I was having one of those teary breakdown moments with my husband one night earlier this year. I was sobbing into his shoulder about how I couldn’t keep up with It All. The laundry, the dishes, the bathrooms, meals, you name it and you know it. Plus homeschooling. I just couldn’t get into a good routine that got it all done.
“Why don’t you get the kids to help you more?” asked my Husband.
I didn’t have a good answer to his very good question.
All of a sudden, I realized that I had a very-close-to-four-year-old, a five-year-old, and a seven-year-old in the house. I didn’t have all babies anymore. I didn’t need to be doing everything for all of them anymore. There were lots of ways they could help, if I would take the time to teach them and then supervise them for a while. He was right. I didn’t have to do it all myself anymore. I just had to do something that I probably subconsciously dreaded to do because it would require a lot of extra patience (and probably wouldn’t be done as well as if I had done it myself).
Over the past few months, here are some things I’ve taught the kids to do or had them do much more regularly:
- Set and clear the table for meals
- Make their own PB&J sandwiches (Gabe and Faith)
- Get their own drinks
- sweep, vacuum and mop
- Clean the bathrooms (not like I would do it, and needing supervision, but doing it)
- Pick up toys and “stuff” lying around (no more mom picking up toys!)
- Help clean the kitchen (counters, unload and load dishwasher)
- Put away groceries
- Take out and put away homeschool bins/work
- Do independent homeschool work during after-lunch rest hours (journal and handwriting, mostly)
- Clean everything out of the van, every time we come home
- Put away folded clothes
- Fold towels
- Dust (some things)
- Clean their rooms regularly (and not just throw things in the closet and under the bed)
- Make their beds
- Strip dirty sheets off beds
- Bring dirty laundry to the laundry room
- Work the laundry machines (with supervision)
- Sweep the back porch
- Mow the lawn (Gabe)
- Feed the baby his bottle
- Feed the baby his baby food
- Fetch things I need
- Entertain the baby (all three are great at this, but especially Faith and Gianna)
- Help change the baby and throw away diapers
- Empty all trashcans and replace trash bags
- Take trash cans to the curb (if they’re not too heavy) and bring them back up at the end of the day
- Check the mail
- Take care of the dog (feed her, de-poop the yard, fill her water bowl, walk her, let her out to potty, clean up all messes she makes)
I still don’t have a routine at the moment that gets it all done. Not nearly. I don’t have cute little chore charts and reward systems that I keep up with. But things around the house are better. I’m asking for help, and I’m getting less resistance from the kids now. They know I need them, because that’s how I talk about it. And because I thank them with sincerity.
I’ve been trying to be intentional about communicating respect to my children. I try to speak to them respectfully and matter-of-factly when I ask them to help me around the house–as opposed to ordering them around. I try to point out individual gifts and talents they can use to be a gift to their parents and siblings. For example, Faith is a wonder at entertaining the baby for me.
Most importantly I’m not in such a victim mindset anymore (most days). I know I need to be asking for help, teaching the kids new chores as they get older, and developing a routine of everybody doing their part that will one day get our home in a more reliable good working order. I have a little plan and a little hope these days.
For now, somehow the laundry gets done and we have clean clothes to choose from the vast majority of the time. The bathrooms aren’t great, but they’re rarely horrific. Meals get onto the table. Sometimes dishes stay in the sink overnight, and usually the dust does pile up, but who really cares all that much? It’s my season. Sometimes you need to leave the dishes and the dust to themselves and shut down for the evening to watch a show with your spouse.:)