The Chore of Chores

Doggie bowl

Last night, my daughter and I returned home from her Hebrew lesson tired and hungry. Dar was in the kitchen, preparing dinner, and Uri was outside playing lacrosse. The dogs hadn’t been fed yet. Lately, after reading Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, I’ve been trying to implement a system of chore sharing in the house. By Ms. Mogel’s recommendation, I’ve been going about it slowly and gently. I did not sit everyone down for a talk to say: “From now on things are going to change around here!” Rather, I’ve been suggesting more participation to the kids when the chance arose.

One of the chores I’ve been trying to shift to them is the feeding of the dogs, which we do twice a day. The entire process take two minutes, and it is a chore which the children are happy to do. All it takes is a reminder that it is time for the dogs to eat, and one of the kids volunteers to feed them.

The kids can do laundry too!

Perhaps volunteer is the key word here. I have not yet formally assigned the job to the kids. I still remind them of the need to do it every morning and every night. Sometimes, like last night, I end up doing the feeding. I find myself overprotecting them with thoughts like: she’s so tired, he’s still playing. According to Ms. Mogel, however, the modern parents’ reluctance to assign chores to their children is equal to withholding from them the blessing of work. We all, Mogel explains, are required in the Bible to take care of ourselves. When we protect our children and allow them to escape chore-free, we’re going directly against the will of God and taking away from them the opportunity to learn how to take care of themselves and others.

My inability to follow through with the assigning of chores exists partly because I see it as an extra chore for myself. I know I will be responsible for reminding them to do the dishes, clear the table or feed the dogs. Attaching consequences to incompletion of tasks adds yet another layer of responsibility. Now I need to follow through with those! I also, however, see the benefit of having the children participate more in the everyday doings of the house. I feel more appreciated and loved when I receive their help. I enjoy spending time with them when they help me cook or set the table. And they, I think, feel more connected, more grounded in the reality of our life.

Eden has been known to wash the dishes

There are other chores, responsibilities, which I’d like my children to assume eventually. I would love it if they cleaned their room, practiced their instruments more, walked the dogs and cleaned after them. These are duties to aim for, and I understand that they cannot be accomplished in a one-day coup.  I also have some empathy for myself. As it is I work quite hard to get the house functioning well, and adding the chore of chores to it: policing the children’s execution of their duties, adds yet another strand of straw to my camel’s back.

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109