Sunday, March 7, 2010

Balancing playing with kids and crossing things off the ever growing to-do list

Please tell me that it isn't just me that feels like your to-do-list grows longer much quicker than you are able to cross things off it and that your sweet children grow faster than you would like, that you want to spend every waking moment hugging your little ones and playing with them on the floor and yet the dishes in the sink and the laundry that needs to be folded somehow seem to follow you around like a dark cloud :)

I try to tell myself often that when my kids are grown that they will not remember whether or not our house was spotlessly clean all the time, but that they will remember the time we spend together and the memories we make. And to be blunt, I would much rather spend time with my kiddos then sweep the floor so time with the kids wins on pretty much any given day, but at the same time I do feel a responsibility to keep up on the housework the best I can. I have tried to get things done when my kids are napping which worked pretty well when I only had one, but not as well as our family has grown. I also try to include my little girl who is old enough to help in cleaning and she actually enjoys "helping", but naturally she doesn't have the attention span to spend all day at my side cleaning and getting things like that done with me. I have also tried to leave my housework and such untouched until my kids are in bed, but I value the time I have with my husband at night and I don't want to spend it not doing things with him that we both enjoy. Make sense? I have a friend who says that she spends a solid hour each morning doing an activity with her kids that they chose and then a solid hour getting things done around the house while telling her children that that is their time to play on their own. Has anyone tried that or something similar? What are your "tricks" to balance all the many things a mom needs to get done while still spending quality time with your family? And how do you keep from comparing yourself to others since we all seem to know "that one mom" who seems to always have a perfectly clean home, serve healthy gourmet meals on a daily basis, exercise, blog AND hang out with her hubby and kids all while somehow having the time and energy to do her hair in someway other than a quick ponytail, and wear makeup. ;) If that describes you, I will try not to hate you :) JK!!! But please share your ideas and let us know what has worked for you!


Britta said...

You already mentioned what I do- I have my daughter help me do most of the work around the house. When it comes to doing dishes she'll do the silverware while I quickly do everything else, with laundry its her job to put everything into the washer and pull it back out. Its her job to clean up her toys every day as well. So when I say its time to clean she understands that we get to work together.

If there is more cleaning than she can reasonably help with I take the tactic of telling her to go play while I clean because its 'her time'.

I think another important thing is to make sure your house isn't full of clutter. If you are constantly battling the pile of papers sitting on the counter and toys that seem to multiply and mismatched socks, its time to clean everything out. The less you have the easier it is to clean.

I also think its important that your kids see you clean. If you always wait until they go to bed then their impressionable minds will start thinking 'cleaning fairy' magically got it done. They don't see the work, they don't understand the work. Do as much of the cleaning as you can with the kids and they'll begin to understand what making a mess means in the big picture.

Rebecca said...

One thing I do is leave all the deep cleaning for Saturday when my husband is home (or in the evening when he gets home). That way one of us can play with our daughter while the other cleans. But I'm still learning how to keep up with the day-to-day chores and spending quality time with her...and I only have 1 child!

Heather said...

I appreciated Britta's comment about letting them see that it takes work to keep things looking nice.

I think a house doesn't need to be spotless (mine certainly isn't) but can be picked up when needed. And there are those jobs that just have to be done, so including the kids when possible is great. My daughter loves to clean the toilet and the bathroom mirror. She also likes to fold the towels and help put the laundry into the machine. She takes her plate over to the sink without being asked when she is done eating and helps me set the table as I am finishing getting dinner ready when I remember to ask her. It's easier now that she is 4 to include her, but I started with simple easy-to-do tasks when she was younger.

Also, it helps a great deal in the picking up stuff if everything has a specific place. Then the kids know where to put it away. When we are in the picking up stage (let's face it, sometimes I look around and see that a tornado has hit), we have a cleaning party. We turn up the music loud and clean and dance at the same time--moving from room to room. (Notice, this isn't a deep cleaning time, but a pick up and put away time.) When we are done, we celebrate with a treat.

One more idea, some kids have fun mopping the kitchen floor in their socks--just use water and they can "mop" with their feet while you use the real mop.

Delia said...

My personal opinion is that I want my kids to see me working. That is a lesson without words. When I am cleaning the house, they play. When I reach the end of my cleaning routine, they know that they are going to be expected to do their chores which include wiping down the table and chairs while I clean the kitchen. Then...while I mop they hurry to pick up their toys before I vacuum. Whatever toys are left on the ground get sucked up by the vacuum or by mom :). Most of the time this works, but sometimes my oldest is resistant. I give him a choice, like I did today. He has been having a real problem with not following through with jobs and projects (and I have been guilty of rescuing him more than I would like to admit) so I told him he could keep his normal chore or scrub our porch. He chose the porch. It took him FOREVER and he hated it but I think he learned some key life lessons, or at least seedlings of key life lessons. Working with your children and letting them see you work is priceless. It doesn't always have to be one way or the other.

This is just one day a week. On other days we grocery shop, or just play and then I get to workout for 45 minutes (with them sitting on my head), or on Fridays we run errands and often do something fun.

I do try to save some work for later. I do dishes and clean up the kitchen when my husband gives them baths after dinner. If he can't be home I do it after they are in bed. But...I need time to replenish myself as well, so I try to leave some time for me and my husband at night as much as I can.

