Friday, April 24, 2009

Young children and efficiency in housework: mutually exclusive?

Over the past week, I received two emails from two Moms of several small children, who described a similar problem: both said they can hardly find the time to do anything around the house, let alone time for themselves, because the children (ages from 1 to 5) demand so much attention. Both described the situation as extremely frustrating for themselves and their husbands, who come home to a cluttered living room, a nonexistent dinner, and a stressed-out wife.

I'm probably not the ideal person to give advice in such circumstances, as I'm a very new Mommy and have no experience in juggling the responsibilities of several children, but I still wrote a reply to the two ladies; it was very much alike in both cases, and I'll share an abridged version of it here.


Dear friend,

I can relate to not having as much time as you used to, either for housekeeping or personal time for refreshment and rejuvenation. With Shira's arrival, I learned an important lesson in gratitude, patience, and lowering my expectations.

I was grateful, primarily, for three things: a beautiful and healthy baby girl - so many people long for children, and would gladly have all the messes and sleep deprivation, yet their arms remain empty; a wonderful husband who is always ready to help and never criticizes the (sometimes pitiful) amount of work I accomplish in a day; and my own strength and good health, which enables me to continue being motivated in the area of homemaking.

Learning to lower my expectations was a big one. Before I had a baby, I used to have time to cook new, elaborate dishes. I always baked. I never passed a day without knitting or crocheting. Laundry was folded the minute it was dry, and my iron was out a good deal more than it is now. Today, if the house is in a reasonable shape, dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is done and there's something (usually very simple) to put on the table, I consider it a good day - a very good day indeed.

Now, I don't know exactly what is going on in your house. Perhaps what you consider "a mess" is something that another person would think entirely reasonable for a house with small children. I'm not saying having children is an excuse to living amidst heaps of dirt and clutter, but little ones aren't known for helping keep a clean house. They explore, and pull out any drawer within their reach; they paint (sometimes on the walls); they drop their food on the floor.

I've seen houses of families with several small children, and if Mom tidies up only in the morning and evening (which is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion), by late afternoon the house might look as though a hurricane passed through it. Maybe dinner is never on time, but look at it this way: at least there's dinner!

My husband has been very understanding, and I think there's a good chance yours might be, too, if he knows what your typical day looks like. I can't be sure, but I think that your husband is stressed because you are, not because the laundry isn't folded or dinner is not on time. Perhaps, even if he comes home to see a living room littered with clothes and toys, and you only started making dinner, you could welcome him with a serene smile and say, "Make yourself comfortable, dear, we'll eat in an hour". Perhaps if he sees that even though you are a bit behind on usual evening routine, things are under control, and then he might regard the problem as nonexistent.

Anyway, I think it would be good if you talk to a more experienced mother, preferably someone who has several children.


And that's where you, dear ladies, come into the picture! Perhaps those of you who are experienced in raising several small children can share a word of wisdom with the two young Moms? It will be much appreciated.


CappuccinoLife said...

I have not found having three small children to mean that my house must necessarily be a wreck. :)

It is not sparkly clean, either. But comfortable, tidy, and lived-in.

Lowering expectations is a biggie. If I spend 15 minutes a day scrubbing the bathroom, another 30 minutes a day cleaning the kitchen top-to-bottom, and want a large, complex supper every night, I'm going to end up a frustrated, cranky woman.

I have found that doing the minimum daily is much better than taking on big projects that never get down. For instance, instead of daily scrub-downs of bathroom and kitchen, a quick, effiecient wipe-down (2-3 minutes).
The kids toys are only allowed in the living room. The kids themselves (6 and under) are perfectly capable of tidying up the living room in short order. I have boxes for toy sets, and that seems to make it easier and more fun for them to tidy up.

Meals have to be *simple*. As in, 10-15 minutes of prep time. The best are meals where I can throw things in a pot, and let them simmer or bake for half an our without needing to be stirred or added to or otherwise messed with. Crockpot meals are even better.

ROSIE said...

I am the mother of four children aged 15, 10, 9, and 4. I also love making a home, and I especially love when it can be spotless and sparkling and a calm oasis. Needless to say, when the kids were 6, 2, and 1 this wasn't a realistic standard -- nor is it now. I have had to pray for grace to see what is important, and what was lovely but had become a point of pride (and a stumbling block) on my part. I was spending so much energy being upset that my house wasn't perfect, it really caused a negative change to my attitude and spirit and started to build up not only little resentments in my heart but really took my focus away from what is important.

The first thing is-- pray! The Lord will teach your spirit what is truly important, and it usually isn't windows that are perfectly spotless with no fingerprints. :)

The day the tide turned for me is quite vivid in my memory. My husband had gotten home from work late and I left a living room full of children to him as I went into the kitchen to try to make something for dinner. I hadn't gotten to the store as it had been a tough day with the little ones, and the meal was going to be very, very simple and plain. I was feeling gloomy about that, too. Close to tears, I prayed, and I had an inspiration to set the table with the best dishes and colorful linens, and to light a candle. Then I proceeded to make our very plain supper. When I called everyone in to eat, they all stopped short as they saw the lovely table and I heard a little "ooooh!". I was asked by my husband what the occasion was, and I replied, "Because we are here, and we love each other, and there is food to bless our bodies."

Even the children were calmed by this signal that the moment was somehow special simply because we took time to appreciate it.

