Sunday, April 22, 2012

The care and keeping of a large family - chores/kids as helpers

This is a subject I have strong feelings about. As much as I admire the Duggar family, my one big complaint about them is the way they use their older children in parenting roles to the younger ones. (And if I'm being honest, I don't like the way they divide chores down gender lines, but more about that later.)

The Duggars refer to their children's assigned roles and responsibilities as "jurisdictions." It's a nice word, but to me it connotes authority and ultimate responsibility, and that's not something I feel is fair to put on a child. My husband and I feel strongly that as it was OUR decision to have a large family, and not our children's, it would be unfair to rely on them to help us in our parenting roles. That isn't to say that they aren't expected to babysit or do chores - certainly they are expected to do those things. But we try to put those tasks to them in the same way they would be done in a smaller family. There is no reason for one of my children to be doing laundry for the whole family, or to assume near-total care for a younger sibling. WE are the parents. Having a very large, multi-racial family makes them different enough, out in society, and we won't further burden them by expecting them to help us do our jobs.

What that means is that Curtis and I have had to make some sacrifices. It means that we don't spend much time with friends, or in pursuit of individual hobbies or interests. We hope that when our kids are grown, we'll be able to travel and spend time with friends and develop skills and hobbies, but right now, our family is our world. We chose this. :o)

What our kids do do is regular chores. They are expected to put their clean clothes away each day (doesn't always happen) and keep their rooms clean. They're expected to help clean up the dinner mess, empty the trash and dishwasher - that sort of thing. On Saturdays, everyone cleans his or her own room thoroughly and gets assigned one other big job (bathrooms, vacuuming and dusting, etc.) The older kids take turns mowing our very large yard, for which they get a little extra allowance money. The older kids also take turns babysitting when Curtis and I go out, also for additional money. Because we have so many older kids, it means they only have to do it about once a month. Mostly, they're expected to help out when asked and take care of their daily and weekly chores.

The nice thing is that my kids often surprise me with their willingness to go above and beyond, just because. As I mentioned in a previous post, my teenage daughter will often go to the grocery store for me, and she does an awesome job. My oldest son will sometimes come and pick up a sibling or two and take them out for ice cream. My BMXing son Ethan will take his little brother Jackson to ride bikes at a nearby school. Older kids will take younger kids along when they walk the dog. Jonah will frequently walk his younger brothers to their hip-hop dance class. All of them, boys included, are perfectly capable of making meals (and some specialize in certain meals and desserts) and usually do so willingly if the need arises. All of these things free up my time and take pressure off me, but more importantly, they are acts of service to their family members. Big kids don't like to tell each other too often that they love each other, but I'm content that they show it like this. It makes me one proud mama, indeed.

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