Reader Kristen wrote me and asked, “I have so much housework to do all day, but I know I need to spend time with my three kids. How do I juggle doing both? Is there any chance I can have a simple life and show them the simple life?”
Kristen, I don’t pretend to be an expert at this, because I’m still learning. In fact, I was thinking of your question today as my three-year-old and I folded laundry. She was helping me with the dishtowels, and quite frankly, she was doing a horrible job. Nothing was even, the pile of folded towels was toppling over, and I knew I’d have to fold some of them again.
But you know what? Through this mama’s eyes, those folded dishtowels were sparkling rubies and diamonds. They were beautiful.
At three years old, I’m teaching her a small lesson in the value of work. And I’m teaching her that she’s an important contributor to this family.
Here are four important reminders as you juggle parenting and home management.
1. Let go of perfection.
I’ve written already about how perfectionism ultimately makes you more unproductive – but it also makes you more of a control freak. If the towels, the dishes, and the table setting has to be just so, then no one in your home will want to do it. Which means you’ll have to do it. When imperfect people live together in a home, the home will be imperfect.
2. Let them help.
Let your children put their special touch on housework, and they’ll better understand that they matter in the home. They’ll take more pride in the work if you’re patient and forgiving with their final results. Plus, when they’re young, they actually think chores are fun. Take advantage of that.
You know what? My daughter’s towel-folding chore has improved drastically since she first started helping about six months ago. I know she’ll get the hang of it. In the meantime, the perfectionist in me has to show her grace and be satisfied with wonky towels. I cringe, trust me, but when I think about the big picture of things, I’d rather her develop a good work ethic at a young age than have stacked towels worthy of Martha Stewart.
3. Let them wait.
As important as it is that they help, there are also tasks that must be done by a competent adult. It won’t kill children to learn to wait. When you’re paying bills, and they want to play Candy Land with you, teach them the value of patience. It’s hard for kids, but the sooner they learn that they are not the center of the universe, the better.
It’s also good for kids to learn how to play alone. My children are not good at this, being the social butterflies they are – but they still have alone time during the day. The same three-year-old who helped me with today’s laundry also has a one to two-hour quiet time every day. She doesn’t have to sleep, but she has to play quietly by herself in her playroom. This is when I try to get a good portion of my chores done that require concentration. There are plenty of “Is my quiet time over?” shouts from down the hall, but at least it’s a bit calmer than the rest of the day. A timer helps.
4. Let them have your utmost attention.
Ultimately, there are unique times when we, as the parent, need to let go of our agendas and focus fully on our children. My eight-month-old son has a cold at the moment, and he was wailing as I worked on the laundry. I had a mounting pile of clothes before me, but I stopped and played with him on my lap for awhile instead. That was more important.
My to-do list might barely get checked off on those days, but I have to stop and ask myself – how do I define a successful day? Is it getting a lot done? Or is it pouring into the lives that matter for eternity? Sometimes it’s hard to remember.
I don’t know a parent out there who doesn’t struggle daily with the balance of managing the home and investing in their children. How do you deal with this dilemma?