Why I Gave Up On Chore Charts
There was a time when I thought I had this parenting/homemaking thing all figured out (Of course this was before I actually had kids, and actually stayed home with them…).
I was amazing in my imagined state. I was the best cook, maintained the cleanest and best decorated home, and of course, I had the smartest/kindest/obedient/never wearing anything but the cutest clothes/best smelling kids.
I have become very, very aware lately of just how far from my initial expectations our reality has strayed.
At first, I was worried. Maybe I am not doing enough. Maybe I am leading these boys into being future hobos. Maybe my husband and I will never have nice things. Etc., etc., etc….
Now, I am starting to see it a little differently. The more I accept the reality that God has given us, messy as it may be sometimes, the more my expectations soften and the more we start to really enjoy our lives.
This is not the way I think many of us approach things. I know my instinct is to tighten my grasp and cling to those expectations as if they alone can make it right. There have been so many times where I have dug my heels in, despite the obvious futility, and chosen my expectations over the reality right in front of me – and it never, not even one time, worked in the long run.
Lately, by God’s grace, I have been learning to just let some things go. To open my hands and stop clinging so desperately to expectations that are not serving us well, and are in fact, squeezing some of the life and joy out of us.
So, in no particular order, and trusting that you will have grace for me and mine, here are some examples of how we are hacking our way through the days around here.
Why I Gave Up On Chore Charts
I had grand dreams once, of chore charts filled with lists and checks and boxes and Bible verses, and smiley faces. It was going to be amazing. Fast forward a bit and here’s where I have landed. The boys may never consistently make their beds without having to be reminded, and I swear we are gonna lose a fish or two because no one fed them, but they are contributing to our household, in their own ways.
This is enough.
For example, my oldest is much faster on the computer than I am and enjoys categorizing information. So, he is now in charge of any searches for household products, plane tickets, price comparisons, and Google maps/directions. He also loves mixing things in the kitchen. Guess who is responsible for mixing up homemade cleaners or laundry soap? It suits him and it helps me more than him making his bed.
Conversely, my youngest is a super physical kid. He actually LIKES scrubbing the bottoms of the tub and shower (thank you Jesus), and is great at running around the yard and scooping up doggie poo. Again, it works for him and helps me more than anything else that was initially on the chore chart.
Expectations Vs. Reality
I have already mentioned in a previous post how much fun meal time can be around here with sensory issues and anxiety in play. In letting go of my former, everyone will eat what I make or they won’t eat expectation, I have landed on I will only make meals that at least 3 of us like. If the 4th person doesn’t want to eat it, I am happy to fix him a sandwich. It limits my menu for sure, but it adds so much enjoyment to the meal and a lot less stress.
Meals (part 2)
Apparently, my children like to eat every day, at least three times a day. I am not sure why this continues to surprise me, but keeping up with the constant meal planning, prep and actual meal creation is exhausting for me. I really, really, really wanted to be that mom that serves the freshest, most amazing, straight out of a magazine meals. I have many friends who are easily able to do this, and my sister is like a gourmet chef despite working over 50 hours a week in a high profile tech job. I have just had to let go and recognize that this is not me. I cook what I think are yummy, healthy, but super simple and often a little boring meals. I cook the same meals that work for us most of the time, over and over. Letting this go has eliminated so much time, energy and brain power.
Eating Issues and Sensory Processing Disorder
My husband is a night owl. My children have never, since birth, ever gone to sleep easily. Sourdough struggles with settling his brain down, and Bacon can’t get his body to relax. For a long time, I tried to force an early to bed, early to rise policy for our home, creating more stress and drama around bedtime for all of us.
The truth is, homeschooling allows me the freedom to just let everyone sleep a little later in the morning, so that they can go to bed later at night – but I have never taken advantage of this freedom until recently. For some reason, I was sure that I was failing as a teacher and mom if the boys weren’t up, fed, dressed and doing school work by 9:00 AM. In letting go, I can see that when we ease into our days, we learn more even if we don’t get started on school work until 10:30 or 11:00 AM (gasp). Even more so, I have learned that we actually enjoy each others company in the evening when I am not obsessively watching the clock and forcing everyone into bed at an earlier time than they require.
So there you have it. This is what works for my sweet, uniquely created family. I could add more (maybe an entire post just on laundry alone), but I’d actually love to hear what has worked for you instead. Please leave a comment and share your “letting go” examples.
This parenting gig is hard work! Let’s help each other as we go.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.
I think you completely nailed it! Lovely piece! I think parenting (and life) is one giant process of letting go– and trusting God. For me, the hardest thing I have had to let go of is “looking like a good parent.” My need to “look good” causes me to overlook my children’s feelings frequently… Letting go of that and truly connecting with my kids even in the “embarrassing moments” has been so beautiful.
I totally agree Chrissy. I am sad thinking about how I can be so concerned with how I am perceived as a parent, that I lose sight of what they really need. Thank you for sharing!
I have forwarded the link to you blog to my daughter whose oldest of three sons has Aspergers. She never complains about life with an Aspergers child. Yet I know there are some things she deals with that the average Mom wouldn’t know how to handle. Hopefully she will check your blog out and find some encouragement for her situation.
Hi Jim. Thank you so much. I hope your daughter can relate a bit and finds it helpful. I am sure she appreciates your thoughtfulness as well.
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