Now I don’t profess to be a super-duper clean freak by any stretch of the imagination (in fact when some of my oldest friends come to visit they get the spray and wipe out and look for places to spray) but I have found that for the most part, my house is generally tidy and presentable if you overlook that the floor needs a mop – sweeping and vacuuming is normally as far as I get. (Mental note to self: I must buy that steam mop someday). I’m glad to say that the house is clean enough to not embarrass me if someone drops by but liveable enough that arts and crafts and little boys messy activities don’t faze me too much.
For me, the trick to creating and maintaining order at home are routines. I know, boring and so last century, but for me and my kids they work beautifully.
While I am not a clock watcher, I have found that having a natural order of when we do things means the kids have consistency and security in how to get through their days. They can now anticipate when and how we are going to do things. On most days, we will do go about our day the same way.
Here is a breakdown of a typical morning.
6.30 – 6.45 am. – At least one, if not both boys wake up. They are allowed to turn on their lights and play in their bedrooms until their Dad or I come get them. If it gets too loud, or they have a fight because they have gone into each other’s rooms, then they get put back into their own rooms. The upside of banning the kids from morning cuddles in our bed is that we start the day without everyone getting grumpy from the kids fighting about who lies where and getting in trouble for jumping or other misdemeanours.
7.00 am – I get out of bed and tidy the kid’s rooms with their help. Curtains need to be opened, books need to be returned to their bookshelves, beds need to be made, the floor needs to be cleared of any treasure, and hot-water bottles are searched for, then unearthed to get ready to take to the kitchen. Wahoo, some major chores are already done and it’s not even breakfast time yet.
7.10 am – The kids and I go out to the family area. Our lounge, kitchen, dining and playroom are one big space. Straight off this space is the laundry, storage and our home office. They kids both play while I make lunches and husband prepare their breakfast and a coffee for me. If it is a laid-back morning and we are time-rich I sneak take a brief peek at the news sites on my phone while the kids sit on my lap.
7.30- 7.45 am – While the kids eat their breakfast, Hubby and I discuss our plans for the day and take care of anything that needs to be done before he leaves for work. I usually get the kids clothes ready for their showers and pack their school bags while refereeing the ‘he smacked me with his spoon, he stole my … ‘ kind of conversations. Hubby also referees breakfast and asks what he can do to help.
7.55 am – Hubby is off to work. We have a family tradition where we all go to the front window to wave goodbye and blow kisses while he reverses down the drive. Some mornings I also give him a wee discreet flash so he has something to smile about on the drive in to work . As we wives are prone to do on occasion 😉
8.00 am – The dishes go into the dishwasher and it gets turned on. I also get the washing machine ready to go so we only need to pop in the kids pj’s after their showers. I ask the boys to see to their responsibilities and feed and water the cats. I don’t know how, but Mumma (me) got the task of cleaning the litter tray poop. I normally do that early and then put the tray outside while opening curtains and opening windows.
8.05 – 8.15am – The kids and I tidy up the family areas; toys and books go away, cushions go back on the couch; blankets are stowed away or taken back to respective bedrooms. Any news that is going to ‘show and tell’ at school is selected and put into bags. The kids aren’t allowed a shower until this is done. The longer it takes the shorter their shower will be so this helps motivate them to move it 😉
8.15 – 8.25am – Shower time commences. The boys and I used to shower together (we have a double shower and it saved time, water, and supervision, but these days they are bigger and it is easier and more peaceful when we shower separately). I get out first and dress and dry my hair etc. while they continue to play. Before they get out and after the water is turned off, they have to tidy up the toys in the shower (bottles, funnels, squirty- sprays all go into the plastic basket). They then get out, dry themselves off, and have to get dressed. They are getting better and better at this and only really still need reminding to get on with it and to put socks on. If there is too much posturing ( I know, who knew that little boys love prancing around in their naked pulling poses so much) and rough housing in front of the mirrors on our wardrobe doors, I tell them I will set the timer. I then say, ‘In 10 minutes I will be getting in the car to go to school, you too will also be getting in, even if you have to go naked’. Or I just remind them if they are too late they won’t be able to ride their bikes from a drop-off point on the way to school. This normally generates a frenetic energy and moments later, like magic, the kids are dressed. Viola!
Showering and getting dry and dressed is the time of the morning that has the most potential for stress in our family (although fighting at the breakfast bar runs a close second these days too). I have combated this by getting the boys to work for a cotton ball reward.
