Role Reversal: Sharing Housework

Did you ever earn your allowance as a kid by doing chores around the house? I don’t recall right off whether my parents rewarded taking the trash out with a shiny dime or quarter, but I do remember I was expected to handle my fair share as a youngster. Whether cleaning up my room, mowing the grass or helping my dad with his latest, greatest home improvement project, the message was clear: if you live here, you do your part to make the house run.

Fast forward a number of years – maybe 30 or 40 – and that expectation may (should!) still be the same if you wind up living with one or both of your parents again. The difference this time is that you’re each a lot older than before! Regardless of what the calendar says, however, those daily household tasks won’t get done by themselves.

As the adult child, I believe it’s my responsibility to help my mom with those chores whenever and however I can. At the same time, I realize there are some things she enjoys doing, and can still handle with relative ease. Plus, she’s almost always a lot better at them than me! I give her the room to do the things she is physically able to do, but offer to help if she needs it.

A prime example of this is putting fresh sheets on the bed. Personally, I’m terrible at it and I find fitted sheets a particularly difficult challenge (Seriously, has anyone ever successfully folded one of those things?). To my way of thinking, two people are a whole lot better than one when it comes to getting the job done properly.

My mom, on the other hand, is the world’s greatest bed-maker. How she gets that fitted sheet over the mattress pad just perfectly, without any “bubbles” in the sheet or without stretching one of the corners so far that it rips, is a mystery I’ll never solve. Infrequently, she’ll take up my offer to help – and that’s just fine. I feel better for having asked, and I realize her preference for doing the job herself on most occasions reflects more on her proficiency at it than my considerable inability to do
it well.

Another more serious concern is coming to an agreement about the household tasks neither of you should try your hand at. Until about five years ago, I was willing to climb two or three steps up a stepladder and clean the gutters that surround our back deck. But a few additional years and pounds, combined with a knee that I don’t entirely trust, put an end to my ladder-climbing days. And certainly, my mom wants no part of being on a ladder. Neither of us can help the other much with a broken extremity, so we’ve decided that’s one task we’ll gladly pay a younger, more nimble person to handle at our house.

If you’re about to co-habitate with your parents again, take a few minutes at the outset to ask how you can best help them with their to-do list around the house. By shouldering your share of the burden, you’ll be making life easier for everyone – and the rewards will be much greater than that childhood allowance ever was.

By: David Hibbard

Share your role reversal stories with contributing writer David Hibbard. 

Email him at: |
or email the editor: