“Cleaning your house while children are growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” ~Phyllis Diller
The other day I was chatting with some of my fellow homeschooling mamas as we tossed around some ideas about groups and classes we would like to pull together for the fall. We were debating on getting together in the mornings or afternoons. In some respects, we were leaning towards mornings, but then it was pointed out that afternoons provide more time to straighten up the house before folks come over. It was then that one friend declared we should have a “Who-Cares-If-The-House-Is-A-Mess” rule. I immediately fell in love with this idea and it brought me a great sense of relief. Having company catch me with a messy house can sometimes be my biggest source of anxiety, which I logically know is ridiculous, but I can’t seem to let it go. As a play at home mom, when having other families over, there should be an understanding that houses with small children should always look lived in (read: slightly messy). My husband always pokes fun at the fact that I’ll break my neck picking up the toys, clearing every counter and table, and sweep the floor only for it to ALL to unravel mere seconds after company comes over because of course the kids are going to play and do what they do.
But the truth is, sometimes adulting is hard. Laundry is my nemesis. These days, I teeter back and forth between accepting that as a homeschooling family, our house will just always look lived in and then feeling like I can’t find calm in all the chaos. I will admit the one thing I envy in families that choose to send their kids to school is that they have some kid-free time in their house to get household chores done in peace. For a while, I was hiring a babysitter to take the kids out so that I could fold laundry or tidy up without little ones immediately coming along behind me to undo what I had just done. Instead, they would just undo it a few hours later…but oh those glorious few hours when I could see the floor. Recently, I have decided that if I’m going to hire a babysitter, I would really rather use my kid-free time focusing on self-care, such as getting to a yoga class, spend some time writing or having lunch with a friend and not doing the dishes or mopping the floors.
From time to time, I’ve enlisted my little ones to help me with various cleaning tasks, but the act of getting them to participate in a truly helpful way can be a chore in and of itself. I fantasize that their help will actually be help as they get older and tell myself that I need to start teaching them now how to keep things in order. With toys, I’ve tried to make a place for everything so that cleanup is just a matter of finding that place. In the past few months, I’ve found that Big Brother is improving at this task and when I declare cleanup time, he manages to get things where they need to go. Little One, not so much, but it’s a work in progress.
With laundry being my biggest hill to climb, I have been working on developing a routine to have my kids actually help me get to the top of that hill. It has taken many rounds to fine tune the chore, but we are starting to find a rhythm that seems to be working. First, a schedule. Just as we have drumming class every Tuesday or gathering with the neighborhood friends at the playground most days around 4pm, I am trying to make certain days for tackling laundry. I know some folks prefer to do a load of laundry each day, but given it’s my least favorite chore, I really don’t want to make it a part of my every day.
In order to make the task appealing to the boys, I try to make it a game. After choosing our soundtrack (because chores are always better with tunes or sometimes we will listen to an audiobook) we pour a mountain of clothes into the middle of the room or on top of the king size bed, then start a game of laundry basketball. Each person’s clothes is designated a basket and upon pulling out that person’s clothes, they shoot for that person’s basket. True, I have to sit by and pick up the missed shots, but they think it’s fun and it gets the job done. Then each boy takes their basket to their closets where they work on sorting skills as they go through their basket by making piles of shirts and socks, then their counting skills as they count the hangers needed to hang their shirts, and finally their fine motor skills as they bundle socks or place shirts on hangers. Big Brother has gotten to the point where he can put away his basket all by himself and Little One can get through his basket with encouragement.
The best part is once the work is done, the boys go to town on the imagination train with those empty laundry baskets! Just thirty minutes of chore work and then sometimes hours of play from space ships to race cars. It’s amazing what two boys can do with empty baskets.