Slowly but surely, my attitude began to change. I started to worry less about how elaborate my meal was, and more about the spirit in which it was served. I started to worry less that the cushions in the living room were jumbled, and be glad that the carpet underneath had been vaccuumed. I began to put music on when I was doing chores, to keep my spirit positive and to involve the children too. Even the little ones liked to "help" when Mommy seemed to enjoy the chores instead of grumble through them.

I started to think of what I would like our home/life to look like (such as, toys picked up before children went to bed, instead of leaving them for parents), and made little changes to teach these things. Every night we would put on some "clean up" music and make a game of picking up the toys. Even the toddler thought it was great fun to toss them into the basket, and the baby was learning by watching, even if she couldn't yet do it herself. It became part of our routine, and is a habit that the children still continue. The music signals to them that we are changing pace and beginning the bedtime routines, and it calms the mood.

When I fold laundry, even the little ones help. At 2 years old, they had fun "shaking out" the clothes before I folded them, and spreading small cloths out flat and learning how to fold them. At 3, they are usually quite good at matching socks. :) At 4, my youngest can fold nearly all of her own clothes as well as small linens and socks, and takes great pride in it. As a benefit, the faster we get done folding laundry, the sooner we can read a story or go outside.

As time has gone on, I've become more relaxed about the "less than perfect", and come to enjoy the moment much more. How sad it would have been if I'd been grumpy the whole time the children were young!

Susan said...

Hi, One of the things that I've learned through the years is that little kids often find helping clean up fun. For instance, a vacuum cleaner is the ultimate toy for boys. It has wheels, an engine and makes noise. I let me son start vacuuming everyday when he was almost 5. He didn't do it particularly well, but since he went over the same area everyday it didn't matter.
I would also encourage you to use snatches of time. If you have the baby in the high chair with some finger foods, you may be able to empty the dishwasher or wipe down the counters before he starts fussing.
As a mom of teens now, I must say that the important thing really is to store up memories for the future. I don't remember much of what I used to cook, but I will never forget the delight of holding a giggling baby.

sara said...

Ditto everything CappuccinoLife said.

My kids are 4, 2 and on-the-way.

I also find having a rough schedule/routine and a short list of daily chores to be very helpful. Other people might find that too confining or overwhelming, but I function better with it - and I like checking things off. :)

Thia said...

First of all...there will be days when it all goes out the window and you just cling to sanity. But, for me, day to day, two things have made a difference (I have a 4yr, 2yr, and 8 mo old). The first is that they must learn to entertain themselves. Even my 2yr old can play on his own for a while. Also, I am not their play mate. While I do get down and play with them sometimes, it isn't an always kind of thing. That's why I gave them siblings. Two, teach them to help. They dust the lower half of the room, the lower kitchen cabinets, I've even given them a wet rag to help clean the floor. They put their own laundry away...etc. These things help anyways. the crock pot.

Joanna J. said...

I have a 4-yr-old daughter, and I also keep between 2-4 other children in my home during the week. Many days are stressful, particularly the ones that I care for five children.

The key for me is being consistent with my rules and expections. The kids know that when we walk in the door they will hang up their coats in the closet and put their shoes on the stairway. They know that we clean up the mess from one toy/activity before we move to another. They know that we will spend 10-15 minutes straightening up the house before daddy gets home from work. Even very young toddlers can begin to understand these concepts. The idea is that mom will not be the one following behind, picking up after everyone, cleaning up all the messes, etc. Instilling simple responsibilities and procedures will help tremendously in the journey to keeping a neater, happier, and more peaceful home.

It's also important to establish a short quiet time during the afternoons to give mom a chance to rest and/or catch up on household duties. For younger children, this might be a nap. For older children, it might be a time of quiet reading in their rooms. I like to take that time for my own personal Bible study and relaxing activities (sewing, etc.).

The key to meal preparation is in the planning. Once a week, I plan meals and do my shopping. I love to cook, so it is actually relaxing for me to prep food and store in the fridge/freezer for easy access throughout the week. If I do this, meal preparations are very easy during the week (10-15 minutes) and I can even involve the kids to help in the kitchen since I have already done much of the chopping, etc. ahead of time.

Of course, when kids are involved, there are days that things just don't work out as planned, and that's's what parenthood is often about! My husband sees that I do my best to manage the household and keep things on a routine. And, he is thankful that we are able for me to be a SAHM.

Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

I have a barely 3yo, an 19mo, and a 3mo. :)

I'm going to blog how I "manage".


Tara said...

New to your blog, but enjoying it very much! I read a quote the other day that struck me: Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% of how you react.
I have one daughter, but I run my own business and homeschool so I'm pretty busy. Sometimes the house is a mess, sometimes I do not have dinner planned and we have to order out, sometimes I am behind on work... in fact, at any given time one of those things is usually happening. But I've also learned that it's normal for things to flow in cycles and the best thing I can do for everyone is to stay calm and state any needs I might have clearly. If I have to order dinner out I don't apologize, I just set the table and carry on. If I'm overwhelmed, I'll go to my husband and tell him, and then ask if he would be willing to help me make a plan or help do the work. Sometimes we have an emergency clean up time of 1 hour – it's amazing what we can get done. I guess all this rambling is to say 1. stay calm and 2. it's not reasonable to expect perfection in every area of life, all the time.

Kristin-Homemaker@Heart said...

