Re-post: Autonomous housework - Apr 07
And because Allie mentioned something back here about housework, so I thought I'd do another post about how that works here.
I know some people manage it, but I find it impossible to allow the children full autonomy in their learning whilst still insisting they do other things to help out around the house. Maybe it's because I'm an all-or-nothing sort of person, but it seems I can either do non-stop coercion or none at all! And none at all is friendlier, more respectful, nicer, more effective.. just generally better, in my experience.
Well, there's me and Tom here who are both officially adults, and Ali and Zara who are nearly officially adults and Lyddie, who is officially very young and creative, and the baby. And a fair amount of mess and chaos is created. This is exacerbated by the fact that as well as unschooling, we also practice unfooding, (Did Deborah invent that word?) therefore food is being prepared by random people at random times in random ways. And there are no clearing-up rules.
So, what's the end result? Well the house isn't spotless, and I don't do all the work. I think we all do as much as we want to, as much as makes sense to us, enough to keep the place to a standard with which we're comfortable. The trouble is, we all have different standards.
One of the boys shares my taste in cleanliness/tidiness, and quite often washes dishes, hangs clothes and tidies up voluntarily. I'm frequently pleasantly surprised when I go to do a task and find he's already done it and he does it without fanfare and not expecting thanks or praise. His brother, on the other hand, is happier in a more chaotic environment and would wait far longer before he chose to clean or tidy anything. So it's rare he cleans or tidies anything! But he's happy to hold the baby while I do the work, and is always available for unloading or loading the car and other heavy lifting work.
Zara would be the first to admit she's no 'clean freak' either. But she loves to take care of her baby sister at every opportunity, which again frees me up to work on keeping the house within my comfort zone. And Lyddie loves to clean and tidy up, wash dishes and do anything domestic at all. I only have to start a job and she goes to fetch her chair to stand on so that she can join in and/or take over. Washing dishes then becomes a science experiment in the sink, or a game with teaspoon-people in dish-boats, so that's ok.
Things work best around here when people are left to do their own thing, in their own time and their own way, according to their strengths and weaknesses and their likes and dislikes. I actually like washing dishes and tidying up. But I hate ironing! I think we all do, so none of that gets done. Zara and I were heard pondering the other day whether we actually possess an iron. She thinks we do, somewhere.
Reading all that makes it sounds very peaceful around here, doesn't it? Well it is, but only sometimes ;-) There are days when nobody tidies, washes or cleans anything, or has the inclination to help in any way and if I'm tired when the chaos drops noticeably below my tolerance level I have been known to get upset. Reactions then vary. Out of three teens, two usually keep their heads down and one comes to help me. And Lyddie helps too. And the two helpers are both good at reassuring me that the world doesn't hate me and nor did it mess the house up on purpose. And we rush around cleaning up until I'm happy again.
Hmmm. Is my sometimes being upset about mess coercive, then? Well maybe it is, but not consciously or deliberately. So I wonder if it counts.
Sounds more like "crisis time" is time to communicate, rather than co-erce.
I mean, if it was a house entirely filled with adults and one of them felt they were doing the lion's share, it would be time to talk, in a "can I get some help", rather than "Right, now we WILL HAVE A ROTA!" way.
PS I don't mean to imply I have in any way solved this, as my partner will testify to. But communication of "can't do this alone" isn't coercive... but sitting back while someone else cleans can be.
4:33 PM, April 21, 2007
Thank you for posting this! I was planning to ask you about housework with older children as my Mum is very concerned about it.
On your last point, my feeling, from what I've read, is that it is ok to be honest about your feelings - is honesty about negative feelings the same as coercion? If so, surely honesty about positive feelings is also coercion. Therefore if we are to be totally non-coercive, must we hide our feelings from our children? I feel quite strongly about being honest with my children about how I feel from one minute to the next, as I want them to learn that it's ok to express their feelings too (in an appropriate way, of course).
