Pandemic Chore Schedule

The main thing that has changed is who makes lunch and who does the lunch dishes. Making school lunches used to be the weekly rotating job of Mark (12 years), Luke (9 years), and Diana (6 years). Based on ingredients I would leave out, every morning before school one of them would fill 5 plastic bento boxes, each with a lid of a different color. (Although in recent times, Virginia, 16 years, got tired of the salami sandwiches and brie with crackers and said she’d pack her own salads and smoothies.)

Now that all the kids are home during the week, the former lunch person sets the table and pours drinks at lunchtime, and the kids take turns making the meal for everyone except for Virginia, who is now vegan and usually makes her own lunch. (My husband, Enrico, works more than ever and is out of the house from early morning until late at night in his job as a hospital administrator and physician.)

When it’s Mark’s week to set the lunch table, it’s Luke’s week to clean the litterboxes (on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), and Diana’s turn to empty the dishwasher in the morning. Then the jobs rotate, although Luke sometimes tries to get Diana to trade dishwasher for litterboxes, which only has to be done 3 times a week instead of 5.

Another new routine, suggested by the teens when schools closed and adopted at a family meeting, was that each person would do their own lunch dishes, and the person who prepared the lunch would clean the pots and pans and countertops.

Sofia (18 years) makes lunch on Monday, Luke makes lunch on Tuesday, Diana on Wednesday, Virginia on Thursday, and Mark on Friday. 

The teens used to get the younger 3 kids ready for bed at night, until they traded that job for making an extra dinner per week, so I make dinner on Monday, Virginia on Tuesday, Sofia on Wednesday, me on Thursday, and on Friday, we order out from a neighborhood restaurant, one of our new pandemic traditions

Sofia sets the table for dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and vacuums the kitchen after dinner on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and Virginia sets the dinner table on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and vacuums after dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

On the weekends Mark and Luke set the table and vacuum the kitchen after meals. Mark sets the table on Sunday lunch and vacuums after Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner, and Luke sets on Saturday lunch and Sunday dinner and vacuums after Sunday lunch.

The boys also take out the trash and recycling and bring the dirty laundry down to the basement, alternating week by week. I do the laundry on the weekends, and each person bring their clothes up and puts them away.

We usually have 2 dishwashers to load and unload every day, so the afternoon shift is done by Mark and Diana on Monday and Thursday, and by Luke and Diana on Tuesday and Wednesday, and only Diana on Friday.

Dinner dishes are washed by Virginia on Monday, Sofia on Tuesday, Mark on Wednesday, Luke on Thursday, and Diana on Friday (although Enrico or I usually do them for her because she still needs a stool to reach the faucets).

On the weekends, Enrico finishes meals first so he usually jumps up and does the dishes (minus the pots and butcher knives, which I usually do) and he also unloads the 4 to 5 dishwashers per weekend (except for the weird stuff — mixing bowls, whisks, carrot peelers, and baking sheets, which I do).

I make lunch on Saturday and Sunday and Sofia makes dinner on Saturday night and Virginia on Sunday night.

On Sunday, the weekly turns end and new shifts start on Monday. Monday also begins a new bathroom schedule — Mark, Luke, and Diana are assigned different bathrooms each week to get ready for bed because all that used to happen in the kids’ bathroom was playing and fighting. I usually stay with the person in the basement bathroom because no one wants that one, except for Diana who likes that bathtub better.

Diana takes a bath every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and Luke every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and they both take one on Sunday, except when they’ve convinced me they don’t have to, or I’m too tired to make them. 

We only have 1 TV which was not a problem before the lockdown (except on weekends when Sofia and Virginia sometimes wanted to see different movies), and no one was allowed to watch on school nights anyway, unless they watched in Italian. But without friends, play practices, meetings, swim lessons, and babysitting jobs, the rules relaxed and it became clear that we needed a pandemic schedule for the TV too. It was decided that Virginia gets the TV on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night, and Sofia gets it on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night, and they alternate Sundays.

For other occasional and semi-regular jobs, like taking out the compost, cleaning baseboard moulding, and weeding the garden, we rely on our point system, where unwanted behavior (such as potty play, teasing, and bedtime-flouting) results in points which can be cancelled by doing one job per 3 points. 

I know I’ll want to remember this one day.

Trading Potty Words for Silver

The word diarrhea has been said about 13 times so far today and no one is sick. With kids home from school and all their time spent together, the number of points they collect for saying gross things, making potty sounds, and being mean to each other is surging. Our house has become a potty-word-slinging, insult-hurling hot spot.

When we moved to New York City 10 years ago, we were so proud that we could take our daughters Sofia and Virginia, who were 5 and 7 at the time, to places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, institutions that would surely instill a worldly sophistication. We soon realized that the Met, and especially the Greek and Roman statue room, would not be a regular cultural destination due to its extensive collection of butts and penises.

This week alone Luke has earned points equal to 12 jobs, Mark 4, and Diana 3, and I’m running out of chores to give them and the will to enforce it all. I feel like a shipwrecked captain on a deserted island, slowly losing control over her crew.

It’s Saturday morning, and when the usual pillow-fighting, furniture-rocking, and ear-splitting screaming starts after breakfast, I am unable to get the kids outside, so I tell them they have to start doing jobs, like emptying these two dishwashers for example. Then Luke, 9, says, “No, I’m going to polish silver!”

We have a collection of silver-plated serving dishes from my grandmother and thrift shops, which are not valuable but I like to display their old-world beauty on our hutch and occasionally use them to serve fruit salad or dinner rolls. My mom would be happier if we would polish them, but I think their bronzy patina of neglect has an air of faded elegance, and who has the time anyway?

Luke gets the stool and reaches up to get one of the tawny bowls, and I start spreading the table with newspaper. “I want to polish silver too!” Diana, 6, says, climbing up on the hutch and trying to grab another serving dish. 

Earlier this week we had taken an outing to the hardware store, one of the only stores open now, to get more polish and Luke suggested we get two tubs. “I’m going to be doing a lot of polishing,” he said, recognizing perhaps his penchant for potty words and his attraction to this method of penitence.

Mark, 12, says, “That’s not fair that he gets to do all the fun jobs!” and soon three polishers are at the table rubbing silver platters with pinky-gray cream, running over to the sink to rinse them off, and calling, “Whoa, Mama, look!”

We look into these once brown and cloudy platters and see a surface so bright and clear it’s like a mirror miraculously appearing out of a murky pond in the dark woods.

Virginia, 16, who is sitting on the couch going over the list of supplies she’ll need to paint her walls Middleton Pink, comments, “That’s the way they really look?”

After lunch Luke has to do half of Mark’s vacuuming job because he was playing with Legos in his pajamas when it was his turn to set the table. Enrico has started to help Diana with her Italian homework, and as Luke pushes the sweeper wand back and forth over the tiles, he sings diarrea in Italian over and over to the tune of “Oh My Darling, Clementine.”

I let the song wash over me and don’t even consider doing anything except going upstairs for a nap, when I hear the sound of reinforcements arriving. Sofia, 18, that former Metropolitan butt connoisseur, gets up from the living room couch and walks toward the chart with a pen like a dart, yelling, “Luke, do you want to be shining silver your whole life?” 

She adds another tally mark next to his name, and I think, maybe I won’t be carried off by a band of savages. Or maybe I will, but we’ll dine together on the finest silver.