Them’s fighting words!
And we all know it. We tell jokes about inept men like that. We laugh at them.
And yet, ladies, I want to talk just between you and me right now. Hopefully no men are listening. Do we always work as hard as we can during the day? Or do we sometimes goof off?
I know I goof off a lot. Of course, that’s only natural, because being home all day with kids is exhausting. We need our rejuvenating time, we argue. We need our time to ourselves. And that is very true.
But other than well-deserved breaks (and napping when the baby naps to catch up on sleep), do we put our 100% in?
Part of the problem, I think, is that motherhood is not a job.
We’re not getting paid, and no one is looking over our shoulder (except God! ). No one has made a list of all you have to accomplish today. No one is grading your performance. No one is going to fire you. So the only way to get things done around the house is by self-motivation.
What if you don’t have any?
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? Now looking after little ones is a full-time job. I remember how exhausted I was when my children were little. And I decided that my primary responsibility was to them first, and the house (or apartment, as it was at the time) second. We would take outings every day, and I would read to them, and play with them, and make homemade baby food, and cook healthy meals, and make sure their laundry was done and their room cleaned, but the rest of the house suffered. I know that bothered my husband, but I figured he didn’t have much to say about it because the kids were getting stimulated, and that was the important thing.
Looking back, I’m not sure what I would have done much differently, except perhaps get more organized at cleaning. But the kids were my primary responsibility!
What I wish I had had, at the time, was a more organized approach to housework. If I could have kept things neat, a lot of the chaos in our lives would have disappeared. And quite frankly, I did waste a lot of time. My children were wonderfully cared for, but the house was not. And with a little organization, it doesn’t take that much time.
But as the kids grew older, my housework didn’t improve that much, either. I just didn’t like cleaning, and I found it overwhelming. It was a definite tension between my husband and me, because he wanted the living room neat, and I felt the children took precedence (or really, my right not to have to clean everyday took precedence!). When I finally realized how important it was to him, I made it a priority to have that room clean when he came home, as an act of love. And when I started doing that, I realized I did actually have quite a bit of time for cleaning, if you do it systematically.
When you treat motherhood like a job, you get things done. When you treat it like a big party with the kids, where you all get to goof off, you don’t.
I loved those years with my children when they were babies, and I was awfully young myself, so I’m not beating myself up about it. But today, now that the kids are older, I have to ask myself everyday: am I working today? Or am I goofing off?
My husband is working, and doing wonderful things for our family. I owe him some effort, too. That doesn’t mean that I don’t take time to myself; but it does mean that I need to start seeing some of the organizational tasks that need to get done around the house as my job. Not because I’m female, but simply out of fairness:
if he works, I should work.
I know many homes where she stays home with the kids, but she doesn’t necessarily “work”. She has the TV on all day, or she’s on Facebook as much as possible, or she’s reading a book. Sure she plays with the kids, but stuff around the house just doesn’t get done.
I don’t think that’s respectful of one’s husband or one’s kids. We need to set an example for the kids that we all have to do our share, and that means getting stuff under control. And we need to show our husband that we appreciate his effort by putting some effort in ourselves, too.
Now if you work outside the home as well, things are a little different. I’ll address that in another post. But if you’re at home, caring for the house, you should be caring for the house. I don’t mean to make you feel guilty; I just mean to challenge you. It is so much harder to work when there’s no one standing over your shoulder. We need to learn to be our own bosses!
One of the things that helped me was developing charts, that I talk about in my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum, that help me get work done more efficiently. Everything has its day, so everything gets done in its time. You don’t have to buy the book to get the charts, though: they’re available for free download when you subscribe to my parenting newsletter (just choose the parenting option, and you’ll get an email with a link to the charts).
Another thing that helped was just that mental switch: I am here to do a job. Am I doing it?
Besides, believe me, your house is so much nicer to live in when it’s organized. So let’s all get to work!