10

The main difference with this question to others like this is that I'm asking about something that works with older children (13-18). We're a patchwork family (that never really posed any problems or challenges) consist of 2 parents and 5 children, me being the oldest of the children at 18. 3 of my siblings are 15 and one is 13.

My mom frequently becomes enraged about the fact that we don't help as much with chores as she wants us to. When my siblings are asked to do something the usual response is that they already did more than the others (which is the answer everyone gives). Since we're already relatively old, reward systems and such won't really do much anymore.

When I'm home alone I have no problem doing all the chores by myself because there is this kind of urgency but if there are family members around this feeling of urgency and responsibility goes away.

So I proposed that we would assign a type of chore to everyone, say, I, and only I, am responsible for doing the laundry which should imitate this kind of urgency and responsibility.

Is this a reasonable system and does anyone have experience with something similar? I'd love to hear other solutions to this problem as well.

10

While I am not from a blended family, what helped my sister and I avoid fighting over chores was to have them be assigned to one of us when we were high school / college aged. For example:

Me:

  • Sort my own clothes and my parents
  • fold all but her clothes.
  • vacuum and dust 1/2 the house (rooms assigned)
  • Cook 3-4 days a week. Nights and meals assigned.

Sister:

  • Sort her clothes and gather clothes from other areas such as kitchen and bathroom.
  • Wash laundry & fold her clothes
  • vacuum and dust 1/2 the house (rooms assigned)
  • Cook 3-4 days a week. Nights and meals assigned.

Later on we swapped some chores so I did all of the vacuuming and she did all of the dusting. But this way, if something wasn't done, my mom had a specific person to get onto about it.

In your case, I would suggest getting everyone together and make a list of all the chores that you are all responsible. As a group divide the chores among yourselves with assigned people & frequency. That way the buck passing can stop and by the end, hopefully everyone feels that they will be doing their "fair share." And your mom can have the help she needs. I am thinking of doing that next summer when my step-daughter comes out, but instead of breaking it up between kids, breaking them up between her, her father and me so that I am not stressed trying to keep it all up.

  • “her, her father and I” should be “her, her father and me” technically. “I” goes with “s/he”, “me” with “him/her”. – Tim Jul 31 '17 at 0:33
4

My parents' solution was to divide up the chores into four types:

  • Chores everyone works on once the relevant parent announces that that chore is being performed: sorting and folding laundry (when a load of clothes comes out of the dryer, everyone with clothes in that load drops whatever they're doing to get their clothes), cleaning up common areas, unloading and storing groceries, etc.
  • Chores assigned based on ability: as the oldest, I got the largest share of the lawn to mow; my little brother wasn't big enough to handle the lawnmower, so he wasn't involved in mowing.
  • Chores assigned by ownership: you're responsible for keeping your bedroom sufficiently clean, changing the linens on your bed, etc.
  • Chores assigned by rotation: setting the table, loading the dishwasher, etc. My parents would put together a chart showing who did what when, so the chores would be distributed equally.

This makes it clear who is expected to do what, and that nobody is doing more than anyone else, give or take capabilities.

  • 2
    Dropping everything to attend a task right on the spot isn't fair to anyone. Either those tasks need to be scheduled in advance, or its not reasonable to assume everyone has time for it right now, this instant. people might be doing homework, learning, or simply have other stuff to do they wanted to do at that point (e.g. being on the phone, texting, or even taking a nap). So if you want everyone to help fold & sort laundry, schedule it in advance so that everyone can free up their schedule, don't just drop the bomb and announce that right now everyone needs to help. – Polygnome Jul 30 '17 at 19:01
  • 1
    With laundry, you know it's coming a couple hours in advance. Unloading the groceries only takes a minute or two with everyone participating. And cleaning was usually announced after dinner or a similar interruption in everyone's activities. – Mark Jul 30 '17 at 19:15
  • 1
    I second @Polygnome here: unscheduled duties should be kept to a minimum. Even if something takes two minutes to unload/store the groceries, if you have to wake up for those two minutes, it is frustrating. If you are playing a competitive online game and you have to stop playing for those two minutes, it is frustrating too. It is generally frustrating when your privacy is violated, and being told to stop what you are doing right now and do something else is a clear violation of privacy. – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jul 31 '17 at 5:07
  • @Mark Do you? Our laundry machine is quiet enough (and located in the basement) that I don't hear it. And if it has been started when I wasn't home (or was doing god knows what else, e.g. mowing the lawn, sleeping, or else) I have no idea its running. Its extremely frustrating to have your own idea of things to do and be interrupted uneccessarily. A few words are enough ("Oh btw, the laundry is in the machine, can you help with it later?" - "Sure, when is it done?"). But also expect "No, I already made plans, I'm going to XYZ to study" if its not laundry day... – Polygnome Jul 31 '17 at 7:41
3

This is a great time to break out the whiteboards (assuming you have any). A few sheets of paper with all involved parties sitting at the same table also could suffice.

