The fact that I cannot do it all was made clear to me last year when three things happened at once: My husband was out of town, I had to work, and all six kids were home. There was no conceivable way that I could do all the laundry, make the meals and keep the little ones clean and happy. As a matter of survival, our family's distribution of labor had to change.
The first thing I did was pray for wisdom. Then I created personalized "daily to-do lists" for each child. Third, I had a heart-to-heart talk with our oldest children and explained our new circumstances. Our family was going to need their help.
Although Grandma would be assisting with child care, I explained that we weren't going to burden her with housework and cooking responsibilities. Because this was the first time my kids were asked to make vital contributions toward family success, I was adamant about how the attitudes of my older kids would set the tone for their younger siblings, who would also be shouldering responsibilities.
Neither of the oldest two felt confident they had the skills to handle their assigned tasks. So I coached them on how to make simple meals, how to clean up afterward and how to wash, dry and fold laundry.
Relying on each other
Because some tasks required training, I swallowed my pride and asked my brother to stop by. He taught and encouraged my teenage son to use the riding lawnmower. It's an understatement to say that my child was nervous and extremely reluctant at the outset, but with coaching, he was triumphant.
Although I never would've guessed it, my son's assumption of responsibility was a step toward his becoming a man. My son had mastered something that benefitted the family. We were all proud of him, but more important, he was proud of himself.
Through this, I learned that giving children chores was something I did for them, not something I did to them. It built their self-esteem, and when they worked diligently, they gained tenacity. Delegating tasks to my children was a vital part of training them to become responsible and productive adults. Combining employment and motherhood helped me realize that family members need one another, and this mom works best when we all work together.
Sabrina O'Malone is a home-schooling mother of six and the author of Moms on the Job: Seven secrets for success at home and work. She works full time with her husband, Daniel.