Updated: Nov 17, 2020
As a mum, housework is a huge part of our life; the literal never ending pile of washing, dishes, toys, pee on the toilet seat (is it really that hard to aim?!), grubby finger marks on the walls and dust that seems to appear overnight. If you are anything like me, I like to have a clean house. Since having children, I have really had to lower my standards on what a ‘clean house’ looks like. Firstly, I feel there is a big difference, between messy and dirty. Toys and shoes strewn everywhere, is different to crusty plates, overflowing bins and insects. It has been a learning curve, but I’m finally learning to stop stressing about the housework. Housework can wait, your children will not. I’m going to let you in on a secret; if you have young children, your house will never be clean (for long). If you just drop by my house, there’s a 90% chance it will look like a bomb site. I can literally spend all day cleaning as I go, yet it will, more often than not, still look like I have achieved nothing for the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I know we need to do chores. We need clean clothes, clean dishes to eat off, and to be able to walk down the hall without tripping over a hundred things. In saying that, we need to shift our focus off keeping a clean house, and onto more important things. I try to stay on top of my housework, by doing a few little things every day, usually in the morning when I’m my most productive, and the children are nice and fresh. Of course, like most, I get in productive modes and go on a cleaning spree. Just the other day, I did a huge spring clean of the children’s bedrooms, and it was so satisfying, but everyday tasks will always be there. Our children, however, will not always be children.
When I start something, for example, doing the dishes, I like to finish it. As you know, when you’re a mum, you are constantly interrupted and needed for something. It can be very frustrating when you just want to finish the dishes, but have to keep stopping. This is a classic moment when I am most vulnerable to snapping at my children. Something I have been working on, is choosing the best time to start tasks like this, or, where possible, involving them in it. Now they are getting older, it is easier for me to explain to them that I just need 10 minutes to finish the dishes and then we can do something together.
I felt like I was missing out on precious memories, because I was too busy trying to finish the housework. Coming to the realisation, that although I can be relatively ‘on top’ of housework, I will in fact, never be finished the housework, helped me learn to deal with the mess. As a wise friend once told me, mess is a sign that children are having fun and learning! Just this morning, I tidied the lounge room, then about 20 minutes later looked around and there was just stuff everywhere. Already…. seriously!? Miss C and Mr I had scattered their toy tools everywhere (along with some other things), but were having heaps of fun playing together; building and fixing things. Rather than get cranky at the mess, I took a minute to stop and watch them, remembering, housework can wait, your children will not. They were bonding, learning to share, engaging in imaginative play, and having fun! That is what was important, not the mess. It is great, however, for them to learn to help pack away when they are finished (something we are still working on, clearly!)
Living in the moment is something I have struggled with. Often when I get a spare minute whilst the children are occupied, I feel I have to do something productive. I need to wash the dishes, put away washing or tidy up. While yes, these things need to be done, it is all about prioritising and time management. As I mentioned in my previous post, A Stay At Home Mum's Survival Guide, engaging your children in the housework, where possible, is always handy, and then you can play together later. I wasn’t spending enough time with my children or using teachable moments to extend their knowledge and help them grow. I know we can’t sit and play with them 24/7, but just making a conscious effort to do this more often, is really worth it. Sometimes we need to simply stop and live in the moment; enjoy it. Housework can wait, your children will not. Tickle each other and laugh, do a silly dance, dress up together, build something together, read books together, draw together. These are all invaluable and priceless.
Believe me, I definitely understand the importance of independent play; you don’t want your children to be completely dependent on you all of the time. It’s all about balance. I also find, if I have spent sufficient time with them, they are more likely to then play peacefully, as they aren’t craving my attention. Don’t feel guilty if you aren’t doing something productive every time they are occupied. Sometimes, yes, it is great to get things done. Other times, it is also beneficial to just sit and drink a cup of coffee or simply daydream!
The aim of this post is to encourage you to live in the moment. It’s okay to neglect housework (to a degree) and spend time with your children. One day, they won’t want to sit and colour with you. One day, they won’t want you to blow raspberries on their belly. One day, they won’t want you to read them a story and snuggle on the couch. Trust me, I know it’s hard not to wish they were older, because then we can do this and that. I most certainly have those moments. I’m making a conscious effort to try and just take a step back and enjoy, and I encourage you to do the same. Housework can wait, your children will not. The chores will always be there. Your children will not always be children.
Enjoy. Laugh. Live. Smile.