4:34 PM, April 21, 2007
Pete, I keep trying to comment on your blog, but the log-in thing is beyond me! If you get a scatty Gill-type anonymous comment sometimes, you'll know where it's from ;-)
I do have problems with *asking for help* but am getting past them nowadays, slowly.
Hi Clare, oh I'm glad it was useful. I might write more on 'autonomous living' then :-) Your comment was useful to me too - thanks!
6:37 PM, April 21, 2007
I must admit, i don't give a monkeys about how the children feel about being asked to help. They make 90% of the mess, i have a right to a life and if the house isn't tolerably tidy then i lose the will to live or do anytihng with them, plus i cry.
Being chilled about how the kids live and do things doesn't mean they get to have me as a slave doing all their dirty work and picking up the endless stuff they just strew everywhere; either they pitch in and keep our home reasonable or they'll have to spend 80% of the week out of it so i can bear to be alive.
personally, and obviously you are very different ;) , i'm keen to help my children to learn some lessons i never got shown that it doesn't take long to tidy up after yourself and that it's easier to have fun if you can find things :)
6:41 PM, April 21, 2007
PS - i meant that you are different about how they leanr them, not that you aren't bothered about them leanring them.. or something - anyway, nothing like as agressively as it came across!
6:42 PM, April 21, 2007
What comes across so obviously is how well what you are doing works for every family member :)
I still credit Jean Liedloff with being the strongest influence on my parenting style when I first became a mother. I loved and love the way she described about how the tribespeople never coerced their kids and that the kids would just join in with the tasks and what we may call 'chores' when they were ready.
My kids are like mini professors..they are always doing amazing things..and leaving trails behind them and that in itself is great. But theres no way I could stay sane if the house wasn't cleared slightly every evening. That is why the kids do the washing up, tidy their rooms etc and often not when they feel like it....this doesn't mean that the house is tidy or clean..but that when it gets ridiculous and I am losing my marbles amongst the half finished works of genius and dirty laundry all over I do show them 'my feelings'.
Point being..yes showing our displeasure to kids about the state of house is the main way to suggest that they must pull their fingers out. I probably just employ it more regularly than you Gill ;) I don't see myself as able to do the nice mom thing when I am drowning under all the piles of stuff that is innocently left around.
One other thing that should be mentioned is that Ash is exempt from being told: "Right mate. Take this dishcloth and dry those pots!" or "Darling. I tripped and fell - injuring my knee - on the way into your room to change your sheets. You gotta tidy it. And no buts." or that sort of thing..my kids won't feel the need to take their share of domestic burden (lol) until they are past 6 or 7. Until that point if they join in it is a bonus..and of course I trick..sorry..encourage them to do it by making games out of tidying up sometimes.
BUT! To be quite frank, my aim is to 'domesticate' my boys. How many women struggle with menfolk who simply refuse to do anything like their fair share of housework? Domestically Unhelpful Men really don't do themselves any favours in relationships. I have heard so many tales over the years about what blokes think is reasonable (leaving wet towels on the floor in the bathroom etc) just because that is what they did at 'home'. I think with housework, a lot of the time it is a skill, an art..we wouldn't know the techniques unless they were explained to us and practised.
6:45 PM, April 21, 2007
A thread on exactly this topic :-)
7:11 PM, April 21, 2007
My lot have their own speciality jobs. Some love cleaning bathrooms ( seriously), others like dusting or hoovering or gardening. One loves tidying as she hates anything out of place. One or two don't mind doing dishes. We have an iron for hama beads but no ironing board. I haven't ironed for well over 7 years. However with 9 people in the house, 10 pets and renovating I do expect a certain level of mess. Par for the course I think. Mostly tho they are all pretty willing to help out.
7:24 PM, April 21, 2007
They did learn how to do it, because they all went through the phase of wanting to join in with whatever I was doing when they were younger. And in holding the baby, or hanging around chatting, or passing through or whatever while I clean now, the ones who don't do so much of it also get a refresher course in how to do it ;-)
But if some of them prefer more chaos than me, should I try to force them to live by my standards? I guess that's the choice when it comes down to it. I made mine and I'm happy with it. We've all just got to work out the parenting choices we're happy with I think.
