them here because I know this is something that every mom thinks about. Until then, let’s press forward in this motherhood journey together. 

 

**To listen to the episode about this, find 3 in 30 Takeaways for Moms in your favorite podcast app, or simply click the podcast player at the top of this post! 

 

>>>Are these tips from Rachel on chores and kids helpful? What do you do in your home to help encourage everyone to contribute? Share your experiences in the comments below.

***

Related episodes like this one on Chores and Kids:

Mentioned in the Episode:

Podcast Sponsors:

  • KiwiCo: Use code 3in30 for 50% off your first month on any crate line!
  • Vionic Shoes: Go to vionicshoes.com and use code 3IN30 for 15% off your order.