When it comes to kids, chores and allowances, is a work-for-pay system the right way?
When my younger daughter came to me a couple months ago with a chores-for-pay proposal in which every task had a price — and completing them added up to a respectable weekly allowance, I was all over it. Lila wanted money. I wanted more help around the house. Everyone would win. And, for the first time in their lives, I have the cash to bankroll allowances. The timing was right.
We made a list of ongoing, regular responsibilities and put a price tag on each. Easier daily tasks like feeding the dog, making their beds and picking up their bedrooms pay out 25 or 50 cents, so doing them consistently adds up to a few bucks. Weekly jobs like vacuuming and doing the laundry are worth more. Some weeks there’s a high-ticket job, like cleaning baseboards and woodwork throughout the house or deep cleaning the fridge.
The more they do, the more they earn. No work, no pay.
Getting my daughters to consistently clean up after themselves and pitch in around the house has never been my strong suit as a mom.
Go ahead, judge me.
I admit it, I’ve resorted to paying them because other tactics – nagging, threats and loss of screen time — weren’t working. But also, because the work they do is valuable.
I want my daughters to grow up with the expectation that they will be paid, paid well and paid equally for their efforts. Sure household chores are everyone’s responsibility and doing them is part of the deal, part being in a family and part being a good citizen of the house.
Running a household takes every member. It’s work.
But consider this, Moms (and Dads): when we raise kids in a society that puts a price tag on everything — and teach them that housework is the exception — we set a precedent that devalues work that is still largely done by women in our society. We devalue the work that women do. We reinforce the idea (and the status quo) that women work for less than men. Or, for nothing at all.
Think it’s crazy feminist talk? The gender pay gap isn’t just for professionals; it reaches all the way into our homes where boys out earn their sisters for doing fewer chores. Even when it’s just weekly allowances, our payouts are weighted toward boys.
I struggled with putting a work-for-pay system in place in my house. Actually, I had no problem implementing the system. I questioned whether or not paying my kids for everything they do is a good move or a huge mistake.
Template after template and article after article I found recommended paying allowances only for work done after the basic cleaning and dishes were done for free. Every model put a higher premium on mowing the lawn, typically a boy’s chore, than cooking dinner or doing the laundry.
I don’t know if paying kids for every chore is the right way. I don’t know if there is a right way.
What I do know is this: if I’m paying for anything, I’m paying for everything. No way am I reinforcing a structure that tells my girls that “women’s work” is worth less, or worse, worthless.
*Find apps to manage chores, allowance and finances for kids at Chore Apps
*Check out Forbes magazine’s core chart apps ranking and reviews
*For more information on the gender gap build into many household chore pay rates read the full Wespac Survey
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