Housework: do your children share the chores? New survey from Mumsnet and Women’s Hour makes for depressing reading

How many hours a week do you reckon you spend on household chores?

According to recent surveys for Mumsnet and Women’s Hour  it’s an average of 10 hours a week for working mums and just five hours a week for men. Given that I’m a single parent, I reckon I’m notching up at least 15 hours a week doing tedious things like shopping, cooking, washing and hoovering. Sure, I save some time by avoiding cleaning the bathroom more often than I need to to avoid dysentery, but it’s still a lot.

Housework survey

We know all this though.

As much as some men would like to have us believe we live in an age of gender equality – ‘there’s that ad on TV remember, where the man is made to look stupid!’ – we don’t. It would be nice, but we just don’t. Women still get left with the lion’s share of housework, parenting and other caring duties, on top of working in jobs where they are quite likely paid less than the average man. And that’s just the surface inequality.

In a way I feel a bit sorry for men. Apparently out of 54 common household tasks, women are chiefly responsible for 36 of them. There are just three where men predominantly take charge: changing lightbulbs, taking the bins out and DIY. It feels a bit like only trusting a small child with a pair of special plastic scissors.

Not having a husband around to change the lightbulbs for me while I swoon on the chaise longue, I’m less interested in how much housework men do and more concerned with how you get children to do anything other than groan and  throw the top half of their body around dramatically at the mere sight of a j-cloth.

Seriously, can someone please explain?

How do you get a pre-teen to think to themselves ‘you know what, all this stuff that mummy does for me, maybe it would be nice if I offered to wash up?’ Does that ever happen? And if not, how to you impose some sort of sharing of chores where at least they accept that what they are doing is a fair contribution to the household, even if they don’t particularly enjoy it?

After the separation and move to Taunton I decided that now was the chance for a fresh start housework wise. In my mind I would play the ‘just you and me now kid’ card to Belle, she would take it upon herself to design some sort of colourful housework rota and we would live happily ever after. I didn’t anticipate the extreme disdain she would have for any kind of cooperation and have quickly fallen into the classic trap of doing everything myself just because I can’t bear the drama that comes with asking her to move a plate vaguely towards the sink.

I know that this is typical pubescent behaviour, but is there a way to share the chores more fairly without me having to calm myself afterwards with half a bottle of gin?

All advice gratefully received.



  1. Monika s
    6 October, 2014 / 11:12 am

    I feel your pain. My son is 10 and apart for putting his plate in a sink and taking his cleaned clothes up to his room he does not do anything . Yes, when I ask him to do something he will do it no problem but there is no way he would ever do it again without reminding.
    I know time has changed and there is no point to compare things I used to do when I was his age but it’s hard not to see the uselessness of our kids these days.
    Plus he’s a boy – he wouldn’t care less if the table was sticky, his clothes not washed or the bin overflowing . I have to remind him to clean his ears for goodness sake !!! Because he’s not bothered!!! I just hope that when he starts getting interested in opposite sex his attitude change and he starts paying more attention to esthetic . Moan over:)

    • Jo Middleton
      6 October, 2014 / 6:04 pm

      I think there is an element of truth in the girl/boy thing in terms of men just seeming not to notice mess or dirt or be bothered by it. Mine is a girl though – what’s her excuse?!?

  2. Felicity Kelly
    6 October, 2014 / 1:16 pm

    Tell me about it! I’ve got a husband but he just creates mess the short time he’s in the house! With 2 other messy kids who do nothing to help, a demanding job and pets it’s non stop!!!!

    • Jo Middleton
      6 October, 2014 / 6:06 pm

      I remember a long time ago – when I was about 19 – when I first moved out of home and lived just with my toddler and her dad. I would spend ages tidying up and making our new little house look lovely and he would come home from work, drop his jumper somewhere, fix a snack and leave mess everywhere and not even NOTICE I had cleaned anything! It used to drive me mad!!

  3. 6 October, 2014 / 1:16 pm

    My son would rather forego pocket money than have to clean his bedroom so I’m afraid I can’t offer any advice! The only way I can get him to help is by banning play time on the PS3!

    • Jo Middleton
      6 October, 2014 / 6:07 pm

      I have that exact same problem Kate – Belle would just say ‘that’s fine, take my money’!

  4. Mand
    6 October, 2014 / 5:46 pm

    I’m putting a lot of hope in the replies you get!! I have exactly the same problem and don’t know where to start.

  5. Vicky
    6 October, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    You have met my son haven’t you?? There is more chance of getting him to dress up in a tutu and sparkly heels than getting him to do anything around the house. Pass the gin… xxx

    • Jo Middleton
      6 October, 2014 / 6:21 pm

      If he is here again next time they are playing Dance Moms I think the chances of him ending up in a tutu and heels are actually quite high ;-)

      • Vicky
        6 October, 2014 / 7:40 pm

        This is true!