Start by making a list of all the household chores. Then go around and collect bids for chore responsibility. For example, one of you may want to take responsibility for taking out the trash, another wishes to take responsibility for mowing the lawn, and another volunteers to wash the dishes.

Since you are all teens, there will be limited variety in what can and can't be done by any of you (though there may be a few exceptions). However, each person's preferences may vary significantly.

You'll probably be left with some chores that nobody wants to willingly take on. Here's where negotiation becomes especially important. You could have a predictable cycle of days on which each of you handle such a universally unpleasant duty, or agree to do it all together (if it's something well suited to teamwork) to share the load and get it over with faster.

Whatever arrangement you agree on, make sure you do so through a diplomatic process rather than arbitrarily assigning tasks. People are far more likely to cooperate when they feel like they still have some measure of control over their lives. Also make sure that it is clear who is responsible for each task, and when. You'd be wise to agree on a system for handling one's chores when one of you is sick or otherwise legitimately unable to address them.

Post the agreement somewhere "public" (e.g. the kitchen, living room, etc.) and make a copy for each person to keep for themselves. If someone neglects their duty for inexcusable reasons, see if you can facilitate a reasonable trade between them and another. Invite your parents to arbitrate if any of you refuse to participate. They (your parents) should be kept up to date on this arrangement anyway, so that they can see you are taking a logical and fair approach to addressing these responsibilities effectively.

0

I guess, everyone has already talked about assigning specific duties to specific people, and it is clear. However, I believe that I have something to add.

  1. It is very important that the duties are described in detail. For example, not "washing dishes", definitely not "clean the kitchen", but rather "Wash all the dishes you see in the kitchen, dry, put in the right place". You get less problems this way, especially if duties are being swapped.
  2. Duties should be scheduled. Nobody likes to suddenly have to do something "right now", be it while they are doing their homework, playing a computer game, going to go for an appointment (either with a friend or with a doctor), or anything else. There should be standards like "Go for a walk in the morning (7-11 am), in the afternoon (14-17 PM) and in the evening (21-24 pm)", not like "going for a walk with the dog 3 times a day" accompanied with "Go do it right now, the dog wants to the toilet!". Only enforce something done "right now" if it is really, really needed right now, schedule as much as possible, or if the duty wasn't performed on time. Let everyone know that their right to manage their time is not violated as soon as they follow the rules.
  3. Have a check-list, possibly an online one (I use Google Spreadsheets) to inform about the finished duties. With Google Spreadsheets it is possible to see when was the duty marked as done, but there may be something better for that.
  4. Write down all of the duties present in the house that need to be shared.
  5. I am not sure if it is relevant to your situation, but probably you should discuss in advance what happens if duties are not being performed by someone.
  6. When assigning duties to everyone, have a peaceful discussion together. If you have someone in your family who is known for being not so peaceful during such discussions, try to talk to this person in advance.
  7. Duties may be swapped between family members, but it is important that it doesn't change the person responsible for a duty. For example: normally your school ends at 15:00 and at 16:00 you are at home and go for a walk with your dog. But at one day you want to go to an event that starts at 16:30 -- no time for the dog! You ask your sibling to do it, and he/she agrees. If he/she doesn't do it and forgets, it is a personal issue between you two, and only you, the one responsible for going for a walk with the dog at 16:00, will get punished for this job not being done (not for you not doing it). You have to call the person you asked to do the job and ask if they did it, and if they didn't, probably ask someone else.
  8. On the other hand, there should be a mechanism for the case when someone cannot perform their duties for some time: getting ill, not being home for a couple of days or even weeks, etc. If you are 5, it is going to be pretty common, especially when you start to move a lot on your own, if not already. You need a mechanism in order not to waste your time anytime it happens.

It may seem too much for just doing the housework, but:

  • It actually works really well once established, not draining much time
  • It lets you all learn better how things go when you find a job (such as that it is not that important when and by whom was the job done if it is done, and that it is also mostly not important why is it not done if it is assigned to you and not done)

I would also add that it is your own responsibility to find your own way to present this to your family, because you know your family better than I do, and given that you said "My mom frequently becomes enraged", it might be hard to find the right time and way to talk about that.

Good luck!

P.S. I never lived in a blended family, but this system works always when you have specific jobs to be done and specific group of people who have to do this job.

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