AND they all pull their weight equally in their own way anyway, without any coercion. The trick, I find, is in trusting that will happen and being flexible enough to accept it when it does. I'd rather have one volunteer than ten pressed men. (Who said that, BTW? Before me, I mean! I've forgotten.)
7:46 PM, April 21, 2007
Thanks for the link Emma! Yes we do the cheap mugs - and the 'each to their own favourite job' is in there too isn't it? Also the teens all have their own rooms to live in *their* way, which definitely helps loads.
8:06 PM, April 21, 2007
Oh, the other thing I do is refuse to leave the house in a mess! So, if one of them wants groceries or a lift somewhere I will not agree until the house is in such a state that I'll be happy to come back to it. It's not coercion, it's just my rule for myself. But people will often facilitate it so they can get what they want. Of course, they equally often decide to manage without! But I don't mind either way, as long as I stick to my self-imposed rule, which I always do.
8:13 PM, April 21, 2007
I do rant at the kids occasionally. We have a small house and a lot of stuff. I think that means we will always have to live with a certain amount of mess.
Our 'jobs chart' method has helped me feel a lot better about housework. We have a list of jobs that we are all capable of - washing up, sweeping the floor, hoovering, cleaning the wash basin - and so on. If you do the job you put a tick against your name. At the end of the week we all get paid (from Dani's wages) for the jobs we've done. Amounts per job range from 5p to 27p.
If people don't want to do any jobs then they don't. But they do see other family members getting money at the end of the week! Of course, Dani and I have always been scrupulous about fairness between the two of us and very aware of the work that had to be done. But this chart and pay system has made the housework far more visible to the children.
10:38 PM, April 21, 2007
Oh wow! I kind of like that idea Allie. It's not bribery, is it? The fact that you and Dani involve yourselves as equal parts of the scheme seems like it's fair and unpatronising. And if it works, that's great.
I think it's a little bit too structured a system for the free-range way our lives have now evolved to be in this house, but it's maybe something I'd have been very open to trying a few years ago.
I'm going for the purist approach I suppose. Totally voluntary, spontaneous input. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't! I suppose you have that, but the financial factor and the preplanning must make a difference to the spontaneity? Also, do you ever get weeks when everyone would rather do other things than housework? If so, what happens then?
11:05 PM, April 21, 2007
We certainly have weeks with lots of input and weeks with very little - on all our parts! Some weeks it gets heavily messy.
I am motivated to do a certain amount of cleaning just out of personal taste. I can't stand the loo to be dirty, or the carpet to disappear under a layer of grit and sand. But lots of other things don't bother me. Dust is a fact of life here.
The kids often use the fact that jobs pay when they are saving for something that won't be covered by their pocket money. As L usually has more 'wants' than P he finds the money a great motivator! P is more likely to respond to the idea of 'pitching in' on a mass tidy of the kitchen, for example. She likes collaboration. She appreciates the money system because it fits with her ideas of fairness - but I don't think the money itself is much of a motivator for her.
I guess, being honest, that D and I plug away at the daily jobs, however we feel. We do wash up several times a day, do the laundry, and so on. So, for us, the money is more of a reward than an incentive IYSWIM. I do like it, though. I saved up enough to pay for a solo trip to the cinema recently!
I think that what we do is an acknowledgement that none of us really enjoy housework - but accept that some needs to be done. It may also be a bit of a corruption of the idea of 'wages for housework' too.
I don't suppose it will last forever - I guess it will evolve as the kids grow up.
11:26 PM, April 21, 2007
I've got a kind of schizoid relationship with housework I think. Being a single mother with only young children often meant there was no-one to help, so I had to either learn to love housework or get very depressed! Learning to love it seemed like a more viable option.
I did a pretty good job of convincing myself, but not quite good enough - hence those days when it feels like nobody loves me because the sink's piled high with dishes again! If I really loved housework, I'd be happy about that. And I sometimes am, but not always.
