That’s not my job.

Last week, I asked my older son to sweep the dust bunnies on the (wooden) stairs.  He looked at me and said simply “that’s not my job.”  Then he walked off.

This could easily be a story about me yelling.  Believe me, I did.  At least at first.

not my job

I shut up mid-rant when my younger son walked up, took the broom out of my hands, and began sweeping the stairs.  He started at the top and swept all the stairs clean.  Then he grabbed the dust pan and swept all the dust bunnies up.  They all ended up in the trash can, just like I wanted.

As I stood there with my mouth open, my older son tried to explain.  The boys have split up the chores based on what they like doing (or dislike the least).  My fourth grader gets all the laundry chores (he can start a load, move clothes from the washer to the dryer, and put their clothes away).  He loves to push buttons and make machines run.  My second grader sweeps and takes out the trash. He loves to sweep.

So, what’s my job here?

As a mom, I had to take a step back.

Watty wasn’t being disrespectful when he told me it wasn’t his job.  The tone was level and unemotional. There was no tween eye rolling. He wasn’t refusing to do the work, he was just informing me that I’d asked the wrong child.

how to get out of chores

The stairs got swept. My son did as good of a job as I do. He even offered to use the dust buster in the corners. The work was done promptly, correctly, and without complaint.

You’d think I’d just take the victory and be done with it.

Except.

I want my boys to be able to manage all the chores of the household. I want them both to be proficient at sweeping and laundry and dishes and whatever else I ask them to do.  It’s part of the big goal I have of launching them into the world with all the skills they need to take care of themselves.

And.

It wasn’t my idea. I want to be able to rotate chores between the boys. In part, it’s to get them both trained. In part, it’s to divide the work more evenly. In part, it’s because I use chores as a parenting thing. When the kids need to be split up or redirected or gotten off the couch, I assign a chore as a pre-emptive strike.

That left me with a big question.

Should I meddle?

My boys are functioning as a team. They worked out an equitable division of labor based on their strengths and weaknesses.

When assigned a chore that neither of them like (cleaning out the litter box), they work together to get it done.  When assigned a list of chores, they take a minute to divide up the tasks. If one of them needs help or finishes early, they check with the other one.

(Yes, they also complain about chores.  They leave stuff half done.  They don’t do some tasks as well as I would like.  It’s often easier to just do it myself. They’re normal kids.)

In just a few short years, my boys will be old enough to work for someone else.  At that point, I’ll want them to pick jobs based on their strengths.  I’ll want them to be able to work with others to divide up tasks and work efficiently.

Based on that, I decided not to meddle.  At least not right now.

When it comes to deciding what chores get assigned to which kid, I’m going to pass.

It’s not my job.

For now, I’m going to continue letting them divide the work based on their own criteria.  It seems to be working.

Just curious – what chores do your kids do?

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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Comments

  1. I am totally with you, Susan. They came up with this on their own, and I wouldn’t meddle. They’ve got it worked out, and I think that’s lovely teamwork. Although I can do all the chores, I have the ones I like more than others. My husband and I split things up…and it works. Why should the boys not be able to do that, too, especially since they did it all on their own? That shows teamwork and organizational skills too.
    Mostly, though, I want them to come to my house and explain this awesome system to my son and daughter who do NOT function well as a team!!! –Lisa

    • Lisa – remember that my boys are 16 months apart. It’s a LOT like raising twins. It helps with their teamwork, but the trade off is that each child had unlimited access to his BFF. If they’re together, I get the energy, noise, and mess of a playdate. Are you sure you want that level of teamwork with your kids?

  2. I agree. Don’t meddle. Housekeeping isn’t hard so if they miss out on learning a particular chore, they can figure it out – especially if they know how to do most of it.

    When my kids were home and we did weekly chores together, we all did the exact same ones every week. I didn’t design it that way – it’s just the way it worked out.

    Anyway, systems change. This is how it’s going now but as schedules change, who does what will, too. Way to go, boys! You’re doing something right, Susan!!!

  3. Nice and informative story. We can understand and use this story on our life.

  4. i Think as time goes by kids get different and sometimes its hard for parents to get it. kids back in the day when you were young behaved different – its changing times

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  9. A really awesome post Mam, I definitely liked your decision of allowing your boys to have their own say in the matter.
    Sometimes the best thing to do is allow the existing arrangement to work :D

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