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A recent conversation in a Facebook mother’s group got me thinking about balancing housework and kids. The conversation went something like this:
“I feel like a horrible mom because I can’t just let the housework go and focus on my kid. I want to spend more time playing with them, but I stress out when the house isn’t clean. I know I should just let it go and focus on my kid, but I can’t or I get anxiety! I try to turn it off, I try to not care, but I can’t!”
“uggg, me too! I just can’t relax in a dirty house!”
“I also struggle with this, I know my kids need all of my attention right now, but I need to get my work done too!”
“Just relax ladies. They’ll only be small for so long. Your kid needs you right now, just be ok with it being messy.”
On and on an on. Mommy guilt galore and advice to just learn how to relax if it’s messy. Well I call shenanigans! Having a clean house is important. Doing what is healthy for you as a mother is important. If our lives revolve around our children to the point of neglecting ourselves and our homes that is not a good thing! Our children need a well-organized clean home just as much as they need face to face with mom time. Also contrary to popular belief your children do not need, or in most cases even want, unlimited “mom plays with me” time (that’s a new post for a new day).
Now my house is no Martha Stewart magazine, but it is neat and clean. My laundry isn’t folded, but it’s washed. My sink has dishes in it, but they are rinsed and stacked neatly. My living room has toys all over, but there isn’t any trash and it gets swept regularly. You do have to accept a certain amount of clutter as a mom, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to keep order and avoid filth!
1. Timed Tidy
When you feel like the mess is getting to be a bit much set a timer for 5-15 minutes (depending on how much time you have and how much of a mess there is) and just tidy the one room that is bugging you the most. When the timer stops you’re done. You’ll feel better that the room is cleaner and you can avoid the whirlwind of deep cleaning that can take you away from the other things you needs to accomplish.sometimes I set a specific timer, but I will do a quick ‘pick up the junk’ shallow clean of a room then move on to something else guilt free.
2. Full Hands In, Full Hands Out
Every time I walk from one room to another I check to see what needs to go with me. Is there a plate in the living room? Toys in the bedroom? Dirty clothes that need to go to the laundry room? Just grab a handful of things that are out-of-place and put them away on your way from one room to another.
3. Make it a Challenge/Game
Kids love it when you give them a challenge and they succeed. There are so many ways to make cleaning a fun challenge. You can set a timer and see who can pick up the most things. You can give rewards for finishing in a certain time frame. You can see who can balance the most toys on their head while carefully walking to the toy box. You can pretend the floor is hot lava and they have to walk along the couch and chairs in order to put all the toys away. With smaller kids you can practice counting, shape sorting, and color identification as you put each toy away. Get creative and make it fun.
4. Have a Schedule/System
It is really easy to walk past that sink of dishes stress free when I know that I have budgeted time in my day to do them after dinner. Having a system and schedule in place helps me to be more efficient. I start the dishwasher right before bed, I empty it in the morning, then we put dishes in it all day as we are done with them. This keeps my sink and counter relatively dish free and saves me time on having to load the dishwasher later. I know that right before bed is toy pick-up time. I can happily walk through the minefield in the living room knowing that in the evening it will all be picked up so I can enjoy my quiet time with my husband in a clean room.
My mother would say that this should be tip #1. Growing up there was a sign taped on my closet door that said “When in doubt, Throw it out!” As a kid it always drove me nuts, but as an adult I may be an even better de-junker than my mother was! The less you have the less there is to clean. Kids don’t need ten million toys. Haven’t you ever noticed that most toddlers prefer to play with the box? In our home we try to stick with open-ended imagination encouraging toys such as dolls, cars, and building supplies. Clean-up doesn’t take very long when you only have about 20 toys on the floor instead of 200. Observe which toys get played with the least and get rid of them. If you just can’t bring yourself to get rid of most of the toys then sort them into boxes of about 5-10 toys per child and put all but one box away. Every few weeks you can rotate the boxes, getting a new one out and putting the current one into storage. It’ll be like Christmas, all new toys to play with!
6. Ditch the Chores
I know, that doesn’t sound like something that should be on this list, but ditching chores was the best thing we ever did for our home. Instead we do family work. Everyone, including Mom and Dad, works together to complete one task. This doesn’t mean I’m hovering and supervising. This means I get down on the floor and help my kids. While working together we are spending time together and having fun. They are learning life skills and they also feel like they are on the same team with Mom and Dad. Work gets done quicker with a lot less fighting and complaining. For example, last night our living room and dining room were way messier than usual. Daddy and Maddy were out on a date so the rest of us got to work. Ben was picking up all the trash, Leah and Rachel were picking up toys, and I was picking up all the other random odds and ends and then swept. Even Jack at age two was able to help pick things up and put them away. While we worked we talked about their day, answered lots of random questions, and sang a few songs.
**update: Now that we’ve added 3 more helpers to the family we usually split the kids into teams and I float around helping where I’m needed most and keeping everyone on track.**