I only have one 3 year old daughter, so I don't have a whole "litter" of children in my home (not saying that I wouldn't love to have more) But Kylie does have chores of her own.
She puts the silverwear and random non breakable dishes that are with in her reach away, she is responsible for feeding and watering the cat, putting her dirty clothes in the laundry basket,hanging up her purse and jacket on her hook when we come home from doing errands, brushing her teeth and picking up all her toys before naptime and bedtime.
She loves it!! We have a sticker chart and if she completes all her chores with out me asking 1700 times, she gets a sticker. If she gets 5 in a row - we do something special.
I do also work full time 3-11's outside the home, so I am not home to enforce all the rules. But my husband does a wonderful job!
I agree with what you said. That as long as there are not piles of dirt in one's home...that is fine. Toys and such are not dirty...they're just "stuff"

Have a great day!!

MamaF said...

Hello all :)
My kids aren't that young anymore, i have a 9 years old, 2 almost 7 years olds and one 5 years old. Beside the fact that now i can sleep during the night ( and this makes a big difference )and that they're very very indipendent, what saved my days has been to establish a routine for house chores ( i have daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal routines )and try to follow it as much as possible.I wake up sooner then the rest of the family, so when they wake up ( husband and children ) and having breakfast, i can already start setting the beds and start laundry. When they finish i do dinner and breakfast dishes ( in Italy we have dinner later then in other countries and by the time we finish i'm too tired to make dishes ). Every time i have to go in another room i check if i can take something or pick up something or quickly clean something while i go, and so on, 'don't walk over it but pick it up' :)...
To have sometime for myself i try to use every 'dead' moment. Waiting the schoolbus ? Crocheting. Wait for the pasta water to boil ? Knitting.
Hope this can help some :)

Have a blessed and lovely day.

Mandi said...

I have two boys ages one and two. I haven't found that it is difficult to find time to clean but that it is difficult to be cheerful and energetic cleaning the same things over and over and over.

My tips:

1. I let the boys "help" as much as possible. With dishes this means that the two-year-old splashes in the water while I wash and then we sort of mop the kitchen floor cleaning up the spills. With laundry it means letting them push the wet clothes from the dryer door into the dryer. This keeps them involved and with me and hopefully will pay off down the road with boys that know how to clean up after themselves!

2. We have a small home that gets cluttered and full fast! So I limit the toys we have as much as possible. When we get too much of something (stuffed animals!) I just sort some out and give them away.

3. I plan all our food for the week on Saturday morning when I have peace and quiet and I do my shopping while my husband takes care of the boys. Then I know every day what we're eating. Also we feed the boys and then put them to bed before we have our dinner. We eat a late afternoon snack to keep us from starving before 8pm but this means we actually get to relax and eat our food and enjoy it. The boys don't care because we sit with them and feed and help them during their dinner.

4. This is more for the husbands...but when my husband comes home he doesn't expect peace, quiet and rest. He expects to spend his evening playing with our children and not relax until they are asleep. Since he doesn't want or hope to come home to an evening in the recliner, it is really easy to welcome him home with energy, because I know that the next couple of hours we'll be sharing the load. So if the house is a little messy or the floors just desperately need to be mopped I know I can do it in the first half hour he is here.

5. Naptime is sacred. I make sure to eat, rest at least a half hour (employees get at least that for a lunch break!) and then plan my afternoon. I make the boys (who sometimes don't want to nap) stay in their beds for the prescribed time even if they don't sleep. A book, a snack, a toy all work wonders.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I have a 2 year old, a one year old and am currently experiencing Morning sickness with my third child, due in November! I've been pregnant every year since getting married! I have to agree with something a previous poster said, I am not my children playmate, and I would hate for them to learn that if they are go and expect mom to entertain them. The truth is, you don't have to buy into the myth that children need you to entertain them, they do better with a sibling, if you teach them to play together properly. My children are not perfect, but they are already starting to understand the concept of sharing, helping out, and not playing violently (hitting, biting), because they didn't have o wait until preschool to learn these things. The fact that I don't have to constantly entertain them is a sanity saver, and gives me time to do what needs to get done.

When it comes to messes, yes I get embarrassed when a surprise visitor drops by and all the cushions have been used to make a fort by my two year old, my laundry basket is still sitting waiting to be folded, toys in disarray, dishes still dirty from the previous night(no dishwasher to hide them in either!), floors are not swept or vacuumed and me still in my pajamas looking as tired as ever. I'm sure they think I'm in over my head. Well I'm not. I simply don't worry about the non essential, there are 5 things that are important for me to get done during the day with my kids, the rest is a bonus: Bathed, Clothed, Feed, comforted, trained. These come first. Cleaning comes last. Some days I get little to no cleaning done, others I have so much spare time I wonder what to do with it. But as a previous poster said it is about attitude, it is how you present your messy house, a positive attitude with a content smile will usually distract people from the dirty baby shirt that has juice down the front of it. Content wife, content kids, makes a happy husband. Try not to let the stress of a mess get you down.

Nurse Bee said...

I have often wondered this too. My baby tends to start going downhill at about 5pm (prime dinner-making time) so if I'm going to cook then I can look forward to doing it with a screaming baby. So I tend to prepare meals ahead of time or find quick recipes that can be prepared once my husband gets home.

eli said...


Thank you all, dear ladies.

I must admit the tips were wonderful!

I'm a working Mom and only have a 5year old, but feel as though I have 3 children. I usu dont have enough time to do many of the housework and if my dear husband did not help I just dont know how things would turn out.

