Growing up in my parents home I learned the work ethic of a small sweat shop slave…. Ok maybe not quite that bad… but that’s what it felt like as a kid. My mother was, and still is, a certified “clean-freak” and to be honest I’m so glad she was! Our house was clean and organized and if company was coming over it sparkled from top to bottom. I swore up and down I would never do that to my kids when I grew up! I would be sent to my room to “clean it the right way” and it never failed she would come to check on the job I had done and everything I had put away was tossed into the middle of the room because it was in a place she would proclaim “is not where this goes” and I would stand there with my hands in the air and muttering under my breath. Who was SHE to say where MY stuff goes in MY room? I mean it’s not like she had to live in there… if she didn’t like it why didn’t she just shut the door??
I am honestly laughing out loud as I sit here and recount those child-hood memories of lessons my mother was trying to teach me. Now I am an adult with children who range in age from 2-15 and I understand. I get that she was trying to help us realize that we are more productive and more efficient when we are surrounded by an organized environment. I see that allowing clothes and random treasures collected at school pile up in the corners eventually leads to dirty surroundings and the laziness spreads to more areas of your life. I have experienced the effects of that lazy depression as well as the effects of energy and motivation that comes from clean, organized spaces. These are lessons I am now trying to teach my own children… and what do you think I find myself doing?? “Go clean your room and do it right the first time!” “This is not where this goes, and this is trash, and this is disgusting go get the surface cleaner!” My mother was coming out of my mouth on a daily basis! It was becoming a topic of stress and building a wall between us. I realized that part of my frustration was my expectation and the other part was responsibility.
My husband works full time and I am able to work part time and run the house the rest of the time. With four kids most of that time is spent caring for them, dropping off and picking up from school, sports, errands, meals, laundry… the list gets so long there are times when I feel like I might drown. Even when I gave one of them a task I still held on to the responsibility and if after a few tries they couldn’t meet my level of expectation I would end up redoing it myself. Sometimes I didn’t even bother asking I would just do it because I wanted it done right. How many of you still live by the “if you want it done right the first time do it yourself” mentality? I know I fall in that category often! In talking to my therapist about my overwhelming to do list he asked me a question… “Why don’t you ask the kids to help you?” I responded “Because it’s more stressful to watch them do it wrong” The next question he asked has changed my thinking forever…. “You are feeling so beaten down and struggling with completing your to do list, the boxes left unchecked at the end of the day keep you up at night. Each day the list is longer because you have added the undone things from the day before…. Wouldn’t having the tasks done to 70% of your satisfaction be better than 0?” Logically I HAD to say yes. There was no way around it. It was obvious. Having it done, even if it wasn’t perfect, was better than not being done at all.
I will admit that the first few weeks of trying to make my brain accept this was difficult. Painful almost… but now I can say that it has gotten easier. I still make a few corrections here and there or ask them to change something., but I am no longer raising my voice or undoing all of the work they have done and tossing it into the middle of the room. In turn there are less tears, they feel more accomplished when they are done and my list feels shorter. Along the way we developed a chore rotation and stuck to the side of the refrigerator is a detailed list of what each chore entails. This allowed me to stop nagging them… and allowed them to grumble without me seeing or hearing it. (another fact I had to accept… it’s ok for them to not be happy about doing chores and to express that as long as it’s not disrespectful… no one likes doing chores… we complain about it all the time so why can’t they?)
Dishes - daily
Load dishwasher, run it, unload it, hand wash and dry pots and pans, put everything away
Trash - daily
Collect all of the trashes, take it to the dumpster, put new bags in all of the bins
Floors – Fridays Only
Sweep, Mop and Vacuum all hallways and bedrooms
Bathrooms – Fridays Only
Wipe mirror and counter, clean toilet inside and out, clean tub, sweep and mop floors, hang new hand towels, stock tp
*Dishes & Floors given to one boy, Trash & Bathrooms to the other and they alternate each week
Pick up and organize toys, straighten pillows and blankets, dust