We, like others have said, have a routine where the kids get a solid block of attention and then I take 15 minutes here to 30 minutes there to make some phone calls, pay a bill, etc. I just spread that out throughout the day and accomplish quite a bit while not ignoring my children constantly. I say that having more than one child who can play together helps with this a lot. With just one child I think it is way harder to just "let them play." So if you have one and think I am crazy, just have another one and wait until they can play with your first. Ha ha. :)

I don't want to seem like I have it all together all the time. I have days when I ignore them more than I wanted, or ignored my house more than I would have liked. Ebb and Flow. I just try to take it for what it is and do my best each day. I definitely see more "better" days the longer I am a mother. Hope that helps.

Delia said...

May I also say that I have severe make-up less/ponytail syndrome but I don't care. I pick a few days to dress nice and don't worry about the rest. Who is this fictitious woman you are talking about? I would love to meet her. :)

Tannie Datwyler said...

So yeah... I'm with Delia - that woman you described is a fantasy. :)

I LOVE what everyone else has said. For what it is worth... here is what works for me.

I am a bit of a neat freak (not a clean freak - believe me, there IS a difference). And chaos drives me a bit nuts. I actually find that it is hard for me to play with my kids in a really messy house. That is TOTALLY ME though! If a little clutter doesn't bother you then don't take my advice. My advice is for the crazy women like me who have to have things picked up.

As a consequence of my oranizational diseases I find myself cleaning up frequently. The difference is that I don't "clean clean" (like scrub stuff) more than once a week and that is on Saturday when ALL the family helps (even my 3 year old who sweeps the landing, cleans the bathroom mirror and toilet, dusts, and helps clean up her room). So again, the actually hard labor isn't done every day - but we do pick up messes A LOT!

So what do I do on a daily basis that the kids see me do? Well, I of course do dishes. My daughter often helps separate the silverware and my son ALWAYS helps me unload the plates (he's not always helpful, but I like that he wants to help). I usually end up sweeping the floor about every other day (sometimes every day... depending on the mess). I do this by myself though... the kids see me do it sometimes and sometimes I just wait to do it quickly while they nap. We also pick up clutter frequently... just like I said.

On Fridays my kids also help me sort the laundry.

And YES sometimes we live in a messy house all day long before I get around to cleaning it up. I don't like those days, but they do happen.

I like what was said about making sure the kids see you clean so that they don't think a magic cleaning fairy does it. I also try to invovle my kids as much as possible. But sometimes I just want to do it myself. I want to do it while they are alseep and I can listen to a book on tape in peace. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that. They KNOW that I'm the one cleaning and since they help quite often I think the lesson is being learned.

I also don't think that housework is what takes me away from the kids - it's my own choices on how to spend my time. Housework may take a lot of time, but as has been said the kids are usually with me when I do it. For me, I think what takes me away from the kids is again, my own selfishness. I want to do my own things and sometimes they just end up playing together a lot longer than I originally thought. It is important for me to do things that help me stay sane... but not at the expense of them. The trick is finding the balance.

Whew- that was really long!

PS - If you have a newborn... cut yourself some slack. :) I promise it will get easier. When my son was a newborn ALL I did was clean up the house, nurse, and try to get children asleep and get myself some sleep. It's a phase that passes.

Megan said...

Okay, I really struggle with this as I have school I do as well. My house is sometimes the last thing on my list and unfortunately scrubbing the floor or getting laundry done doesn't happen! I do however try and take the afternoon and spend it with my son.

Like has been mentioned above, I try and have Lucas help me pick up toys, dust, and let him "sweep" the floors. But, lately I notice that I feel like I'm in such a time crunch that it is easier to do things myself and I have to remind myself Lucas needs to learn that messes don't magically disappear!

Kelly A. said...

Thank you for the newborn comment Tannie! :) I do need to remind myself that we have a brand new baby in our house and that means adjusting. I too appreciate what has been said about children seeing their parents work. And I agree. My daughter definitely seems me work and I do include her in the work (it helps like that she is at the stage that she enjoys it). In fact she mimics me in her play and it is so funny :) Just this morning she was cleaning her puzzle pieces with a baby wipe one by one before she put them together since yesterday she saw me sanitizing toys as we have all been sick with colds. I guess I just feel guilty that I always want to do more. Spend MORE one-on-one time with my kids and be MORE on top of running errands, paying bills, "journaling" for my family (I haven't updated my blog in over a month). Baby steps, though right? :) As for the fictitious woman I described :), I too need to remind myself that we do not always see the whole picture. Of course when friends and family know we are coming over, they clean their house and make a nice meal. And of course the pictures people are likely to post on their blogs are of them with nicely groomed hair and in something other than their pajama pants :) I am sure all moms serve chicken nuggets or mac and cheese once in a while and no one has it ALL together ALL the time right :) Thanks girls for sharing your thoughts!! It was what I needed to hear! And if anyone else has more to share, of course feel free :)

JeriLynn said...

My husband has actually set a few rules. We have toys, but not many, and almost all of them fit in a tiny little closet in shoe boxes or other storage containers we call "playsets".

Rule #1: Only two playsets out at one time.

Rule #2: All the playsets and the floor must be cleaned up before moving on to something else, particularly meals.

This doesn't always happen, but it does help. And yes, there have been times when our 3-year-old doesn't eat with us because she wouldn't clean her toys up earlier.