I am seriously thinking about becoming a full time mom and one of the reasons why I even considered it was because of my husband's encouragements (he used to help me even before I started to work and has promised that he would continue after I leave work!)

I'm sure that all the points mentioned here would be of much help. I am going to copy these advice and get them printed so as to have them right in front of my eyes!! for better speculations.

Bless you all

His Wife and Their Mommy said...

I was going to leave a comment.. but it was REALLLLY long.. so I just wrote a check it out when you have time.

Civilla said...

When my 2 boys were really small, I used to make very simple suppers. My husband insisted on paper plates and cups, and disposable diapers. That might not be your style, and that's ok. but, my husband insisted. We were able to afford it (many cannot) and he felt the extra money spent was worth having a wife who was not tired out from washing diapers and dishes.

Also, I made sure that I always scheduled a nap, and then did some housework while they were sleeping.

You don't have to have as high standards as before you had children, though. Enjoy your children. Put away nick-nacks that have to be dusted, temporarily.

I put my children in their stroller in the house and wheeled them around (when they were babies) with me as I went from room to room to do my housework. If they could see me, they wouldn't fuss. I'd park them next to the sink, in their stroller, while I did the dishes or cooked (far enough away from the stove so they wouldn't get splattered if I was frying something).

Anonymous said...

I remember thinking I was never going to get anything done when my children were was so frustrating sometimes! One thing that helped me, though, was to tell myself "I'm not lowering my standards, I'm temporarily adjusting my expectations." It helped me see that my house was never going to be perfect, but the Health Dept. wasn't going to shut things down, either! A nice, happy, lived-in & reasonably clean home is what I've tried to create. :o)


Anonymous said...

Lots of good comments shared above. My three children are now adults, but I well remember the crazy days of chasing after toddlers.

Many years ago, my three-year-old daughter wiped her peanut-buttery hands all over a glass door panel that I had just washed. She wasn't trying to be naughty; I think she was watching an opossum that had walked onto the deck outside the door. But I had had a long, frustrating day with the children, and I was all ready to sweep into "scold mode"---"I just washed that glass! Look what a mess you made!" Then a sudden thought came into my mind (God dropped it there, I'm sure). A friend of ours had recently nearly lost a child to sudden epiglottitis. "What," I thought, "if that happened to my little girl, maybe tonight?" I imagined coming home from the hospital, heartbroken, with empty arms. I imagined walking into her quiet room, seeing the clothes she would never wear again, the toys she would never play with. How could I ever bear to wash that glass, removing her messy little handprints? Wouldn't I treasure that "mess" as a memento of her innocent, curious, childish ways?

These thoughts stopped me short in my little tirade. I can't pretend that this epiphany turned me into a perfect mother who never lost her temper, but it truly helped me to see the big picture. I can still see that messy glass panel clearly in my mind, 25 years later. It became an icon for me, pointing to something much larger than itself.

Jen Higgins said...

Don't worry about it too much, children are only small for such a short time. I only have one daughter and she is five now. When she was younger, probably around two, I instituted the habit of picking up all of the books and toys that were out every day before nap, and then again just before Daddy was to arrive home. As she grew older and was able to play independantly, I established the rule that toys stay in her room or out side, crayons and art activities had to stay in art/music/computer room. Now that she's bigger she follows these rules with out being reminded and it seriously cuts down on clutter. Plus, I have a child who picks up after herself with out too much of a fuss because it's simply the way we've always done things.

Mrs. Parunak said...

My children are 5, 3, 1, and one due in two weeks. I have found that if I'm willing to put in the time training the kids to help when they are VERY little, by the time they are four or five, they are actually a help. My 3 and 5 year old have chores every day. The 3 year old still needs lots of help, and it definitely takes longer than it would take me to do the job myself, BUT if we are spending a half an hour sweeping the bathrooms, then not only are the bathrooms swept, but that was a half an hour that my three year old was occupied doing something productive, genuinely contributing to the family, instead of making a mess that needs cleaning up later. My five year old takes FOREVER to do her chores, but she is doing them all by herself, and really, truly helping me. What she does isn't perfect, but it's much better than if it wasn't done at all, and it frees me up to focus on something else that needs doing. The one year old gets to help me or one of her siblings depending on which jobs we're all doing. We have multiple brooms (including a toy size), and multiple feather dusters, cleaning rags, etc., so she can always be involved with someone during chore time.

Another thing that has really helped our family is an idea I got from Orgainized Everyday, called the Blitz. This is when you focus on doing some task with no distractions for a set amount of time. At our house, we put on music and we all run (literally) around the house as fast as we can putting things away. If you manage to keep the mood fun and positive and don't loose your momentum, you'd be amazed at how much a parent and a handful of small children can put away in 15 minutes.

Bethany Hudson said...

1. PRIORITIZE THE HOUSEKEEPING! What do you and your husband need in order to feel like the house is in order and the home is running smoothly? For me, that means that the main floor areas are cleared when I sit down at the end of the day, dinner is on the table, and laundry is completed and put away. So, I let the dusting slide; I mop only once a week (though I do sweep every evening in the main traffic area and kitchen), and I don't get bent out of shape if there are dishes drying on the counter and not put away.

