Tuesday, April 13, 2010

day one hundred three: chores—whose job is the housework?

“Before I knew it, it was time to set the table for lunch. Josiah and I raced to see who could get done with our jobs first. I slowed down at the end so Josiah could catch up---then I let him win! Mommy took me into her room alone and gave me a million hugs. She said she was so happy that I was learning to see how others feel—and that I make Josiah feel important. I think she’ll probably tell Daddy, and he’ll say, “Jonathan, Mommy told me a good report about you!” I love it when he says that—he always has a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes when he does.”*

Chore week at Positive Parenting 3*6*5! Chores for all ages! I have talked at great length about Preventive Parenting—doing those things ahead of time that make things run more smoothly in our homes and with our children. Two Preventive Parenting tips that we teach a lot about is that of developing “routines”—morning routines, after school routines, bedtime routines, etc. that provide stability and consistency for our children. The second one is developing chore times for family members. (For the initial post about morning routines, including the chore cards we have used for morning routine charts and chore charts, see the earlier post here http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-nineteen-develop-morning-routines.html  .)

Today’s excerpt has Jonathan stopping from his morning activities to do “lunch time chores”—setting the table for lunch. I will talk at length this week about when, where, how much, etc. for chore times. However, I want to begin with chore time theories—to make sure that we are all on the same page about household work—or at least introduce you to our theories about homemaking and household work.

I personally know very few true “homemakers” as I define them—women whose full time job is to manage a home, including cooking, shopping, cleaning, organizing, etc. Most women nowadays either work part or full time (and try to manage homemaking tasks in the evenings and on weekends) or are “stay at home moms” in order to provide their own child care and/or to homeschool. Either of the latter two moms would definitely not be considered “full time homemakers” since caring for a couple or few young children and/or homeschooling generally takes at least what would be considered a “half time” job. Thus, a woman in one of these scenarios would still not be considered a full time homemaker in the way we see or think of Beaver’s mom—cleaning, cooking, and shopping all day while the children are in school.

Household chores take a lot of time—for somebody. According to Kathy Fitzgerald Sherman, in A Housekeeper Is Cheaper Than a Divorce (I hate that title—and actually fought within myself about even bringing the book into the house—however, it has a lot of useful information about dividing up work, not just hiring outside help, which most of us cannot afford to do), the following statistics are the measurements of today’s household chores:

a. The average American mother spends thirty-five hours a week doing housework. (This does not include time spent in child rearing but does include grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, cleaning, organizing, etc.).

b. The first child triggers an increase of twenty-one hours of chores each week over pre-child days (excluding childcare); each additional child thereafter adds six hours of chores weekly (again, excluding child care).

Aside from quoting Titus, which indicates that a woman should love her children and her husband and run the affairs of her household (but does not indicate that she should do all of the work!), the Bible is not as clear about who should do what, when, in the Christian home. There are verses that show that a husband should provide for his family—but these do not indicate that a woman will not earn money. There are verses about providing clothing and managing a home (in Titus and Proverbs 31) as indicative as a virtuous woman.

Does managing a home, seeing that our family is fed, getting our children clothing that keeps them from being cold in the winter, etc. indicate that a woman should do all of the housework? We cannot get that from the Bible in any stretch of the imagination. Someone campaigning for all women to work and bring in finances could use the same verses (i.e. Proverbs 31) to suggest that women must bring in income through “buying and selling,” “managing workers,” etc.

So the ground work for our chore thinking:

1. There are two to four dozen hours of work to be done each week in a home with children---and this number is on the upper end in larger families. (This is household work only—not farm work or child care.)

2. The biggest indicators in the Bible of who should do which chores are actually found in other parts of the Bible than the “husband/wife” parts—do unto others as you would have them do unto you; do good when it is in your power; reach out to those in need; work diligently in all things as unto the Lord; dwell with your wife according to knowledge; etc.

3. The home is the training grounds for all other ministries/future endeavors. If children are taught to work diligently at home, they will likely become diligent workers as adults.

4. The concept of the homemaker doing all of the housework is fine in theory. However, every other job that a mother takes on (i.e caring for small children, homeschooling, helping with the care of parents or other elderly relatives, working part time or full time—and in some cases, all of the above!) decreases her “homemaking” hours—which means that somebody has to do those thirty-five hours of chores each week—at least the part that the “homemaker” cannot do as she does other things expected of her nowadays.

5. Everybody in the family should help care for the home and clothing they have. Housework is not one person’s job. We all eat, sleep, soil clothing, make messes, etc. and we should all work together to keep things up.

So...that’s where we stand on chores. They are always there. They must be done. They belong to everybody in the family. Don’t leave us! Tomorrow we will discuss factors that affect your chore schedule.

*For the complete story of “Jonathan’s Journal, follow this link: http://positiveparenting3-6-5.blogspot.com/2010/03/day-seventy-eight-introducing-jonathans.html

**For detailed information on dividing up housework, see the aforementioned A Housekeeper Is Cheaper Than a Divorce or Sidetracked Home Executives.

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