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5 Kid Chores That Will Give You More 'Me Time'

Children help cook a family meal.

Ah, those early days of parenting when a mother can't use the bathroom alone without being followed or fearing that her toddler might wreak havoc on the house in those few minutes away from her. I remember showering with my infant daughter bawling in her bouncy chair propped on the tile floor and feeling as if I had completely given up my body, certainly my breasts, to my two babies. I wondered if I would ever have time to myself again.

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Then something amazing happened. My kids got a little older, a bit more independent. I was not their only food source. I could take a shower without having to put on an entertain-the-baby show. And I could start to see that my life actually had its own outline.

But the theoretical separation of mother and child is one thing; putting it into action so your whole family thrives is another. With that in mind, here are some small steps you can start taking when your kids are young to lay the groundwork for bigger things, such as you having time to yourself again and your children taking responsibility and learning how to be more independent.

You'll invest some time upfront training your kids on various tasks, but I promise it will be worth it.

1. Kids Cook One Night

At the age of 4, my daughter started making scrambled eggs. She loved cracking the eggs, the sizzle of butter in the pan, the gooey fun of stirring in cheese, then gobbling up her own culinary creation. She needed supervision and always made a mess but slowly she learned about the cooking process, including stove safety. By the time she was 6, she could cook a meal for the family and has been doing that once a week since the age of 10.

While she cooks, I often take a few minutes to read. It's a way to treat myself and show her that we all get to take breaks now and then.

2. Kids Do Their Dishes

How often do you load and unload that dishwasher each week? A lot, right? Well my feeling is this: When kids are old enough to open it, they can certainly learn to load their own plates. Don't get hung up on insisting on your one perfect system and never belittle their efforts, just get them in the habit now.

When they're a little older, they can then clean up after dinner. And you can maybe catch up on the news that you missed while taking care of everyone else all day.

3. Kids Do Their Laundry

Nothing stinks more than my son's hamper after a soccer game, except for a soccer game played in the rain. After several years and countless cycles of wash, dry, fold, put away, repeat, I realized my son, at age 9, was ready for the task. Now, at 16, when his soccer clothes aren't clean, it's his fault. Of course he's a boy, so he doesn't always care about that sharp revolting smell of sweat, but mostly he has come to understand that having clean soccer clothes is his own responsibility.

While he pairs socks and folds T-shirts, I often hang out in the room and chat as I take care of another task. It's a way to spend time with my teenager without him knowing what I'm up to.

4. Kids Take Care of Recycling and Garbage

On Sunday night, my son and daughter gather the garbage around the house and bring it all to the curb. They've been helping with this since they were young and now take it on themselves.

While my husband and I prepare for the week ahead, we are happy to leave this task for our teens, letting them learn the value of doing a chore together.

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5. Everyone In for Saturday Morning Clean-Up

We set the timer for 30 minutes and turn off all technology. We work together on common spaces first, then take care of cleaning our own rooms.

When everyone helps out, our kids learn how our family functions together. So do the parents.

Photograph by: Sandra A. Miller

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