When Should Kids Start Doing Their Own Laundry?

This article, entitled Laundry - The itch I want to teach my children to scratch comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear © on chicagonow.com.

I read somewhere that many marriages last ‘till death, simply because both partners didn’t want to get divorced at the same time. Makes sense to me, because if one person is always fighting for the marriage, things have a much better chance of working out. I think that is part of why my husband and I are still together, but I'm quite certain that a lot of it has to do with the fact that he does his own damn laundry.

I’m his wife, not his momma. Sheesh! I did do it for a time, when I was a SAHM, but he complained one too many times about wanting something clean that wasn’t clean, blah blah - and so I tossed it back to him. He’s a big boy, if he wants the blue shirt clean, he can wash the stinkin' blue shirt. Because how could I possibly know that it needed to be cleaned because he wanted to wear it to a board meeting and no other blue shirt would do? Right, I COULDN'T! What? I don’t read minds! I can hardly keep up with my own clothes, and even after over 20 years together, the man is still a bit mysterious to me!

Eric and I were married for six years before kids came on the scene, and during those years, I refused to get sucked into old school - it's your wifely duty to take care of all his needs - bull****, because it is. Bull**** I mean. He did his own laundry, we shared the burden of housekeeping (even if it wasn’t a 50/50 split), and he made his own doctors and dentist appointments and he was 100% responsible for his own crap.


So now that I’m a mother of two kids who are no longer babies, but nowhere near being considered adults, I have started thinking about teaching them to do their own laundry. But when is the right time? I know all kids can't be lumped together, developmental differences, maturity and what-not needs to be taken into consideration, so that's what I'm considering right now. Are they ready?


There is a fine line between being a martyr and a mother. At least that’s what I’ve observed watching mothers over the years. Have you heard this expression?

“Growing old is mandatory; Growing up is optional.”


But it is so hard sometimes, right? It's tricky to figure out when to be firm and when to be flexible when it comes to setting expectations for them. I don’t want to be a martyr, but I don’t want to be a monster either. I don’t do my husband’s laundry, but I do take care of my children’s clothes. I wash, dry and fold ‘em! After all, they are just kids.

But I do NOT put it away. That is their job. With all the other stuff I have going on, having them help out prevents me from becoming a bitter nag they will eventually grow to loathe and avoid. I really do need help around here, especially with that clingy monkey on my back - laundry.

So that’s why, despite how much it irritates me, I pile clean laundry on a chair in my family room after I fold it, like I’m playing Jenga with clothes. I DO expect my kids to put their laundry away. I confess that sometimes I help them. On rare occasions I even do it for them. The majority of the time though, I expect them to put their clothes away. By themselves! I expect them to do this in a timely manner, although I have not specified what this means.

The laundry chair has become a fixture in our house. If you come over, you will see a pile of laundry, on a chair, in my family room. It might be tall, it might be small, but it will be there.


So tell me, ‘cause I’m asking, tell me your story. How old were you when you learned? Do you share laundry duty or do you insist on doing it yourself (control freak)? Do your kids do their laundry? What age were they when they started and how did it go?

About the Author...
Nicole Knepper
Nicole Knepper is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with two advanced degrees (psychology and gerontology) whose blog, "Moms who Drink and Swear," became the basis for her first book.
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