My husband works 3 nights of the week, but I still try to get somewhat of a decent meal on the table when he's gone. Without his help though, it's easy for me to feel like a slave... cooking, cooking, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning... and then repeat!
My epiphany during my labor (dinner clean up labor, that is!) was that this SHOULD NOT be drudgery for mom! Part of enjoying something is learning the creation process that goes into it. I realized that my children could not fully enjoy the tradition of family dinner time if they were not participating in any of the work... When we work for something, we appreciate it much more, right?! Same thing goes for family meals. Most definitely.
Not only is helping to clean up a kind thing to do, but I believe that it is a mandatory manner! I hope hope hope that when my children are eating at someone else's house that they will help clean up- even if it is just clearing their own plate, and offering to help with the dishes.
I realized that I was actually doing my kids a disservice by doing it all myself... the Little Red Hen was soooo right!
The Non-Magical, Yet Practical Chore Chart
I made a little pie chore chart, that you probably had in 1987 (if you were alive at that time). It works fabulously. These charts have a few other chores that they are in charge of, but most pertinently here are their dinner time jobs.
This is no glorious tutorial... just cut 4 different sizes of circles out of poster board. Write the children's names on the inner circle. Divide the other circles into different categories of chores. On my outer circle, I wrote the room that they are in charge of for the week. After dinner each day, they have to make sure that room is clean, along with their dinner job-which is written on the orange circle here. On the purple circle, is the job they must have completed by Saturday.
I know this chart isn't beautiful or "pinterest worthy", but it works :)!
Even my 3 year old twins ask me every day what their job is. (And they actually still enjoy "chores"!)
My kids are not perfect at cleaning up after dinner, but even their simple efforts make me feel like dinner time is useful and not drudgery!
Best of Luck!