How do I do the other things? Big tip: Teach your children to put away their own toys! My Sophia has been doing this since she was 18 months. It was hard to teach her at first and it took about 2 months for her to start doing it largely without being asked, but now she is very good at it; we even turned it into a game. We pick up what we have been playing with before leaving the room or moving onto a new activity. I know this is going to come in REALLY handy once my little boy is born in the next couple weeks.

Second tip for clutter: baskets. My mom always said, "A place for everything and everything in its place." This is a key motto with toddlers and pre-school aged kids. They want to help, but they need a lot of structure. Have all the blocks go in one basket, stuffed animals in another. Keep the basket in the same place, so your child knows where to put things away. Bonus: stick the baskets on shelves or next to the couch, so they are out of the way!

Laundry tip: Fold it and sort it on your bed! That way, you have the motivation to get everything in its drawers before going to bed at night. The folding and sorting is already done, so it won't take much time, but sometimes it can be so hard to put it away! I find that this has helped me a lot.

Dinner: Plan your meals out one day a week; shop one day a week, and keep it simple. Have a few meals in your repertoire that you can whip together from stuff on hand in your pantry (we love omlettes on a day when mom's tired out!)

Then, let the other stuff go! Remember, it's your house; your family. If you don't mind clutter but can't stand a dirty kitchen floor, then let the toys alone and go mop the kitchen. If you don't mind pulling clean laundry out of a basket in the morning, don't bother folding it and putting it away.

2. If you have an infant: TRY BABYWEARING! This was the only way I got things done with a newborn. I could put Sophia in the sling; she was contented to be with me and coule even nurse while I had my hands free and could easily bend and get up and down to do housework. I don't think I could have managed without it!

3. NAP! And, I don't mean the kids. Get a nap. Even twenty minutes of good rest is going to help keep up your morale and improve your efficiency. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself; you can't take care of your family. Eat regularly, and get the rest that you need. YOU are more important than your home.


MM said...

I have three children, 5, 3, and 1, and certain key routines have helped me a lot. I feel much calmer and more relaxed when the house is neat and peaceful - or at least when I know that it will be that way at a certain time. Like the commenter above, we clean up every night at the same time (AFTER dinner, when the kids are reenergized) and the reward for this is a dance party - they get to pick the song and we all dance around. Of course I would let them do this anyway if they wanted to, but they don't know that. The other thing is really organized meal planning. We eat the same rotating four weeks of meals. At least half of them I cook in bulk and freeze 3-4 meal-size portions, so that for every time I cook, say, spaghetti and meatballs, I make 5 months' worth (since we have it once a month). You can bet that we would not be having meatballs otherwise. I really thought hard about creating a balanced menu that could be largely made ahead or did not require a lot of hands-on time. I do hardly any meal prep when I'm with all three kids - I do it at night or when I'm just with the baby, if necessary with him on my back in the carrier.
I've also found limiting toys to be extremely helpful. Even art supplies - we have ONE set of (nice) markers, and we haven't lost one in a year!! Because every time we use them, we are careful to keep track of them and put them away. If we had several jugs of old broken markers, we wouldn't be as careful and they would end up e everywhere.

BellaMama said...

First things first. Attitude. If you do not enjoy what you do, no one will learn to enjoy it either. "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

Next, it's not lowering your standards, but raising your priorities. Doing what your husband is pleased with should be your goal everyday.

Side note: never compare husbands. There are those who will not lift a finger to help and require everything of the wife to those who are Mr. Moms with every kind in between. What our husband does or does not do is not the issue. These are our responsiblities that we do to glorify God. One must not lament the fact that their husband is the way he is and not like someone else's.

The things that have helped me the most:
~not being afraid to get up early and go to bed later than anyone else. If your life revolves around God and His Word, then He sustains you. It is amazing how little sleep we woman really need, contrary to what we've been told!!
~start small.
FlyLady does small things, which is helpful to get much accomplished in a day.
~enjoy/love your children. They are the way they are because of you. If you don't like an attitude, deal with it. Consistency is the biggest key. If you make a law: do not let them EVER break it. Do not lie to your children by telling them over and over again and never doing what you said. God hates liars. (that was an eye-opener to me!)
~looking for "me" time is a waste of time. "Me" time is when we've done what we should and have learned to take joy from it all!
~Do all things without grumbling/murmering and complaining. This is something else that children will do if they hear it all day. Praise the Lord, Bless the Lord and let the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be acceptable to the LORD!!

Just some thoughts to share, maybe it will encourage another mom to realize her duty and love it!
(I have 6 children, the oldest is 7, the youngest just turned 1. You can read my blog to learn more of what I do everyday!)

Tanya said...

I have only a little time to comment, so I'll try to keep it encouraging and kind, but I have so much to say. I'm mama to 5, with one on the way, and I've definitely learned much along the way, and I'm DEFINITELY still learning!

First of all - we must pray! We don't have to have 15 minutes of quiet time alone to pray at a time, we don't need to have an hour of personal study time (wouldn't that be wonderful?) a day. We can pray as we go throughout our day. One of my favorite times is while I'm in the shower, or while I'm cooking,or while I'm doing dishes, or folding laundry.

Secondly - training is important. We have to train ourselves before we can train our children. If we don't put things away when we're done with them, it is difficult to expect our children to do so. If we aren't somewhat disciplined with our schedule, we can't get our children to stick to one either.

Thirdly - children understand "no" at a very young age - 9 months or so. Reserve it for when you mean it. Children can also pick up after themselves. If they can take it out, they can clean it up. No, my one year old doesn't clean her toys up yet, but she'll help me or one of her siblings if we make a game of it.

