How to swap caregiving chores
May 22, 2010 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Elderly father-in-law is coming to live with us (my husband and me). Sister caring for our elderly mother, lives nearby. Sister is fabulous cook, and likes to cook. I hate cooking, and always eat out. Elderly father-in-law's presence will end that. Sister and I want to swap chores, doing for each other what we're good at and like to do. How in the world can I compensate her for cooking for us? Besides buying the food. I can do the shopping, and even pay for the food, but what else? My only talents are hand sewing, crocheting, making quilts. Has anyone done this community type of thing? Any suggestions?
posted by readsew to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Clean her house?
posted by lunasol at 4:19 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You like fabric. What about doing her laundry?
posted by salvia at 4:22 PM on May 22, 2010

If you have time and she has a big enough kitchen you can go over and be her sous-chef while she's cooking - help her with small tasks, do the clean up and washing so she doesn't have to.
posted by amethysts at 4:25 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

... To expand on my "laundry" idea above, she could cook a few big batches of food on the weekend while you take evvvvveryone's laundry to the laundromat and do like 15 loads of laundry during the same 90-minute wash/dry cycle it'd take to do just one load. The only catch there is that everyone would have to give you something like $3 per load (just like you'll have to pay her back for the raw ingredients), and you'll have to find ways to transport batches of both dirty and folded clothes.
posted by salvia at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2010

I would happily cook many meals in exchange for someone doing my laundry! There's also house cleaning, yard work, running errands, minor home repairs (if you or your partner is handy). Maybe her house could really use a new set of curtains or throw pillows? Maybe she has clothing that needs simple mending or a button sewn on?

I love to cook too, but I hate cleaning my kitchen afterwards. If she was going to make many meals in advance for your family, perhaps you could offer to be the clean-up crew for her kitchen and do the dishes, especially if she lacks a dishwasher.
posted by inertia at 4:32 PM on May 22, 2010

Would you be willing to be the designated errand and shuttle person? You could provide transport to doctor's appointments, pick up prescriptions, go to the bank, post office, library, dry cleaners; I know my elderly father always has some little jaunt in mind. I would cook all day, every day (and clean! and do laundry!) if someone would just run errands for me.
posted by Allee Katze at 4:37 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to be obvious, but it seems like you should hash this out with your sister. What chore does she hate? Which ones do you like?
Don't just think in terms of 'talents,' think in terms of things that other people find annoying that you like. Driving? Laundry? Cleaning? Making appointments? Other caring for elderly relative stuff?
posted by grapesaresour at 4:46 PM on May 22, 2010

It seems to me that shopping and paying is a pretty big thing towards evening out the work load. In my house, when someone does all the cooking, doing the cleanup is considered to be a pretty fair exchange, as well. As your father-in-law will be staying at your house, I'm guessing you'll be able to contribute this, as well, if your sister is eating over?
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:25 PM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Second asking your sister which chores she dreads most. I was so surprised to find out that my sister-in-law LIKE to do laundry (she found it relaxing, I find it a never ending chore). On the other hand I am very happy to balance a check book - a little puzzle and a reward screen when it balances. So, take the ideas offered and see which ones work for both of you.

Also, if you have the flexibility, offering to drive to doctor's appointments is big favor. All doctor's appointments plus a morning of errands would be an even offer in my book.
posted by metahawk at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2010

While you are swapping, also plan to invite the other parent over some evening so you each get a chance to be home alone in your house.
posted by metahawk at 6:15 PM on May 22, 2010

3ding grapesaresour and you should ask what they want, then build a rota based on.that. fill the gaps that need to be filled - based on what you've said that means shopping and cleaning and driving.
posted by goo at 6:27 PM on May 22, 2010

Another way to try to get at it is to show up while she cooks and work while she works -- laundry, cleaning, dishes, whatever -- so that you know you're contributing a similar amount. If you shop a couple times a week, do that while she's cooking.
posted by palliser at 6:32 PM on May 22, 2010

Oh, also -- I know you mentioned your strengths as sewing, quilting, crocheting -- but even for those of us who enjoy cooking and are good at it, doing nightly cooking for a family is not really the same as engaging in a hobby. It's a little too regular and pressing for that, which makes it more like a chore that has certain side-benefits.

Basically, I think you should take something equally pressing off her hands, rather than make her things. That seems more of an even exchange to me.
posted by palliser at 6:55 PM on May 22, 2010

palliser: Oh, also -- I know you mentioned your strengths as sewing, quilting, crocheting -- but even for those of us who enjoy cooking and are good at it, doing nightly cooking for a family is not really the same as engaging in a hobby. It's a little too regular and pressing for that, which makes it more like a chore that has certain side-benefits.

This! As much as I love cooking, there's a big difference between doing a cake on the weekend and rushing through something for dinner after a day's work. I'd happily swap cooking for vacuuming/dusting/mopping.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2010

I know you said she "likes" cooking, and I'm sure that DH's family thinks I "like" cooking as well.....which I do to an extent. I like trying new recipes and having them be successful. But trust me, cooking day in and day out for a group of people can quickly turn into a very frustrating chore.

Even if DH were to offer to go grocery shopping, it would be more frustrating than it's worth b/c I can look at a recipe and *know* what things I have and what things I need. DH isn't a cook, so even if I make the most explicit list possible, he'll still call me at least 3 times asking questions. And then if he can't find something he'll make what he considers a reasonable substitution (when it's not), or if there's something he can't find, he'll just drop it all together when it's an important part of the dish, and if I was there I would know what kind of substitutions would work. Does that make sense?

But at the least she should not be asked to make dinner more than 5 times a week, and you guys should work out an alternative for the other well as finding a chore that she despises that you guys can take over.
posted by texas_blissful at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2010

I am a good cook, but I hate to cook. It is a major chore and a onerous task. If I were to cook for someone, I would consider just compensation if they cleaned up afterward. By clean up, I mean all the dishes, pots, counters, floor. The kitchen and dining room should look like they were not used. I agree with Texas_blissful about shopping, easier for the cook to do it himself.
posted by fifilaru at 10:36 PM on May 22, 2010

If you're looking for ways to make sure that both of you feel that it's an equitable exchange, just add up the average amount of time spent shopping for food and cooking, and figure out tasks that she'd looove to never do again that equal about that amount of time.

Plus, make sure she doesn't have to do a single dish afterwards. I'm a big, big fan of "whoever cooks does not clean up." This may be something that the elderly parents can do, if they're physically able. It's hard to go from living independently to having to depend on your kids.
posted by desuetude at 11:02 PM on May 22, 2010

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments and opinions. Gave us much food for thought. I've put my sis to the task of thinking up her most dreaded chores for me to do.
posted by readsew at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2010

Just as a follow-up, my sweet father-in-law passed away, and I no longer need to swap with my sister. I do help her out, though. She's an angel with my mom. Thank you all for the time you took to answer my question.
posted by readsew at 1:12 PM on August 1, 2010

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