I notice that a topic that often comes up on online parenting forums and Facebook groups is the one of how to structure pocket money.
We have been ‘doing’ pocket money for some years now, and I thought I might share with you how we do it. Not because it is the right way, but because it might offer a different way of thinking about it. Each family needs to work out what works best for them.
When our kids were little, we decided that we wanted to pay them pocket money, but I was cautious about linking it to chores. The thought process behind this was, that as a SAHM nobody pays me to work around the house. There is no magic house work fairy that leaves me two quid under my pillow for every pile of washing I sort or floor I mop.
Nobody pays me to wash up, sweep, wash clothes or clear the dish washer. I don’t get payed to put my clothes away, or keep my room in a relatively tidy state. That last one might be because it rarely is, but let’s face it, if I am not being payed for cleaning the loo, then I doubt my room is going to rate!
Because of this travesty of life, I thought it was an unfair expectation to set for our kids. I was conscious of setting up false life expectations for them. At no other point in their adult lives would they be payed to do these things. They would just have to do them.
I also thought it was a an unfair expectation to set the tone for future life partners that ‘someone else’ will take care of it for me. While the clear (and agreed) roles my husband and I have in our home work (mostly), that may not be the way their lives operate later on. And I did not want to be the one responsible for raising sons who didn’t know how to look after themselves, nor daughters who felt they were only prepared to keep house.
I don’t think life skills, nor house work should be gender based any more than I think careers should!
This underlying philosophy meant that I wanted the kids to learn how take care of things around the house, simply because they would need to do that for themselves and perhaps others, later on in life. I didn’t think that linking this to money would be a helpful expectation to set.
What about learning the value of working for money I hear you say? Surely it teaches children a good work ethic to have them earn money from their chores?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, there is definitely a work ethic that comes from doing chores.
No, I don’t believe there are any additional lessons learnt from doing chores, no one else get’s payed to do.
We decided that we would pay our kids half their age each week. Half of that goes into a bank account which becomes compulsory savings for when they are 18. With the other half they can do what they want.
This isn’t linked to basic chores at all, it just is.
I have had to spend a lot of time trying to get the balance right here. When I was a young mum, I read lots of quite fundamental Christian parenting books, and the mind set seemed to be (simply broken down) that when families got bigger, the kids needed to do more. They took on more chores and more minding of younger siblings.
I was really conscious of not wanting to fall into this mindset. While I understand that others are ok with this for all kinds of theological and philosophical reasons, I personally struggle with children being made responsible for the life choices of their parents.
I love big families, when my husband married me, he knew I wanted a big family. I would have had more children if I hadn’t had to of had c-sections (5 is a lot). But after a miscarriage in 2010, I just knew my body was done. I share this, because I want you to know, I come from a pro-big family view point.
While I am pro-big family, and I am pro families pulling together and sharing the load. At no point did I want to transfer my responsibilities to my children. My husband and I are responsible for our home and the work around it, and we are responsible for our children. It is our job to make sure they are looked after, it is not their job to serve our lifestyle choice.
So the fine line comes from not wanting to ‘use’ children as work horses around the house, but wanting very much to make sure they are prepared with the necessarily life skills they will need when they leave home. The motive here was very important to me, and making sure I had that right, helped me sleep at night.
Kind of on the same vein here is that, I am not a work horse who simply exists to clean up after my family either. While I love to do things for my family, because I love them and want to care for them, I am an individual with needs too. This especially became clear to me when the children were all at home being home educated. I simply could not be out for hours and hours during the day and after school hours, at activities, play dates, meet ups, lessons, sporting groups and driving them hither and yon. As well as facilitate their learning at home, keep up with all the house work and have time for myself. I often slipped into my Martyr Mum costume if I wasn’t careful.
We all needed to pull together so that everybody got their needs met. Which is one of the reasons I don’t like linking money to basic chores.
I will say that as the children grew up and have reached that difficult age where they would really love to have a job, but aren’t quite old enough (by law in the UK), we did make additional paid jobs available to them to earn extra money. We payed them what they would earn out in the world.
We worked this out based on the kind of jobs you might pay someone else to do. Some examples might be;
sorting or organising a particular space
cleaning the oven
Even now our uni aged children will often take us up on this offer when they want to earn some extra cash.
How about you? How did your parents structure pocket money? How do you do it? I am always interested to hear how other families do life. There is so much learning to be done, from hearing other’s stories.