Tips For Balancing Work, Children and Housework - aifc

Shauna Gallagher gives sound advice for Keeping a balance between our busy lives, our children and household chores.

Balancing Work, Children and Housework

Does your hectic life sometimes feel like you are performing in a circus? Perhaps juggling work, family and home? Struggling to find that balance like walking on a precarious tightrope? Life can be tricky sometimes, and if we aren’t careful, the most important things (particularly relationships and church life) end up suffering the most. No one plans for this to happen, so to help avoid it, you need to approach it intentionally and realistically.

Time is at a premium for working parents and therefore it is paramount to find a way to incorporate quality time with your children, while at the same time not neglect the seemingly endless list of necessary household chores. Depending on their age, children also need to have their own interests and even paid work as they move into their teenage years – which involves more time for you driving them places. No wonder parents and children are exhausted by the end of the working week!

On a practical level, how can household chores be completed whilst not neglecting the needs of the family?

One suggestion to achieve this is to enlist the help of your children. This may sound like something that will actually cause more problems – either through objections from the children or from the amount of effort it might take to teach them what to do.

But there are lots of great reasons to include your children in the running of the household, here are just a few (1) :

Building self-esteem – by being a productive member of the family (Prov 14:23)

Learning life skills – learning to become functioning adults (Prov 12:24)

Role modelling – learning how to handle life through watching and participating (Matt 5:16)

Spending time together – as a family (Ps 127:3-5)

If you have a very young family, it’s the perfect time to start including them in the household chores. Starting when they are young means it will be an expected part of their life, hopefully with as little grumbling as possible. You should expect though, (and even accept), some resistance to having to do chores. It takes maturity and awareness of others’ needs to fully understand why they have to help out (1). But your own attitude towards the chores and towards the children’s efforts will make it a whole lot easier.

Starting out on this journey with older children will more than likely be challenging at first. But once again, how you handle the situation will make it or break it. Staying calm and sticking with the plan will help the transition to happen more quickly and smoothly. And whatever the age of your children, find some ways to make it easier and worthwhile.

For example:

Make it fun – why should housework be boring and mundane? E.g. Play some favourite music while you all join in and get things done. Feel-good chemicals are released when we listen to music (2) , so why not incorporate it while doing housework. You could work out a playlist together that has some favourites from each family member. Have some light-hearted competitions during some songs eg who can pick up the most toys, or fold the most towels, or a family goal to finish the housework by the time a certain song plays.

Make it educational – e.g. if the children are helping you cook, use it as a time to casually teach about nutrition or measurements. Discuss foods from other countries, anything to make it more than just about getting chores done.  Make it positive – this is a great opportunity for praising/encouraging your children’s effort, compliance and attitude.

Knowing which jobs are suitable for the various age groups can be tricky. Below are some suggestions (3) to help you get started but remember that not all children develop at exactly the same rate, so make the chores appropriate for your child.

Ages 2 -3 (mostly at this age the child will be assisting the parents).
Picking up toys, put laundry in the basket, help clean up spills and dusting.

Ages 4-5
Carry lighter groceries from the car, set and clear the table (with supervision), pick up toys and put away, help prepare dinner, make the bed with some assistance.

Ages 6-7
Make the bed, be responsible for pet’s food/water, put away dishes from the dishwasher, vacuum individual rooms.

Ages 8-11

Keep bedroom clean, wash dishes, rake leaves, put the trash can out, wash the car with supervision.

Ages 12-13
Change bed sheets, prepare the occasional meal, clean mirrors, clean bathrooms.

Ages 14-15
Yard work, babysitting, wash windows with supervision, prepare meals occasionally.

Ages 16-18

Yard work as needed, housework as needed, prepare family meals, deep cleaning of household appliances e.g. defrosting freezer.

Even with the extra helping hands, it may feel like the housework still takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. If that is the case, perhaps you need to consider how often particular chores are being planned and how ‘perfectly’ you expect them done. For example, it seems that bed sheets generally only need to be washed fortnightly (4). So, if you have been washing the sheets weekly, perhaps this is something you can cut back on and only wash half the sheets on alternating weeks or wash them all at once on every other week. When considering the standard you require for each job, you need to take into account the age of the child. You can expect a 6-year-old to put the groceries onto the correct shelf in the pantry, but can they make their bed really well? Perhaps they can’t, so don’t put pressure on them to have it made to your standard. Help them as required, but at some stage, you will need to let them achieve on their own. Remember their skills are a work in progress and need nurturing, not criticizing (constantly re-doing or fixing up their efforts can be detrimental to building self-esteem too).

Another way to help lighten the load is to incorporate practices that lessen the amount of work you have to do. For example, by hanging up the bath mat after the last person showers, it has a chance to dry out and you will need to wash it less often. Or make it a routine that every evening at around the same time, every family member picks up things that may be on the floor or out of place in their room. This will only take a few minutes each but will save extra time on the weekend having to pick up a week’s worth of toys, magazines etc (and therefore won’t encroach on valuable weekend time). Take a look at all the chores that need doing and see if there is a way to tweak them so you can be more efficient.

Juggling all that has to be done can be time-consuming and downright stressful. However, by making the most of every opportunity, you need not neglect family nor the household chores, but incorporate that time to be a productive, and positive family time.

Shauna Gallagher – Mental Health Nurse/Author


1. Centre for Parenting Education –

2. Psychology Today –

3. Focus on the Family –

4. CNET Magazine –

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