'I stopped asking my kids to do chores around the house. I've never been happier and calmer.'

I have four children and I've stopped asking them to do chores. I've also stopped expecting my husband to help around the house.

The atmosphere of our house has completely changed for the better.

I'm happier.

I'm calmer.

I didn't hire a cleaner.

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At our place, there's also an inside dog and two cats on complicated raw food diets.

Add a farming husband who eats all of his meals at home, living rurally where we are too far away to get UberEats or takeaways to the mix and you get an idea of just the dishes created.

Six people also make a shit ton of dirty socks and unmade beds and smeary fingerprints on windows and benchtops too.

Sometimes it can feel like the sheer amount of stuff that needs to be cleaned and washed and organised is insurmountable.

Like the cups and spoons and plates are raving all night by the light of the microwave and spawning piles of illegitimate kitchenware offspring.

Read more: "I asked my husband to take on the mental load of feeding his dog. Here’s how it’s going."

But lately, I've stopped asking anyone to do dishes, fold the laundry or sort the recycling and I'm happier than ever.

In the past I've tried everything to get my family to share the load... sticker charts, laminated job pie charts.

I tried paying my children to help. Conned them with enamel eroding sweets. I've cried, sworn, and slammed dishes angrily in the sink after dinner.

In pure frustration, I've left the breakfast dishes to calcify all day on the table and to 'teach them a lesson'.


They just lived around them.

Because my kids would rather be doing a thousand and one other things (because they're kids) and my husband is often out on the farm doing 16-hour days birthing cows.

Yes, he does what he can. He hangs out washing and makes a mean one egg chocolate sponge. But he simply doesn't have the daylight hours available to contribute to the housework.

When he comes inside to eat, he genuinely couldn't care less if we ate off paper plates. Or used our hands or ate sitting on top of newspaper and composted the lot afterwards.

What he does care about is my happiness.

Ever since our children arrived a decade ago, (cumulating in the surprise joy of twins!), it's fallen to me to manage the lion's share of housework. 

Me, who decides if chores get divided up (and try to enforce who does what, when).

Me, who laminates the job charts, chooses if I bribe or shame my children into helping clean up. 

It's also me that chooses to get worked up if the Tupperware drawer is disorganised.

And now it's me, that gets to choose to not let the angst of housework wreck my happiness.

For now, I've decided to stop nagging my family to do housework, and either do it myself now or later or... not at all.

It's dawning on me that I can decide to crank up Lizzo and sing my heart out while I scrub the loo or mutter swear words to the toilet duck.

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I get to show my children that part of the awesomeness of being an adult is choice. 

And that if we have a particularly busy day, or I'm tired or have PMS and no amount of hip hop will get me in the mood to do the dishes, I can choose to soak the plates and do them tomorrow when I feel like it.

I like a clean house. I do. I can appreciate the satisfaction of a polished sink and every sock matched and put away. 

I'm not immune to the thrill of all those rainbow coloured bookshelves fetishised on Instagram.

But I like being happier more. I like not arguing with my kids. I like stepping off the treadmill of bribing. I like not feeling frustrated that they've done a crappy job on the dishes because they didn't want to do them in the first place.


My kids will leave home one day and make their own dishes. They'll also get to make their own choices around how much they prioritise housework and the hold it has on their happiness. 

As adults, they'll get to choose how much the mental load of folding towels they'll allow to occupy their brain space, and whether they'd prefer to swap chores sometimes for doing something they like.

In the meantime, the weirdest thing has happened.

My housework hasn't magically disappeared.

But, my kids are more often choosing to hang around me when I've got music on and am sweeping the floor. 

They're more likely to pick up the brush and shovel and help if I'm in a good mood and they get to tell me about their ultimate dream motorbike at the same time.

If I'm happy, or at least neutral, and folding washing, someone often sidles up to me to explain the dynamics of Elsa and Ana... and then often put their laundry away afterwards. 

By stopping demanding my family helps, or expecting them to share the load, I do what is important to me (beds, floors, toilet, washing clothes) and get round to the rest when I want to (dishes, windows, folding laundry, rainbow organising craft supplies).

And what I'm beginning to realise is that the mental load of housework mostly only bothers me. And if it only bothers me, I can choose more often to let it go.

Is my house pristine?

No (and you should see the car).

There's absolutely still mess. There's still children and animals. 

Is there stress? 

Yes some, but less. 

Way less.

So I'm choosing choice. I'm choosing to model to our children that being an adult is phenomenal. 

That as adults we have choice and get to decide how much value we place on our housework, how much mental load we decide to carry because our dishes are piling up. 

And so far it feels radical, and freeing and so fricken adult.

Jenna Cunningham is a Kiwi mum of four beautiful children including twins, living on a dairy farm in rural New Zealand with a French Bulldog and a farmer, searching for the perfect pepper grinder.

Feature image: Supplied.