  6. 7 October, 2014 / 12:57 pm

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if our children helped out more! It would make life so much easier. If it was me (and based on my work with families and teens) I would probably try several things:

    1. I would choose one or two things I want my child to do more that really drive me up the wall. I would not try to change too much at once. Just start with one or two things.

    2. The you can go one of two ways. Sit down and explain your expectations in relation to these things you want your child to do at some neutral time (not during an argument). Be clear, and break things down in steps. We often assume out children know exactly what we mean or want (they often don’t :) ). Agree some small rewards or consequences. Don’t make rewards or consequences too large. Make them ‘smallish’. If they are too large you will get the opposite effect of what you wanted, as motivation will decrease, not increase. Draconian punishments is also unhelpful in the long run. The older the child the more negotiation should be used, but you should have the last word.

    3. You could also choose a different direction, or combine this with the first approach. Descriptive praise works brilliantly for most children, even pre teens and teens. If you see them doing something you want them to do more just notice and let them know you noticed (i.e Kate, I just noticed you put your clothes in the bin without me reminding you. Thanks.”) Don’t flatter or say WOW!, or Brilliant! avoid these words. Just notice and reflect that you noticed. Most children, even difficult ones, will show some results with this within a couple of weeks.

    If it was me I would probably do a bit of both.

    Keep the following in mind:
    – Don’t expect perfection. They won’t do what you want all the time.
    – Don’t expect them to be happy about it. (Aim for co-operation, that’s enough)
    – Don’t give up too quickly! It takes a couple of weeks or more.
    – Shouting or trying to do this in the middle of an argument is unlikely to get you anywhere.
    – Be as consistent as you can and focus on one or two behaviours at a time.
    – If they say ” I don’t care”, this is a trap or strategy they are using to get out of it. They probably do care a lot. Don’t fall for this one :)
    – If you find they really don’t care, find something they do care about, or increase ‘scarcity’. I find that sometimes when young people already have an abundance or toys or distractions around, they don’t really miss that game you take away. They just move on to something else.
    – At the other end of the spectrum, don’t makes every thing conditional. Some pocket money or some internet time can be unconditional, and the rest earned. You decided where the balance is :)

    Anyway, these would be my suggestions.

    Best Wishes


    • Jo Middleton
      7 October, 2014 / 6:40 pm

      Thanks for this Gerhard! There was one thing you said that stood out – ‘don’t expect them to b happy about it’. This is where I’m going wrong! As a single parent I want to get along with the small person I live with and so I guess I want to keep her happy. I need to get used to the idea of being allowed to make her do stuff she is unhappy about!

  7. Karen Whittaker
    7 October, 2014 / 1:13 pm

    As a single mum of two teenagers (one of each) my only request has always been that they keep their bedrooms tidy, clean up the bathroom after they have been in there and put their dirty washing in the clothes basket. Other than that I am happy to do everything else as I appreciate they have a lot on their plates with exams and just being teenagers. The reverse psychology of not always “nagging” them to help means that they actually do a lot of things – I often find the dishwasher emptied and the other day even came home to tea made, cakes baked and the washing pegged on the line.

    Besides which remember the dust will be back tomorrow, but you can never recapture the time with your children, so better happy children than a spotless show home!!

    • Jo Middleton
      7 October, 2014 / 6:41 pm

      Sounds like you are doing a great job! Funny you should mention the things you do as they are some of my pet hates – clothes left on the floor after a shower, clean clothes left on the floor and ending up back in the laundry basket, sometimes still folded… Grrrr…

  8. 7 October, 2014 / 5:29 pm

    Oh it’s such a tricky one isn’t it, as a kid my mum did everything for me – not out of my own choice – and now i must admit I do struggle at times keeping on top of it. Power through the drama I say and see if you can get some housework rota going on. xx

    • Jo Middleton
      7 October, 2014 / 6:42 pm

      I think you’re right Lori, I just need to bite the bullet and get some structure in place. In fact, literally as I typed that I asked Belle to wash up!!

  9. 7 October, 2014 / 5:44 pm

    My girls all have chores to do, setting/clearing the table, feeding animals, putting laundry away etc… what/how many depending on their age. I probably do more than my husband, as he’s always worked outside the home so I could stay home… the past two years he was doing seven day weeks! But if he’s home he’ll do stuff if I ask :)

    • Jo Middleton
      7 October, 2014 / 6:44 pm

      Very impressive Polly, sounds like a great set up.

