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Get Rid of Chores: Become a Caveman

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I have this ongoing fantasy that I wake up one day as a cavewoman.

My husband, Thak, is there, of course. So are our children, Grug, Boka and Ke$ha. (Ke$ha just sounds like a cavegirl name to me.) We spend our days looking for food and trying not to be food. It's a hard life -- and probably a short one -- but it's not complicated.

There is no laundry to do in the cave, no weeds to pull, no floors to mop, no toys to put away. No jobs, no retirement savings, no credit scores and, thanks to the free availability of caves, no mortgage.

Thak handles most of the hunting, sometimes going away for days at a time in search of wooly mammoths. The kids and I do the gathering, sometimes wandering for days on end, searching out berries and mushrooms. But most nights, we all tuck in together in the cave.

I've been having this fantasy more frequently lately because we're in the midst of a big chore push in my house. My kids -- who are not named Grug, Boka and Ke$ha -- have all expressed an interest in doing chores for money, and I'm smart enough to know that I need to jump on that.

Not only is it good for them to learn the value of work, there's more than enough work in our household for me to share.

But teaching them to do the chores and overseeing their efforts is often more difficult and time consuming than just doing the chores myself. And their standards are quite a bit lower than mine.

I spend a lot of time reminding myself that just because a 4-year-old and I define "clean" differently doesn't mean she didn't put forth maximum effort. And I can go back over it later, after she's asleep.

Living in a cave would make all of this so much easier. I could assign Boka to gather the firewood, tell Ke$ha to get water from the creek, and Grug and I could take turns roasting a mammoth on a spit while Thak scares the saber tooth tigers away. If Ke$ha's sweeping skills left something to be desired, well, who cares? It's a cave!

Absolutely no one would need help with Algebra, there'd be no Legos to step on, no accelerated reading books, and Thak and I would never lose sleep worrying about how to pay for college.

And I wouldn't have to pay the kids to help out around the cave. They would do it because it would be obvious to everyone that we would all A) die; B) die; or C) die if we didn't share the load. Also? Caves don't have WiFi, so they'd have nothing else to do.

I'm amazed and impressed when I encounter families who have the chore thing down. I was raised in such a family, and I'm still not sure how my mother made it happen. By the time I was 11, I was responsible for doing all of my own laundry. It was also my job to plan meals and make dinner for our family every night during the week. I was paid $5 a night for cooking -- which was great money in 1989. I could buy two CDs at Sam Goody with $25. Heck, I'd be thrilled if someone offered me $5 to make dinner every night now.

To get paid, not only did I have to cook, I had to submit my proposed menu to my mother at the start of each week. She required that every meal I planned consist of one meat and two vegetables: "a green and a yellow." If my menu plan didn't meet her requirements, she rejected it and made me submit a revised version.

My oldest child is almost 12. He does not do his own laundry. I think he might know how to warm up pizza in the microwave. He's not at all interested in CDs, though $25 would buy him a lot of iPad apps. He doesn't like to eat the greens or the yellows.

I've got a long way to go.

Which is why I keep having the cavewoman fantasy. Life in caves was short, but simple. I don't think cave parents had to worry about teaching their kids to accept responsibility. I think that was just sort of something they picked up, probably when the saber tooth tigers started circling.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Family and Spouse Military Parenting

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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