I’ve always been of the school of thought that paying kids for basic chores basically sucks. That they’re a member of the family and doing things that are necessary for our household shouldn’t be bribed. I always assumed that at some point we would start giving them a small allowance but not in exchange for things like cleaning their room or cleaning up after the dogs. That’s what they’re supposed to do regardless of getting anything in return right?
I recently had a mini epiphany about this concept. Two different things caused me to take pause and consider my stance. The first is that I just read one of Dave Ramsey’s books and am implementing a budget to our family. In it he suggests involving the kids in learning wise money handling by assigning them a very small chore as young as 3 and paying them accordingly for their effort. Something like a quarter to a dollar for picking up their toys. The idea is that you teach them young about how if they work and earn, you can use the money they saved to purchase something they want, instead of expecting everything to be provided for them. Eventually leading up to teaching them about the process of dividing your earnings into save, use, and give categories as they get older. I mostly rolled my eyes during this section because I figured, I already made my parent choice on this issue, they’re gonna help out with these things regardless because they are a part of this family and that’s what comes with it.
A day or so later though, I was forced to reconsider. A friend and I somehow ended up talking about “I Love Lucy” and how out of touch some of the episodes were in respect to modern marriages and society. There are several episodes where Lucy has to beg, plead and, in typical Lucy fashion, try to trick Ricky into giving her more money for something. She gets an allowance for household expenses and he reprimands her like a child for going over budget, because it’s “his” money that he earned and he controls all of it’s use. While there may be some people who unfortunately still live under these types of restrictions, most single income families now decide budgets and spending together. The income is for the family, not the working spouse. In any healthy relationship in this situation, it is understood that the parent who stays at home is contributing as well, sometimes it’s even more cost effective for them to stay home than to work and pay for daycare.
My Hubs and I both work, but there is no “my” money or “your” money. Expenses are discussed and distributed accordingly. If I were to be a stay at home mom I’d expect for that to still be the same. Here is me on my feminist soapbox: if a parent stays home and cooks, cleans, cares for children, manages all household needs, etc, are they not contributing? Or is it expected that that is just their responsibility because they are home. Not actually clocking in hours at a paid job does not mean they are not entitled to have a say in how and where the family spends it’s income, right? So why do I feel that way about the children?
BOOM. Wake up call.
I began considering that deciding kids should contribute to household chores and not compensating them just because their situation in our family’s dynamic is that of dependent is just as wrong as assuming the only thing a stay at home parent is only entitled to be clothed and fed because they are not actually “bringing home the bacon”.
Obviously I’m not gonna consult my 4 year old about our budgets or expenses, but as a small, yet very real contributing member of our household they should also benefit from the family income, and get to learn about money in the process. So now we’re trying to explain the concept of money to her and implement a regular system of earning for her, and eventually for our 2 year old as he starts to understand the concept a little more. So far it’s led to a lot of interesting conversations with her about working and where money comes from. She has a lot of questions about where Mommy and Daddy work and why we need to earn money. It turns out it was a very easy concept to explain to her and she is (at least for now) more excited about doing her “job” too and saving up her money for Disneyland. We’re gonna have to explain the actual costs involved in the Happiest Place on Earth and maybe talk her into shooting for a smaller goal like purchasing a disney toy or getting her own souvenir when we eventually hit our grownup financial goals and celebrate by taking the kids there on our dime