Fourth - and this is going to sound harsh, my apologies - if you have time to be online reading blogs, you have plenty of "alone" time. No one NEEDS time alone, but we often selfishly want it. It's a cultural thing I think. The Hollywood image makes us think we should get time to work out, read, do hobbies, take a hot bath, go for walks, go shopping, etc. whenever we want. Think of all the people in centuries past who worked from sun-up to sun-down just to keep their families fed and clothed. Time for themselves? I doubt it.

Finally - find our from your husband what he expects from you. I was surprised when I had this talk with my hubby. He doesn't expect dinner on the table or the house to be spotless when he comes home. He wants the children cared for and loved. If the laundry's done, supper's cooking, the house is clean, etc. its a bonus! We try to get things cleaned up before he comes home, but it doesn't always happen. He'd rather come home to a happy family in a loved in home, than a cleaned up house and a stressed out atmosphere!

There's much more I could say, but I think this is long enough already! =)

Jennifer said...

I, too, am a mother of young ones, ages 8, 6, 4, 3, 1 and one-on-the-way. I know your days!!! I have them too. I have tried so many different things and as each child has been added, it has gotten harder and harder to accomplish even the simplest things on my list. Oh, and I home school too, so my days take on an even greater twist these days.

After 8+ years of being a SAHM, here are things that have helped me.
1. Make a master schedule. I am not a scheduled person by nature and I avoided this for years. I like the "spontaneity" of not having a schedule. But I realized that my children and household just doesn't run well with out one. So I made a master schedule that lists everything. From when we get up, to when meals are, to the times for different subjects in school, to play time/quite time, etc. It has really, really helped and I wish I would have done this sooner!

2. Plan your meals before 4:30pm hits! Write it out on a piece of paper for the week, month, whatever works for you. But if you know in advance what you will be cooking, then getting the meat out to thaw, knowing when to start things and not feeling frazzled at the "arsenic hour" (as my mother named to time between 5 and 6pm, just when you can't hold your littles and they cling to you like there's no tomorrow!).

3. I don't know how old your children are, but even my 15 mth old is learning to put his toys away. We have a fairly large house and I just can't keep up with it all by myself. What I have done is I have written on note cards what needs to be done in each room (with each room getting it's own card). That way, there is no asking me what needs to be done and they know what I expect to find upon looking over their jobs (my 4 year old can't read yet, so I glued some simple pictures on the back for him, so he knows what needs to be done as well. He only has a few to choose from, so he learns to do them well). Before I installed this note card deal, I cleaned one room each week (except for Sunday, my day of rest). And I kept clutter down to a minimum.

4. Don't allow your children to have lots of toys "out" at once. Take a regular sized plastic tote and fill it with toys. The rest, store some place else. Do the same for their books. We used to have a huge cedar toys box and a whole book shelf for their books. And you know what? I spent more time picking them up (or telling them to), then they did playing with them or reading them. It just wasn't worth it! Now they only have a selected few out to look at/play with and it makes clean up time a whole lot smoother and faster!

5. Just breathe! These days won't last forever, although there are some afternoons where they sure feel like they will! Be reasonable with your self, your children and your husband. Ask him what is really important to him and focus on that. For mine, it is supper on time. He could care less if the house was picked up or the dishes washed (although he does appreciate clean undies in his drawer in the mornings!. :0) ) And be realistic with yourself. Figure out what is really important to you and what are the things your what to pass on to your children. For me, it is very difficult for my to function in a cluttered house. While I don't want to be crazy about it and be a drill sergeant to my children, I do want them to learn that there is a place for things and that is where they need to be. I've let go the neat and tidy drawers. I've let go the well hung up clothes. I've let go the well made beds (hey, at least the covers are pulled up!). I've let go the not-so-well swiped floors (ditto for the rest of the cleaning the children do).

You see what I mean? Life is not about having all your "to-do's" crossed off and having things in order (although there are appropriate times for these things). It's not about having a house clean enough for the cover of a magazine or for having meals nice enough for a food magazine (I know about this one, for my husband is a chef. Talk about pressure! (from me, it's never been from him)). Life is about loving those whom the Lord has given you and serving them to the best of your ability. Life is about being real and knowing/admitting your limitations. Life is not about being perfect, but imitating the One who IS! Remember the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)

Forgive me for my book, but this is a topic close to my heart, for I have/still do struggle with for so long. I pray these things can help you!

Jennifer D

Kimberly said...

I am the mommy of 9, and i have to stay on top of the mess, and clutter so it doesn't over-run us. I do laundry everyday, and make sure to put it away quickly. The best help, is to plan my menus weekly, and utilize my slow-cooker, and bread machine. I can put my meal together early in the day, and just add a salad, and side at the last minute. my 3 youngest are 5,3 and 1, so i still have littles underfoot, and planning for the busyness helps.

Michelle said...

Thankyou for this comforting reminder. I read the title though and immediately thought (since I'm in the thick of this situation now) "It is when you have 3 under 4 who are sick!" One of them, my middle son appears to be asthmatic so he requires special attention, treatment and careful discipline because his meds make him...a strung out uncontrollable psycho.
Thankfully we're seeing a new doctor tomorrow who will (hopefully) get us on a better track for managing his care.

