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Short and Sweet Summary: If your goal is to send your self-sufficient kids out into the world with ease, it’s never too early to learn these necessary life skills. If you’re still doing these soul-sucking jobs for your kids, it’s time to pass the baton.


I have two teenage boys. Thank you in advance for your sympathy. As a solo parent, I’m always looking for ways to lighten my workload because it’s far too demanding to be everything to everyone all the freaking time.

My goal is to raise self-sufficient, productive members of society, so I don’t want to do for my kids what they’re capable of doing for themselves. Because, honestly, the more they do on their own, the less I have to do. 

Making them self-sufficient is a win-win for me.

Do you want to put a check in the win column for yourself, too? Start by offloading some of these soul-sucking jobs you’ve been piling on top of your already miles-long to-do list and let the kids do the dirty work.

I cringe when I hear other widows talk about washing and folding their kids’ laundry. Or cleaning their teenager’s bathroom (yuck). We have enough on our plate without adding jobs our kids should learn how to do anyway.

Obviously, some household chores are better suited to older kids, but even your toddler can learn how to pick up after herself.

If you’re like me and don’t have a personal fairy that shows up at night and sprinkles cleaning dust while you sleep, it’s time to get your kids on board with household chores. Here’s a list of the essential things your kids must learn how to do to help give their widowed mommas a much-deserved break.

For other specific age-appropriate chores, click here.

LAUNDRY

My kids have done their own laundry since they were 8-years-old. To be clear, the laundry isn’t always completed in a timely or tolerable fashion whatsoever, but they do it anyway. Every Sunday, they’re required to get their clothes clean for the week.

We’ve had many tearful (read: I retreated to my room in tears) Sunday mornings over the years. Lots of me yelling at them to get their laundry done and them procrastinating. This morphed into a consequence of no outside play before completing their laundry chores. This stupid rule backfired on me because some days they’d rather prolong doing laundry than play with their friends. One day my younger son literally sat in his room for five hours before he started his chores.

Five flippin’ hours.

But, I continue to make them do their own laundry because I don’t want to do it. Yes, I’m raising self-sufficient boys, but deep down, I hate laundry and look for any excuse to offload that chore. Plus, I have no desire now to mess with a teenage boy’s laundry. There are things in that laundry basket that I don’t need to smell or see. 

Sometimes clothes are left to rot in the washing machine because the boys forget to put them in the dryer. I used to remind them whenever I’d hear the end-of-cycle beep, but I stopped when they morphed into teenage demons from hell who blame me for every wrongdoing known to mankind. Now, I just shrug my shoulders when they complain on Monday morning that they don’t have any clean, dry clothes. 

It doesn’t do me any good to remind them to put their clothes in the dryer. Or criticize them when they forget because they don’t listen to me anyway. 

I’ve learned that adolescent hecklers who embarrass them for going to school with dirty or partially dry, wrinkled clothes do a better job of reminding them.

It all works itself out with no interference from me.


COOKING

I have a moral obligation to provide sustenance for my kids but that doesn’t mean I have a moral obligation to listen to complaints about said sustenance.

So I showed them how to make their own damn scrambled eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches instead. It doesn’t get much easier than cracking an egg in a pan and swirling it around with a spatula for 90 seconds. It only takes 90 seconds to teach your youngster how to feed himself.

My kids also know how to slap some cheese between two slices of buttered bread and grill it in a small skillet until golden brown. Easy peasy grilled cheese.

If you’re still making breakfast or lunch for your kids, please stop and show them how to do it for themselves. 

They can even learn how to make dinner because browning ground beef requires zero culinary skills. When your teen is in the midst of the awful adolescent brain fog that resembles a comatose lobotomy patient, give him a pan and spatula and ask him to move the ground beef around until it’s no longer pink. Then, show him how to use ground beef for tacos, chili, goulash or umpteen other entrees and he’ll never have a shortage of dinner options.


CLEANING

I have zero desire to clean my boys’ bathroom. It’s disgusting. My kids could live in a pile of filth and be okay with it, but I’m not into conducting countertop laboratory experiments at my house. I don’t want things growing on bathroom surfaces in the name of science or because of lazy boys.

And I’m so over cleaning up yellow stains around the toilet because, for reasons unknown to me, the urine couldn’t make it into the bowl. C’mon.

So I split the bathroom-cleaning jobs into four categories (tub, toilet, countertop, floor) with each kid choosing two jobs by a coin flip or rock/paper/scissors.

Lest you think the boys scrub and shine the bathroom to perfection, they don’t. But it’s enough to keep unidentifiable organisms from growing in places where they don’t belong.

And, surprise, surprise, the urine somehow makes it into the toilet more often now.


YARD WORK

You don’t need to pull one more weed or rake one more leaf, mom. Yard work is one job that your kids should do or at the very least help with.

Realistically, raking leaves isn’t a year-round job so it’s not too much to ask that your kids help rake and bag leaves in the spring and fall.

But weeds? Now that’s a different story. Setting up a weed-plucking strategy could net you a few minutes (or hours) of alone time. Who’s not down with that?


WRITING THANK-YOU NOTES

Do your kids one of the biggest favor of their lives and teach them how to write their own thank-you notes.

The fact that most kids text everything these days, including thank-you’s for everything from birthday money to graduation gifts, means your kids will be one of the very few who write actual letters.

And that means more to people than you know.

Writing thank-you notes teaches your kids in multiple ways such as:

  • How to display etiquette and manners
  • How to show gratitude and appreciation
  • How to practice writing and communicating
  • How to address an envelope

Do you know how many kids don’t even know how to address an envelope? It’s bananas!

If this is something you’ve done for your kids in the past, it’s time to let them write their own thank-you notes.

WIDOW WRAP UP

As a solo mom, you have more on your plate than the average mom. Because you’re saddled with ALL OF THE TASKS, it’s time to offload some of these tedious to-do’s and get your kids involved in learning a few valuable life skills.

It’s never too late to teach your kids some self-sufficient skills. If you’re still doing these soul-sucking jobs for your kids, it’s time to pass the baton.

You’ll free up some time for yourself while your kids learn how to become independent humans.

Score!

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