Many people wonder how one mom handles the cooking, cleaning, and laundry that come with a family of 11. If she is wise she doesn't. One of my roles as mother is to teach and train my children in the skills they will need to be a competent adult. Foundational to that is basic home management - otherwise known as chores. We tried quite a few chore plans over the years that had their good and bad points.
When you are a mother of only young children it is your job to do the chores and simply include your children in the fun as they are able. That is just reality. Once your children begin to mature you do them a disservice if you continue to do all the housework. They need the opportunity to grow and develop the skills of managing a home. At our house we begin this process the summer after a child turns 4. It is a much anticipated event because it is what 'big kids' do. Up to this point children have simply been allowed to help others with their chores and to help me in the kitchen.
Every summer we hold a chore boot camp. Each child is given authority over one room or area of the home. This area will be theirs to clean every day but Sunday for an entire year. They become experts on the jobs in that room. During boot camp we spend a lot of time working together in their new room, either overseen by mom or by the child who has been cleaning that room for the last year. Summer gives them relaxed time to learn the routines without the press of school work needing done.
Laundry and cooking are handled separately so I will cover those in a moment.
Our Current Room Assignments
Mason, age 4.5, cleans the piano room. This is a bit of a challenge as Mason uses a wheelchair, but he's enthusiastic. He picks up and puts away toys. Then he pulls out the lightweight stick vacuum and uses it to clean the wood floors. Wheeling and vacuuming without tangling in the cord is still a work in progress.
Caleb, age 5.5, cleans the living room. He picks up toys, uses a broom to knock toys out from under the couch, puts those away, and then uses the lightweight vacuum to sweep the wood floors in the room.
Oliver, age 7, cleans the half bath and alcove it is off of. This involves wiping off surfaces and toilet, emptying the trash bin, sweeping the floor, and cleaning the mirror, as well as putting away toys in the alcove and vacuuming it.
Daniel, age 8.5, cleans the dining room. He puts away anything on the table or floors, wipes off and removes chairs from the room, pushes the table to one side, sweeps, moves the table to the other end of the room, sweeps, and puts everything back to rights.
Emma, age 10, cleans the laundry room. This is actually a laundry room, pantry, and trash room with a door to the back yard. She wipes down the washer and dryer, removes items from the lower shelves and wipes them down, takes out the house trash, and sweeps the floor.
Joseph, age 11.5, cleans the kitchen. He washes any dishes that are on the counter (sippy cups typically), puts away dishes on the counter (again, just a few things like cups people washed after using), wipes down counters, stove, microwave inside and out, and sweeps the floor.
Makayla, age 15, cleans the full bathroom, hall, and stairs. The hall and stairs get vacuumed daily. In the bathroom she wipes down surfaces including tub/shower, sink, toilet, mirror, and empties the trash bin.
Wait! What do YOU do Tristan?
That's a great question! My job as mom of many has evolved to trainer and manager. I make sure people know how to clean their room and retrain as needed. I inspect regularly to be sure work is being done. I praise them for a job well done, for their help to the family workload. If a child is sick I take over their room. I can pitch in and bless children by helping out. I can do little jobs that need done more than once in a day, like sweeping the dining room with a messy baby eating at the table. I am also head chef.
Cooking and Dishes
We decided not to include cooking duty or the loading and unloading of the dishwasher in the kitchen chore because we want all our children to have regular experience in this area. Instead we have paired up older and younger children and each pair has 2 days a week when they are the kitchen help. They work with me on cooking, unload and put away dishes, and everyone loads their own dirty dishes after meals.
*** Well, actually, the dishwasher broke last week after I started writing this post. Yes, really. So right now the way this works is that every person who can reach the sink washes their own dishes after every meal and then the kitchen help of the day washes dishes for the little ones. ***
Again, I'm all for simple. We live in a 3 bedroom home. Our laundry system has the oldest child in the bedroom take the laundry basket downstairs and wash the load. The next oldest child in the room switches laundry to the dryer. Then it gets unloaded and taken up to the bedroom where each person puts away their own clothing. We have the 2 girls and 3 yo boy in one bedroom, 5 boys in another bedroom, and then the baby shares a bedroom with my husband and I (I do our laundry). And if you were wondering, no - we don't require people to fold clothing. It goes in their 1-2 drawers, folded if they feel so inclined.
That's it. We keep it simple around here. There is no chore chart where jobs change ownership every week and nobody really knows what job they are supposed to be doing. I know exactly who to call on if a room needs attention. A year of working at the same job makes it very possible for a child to master the work. They gain confidence and skills one day at a time.