Raising children is one of the most demanding and rewarding responsibilities parents have. Yet they are often left out of the category of working moms. A 2018 news bulletin announced a study of American mothers’ contributions by Salary.com. It compiled statistics to determine what stay-at-home moms would make if paid for their labor. Drum roll, please! $162,581. Yet, 2013 Canadian statistics state that 75% of women between 25 and 54 years of age, with children under 15 years of age, are working moms.
Add to the above data that mothers typically work as many hours at their place of employment as their spouses. Then many of them come home and accept 70% responsibility for family and home duties. How do they do it? They back off on sleep. Now, don’t misunderstand.
There are exceptions. There are wonderful spouses who pick up the broom, dish clothe and diapers as easily as a hammer or tire wrench. And some dads are responsible for the bulk of family responsibilities. Plus, there are an increasing number of stay-at-home dads.
But what about those moms who risk their own well-being by laboring that 70% or more? If you are one of those moms or know of one please keep reading.
Three Barriers to Sharing Childcare and Home Tasks
Some women insist on tasks done their way. They may even be heard to say, “I have standards, you know?” This is a very effective strategy for scaring away willing contributors. Fortunately, they can change their belief to a sane position of, “an improvement is helpful.” Families in which support, cooperation and fairness are exercised have less conflict or illness. They put into action valuing family relationships and teamwork. Let’s not ruin our main relationship over dust. Actually, my mother used to say, “Dust! That is merely clean dirt!”
Another block to accepting household and family assistance is martyring. “I can do it. I’m the Mom.” When moms are over-responsible they rob other family members of demonstrating their capabilities.
Parents do their children no favor by doing for them what they can do for themselves. Sometimes, as women, our need to be needed overshadows the reality of the need for our bodies and minds to have rest, relaxation, recreation, and down time.
A third block to gaining family cooperation is utilizing nagging and whining instead of invitation and negotiation. For help with a nagging habit please see my article Gag Your Nagging .
If you are ready to invite and negotiate the household workload, please do the following exercise. Then hold a family meeting to discuss how all family members can contribute to the work of family life.
Family Contribution Work Inventory
By knowing who contributes time to what tasks will help you better invite cooperation for sharing home responsibilities. However, don’t get caught into believing it takes five minutes to comfort a hurting child. Those kinds of parental tasks take the time that is necessary–anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours depending on the situation.
Write beside each item the initial of who does what family tasks and roughly how long each task takes to do weekly:
- Put away my property/other’s property
- Dispose of old newspapers, magazines & junk mail
- Clean my project mess/other’s project mess
- Straighten house
- Sweep & mop floors
- Clean Venetian Blinds and drapes to the cleaners
- Wash windows
- Clean attic or basement
- Make the bed
- Make children’s/guest’s bed
- Change sheets
- Hang up my towel/other’s towel
- Wipe down the shower/tub
- Clean facial hair from sink
- Clean the bathroom
- Clean up after own snacks/after other’s snacks
- Meal plan
- Shop for groceries
- Put groceries away
- Cook meals
- Set the table
- Clear the table
- Wash the dishes
Put dishes away
- Prepare for parties & gatherings
- Clean refrigerator
- Play with & take on outings
- Discipline & referee disputes
- Help with school projects
- Take care of them when ill
- Take to the doctor
- Take to the dentist
- Take shopping for clothes & other needs
- Nurse, change diapers and potty train
- Feed children
- Give a bath
- Dress & find shoes
- Put to bed
- Chauffeur to activities
- Arrange for a babysitter
- Hang up my clothes if still clean enough to wear/other’s clothes
- Put my clothes into hamper/other’s clothes into hamper
- Do the wash and drying
- Fold laundry
- Iron my clothes/iron other’s clothes
- Take clothes to and from the dry cleaners
- Put clean clothes away
- Take it out
- Attend to recycle
Maintenance & Repairs:
- Paint and/or wall-papering
- Fix & mend broken objects around the house
- Purchase parts needed for household repairs
- Arrange for repairs done by outside help
- Replace light bulbs & fuses
- Mow the lawn
- Water lawn
- Rake the lawn
- Trim trees & shrubs
- Care for garden and/or flowerbeds
- De-litter the gardens or grounds
- Shovel/sweep walks & sidewalks
- Clean out garage
- Clean the inside of car
- Wash outside of car
- Refuel car
- Arrange for repairs
- Take car to repair shop
- Check & maintain oil & water
- Run my own errands/other’s errands
- Pack my own suitcase/other’s suitcase
- Feed & clean my or our pet(s)/other’s pet(s)
- Hire professional cleaning when needed
- Make my dental/medical appointments/other’s appointments
- Plan & purchase my clothes/ other’s clothes
- Pay my bills/family bills
- Arrange my social life/other’s social life
- Organize my things in closet/other’s things/closet
- Care of aging/ill relatives
- Maintain relationships with supportive family and friends
Total the scores.
- How many hours do you have for your self-care, fun and intimacy?
- How many does your partner or your children have?
- If the numbers are significantly different, how might you create a more equitable distribution?
Children Are Capable
Caregivers often neglect their children’s competencies. By age 10 most children can share in the family load of daily tasks. Farmers have known this for centuries. Often the youngest child, could be 7 years old, is delegated to daily gather the eggs from the chickens. Each year the responsibilities increase until age 12 he or she is driving a tractor. I am not talking about child labor, but more guiding a child to be a contributing citizen.
We live in an era where children’s capacities have been thwarted by over-indulging, over-protecting, and over-doing. Parent educator and researcher, Jean Illsley Clarke calls over-indulgence and over-protection, the new abuse. Help children thrive by engaging with their abilities to affirm they are able and capable.
Have a conversation. Keep to the facts. Explore what is the best use of each family member’s time and talents.
Warning: do not get caught into believing it takes five minutes to comfort a hurting child. Those kinds of parental tasks take the time that is necessary–anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours depending on the situation.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.