But I feel like I should be able to enjoy it most of the time - it's just an activity like any other. I try not to delineate between work and play. Maybe I'll succeed in totally retraining my mind in that respect one day. I hope so - life is much easier when I think that way than it is when I see work as a drudge.
I hope my children are growing up not to see work as a drudge. Again, it's partially working, though there are days and times when I wonder whether some of them are avoiding the work just because they can. But that's my childhood and societal conditioning - it's not them! and I'd love to be able to totally break the cycle.
11:53 PM, April 21, 2007
"I am motivated to do a certain amount of cleaning just out of personal taste. I can't stand the loo to be dirty, or the carpet to disappear under a layer of grit and sand. But lots of other things don't bother me. Dust is a fact of life here."
Yes that's exactly how I am too. And it bothers me when I want to cook but there are no clean pans, utensils or plates. And nowhere to put anything! Dust I can definitely live with, thank goodness!
12:14 AM, April 22, 2007
So, if one of them wants groceries or a lift somewhere I will not agree until the house is in such a state that I'll be happy to come back to it. It's not coercion, it's just my rule for myself. But people will often facilitate it so they can get what they want. Of course, they equally often decide to manage without! But I don't mind either way, as long as I stick to my self-imposed rule, which I always do.
Not sure if my rubbish html will work with italicising the above! However, what I wanted to say was, although my children are very young and quite amenable to tidying, this method is one I employ a lot. "Mummy, please can we do a puzzle"..."Not until these other puzzles are tidied away...otherwise I have to sort them all out and I don't want to do that so you don't have to help me, but we'll be doing your new puzzle quicker if you do". Sometimes they help and sometimes they don't...mostly they do and sometimes they even do it without me suggesting it!
8:35 AM, April 22, 2007
Oh I do that too Clare! Sets of things are kept on a high shelf away from crawling/toddling babies and I won't climb up to get another one down until I've (or someone else has) put the previous one away.
I have quite strict rules for myself along those lines which I insist on sticking to, and my freedom to live according to my own choices is just as important as the children's.
9:03 AM, April 22, 2007
This is a really interesting subject.The housework is something that as a lone parent with a chronic illness leaving me tired all the time i struggle with.I don't aim for a showhome just basic cleanliness & tidy in some rooms.It is so hard not to feel that i'm coercing or pressurising my daughter to help.I feel that as 80%of the mess is created by her that she should take responsibility & clear up after herself... she really doesn't want to .As i do the bulk of the work eg shopping , cleaning, laundry etc it does feel that i'm not supported....& of course this comes back to the fact that i am on my own with no family support & i'm ill.It seems unfair to expect too much of my daughter other than clear up her own mess.I like Allies' idea of the chart..i think i will try this as money is a great incentive to a teen!!!!
12:37 PM, April 22, 2007
I guess things might be very different when i've got a house full of teenagers - who knows how it will change. Right now though, with 4 under 9 and a full time business to run, either i get everyone to help or something gives; best case scenario in the "gives" fashion would be they give up ballet so i pay for a cleaner, worst would be they went to school. Faced with that as a choice, i guess they all seem happy enough to help tidy. :)
So yes, i guess i'm co-ercive in a sense, but the realities of it are very real and they just have to get on with it, or change their lives. I've never felt HE and parenting should mean i get to have a sucky life for 25 years! And for me and Max, seeing our house, which was sparkly and new only a year ago, descend into mess, dirt and chaos, makes us both miserable.
12:59 PM, April 22, 2007
your house sounds like mine..even the comment about the ironing (though I do have mad moments of liking ironing..a bit like *playing mum*)..and I too have that moment where I get upset. I also was a single parent for a long time and learned to love the housework. I actually love washing up...so nobody else gets to do that. I have recently offered to pay my eldest to help me with some housework if she likes. Not to get her to help but because she wants a way to make some money and I have some clutter that needs sorting that just won't get done if there is no motivation..so it would be a win/win situation imo. She is under no obligation to do it, but it's there if she wants it. I give her money anyway but this is a way to get extra..because to be honest I don't think anyone would like decluttering my place and do it for fun..hmm but then again I do like washing up!
