Six months after the COVID-19 pandemic upended our lives, we're starting to see the ways we've rebuilt our daily routines and schedules. Most of the news is, as you'd expect, grim: Mothers are more likely to bear the brunt of pandemic-related childcare issues, according the United States Census Bureau, and women between the ages of 25 and 44 are three times more likely than men to not be working due to childcare demands.
But if we can find one silver lining in the way we've realigned our family lives in the wake of the pandemic, it's this: Kids are picking up more of the slack when it comes to household chores. This information comes from the Good Housekeeping Institute's "State of Parenting" survey, the results of which were presented at Good Housekeeping's "We Are Family" 2020 parenting summit.
A little more than 1,000 families responded to the survey. In it, parents reported seeing increases in kids' participation in household tasks including food shopping, washing dishes, laundry, yard work, pet care and taking out the garbage. (Interestingly, the data showed that kids had a bigger jump in the amount chores they picked up than spouses/partners did.) With the kids pitching in more, parents saw a 31% decrease in fighting over household responsibilities, along with a 25% decrease in fighting over cleaning specifically. “I tell my family we're a team, and each team member is important because each responsibility is very important to the overall running of the home,” one anonymous respondent said.
Families are getting creative in the ways they do these tasks together. Take this respondent's approach to meal planning: "Everyone gets to pick a meal for dinner each week, and that person is responsible for choosing, checking for ingredients and adding those ingredients to a shopping list."
There are benefits to kids' involvement beyond clean dishes and a fresh supply of underwear. A Harvard Grant Study that started in 1938 and is still ongoing has determined that kids who do chores grow up to become more successful adults. The Good Housekeeping Institute's survey participants can see that in action: "It's taught them more responsibility and everyone sees the value of working together,” one survey participant wrote.
Even children who are very young are getting into the act, although the end result isn't always perfect. "I'm getting my children to help more with certain things like cooking and cleaning," a participant said. "They're 5 and 2, so sometimes they're more of a hindrance than a help, but it makes the time spent together more enjoyable." Not only do they help the time pass, chores help toddlers build skills they'll need later in life. Damon Korb, M.D., a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and author of Raising an Organized Child, has told Good Housekeeping how chores are essential to helping kids become organized, independent adults. They help kids with big-picture thinking, like how to break a task down into smaller steps, plan ahead and problem-solve in the moment, Dr. Korb notes.
The Good Housekeeping Institute findings on chores were presented as part of a day-long virtual event designed to help parents make sense of parenting at this moment in time. With panel discussions, fireside chats and presentations, the summit examined how parenting has changed due to both COVID-19 and the current state of the world. To read more about the events and programs, including the winners of the first-ever Parenting Awards, you can watch recordings of the event here.
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