Pay Your Kids for Chores

It’s a common debate now-a-days. Do kids get cash for chores or are they unpaid family responsibilities?

No Pay? No Problem. She'll Learn.
No Pay? No Problem. She’ll Learn.

Ron Lieber, the New York Times’ “Your Money” columnist and author of the new book The Opposite Of Spoiled, says don’t pay your kids for chores.  One reason?

“According to Lieber’s philosophy, kids should look at chores just like adults do. ‘They should do them for free, the same way we do. And if we want leverage over them, then we can take away their privileges and not their money,’ he said.”

Sounds good in theory.  We’re all part of a team, appreciating each other and doing our share.  Here’s the problem with this advice.  It’s not reality. Housework, in reality, is a sexist quagmire.

If “kids do chores just like adults do” than male children should do very few chores and girl children should pick up the slack.  Which is actually the reality of children and chores. According to studies, girls on average do two additional hours of chores a week compared to boy children. And, in Lieber’s world, they’ll do it without compensation.

Let’s also acknowledge that housework in our society has no dollar value and little social commodity value.  It’s called “invisible work,” and its invisibility begets its degraded value.

Women are the ones who still do the majority of invisible work.  The kind many feel should be accomplished via “pitching in.” Baseball metaphors aside, the males aren’t doing as much pitching. When wives and husbands both work full time jobs, the women still did twice the amount of housework. It clearly is viewed as near valueless by some and yet try outsourcing household tasks and watch the money, real money, fly out the door.

So, if that’s how we operate with our kids, on an honor system of pitching in with no monetary reward, than we’re teaching kids that housework has no monetary value (which is not true). And if they have eyeballs, we’re also teaching them that women should do more of it than men and not complain if they receive no pay or even special acknowledgment of its value — monetary or otherwise.

In my world EVERYONE should get paid, real money or value of time spent, for household chores.  Unlike Lieber, I have a strong reason to make sure my son does not look at chores and housework “just like adults do.” Because most adults obviously still see it as valueless women’s work.

So, I pay my son for work he does around the house. I know this is a product of privilege. If I did not have the cash to do this, I’d track and acknowledge hours spent and find a different way to reward effort on invisible work.  I would not leave such things to the vague notion of “pitch in.”

I also think everyone in the family should be aware of what these jobs cost to outsource. I am able to pay my kid  what I would pay a stranger to do the same job. I can’t get my grass cut for less than $10.  That’s what I give Indy. How much is paid for laundry? Whatever my local laundromat charges for drop off.

Household work, and family care work, is expensive. So if we as capitalists value things based on cost/productivity, than let’s starting viewing chores as hours worked and time lost.

Not only do I pay my kid, I clock my own hours of invisible work. Caring for a sick relative, doing housework, caring for pets. I log and track that work and it is why I do not work 55 hours out in the corporate world.

My husband and I struck a deal. I work 30-35 in corporate and 20 at home (managing it). And if the balance tips, we agreed, the invisible work gets outsourced. It’s only fair.

1 Comment

  1. This is genius. Indy is destined to be a good man.

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