Long story short – we have a huge jar on our kitchen bench where we collect cotton balls. When the jar is full, we get to take a special family outing to the hot pools or to an indoor playground etc. The jar was originally an old-fashioned glass fish-bowl so it takes a while to fill. The boys love their cotton balls so work really hard to get them while planning the next family outing.
Where we face stressors in our daily routine, like getting into their car seats and putting on their seatbelts, no fighting in the shower, getting out the shower when asked, drying off and getting dressed, a cotton ball is offered as a reward if they complete their tasks well. As well as the positive reinforcement approach we also use negative reinforcement. Our children get a warning that their behaviour is not acceptable and are told what the appropriate action is instead. If there is no moderation of their behaviour after that, then they get a countdown from five. If I get to one, then a consequence will be given. This can be getting taken out of the shower before the normal time to sit on the mat. It can also include a timeout on their naughty seat (in full view of the family room) for how many minutes their age is. I have also improvised and got them to sit on their bottoms if we are out in public. If they don’t engage with the time out process we use while at home, then it is to the bedroom to think for a while before coming back to the timeout chair to complete their consequence (this happens very rarely and has only been added in the last few months as school hormones having started surging). Normally though, the countdown is enough time for them to change tack and get on with what they are meant to do.
8.30 – 8.35 – The boys like do their hair if they have enough time. Yup, they get their brushes out and style their Barnett; I then spray a gel on their creation so it stays that way throughout the day. This really helps their hand-eye coordination, helps to develop confidence and creativity while contributing to their own sense of individuality. Gosh they look cute!
8.30 onwards – Shoes on, line up, line up, we do a quick sweep to ensure family areas have passed inspection ;-), I make sure that the kids have put their pjs in the washing machine (it’s on the way from the bathroom to the front door) so I can turn it on, then off we go to school. I normally trust them to pick up their school bags and hockey sticks etc., but did get caught out the other day when we got to school and number two son had forgotten to bring his bag. I did go back and get it… he’s only six.
9.30 ish – Phew, I’m back home, yay for that second and most important cup of coffee for the day. I then head into my home office to start my work day. Obviously this can change. I often have meetings after doing the morning kids run or am out on jobs. Regardless of when I get in though, that coffee gets made. Small quiet moments of reflection help to create and sustain positivity and happiness as we go forward in our lives 😉
Morning smoko – while waiting for the jug to boil, I hang out my washing or if the weather is the pits or I am feeling lazy I put it in the dryer. Although with power prices these days, I curse at myself at the end of month if I chose this option too often. If I’m doing a crockpot meal, I will stick it on now. It is at this time, I will also run the broom over our wooden floors. Because the boys love their sandpit, sweeping the floor is something I sometimes need to do up to five times a day. Mental note to self – in future, choose a lighter colour floorboard, it hides the dust way better.
I normally choose to ignore the carpet and give it a quick vacuum every couple of days and then it is only the high traffic volume areas. The kids love to vacuum so this is something we often do as part of our afternoon activities. I can’t take the credit for this, their Nana loves vacuuming and had them taking part as soon as they could toddle. Our home gets it main vacuum in its entirety once a week. The kids’ toilet floor gets cleaned most days as pee regularly escapes the receptacle (on an as needed capacity). The joys of boys! That’s as easy as using a bottle of spray and wipe or some such equivalent with some old cloth nappies which are ideal for mopping up liquid.
The kids are also part of the washing folding away operations after telling me it was ‘women’s work’ and they shouldn’t have to do it. Um… no! Masters six and seven now have to help fold as well as put away their clothes. Each person has their own basket which the clothes are folded into and then easily carried off to the bedroom.
The cotton balls then come in handy again as the kids are keen to partake in skirting cleaning, dusting, and window washing. Basically anything where they can use a spray bottle is a goer in their eyes. It does mean we go through a lot more glass and surface spray than most households would, but hey, a small price to pay for getting help with the pesky maintenance chores :-).
At night, after after-school activities, the kids do their homework activities, and play while I cook. They like to help wherever possible so they get their stools to stand at the bench or sit at the breakfast bar and participate and watch and chat while I whip something up. It is while things are cooking, I unpack the dishwasher, clean out lunchboxes, direct kids to make sure cat bowls are clean and fill.
I make no pretenses of being a domestic goddess, but all-in-all; I can say I am house-conscious. By making the kids partly responsible for the environment we share, we manage to get most chores done and the kids are happy. When the kids are happy, I’m happy, and so, hubby is happy too.
Below are some links to Business Mums that have wonderful tips on how to manage the housework while working at home. I hope you find something useful.