Laying Down the Law

This weekend, I had to say the following sentence to my children:

“We will have no talk of slavery in this house.”

Once more, we were fighting about chores. I am one of those mean mommies who make their children do chores — clean their rooms, strip and make their beds, pick up the front room and vacuum, empty the dishwasher, set the table, clear the table, and rinse dishes and put them in the dishwasher. I make them pack their own lunches. I make them shower — this seems to be a big problem, the daily shower.

I sat them down on Sunday afternoon. Dan was present to show solidarity. This is what I told them (paraphrasing myself).

1. You are not allowed to tell me “no.” If I am asking you to do something that is within your physical capabilities, that will not cause you harm or harm to someone else, you do it.

2. I ask for about an hour of your time on a daily basis (maybe a little more on the weekend). You can give that to me. I don’t limit what else you are allowed to do on the weekends — although I am going to have to rein in screen time. On Saturday you spent nearly 6 hours on screens. That can’t keep happening. An hour to help me and your daddy around the house is not too much to ask.

3. You will not use the words “slave” or “slavery” in this house. The United States has a long and shameful history of real slavery, of people driven and tortured because they were viewed as lesser beings. That’s not what is happening when I ask you to do chores. You are part of a team, not someone used and abused for labor. So knock it off with the hyperbole.


My MIL comes over once a week (sometimes twice) to help the girls put their clean laundry away, and to help them clean up their room.

And by help, I mean that she tells them what to do and they do it.

When this happens, I do not hear whinging from the girls’ room. I do not hear the word, “No.” She guides them through what they are supposed to do, they do it, and in about a half hour or so, they are done.

I don’t know how she does it. Maybe she threatens them. Maybe she bribes them. Maybe she just tells them, “This is how you are a good citizen in this house.” No idea. I’m usually in the kitchen finishing the dishes (the girls are not yet adept at washing the dishes by hand).

I am grateful for this help from my MIL. I don’t know what I would do without her. I sincerely hope the girls are internalizing her guidance so they know and understand how to clean their rooms *without* someone standing over them telling them what to do.

My girls like when their room is neat. They are proud of themselves for making it look that way. So why do they do it for Bella, and not for me?

Bella and Kate
They clean their room for her!


I get *so tired* of fighting the fight, I really do. I understand parents who pick up after their children. It’s faster, and gets done “right”. Believe me, I am the OCD parent of three children, and as much as I want things to be “just so”, I have started settling for “good enough”. As long as the floor is clear, and the vacuum can be run, and things are where they are supposed to live, I’m good. The dishes aren’t always put away perfectly, or put in the dishwasher the way I would load it, but I don’t care. It’s something I didn’t have to do.

And that’s a big deal.

Children and me.
Deceptively adorable.

Do your children have chores? Do you still fight with them about doing them?

6 thoughts on “Laying Down the Law

  1. My kids have chores, but should start making the older ones do a bit more.. I do need to get better about limiting the screen time. My problem is herding them because there are just so many of them it is difficult to wrangle them to get anything done.

    • My suggestion (and I do this with only 3): Divide and conquer. I usually ask Flora to do something; then I ask Kate to do something. Otherwise they end up squabbling. Michael still needs a lot of guidance and help, so I wait until I’m free to give him a hand. Good luck!

  2. I actually have very few chores they have to do as.far as the bedrooms go. (Mother of.5) I leave those spaces as their domains. I only apply assigned tasks to.the common areas of the house and garbage/ lawn.Initially in the laundry I don’t wash it. And if after it is washed and put in their baskets it is not put away I will not help them find it. I adopted.this policy for my sanity…not theirs.

      • I do know that at some point I will have to give up on their rooms and just keep the doors closed. But that time is not yet. And laundry… when we start doing laundry ourselves in our house again — the time will come — the children will be doing their own laundry. They’ll have to. The reason we outsourced to my MIL in the first place is because I couldn’t keep up with 5 people. That should be interesting.

        Thanks for commenting! I can’t believe you have 5 children! Good on ya. 🙂

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