Housework + Parenting = Too Hard (Laundry) Basket?

So, as boring as a post about housework is, I hope this will serve as a reminder to me when I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of parenting and being the responsible adult who keeps the house in order*.

When I first moved out of my Mum’s house into my own home I didn’t mind housework. I didn’t do it much because there was always something more fun to do, but I always kept my house fairly clean because I like it that way. When my environment is chaotic my mind is also chaotic.

Since becoming a mother I’ve discovered that I really dislike housework. I don’t like it simply because it needs doing and I feel like I don’t have the time to do it. When I didn’t have children, it was easier to find the time to do it. When I didn’t have children there wasn’t so much housework to do in the first place! When I didn’t have children there was no one to follow me around untidying everything I tidied**!

It’s not the housework chores themselves that I dislike, it’s the fact that they compete with my children for my time. I keep getting stuck in this mindset that I don’t have the time to parent and keep the house clean as well. I start thinking that it’s one or the other, which just doesn’t work for me because I need my home to be clean and (somewhat) ordered so my mind can be clean and (somewhat) ordered.

Some people suggest ignoring housework because it’s less important to have a clean house than it is to have happy children. I agree, wholeheartedly. However, a clean house is still important to me, never as important as my children, but I believe I should be able to have a clean house and plenty of time to actively parent too! So I’ve come up with a couple of strategies to help us stay on top of housework.

Hour of Power!

This is my favourite one :)

When I was living in community in the year before I had The Bubble we had to share a small space between about 20 people. We shared the same domestic sized outdoor kitchen, indoor loungeroom & outdoor eating area. We had a dormitory style sleeping house with rooms we shared with one other person. It was a real test to live so closely with a large group of people. Every Monday afternoon, after our morning work in the gardens and after our lunch, we would do what was called “hour of power”.

The idea behind HoP was simple. We all did our weekly chores at the same time so:

  • We all felt more motivated to work because we weren’t the only ones working.
  • When we were all finished our job we could enjoy the whole space being totally clean and tidy for a while, before we messed it all up again ;)

Now, in our home, we’ve adopted the HoP. Monday evenings are our regular HoP time, although it’s flexible if something else comes up on a Monday evening. In reality it takes longer than one hour when all the weekly chores are divided up between 2 adults, especially when we’ve got 2 small friends who like to help. We find though that it’s so lovely to have the whole house clean after the weekend.

Weekends are times when we are too busy enjoying exploring our world with each other to bother with being very tidy, so Mondays can be a bit of a chaotic day at our house. The children (and I) tend to take that day to adjust to Bean being back at work during the day & the mess of the weekend just seems to compound that sense of dis-order. We often have a day sleep on Mondays so bed time can be pushed back a bit later and when Bean gets home from work we both just get cracking on changing bedding, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the bathroom & toilet, cleaning the kitchen and general tidying inside & outside.

It’s so wonderful at the end of a Monday to crawl into bed for clean sheets night knowing we’ll be waking to a clean house in the morning. I think I sleep better on Monday nights :)

Laundry

Laundry is one of those jobs that just has to be done regularly or a small pile of clothes becomes Mount Washmore & it seems insurmountable! Using cloth nappies means we have to wash them every couple of days or we run out of nappies too. Laundry is quite a pleasant job when the sun is shining though (which it is most days in Perth). The Bubble is always happy to potter around outside while I hang the washing out, especially if I give her a bucket of soapy water to play with before I get started. Babyman is usually happy to crawl around at my feet and explore the wonders hidden in the grass under the clothes line for a little while, though he’s becoming less happy with that lately which has made it trickier to get the washing hung out. He loves water play also, so this morning I put a bucket of water under the clothes line and he played with that for long enough that I could get one dry load off the line and one wet load on the line before he let me know he was over it. I hope that strategy continues to be effective for both of them.

Folding the clean, dry clothes and linen is the part of the laundry that I dislike the most. It’s awesome once it’s done, but it’s not awesome while I’m doing it. I find this part of the laundry easier if I fold the clothes as I take them off the line, before I put them into the washing basket. It takes a little longer but the clothes don’t get wrinkled and they don’t end up sitting in a pile for the next few days while I avoid folding. This way I can just take them straight from the line to the cupboard without double handling.

Dishes

I use the same tactic here as I do with the laundry. The Bubble loves water play, so she gets to rinse the dishes after I’ve washed them. She loves helping. Her chest puffs out with pride and she says,

“I did it!”

It takes a lot longer to get the dishes done this way, but it’s much less stressful.

While we do the dishes Babyman is either cruising around on the kitchen floor playing with toys, doors and drawers or he’s in the ergo on my back if he’s wanting to be close & in on the action.

The end of day tidy up

Both Bean and I had mothers who did heaps for us as kids. That was awesome, but it did lead to us expecting our Mums to pick up after us all the time, and we did treat them like our slaves which wasn’t nice. We’re trying to instill a habit of clean as you go in our kids (& ourselves!) & we’re trying to involve them in tidying up at the end of each day. When their toys are packed away in their baskets (one for blocks, one for play cloths, one for play kitchen stuff, one for toy animals, one for instruments etc.) they seem to play with them more, when their play space is cluttered and disorganised they seem to avoid it.

While one of us is making dinner the other will whip around with the children and put story books back on the shelf, pack toys into their baskets, collect dirty laundry & take it to the washing baskets, tidy up the craft box etc.

* Obviously I’m not solely responsible for the housework because I am not a single parent & I don’t believe housework is the domain of the stay at home parent in a family, but given that Bean is working out of the home & is away for 11-12 hours M-F it does come down to me to do the day-to-day housekeeping. He helps when he’s home, and he picks up the slack if I’ve been unable to keep on top of it during the days and it’s starting to stress me out.

**Contrary to the tone of this post, I don’t follow my kids around picking up after them all day long, we play and we enjoy making mess, then we clean it up if we have time & the mood is right, or we leave it until Bean gets home if it’s all too hard. Please believe me when I say I’m not a weirdy clean-freak!

posted by wildecrafted in journal and have Comments (2)