2:54 PM, April 22, 2007
Hi Jay, yes the problem of differing comfort zones is the main one here too. If your daughter really liked things to be clean and tidy, she'd clean and tidy up! But she obviously doesn't, so she thinks you're making a fuss about nothing. But it's important to you to have some tidiness, like it is to me.
Having my 'own space' really helps. Well, it's not totally mine, because I share it with the little ones, but at least it doesn't have teenage debris in it!
Have you got your own bedroom, or some kind of clean and tidy sanctuary?
I've worked on honing the housework down to the basic minimum over the years. I only wash-up once a day, and the washing machine goes on every day, and a basket of clothes is hung to dry, and another one has clean dry clothes to put away.
The dining table has to be clear at bed time, as does the kitchen dresser and the living room floor. The stairs get swept roughly once a week, and the bathroom cleaned. I clean the other floors only when they start looking really bad and I do the windows when I start to realise I'm looking at dirt instead of outside!
And apart from ongoing non-stop tidying up as I go around the house, that's all I do. If I see something in the wrong place I automatically put it away, but I've trained myself to do that automatically, to the extent that the kinds often lose things they'd just got out and I'm as puzzled as they are as to where it's gone. Of course, it turns out I'd shelved it on autopilot!
Merry, you gotta do what you gotta do! As long as it works for you all, it's allll good IMO :-)
I wholeheartedly sympathise with the "sparkly and new only a year ago, descend into mess, dirt and chaos" sentiment though. Ours is an old house but I do empty a room every year and clean and paint it.
Within 6 months the tide of chaos has washed its shores and dumped its litter so many times though, the room looks like it needs doing again. Impossible to keep up with without a full-time cleaner, and I used to have one of those, and I hated it! It's definitely a perennial problem.
And Grrrr @ Blogger logging me out! I was only here an hour ago!
2:59 PM, April 22, 2007
Raquel, that sounds like a great idea! Yes, I love washing up I must admit, especially once I get into it. I grumble about it, but I hate to be helped with it. No wonder the teens roll their eyes at me so much! LOL
3:00 PM, April 22, 2007
I go through phases of ironing. When P went to school I liked the idea of her going off with ironed clothes, clean shoes, and so on. It felt like some sort of love or care I could send with her.
I am slightly suspicious when people say they 'don't mind it messy and if you do then you clean it up.' That is very easy to say if you know that the other person has a lower mess threshold than you. You might just be reaching yours but if you can hold on a day or so then you can count on the work getting done by someone else.
I do share with EF a concern that our boy does not live his life expecting women to clear up after him.
3:44 PM, April 22, 2007
these boots said...
Fascinating comments thread :-)
Here there is one room that is the girls' room (not their bedroom as we still all sleep in one room), and they pretty much leave it in whatever mess they like. Apart from a couple of months ago when the house was on the market, and we did have some grumps (from me) about tidying up.
And I've noticed since then, that my 5 year old enjoys it being complete chaos for a few days, but then recently she's been asking me to help her clear it up "so I can see things and play properly".
I've also noticed that the girls are *much* happier to help me tidy up, than just to be asked to get on with it by themselves. And actually they're really good at it, when we do it together, and there's no coercy feeling at all.
The only thing that *really* becomes my last straw thing is when I'm tired, and I have to cook a meal, and I go downstairs and the kitchen is a complete mess. But tbh that's caused by DH more than the kids! And the other thing is (again when I'm tired) and the girls have decided to play at 'moving house', and they have shifted all their toys and things from upstairs to downstairs on the sofa. But actually I hardly ever sit on the sofa so again, that was mainly a problem when we were selling the house and needing to tidy up for viewings.
I'm quite interested in the unfooding thing though Gill. And the general 'autonomous living' stuff.
