Why Do I Have to Do All Those Chores?
“Tidy my room? Why? I can’t be bothered. In any case, it’ll be the same again in a couple of days.”—Stéphanie, age 15.
“When the chores my mother gives me take up the whole afternoon, I feel I’ve worked pretty hard. Then I stop and think. Mom works nonstop all day and every day. I realize that it is not easy for her.”—Steven, age 15.
TEENAGERS’ feelings about doing household chores range from willing cooperation to plain reluctance. You may even feel some measure of resentment yourself when asked to use your free time for something as “boring” as cleaning and washing. Nevertheless, whether you view chores as a delightful diversion or an irritating intrusion, they are essential to the smooth running of a household. When family members do not willingly cooperate in such matters, difficulties and tensions result.
Why Your Help Counts
You may find it hard to believe that something as tedious as taking out the garbage could possibly mean that much. However, even routine chores are important, for they make for a pleasant home and help keep valued articles in good shape. In her book Moi, ta mère (I, Your Mother) French author Christiane Collange stressed this point with a touch of humor: “It is tiresome to have to put things away and take care of them. But if you neglect them, they have their revenge by getting dirty, breaking, or getting lost.”
Your loving cooperation can also relieve the pressure on your parents, who often work full- or part-time. By helping out around the house, you can even get to understand your parents better. How so? Sixteen-year-old Dominic, who lives near Paris, explained: “It is when you give your parents a helping hand that you start to understand why they are tired. When you’ve been on the job several hours, you can put yourself in their shoes and realize that they are truly tired.” Be assured, too, that parents appreciate your support!
Developing Strength of Character
Home chores can also be viewed as a lesson in life, a daily exercise in willpower. True, the benefits are not always immediate. But remember, your efforts to bear responsibilities will bring rewards later on in life. As the Bible states: “It is good for someone to bear the yoke from a young age.”—Lamentations 3:27, The New Jerusalem Bible.
Yes, you need to develop strength of character, a personality capable of resisting the pressures of adult life. So you should start early by cultivating good work habits that will enable you to stand on your own feet—even if it means reducing the time spent relaxing.
Stéphanie admitted: “I used not to like doing housework. I would say to myself: ‘If you don’t want to, don’t do it.’ But my viewpoint has changed. I now realize that helping out at home will teach me to become a responsible person, and that will stand me in good stead later.”
If you are a boy, do not be upset if your parents ask you to perform chores that are generally performed by girls, or if you are a girl, vice versa. Your parents may think it wise to broaden your training. Later on, when you are on your own as an adult, you may be glad to have mastered a variety of household skills. Besides, it is no dishonor for a boy to know how to sew on a button or for a girl to know how to drive a nail in the wall! Interestingly, the Bible account at John 21:9-12 indicates that Jesus Christ cooked a meal for his disciples, a task usually reserved for women in ancient times.—Compare Proverbs 31:15.
Getting on the Same Wavelength
“Try as I may, my parents are never satisfied,” complain some frustrated teenagers. The problem may be, though, that parents and children simply do not talk the same language. In his book L’autorité des parents dans la famille (Parent Power!), John Rosemond made the following pertinent comment: “What does ‘cleaning’ a room mean? Parents think their children know, but a child’s idea of ‘clean’ is never the same as the parents’ . . . If certain tasks must be done daily, a list of what to include would prevent many useless arguments. A clearly defined rule is always easier to obey.”
The help your parents require can generally be divided into two categories:
(1) chores for the family in general, for instance, setting or clearing the table, washing the dishes, cleaning the home, cooking, shopping, emptying the trash can, gardening;
(2) personal chores, such as making your bed, straightening your room, putting away your clothes, and polishing your shoes. If you are not sure what your parents expect of you when they ask you to do any of the above, request specific instructions, even a checklist if necessary. Remember that often more time is spent arguing about chores than it might take actually to do them! As two French youths, Côme and Dominic, put it: “The less work we do, the less we want to do, and the more fuss we make about doing it.” So the quicker you do your chores, the happier everyone can be.
But what can be done if you think your parents are demanding the impossible from you and next to nothing from your brothers and sisters? You have an acute sense of justice and feel upset. So why not choose an appropriate time to have a heart-to-heart chat with your parents? You may discover that your brothers and sisters have less time than you, owing to more homework and longer school hours, or that you are the healthiest and strongest among the children. Is that something to be unhappy about?
What if you think that family chores are taking up too much of your time? Then count up the hours you spend watching television, listening to your favorite music, or reading! Perhaps what you need to do is reorganize the way you spend your time.
“It all started,” said Steven, “when my parents asked me to look after my room and wash the dishes.” Steven found this burdensome. But he learned that with proper organization of his time, he could get his chores done quite easily.