Sunday, September 15, 2013


I am a mother with a full-time job (still celebrating that), two teenagers, and a house.  When I started working I thought to myself, "Hey, why should I spend every one of my weekends cleaning up the house and doing shitloads of laundry?  There are two nearly grown people who live with us who have lots of time to kill. They can help.  Last year I made a daily chore list and one of them would do half one day and then they'd switch and do the other half the next day.  Well, it became kind of a competition to see who could leave a bigger mess for the other the following day.

For example, Kira would have dishes one day and she'd do a half-assed job of doing the dinner dishes, putting the plates and silverware in the dishwasher and not starting it even though it was jam-packed, but then "soaking" the cooking pans and "forgetting" anything left on the stove.  So the next day Sam would have the dishes and he would start the dishwasher, but then he would have to "soak" all of that day's dishes because they couldn't fit into the dishwasher.  Meanwhile, on Kira's kitchen day, Sam's chore would be to do the laundry.  If you do a load of laundry a day, it doesn't pile up and isn't that hard to keep up with.  Well, he would throw one load in the washer, and then MAYBE put that load in the dryer, but he couldn't be bothered to turn the dryer dial far enough so it goes long enough to actually dry a load of clothes, so when the dryer stops they are still damp, but he brings them up anyway to fold, but then doesn't fold them.  So he leaves a load of wet clothes in the washer, a load of damp clothes in the dryer, and a load of too-damp clothes in a heap on the couch.  The reason he has three loads is because when Kira had laundry day she "forgot" to do it.  And so on and so on and so on.

So this year I thought I would get creative and make them do one set of chores for an entire week and then switch over on Sunday.  I made charts:

I hang them on the fridge with a hanging pencil, like at the bank, and the kids have to check off what they do when they do it.  I thought it was INGENIOUS.  I could hardly wait to show Mitch.  I envisioned us high-fiving and celebrating my super-parenting with a gin and tonic.   When I finally got to show him he looked at me with pity, and said, "You know that they are never going to let you live this down.  This is what you will be remembered for."

Sure enough, when Sam got home and I told him all about the new system, he looked at me with a smirk on his face like I was kidding.  I AM NOT KIDDING!  I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO DO THIS SHIT!  He said, "Okay, it's a good idea, I guess.  I'll get started.  Let's see, first thing on my list is to empty the dishwasher.  But look, Mom, it's empty so should I cross it off?  I can't cross it off because I haven't done it.  But if I don't do that chore can I move on to the next one?  What if I don't have all my checks?  Will I lose credit?"  and so on.  And then later he called down the stairs to me, "Hey Mom!  Are you sure I can't give the bird dirty water?  I really feel like I should give the bird dirty water, but the list specifically says 'clean water is important.'  So what should I do?"

But you know what?  Every stupidly specific thing I put on that list is on there because they have done something stupid to require the specificity.  They will say they cleaned the bird cage and then I look and her water is almost gone and full of bird shit.  That's not done right.  And when I call them on their shitty work they say, "Oh.  I forgot."  Really?  I FORGOT?

The chore lists aren't working as well as I had hoped.  Right now as I'm typing this I am looking at a sink full of dishes, shoes and school bags crowding the back door, and laundry in various stages all over the living room.   So I will throw this out there to the internet:  How do you get your teenagers to be actually helpful and productive without driving yourself nuts?  Anyone know?  .................Anyone?  


  1. (crickets chirping)

  2. Buy Kira one roll of Quilted Northern toilet paper and offer her ten squares of it per day if she does EVERYTHING on the list perfectly.


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