3:49 PM, April 22, 2007
We don't have kids yet but we try to split things are fairly as we can. The place tends to degenerate into a tip like state during the week when we're both working & gets tidied at the weekend. We both have jobs we like less than the other so that helps. C feels the need for more "blitzing" than me but I'm happy to help once she tells me what she needs doing to make her feel better about it. I like Ali's idea about the rota & the fact that everyone gets paid the same.
4:00 PM, April 22, 2007
"I am slightly suspicious when people say they 'don't mind it messy and if you do then you clean it up.' That is very easy to say if you know that the other person has a lower mess threshold than you. You might just be reaching yours but if you can hold on a day or so then you can count on the work getting done by someone else."
Yes, I am a bit, but they do all muck in in different ways here. If we all shared the same space more and someone was noticeable by their lack of input it'd be different.
I do share with EF a concern that our boy does not live his life expecting women to clear up after him.
Well, you all know I'm not shy about making gender differentiations! But they really don't seem to apply here in a domestic respect. Ali is as domesticated as I am, almost. He wouldn't dream of expecting me to do something because I'm female or shirking it himself because he's male. And Tom and Zara are both just happy to live in chaos!
Lucy, yes it's the tiredness that gets me too. Life looks totally different when you've had enough sleep, LOL.
Will do an unfooding post next I think. I did a little one a couple of years back but I could definitely elaborate on it.
Hi Helen :-) Yes sharing the work according to what people like doing seems to be a winner, doesn't it?
5:30 PM, April 22, 2007
Ah the housework!! Well I have tried everything. Chore charts didn't work - I had to find them and repeatedley ask them to do their chore. Money doesn't work - none of mine are particularly motivated by that - even the teen. They trust me to provide for their needs reagrdless of them earning money so they know they will never go without.
What I do now is do it all but it no longer bothers me. I say all but they do things when asked. Eg the eldest and 11yr old help a lot with their younger siblings, making supper, sorting games etc. 'They will get laundry in, feed animals, turn pans on/off. Basically they don't do the laundry/tidying or pots but I am comfortable with this now and no longer have any resentment about doing it.
I must admit to washing up twice a day Gill but my sink is much smaller than yours ;o)
10:35 PM, April 22, 2007
Bit late to this - but it is something that comes up again and again in our house, mostly I think because my mess threshold and my partners is very different. And I do hold with the "if you don' like it you can always fix it", which is fine, but makes him feel as though he does more. Which he actually doesn't, because usually if he starts I will then help. but does mean he tends to initiate most housework!
I stuggle a great deal with asking for help. To the point when if I am doing the dishes say, and partner is sat on a chair in the kitchen watching me, I'll get more and more cross internally and still not be able to say "could you help me instead of sitting watching me". Always wondered if it is about being able to ask for help, or being able to let go of the fact that some people just would rather be company than help.
Sorry bit garbled that.
Oh and I also don't think that not making the children do chores = me doing everything and a shit life, as is often the implication from people that do make their children do chores.
1:03 PM, May 02, 2007
Coming in even later than Em, but in my defence, I was mentioned ;-)
I don't think I invented the term "unfooding", I think I got it from somewhere, but it's the only thing I've ever googled that didn't come up with answers. But I'd forgotten all about that mdc thread, and there'd been replies made since I last read, so thanks :-)
We never have managed to unfood, but that's down to the adults, not the kids. We've never given it a fair go. Someday...
As for housework, I'm afraid there's very little autonomy here. I don't have the time, energy or inclination to keep the house in a reasonable state on my own, and I don't have the patience to deal with the state it gets into if I just leave it be - so I insist that everyone pitches in. They're not asked to do a huge amount, but they are expected to help - and they do see that things run more smoothly, that life is more pleasant, when everyone pitches in. They also see how fast it all gets done when everyone works together, so usually we don't get many objections. I think it's great how being so laid-back about it clearly works so well for you, Gill, but I can't see it ever being the right way for us.
9:28 PM, May 03, 2007
That's how I am too Em.
Ooh I wonder where it came from originally then Deb. It's a good description IMO.
9:37 AM, May 05, 2007