Another idea, when my kids are well, I like to engage them in housework WITH me! Its darling that my sons want to enthusiastically hand me laundry as I fold it and they often help me put it away too. I had my oldest helping with a couple broken dishes out of that one, but the life skills he's learning are worth more, IMO.


All things bright and beautiful... said...

I noticed we are cranky when we are hungry so preparation of supper was always a priority. I often cooked supper in the morning when my babies slept or were at their calmest (evening colic - BIG time) and then reheated it when my husband came home, then there was the crockpot & breadmaker - worth their weight in gold. I felt happier knowing that supper was sorted.

Next laundry - it is stressful to have to iron something before you can wear it or to find the underwear drawer empty in the morning so that was my next priority. So I put a load of washing in the machine in the evening and dried/ironed in my cooking slot in the morning. I often washed more loads ,of course, but this was the minimum.

But things always go awol! So as a back up I always had a meal in the freezer ready and a spare set of clothing for everyone in my own closet - again this gave me much peace of mind knowing I had a back up plan :)

Then cleaning - I just did what looked like it needed doing - using natural safe products - lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, so the kids could just follow me round as I went.

Planning - when the boys were at school - we had a basket by the door for stuff needed to take to school in the morning- no rush & search at 8AM! Sandwiches were frozen each Friday for the following week. I started planning birthdys, Christmas well in advance so I could just potter & do a little at a time rather a mad last minute panic.

I also rested - a lot. Whilst my boys played with train tracks on the living room floor - I chatted and played with them but with my feet up!

Enjoy your family life, let everyone see you are enjoying it and it will all muddle along happily. Raising a family is about being happy in the midst of the muddle! And if Mom is happy & relaxed usually everyone else just seems to follow :)

Nothing shocks me anymore... said...

Lowered Expectations! A lot depends on the ages and abilities of the children you are dealing with. As an exhausted mom with a 2.5y/o and twin newborns( early 2005-all in diapers) I learned to pick and chose my battles. Trash had to be taken out or I could not handle the smell after a few hours. The bathroom.. not a priority at all. I nursed and supplemented with bottles as needed so dishes had to be kept up for the bottles and sippie cups. Laundry was important so that had to be kept up. Dusting was only a verb to me.. not anything that I did!
These days I have a 6.5y/o and two 4y/os so things are easier. Toys are picked up by them or I take them away. They can pick up laundry and drag the basket to the laundry room for me. The twins are capable of emptying the dryer and putting the went laundry in the dryer and turning it on. Older son helps empty the dishwasher and put away the clean. They help put away groceries. I chose to not allow them to sweep b/c they like to crash the sweeper into the wall.
You still need to pick your battles. These days if I have not already planned ahead and started dinner in the crock pot then that gets away from me as the kids want to play outside after brother gets home from school. So we have nights where dinner is simple and quick. Edible just not fancey.
The most important thing I can say to anyone is to NOT worry about what OTHERS are doing.. only worry about what you can do.

Anonymous said...

The question as a woman, who is a mother, and who is a wife, is...what are the priorities? It's important to teach children the various considerations that they must use to make decisions and plan for the future and how they will act as adults, true. It is also, VERY HELPFUL, if the domestic partner supports this type of thinking, i.e. no nagging complaints about why there are toy trucks and blocks in the unlocked lower cabinets (for little ones to discover), or why a coat rack at toddler height is a plus, why teaching a child to wipe down the shower after use is helpful, or the importance of routinely helping set the table or placing rinsed dishes in the dishwasher. But, then, that is an internal matter.

As sour grapes, as kids was raised in a household where Mommy Dearest picked and chose tasks children could participate, so we knew quite well how to fold jillions of diapers, and iron bedding, but were not allowed to wash dishes as we never could get them clean enough. On the other hand, there were plenty of dishes to hand-dry, and mending and darning socks was useful knowledge, as well as how to set a table, but dusting, well, the dusting was an endless challenge, and just what one could say about the impact or long-term benefit of dusting...preparation for the mundane in life, just suppose.

Anonymous said...

I have five kids, the youngest is still under three. And I work, almost everyday till 2 or so.

I guess I had this fantasy that the stay at home mom accomplishes more. I seem to be accomplishing no less than the posters above, and I work. Although a lot depends on definitions of clean, of course, it's very personal. Also, a wipe-down of the kitchen for me takes almost half an hour, to make it reasonable after a meal - not two or three minutes (clear table, empty dishwasher, load, clean counters, wipe chairs, sweep floor). A deeper clean would take an hour - wipe down cupboards, mop, bleach sink. I really can't get much done in two minutes....perhaps I'm just slow.

It is very hard to clean with several little ones. Things are a bit easier for me now, since my smallest one has older siblings who keep her occupied.

I, like Thia above, am not their playmate. You need to keep them occupied long enough so you can get some things done. Mine love drawing, and can sit for an hour quietly. Or dancing..I put on some music and they let out all their energy. I also wouldn't balk at putting on a classic animated movie or story for the little ones to watch so mom can get some concentrated cleaning done.

I am the worst person when it comes to organizing my time, but I still think it's not such a big deal to make sure dinner is ready by a certain hour. Even with babies. Not necessarily just for hubby, but for the whole family. If you only start to cook dinner when dad gets home, then everyone eats late, and goes to bed late, etc. And everyone is hungry and cranky.

