28 Feb
This House is not an Equal Opportunity Employer

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My 14 year old daughter does some cleaning jobs around the house to make extra money. My son (12) recently asked if he could do that too, and I agreed. Should he be paid the same as my daughter is even though he is younger and doesn’t do as good of a job as she does?



Dear EOE,

Oh, how I envy you. At the moment, my kids are still only 3 and 5, and think “cleaning” means throwing things into a corner while simultaneously sobbing about their torment and petitioning the cats for amnesty from their wretched mother. (And that’s WITH bribery, unfortunately.)

But back to your situation. I firmly believe that there is no reason to pay both kids the same amount “just because.” Is this how the real world operates? Hell no! In fact, when one of them complains, tell them to just be happy they aren’t being TAXED! Or that the national gender wage gap doesn’t apply this fiscal year! OR THAT THEY AREN’T WORKING IN SWEATSHOPS, you ungrateful little–

Where was I?

I think the important thing to remember here is that, before you set up any type of allowance agreement, think about age-appropriate chores for each child. Also, be clear about what type of performance is expected from each one of them. For example, having the five year-old manage the electric bill will not “help him learn responsibility” as much as it will “show him how quickly his parents break with the power shut off for DAYS ON END.”

Not that I’m speaking from experience.

Especially since your kids are a little bit older, you don’t need to stress as much about being “fair.” But if you are worried about that,  I’d suggest going with a performance-based pay scale. If they’re both doing the exact same quality of work, then perhaps they should be paid the same amount. I’m guessing, however, that there will be a bit of  a lapse between the two, in which case, pay accordingly.

Of course, this will be a bumpy road at first, as you’ll probably have to deal with some fallout regarding gender relations and glass ceilings and possibly a civil lawsuit that leads to parental emancipation, but these can all be learning opportunities, amirite?! Minor squabbles and doubts about the validity of your love as a mother are nothing when compared to the glimpse of the “real world” you’ll be giving them.

Warm regards,

Kristine, TMH

11 Responses to “This House is not an Equal Opportunity Employer”


Comment by Brett Minor.

I completely agree. This borders on people who buy presents for the brothers and sisters of the birthday boy so no one feels bad.

If they are doing the same job with same quality, then pay the same. Otherwise, no need to do it to just be ‘fair.’ Plus, it would cause confusion later when they expect the same treatment and it is just not possible anymore.


Comment by Carol.

Don’t forget, if they fail to do a chore {and you don’t want to do it}, give the other child the opportunity to do the chore, but the lazy slacker has to pay the ambitious one for their work! It won’t happen more than one time, and each kid will be back to doing their chores. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Chelle Reply:

Oh how I love this idea. I may have to use this on my 15 year old, although the 13 year old does a crappy job on anything I tell him to do and then he complains that he has to do it. (Like taking his dirty glasses downstairs and putting them in the dishwasher. That’s child abuse, right?)

Karin W Reply:

love it! wish it would work in my house – I have one child who has no problem not having spending money if she can pay her sister to do her work…


Comment by Plano Mom.

For us, the deal was they were expected to do the chores regardless of the money. They were paid for doing their chores without having to be told. They didn’t get paid if you couldn’t tell they did it. If they do a lousy job, we still have to tell them to do it. It worked until the oldest got a job.


Comment by sisterfunkhaus.

No, don’t pay them the same amount. Tell him that he is getting the starting wage for the jobs. Let him know that her pay is based on merit and doing an excellent job. Tell him he can earn what she does, if he consistently does as well as she does. Explain to him that this is how jobs work in the adult world. It’s a teachable moment.


Comment by rojopaul.

In my house, we use their ages as their base monthly pay and they get paid twice a month like when we get paid (so $16 and $10 a month). BUT if they don’t do the chores, or they do a bad job, they can lose money. There are always other opportunities to make more by taking on other “out of the norm” chores also if someone is saving for something.

I understand the concept that we are all part of a family and everyone has responsibilities, and that’s important to discuss. (One can clear the table of everyone’s dishes to be courteous, and that doesn’t count as a chore for payment, but taking out the trash does.) But I also know that I don’t work for free at my job so I don’t expect my kids to either.

We have also reduced the pay if someone exhibited a generally bad attitude about doing their chores or barely doing them. (Not just one day but if it becomes a battle to get it done.)

We also rotate duties, so one doesn’t get stuck always doing the thing they hate. One does it one day and the other does it the next day, which has resolved a lot of issues!

My last bit of advice is don’t be afraid to tweak things when you see something’s not working. It gives the kids a chance to come up with a better solution if something’s not getting done and show them nothing is set in stone. That way, everyone’s opinion matters and we can jointly come up with a solution that works.

Mary Reply:

rojopaul: Love all of your suggestions as well as every one else’s. But I especially agree that some chores are done because we are responsible as a family and one doesn’t get paid to do them. Like putting away your own laundry – in our house. So thanks!

Kristine Reply:

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.


Comment by Erin@MommyontheSpot.

Hilarious!! And I agree on the performance based pay scale.


Comment by Ace.

holy crap, you suckers are PAYING kids who live in your house rent free to clean? Shoot, if only I had been born 10 years later to different parents, I too could have “earned” an allowance. We cleaned the house top to bottom and never got paid once. I think mom & I need to have a serious sit-down!

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