New mom balances quality time and chores
Two weeks ago, I steam-cleaned half of our bedroom carpet.
That’s how it goes these days. “These days” being the 10 months since our daughter was born.
Prior to becoming a parent, I’d get in deep-clean mode and spend an entire weekend scrubbing the house from top to bottom. I’ve always enjoyed cleaning. The house feels fresh and organized and to be honest, I can forget about it again for awhile.
Now it is more like a marathon than a sprint. I complete a little bit now and a little bit then. There is no end because once I finish the final task, it’s time to start over with the first one.
This has been an adjustment for me. In the case of house work, I don’t like multi-tasking and leaving things in limbo to refocus on other things (I’m still thinking about the other half of that carpet). But I’d rather spend my time playing with our little one and taking in each moment of her childhood … at least, as much as I can.
Deep-clean mode might be deactivated for awhile, but there are some chores I can’t escape.
When there are toys strewn about the floor and bottles waiting at the sink to be washed, chores can pile up quickly and become overwhelming. I don’t have all the answers, but from one parent to another, I have some suggestions that may help you navigate the “must-do” list.
Break it down
As I mentioned, cleaning is no longer a sprint to the finish line. I suppose if you have teenagers, you might be able to lock them in their rooms and tackle the rest of the house (relatively) uninterrupted. But young children need and want your constant attention.
Break down the chore list into manageable parts — maybe by task (dusting, mopping, laundry) or by room. Depending on the age of your child, you may be able to work for an hour or so each day while they nap or play independently.
It feels good to check off an item on your list. Seeing the other things that need to be done is still a bit triggering, but it helps knowing that I got one thing accomplished.
Involve the kids
My daughter isn’t old enough to truly help yet, but I still keep her involved in what I’m doing. If I need to fold laundry, I turn the basket on its side in our living room. She likes pulling out each piece of clothing, one-by-one. I fold them and place them in a pile.
She has also taken it upon herself to climb onto the open dishwasher and hand me the utensils to put in the drawer. It’s not the most efficient process, but it’s something we can do together.
Toddlers can help with more tasks like picking up their toys or wiping off the kitchen table. They may even like to run the vacuum or wash the dishes. Best case scenario, their help is effective and you can cross two chores off your list at once. Even if you have to re-do their work later, at least “helping” might keep them occupied while you work.
Older kids are capable of helping around the house. I’m a proponent of the-fewer-the-chores-the-better because childhood is fleeting and there will be plenty of adult years for your children to get their fill of adult responsibilities. However, we still have to teach our kids how to hold some responsibility. Having them set the table or take the trash out is a reasonable ask.
Set realistic expectations
Sometimes I get more accomplished than I planned. Sometimes I don’t get anything accomplished AND the dog’s water bowl is now dumped on the floor. You win some, you lose some. That has to be OK.
It seems cliche to say, but childhood really is a precious and short time. We don’t live in filth, but I definitely prioritize family time over house work. I don’t expect our home to look like the inside of a magazine, and I’d rather the toys be played with than stored out of sight.
Nevertheless, it is important to do as much as you can to keep yourself feeling in control. Each night before bed, I quickly wash bottles and put toys back in their bins and baskets. I try to pick up shoes and put them back on the shoe rack. These are small things that make me happy because in the morning, we can come downstairs and start fresh.
… and forget about the other half of that pesky carpet upstairs.
Julianne Kilmer, and her husband, Nick, live in Reedsville with their daughter, Carter.