I also believe in quick dinners...about 25-30 min prep time. 10 minutes to chop a good salad, 15 minutes to make rice and chicken or something of the sort. In Israel most households actually eat the 'hot' meal of the day in the afternoon, and supper is a light dairy affair. In any case, I think even a mom with a baby and toddlers can carve out 25 minutes (perhaps not consecutive) to make sure dinner is served on time, at least most days. It should be a priority, I think.
(I just remembered that perhaps some women here are home schoolers with a large number of kids. I think in such a case, I would likely be too exhausted by evening to even think about making dinner. Then again, that's one reason why I don't homeschool).

Holly said...

I too have had to lower my expectations when it comes to keeping my home neat and tidy. It really is more about my attitude toward it. I think some moms are just more efficient and their priority is that their homes to be neat and tidy and that is a good thing. I, however, am less tidy than I thought I ought to be. I have other priorities such as playing by the river with friends or writing. My housekeeping is not too far behind, just not the top of the list. Once I excepted that about myself, my cluttered house and harried meals did not seem to be such a big deal. When I take the time to do what makes me feel more at peace, everyone in my house is less uptight. My tone sets the tone for the entire household.

I still need to work on keeping things in order and I am very encouraged by what people have written on this post. I try to make organization as easy as possible. For instance, I pay bills online and as soon as possibe. Then file them away immediately after they are paid and the file is right next to my computer. Or, I have a set of drawers by the door for our keys, my purse, my husband's wallet, and the cell phones. The same set of drawers (also near the dining room table) holds placemats and napikins and even has a drawer designated for my girls' projects that need to removed quickly off the table. Inside the drawers is messy, but the house is more tidy because of them. I also have a friend who keeps her kids' jammies in baskets and just throws them in there without folding them to save time.

Lori said...

I haven't read the other suggestions yet, so sorry if this is a repeat, but my 5 year old helps a LOT. He tidies his own bed in the morning and after nap; he helps tidy the living room - even his baby brother's messes; and he does all the dusting from his eye level down - I just put an old junk sock on his hand inside out, spray it with Endust, and he just wipes away - he's very good and fast too! I don't care if he dosen't do it perfectly - at least it's getting done, and what spots he may miss today he'll get another day. He loves to spray and wipe too for some reason, so I'll probably have him wiping down the toilets and faucets soon too. (I'm getting largely pregnant, so this is great) He's a real help, and I reward him with a "new" book or little car (thrifted of course) every so often. There are lots of other little chores that a child can safely do, if you just think about it and your home a bit, and they're always asking to help at that age anyway. Good luck, and don't forget to cuddle those little ones! What a blessing!

Kari said...

I second the commenter who encouraged teaching the children to help. While I only have one toddler and a baby, my just-two-year-old is a fantastic help with most chores that I do around the house. She LOVES to help with dishes (she stands on a chair beside me), and has done so for months now. She can now assemble all of the bottles and sippy cups on her own and stack like things together. A changing moment for me was when I read somewhere the idea that "if they're old enough to take it out, they're old enough to put it back" - it was revolutionary!

We also use music to change the tone. One thing we like to do as a family is a "quick clean up". We turn on really fast, upbeat music and tidy up as fast as we can. My daughter used to look at us like we were nuts as we ran around the house, and now she gets completely into it too! Now my 6-month-old son looks at us like we're crazy...but he'll come around!! :)

MamaF said...

Hello Anna,

I gave you a blog award HereThank you so much for the wisdom you share through your blog !

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment in response to Tanya and a couple of others who stated that 'no one needs time alone', and to 'think of all the people in centuries past who worked from sun-up to sun-down just to keep their families fed and clothed'.

No one NEEDS indoor plumbing either, or electricity. People survived in centuries past without these luxuries, and without a lot of other modern touches...medicine, advanced education, etc. The literacy rate a few centuries ago was a fraction of what it is today. That doesn't mean that reading is an unnecessary modern pastime. It means that today we expect far more out of life than we did several hundred years ago.

I crave my 'me' time and wither away without it. I need an hour or two every day just for myself - no kids, no husband. I am an introvert by nature, and with a large, busy family, it is not always easy to find peace and quiet. I lock the master bedroom door when I feel I need solace, and read a book or nap. Or I go to sleep after everyone else. But this 'alone' time for me is as integral to my well-being as indoor plumbing. When too many days pass by in a hectic whir, and I have no time for inner 'space', I feel my sanity depleting.

I reread some of the comments above. I think the hardest times for a mother in terms of accomplishing things in the home are when she has several babies/toddlers. That's why I began spacing my kids after the first two. I just could not live indefinitely in a day-to-day whirlwind. I think women need to think very carefully before they have each child, as to how it will affect the entire household. As one can see from these responses, raising several little ones together is a serious handful, and pretty much requires all of one's energy, leaving little for basic homemaking, cooking, time with hubby, and certainly very little chance of 'me' time or hobbies.

Miss Serenity said...

Lovely advice! We have six children in my family, and obviously our house is not always spotless when Dad comes home.

Now, I am certainly not a wife - only the eldest daughter - so I can't say that I am most accurate... but it seems to me that when my dad walks in the door and sees Mom's smiling face and happy children, he could care less if the living room were a reck and he was served a TV dinner. He's just glad to see his joyful family after a hard day's work!

Of course this doesn't mean we don't try to have the house picked up for him when he gets home and a nice delicious dinner waiting on the table, but on the days when that's just not possible... well, I still think he doesn't mind a bit!