  10. Annie
    7 October, 2014 / 11:23 pm

    You start with just one chore. You have to accept it will be done badly and in bad humour. Thank themwhen it is done, be sincere and point out now you have time to do something extra for them. Be prepared to redo it yourself. Never ask if job is urgent or in short time frame…everyone hates doing that. Then, when they master one job, add another. Negotiate ” I could have your friend over for tea…but there isn’t time to do that and clean your room’ ‘When it’s done I’ll call his/her mum” Keep persevering. Then add another task. Be prepared to do it alongside them, or demonstrate many times if it has to be done ‘your way’. Stick with it…don’t give up if they mutter, or grumble or just plain don’t do it. If they dont bring the laundry…don’t wash it. It won’t take long for them to discover how unpleasant it is to wear their socks for two days. My kids still need asking…but do their chores and I can do stuff with/for them. About once a year it all goes pearshaped ” None of myfirends have to…..ets etc” I just go on strike for the day. No cooking, cleaning, transporting, bankrolling etc. Things go back to normal after a reality check ! Good luck. In about 30 years you’ll be halfway to training them !!

  11. 8 October, 2014 / 7:08 am

    My youngest is 4 and likes to hoover so I put the cylinder on th shortest setting and let her get on with it. I hoover everyday so she’s just redoing what I do. My oldest is nearly 7 and does my dishes, obviously I do the classrooms sharps first then set her away with her own little sponge and gloves. If they are made ‘fun’ contraction the kids will do them I think??

  12. 8 October, 2014 / 11:45 am

    Who are the people they asked in this survey?! We’ve always split things fairly equally or just depending on who’s around to do things. Basically as we both hate housework! Can you Mary Poppins it up by making it into a game?! Or is she far too old for that? xx

  13. 8 October, 2014 / 1:00 pm

    Well put! Great post. I totally agree that getting your children to help you is both imperative and impossible. I feel we almost ruin our home life by going hard line on it. We are saying stuff like, “In our day…” and “When I was young…”, like a pair of sad old gits.

    But on the other hand, we aren’t prepared to give up. We’ve linked chores to pocket money, and we reinforce CONSTANTLY. I guess we feel we have right behind us — the kids SHOULD help out at home. They just should. In a liberated age, everyone should help keep the show on the road. Kids have many freedoms and rights now that they did not have be for, but that doesn’t entitle them to do nothing to help in the family, just as liberating women from their appalling past roles doesn’t mean that women lie around fanning themselves. Women are working far far harder. So much for liberation.

    I think playing hardball does pay off in the end, as long as one means it. The really hard thing, in my experience, is to keep my cool while asserting what is needed — in other words there must be some residual anxiety about asking my child to do some housework.

    The nastiest inner thought of all? What if my fate will befall my daughter? It’s crucial I raise my son to shoulder his fair share, or else he’ll expect some poor woman to do everything for him, and it’s crucial that my daughter sees me raise him to man up in this way, or else she’ll grow up expecting to cop an unfair load.

    So keep going, you are right to want your daughter to help you.

  14. 10 October, 2014 / 10:28 am

    Cherry is nearly 4 and doesn’t really do anything to help, if I ask her to tidy up her toys she just says no and it’s not worth the hassle of insisting. As she gets older I do want to get her to do certain jobs around the house though, I’m planning to offer pocket money in return for her doing her chores, doubt it will happen though! x

  15. 10 October, 2014 / 2:46 pm

    well Wilf doesn’t..because he’s two I guess but I do try and make him tidy away his toys..I had to do loads when I was little! x

  16. 11 October, 2014 / 12:37 am

    I have to say my little man does help tidy away his toys but it’s something we have always done – he also likes to lay the table and I am sure as he gets older we will add more things to his list of “things to help us with”

    Laura x

  17. 13 October, 2014 / 9:27 am

    This made me laugh. And then I forgot to actually comment! I remember having loads of fights with my mum over my procrastination when it came to housework. As an adult, I’m still…learning… Actually, we’ve got into a pretty good routine of doing things with our 3yo. She feeds the cats, puts her bowl or whatever by the sink when she’s through, packs away her toys, that kind of thing but it has been a learning curve figuring out how to talk to her about it! And sometimes I need to help her a bit, to encourage her to do it. No idea, if all this with continue. Can only hope.

  18. Kathy Barnes
    1 June, 2015 / 2:36 pm

    Working as a team involves kids in the cleaning process, helps them learn cleaning skills, and most important, models both the attitude and the job standard you\’re trying to teach.Greets!

    West Hampstead Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  19. 20 August, 2015 / 3:32 pm

    Hey, Jo! I work for a cleaning company and after reading your post, I asked my colleagues if they can make their children clean and help with household chorus… Well, nobody here can make the kids feel responsible that much :D If that can make you feel better! :)))

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