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Realities of Being a SAHM

Being a stay at home mom (SAHM) has many sweet and wonderful moments.

But it also has many hard and difficult ones. I think a trick to surviving these difficulties is to acknowledge that they exist, figure out how to make them easier, and also to accept that they are a part of life. I don't mean for this to be a downer post. I mean for it to be a real one. We often talk about how blessed we are and how wonderful moments are. That is great! I think it is great to think positively. I have many posts on motherhood meant to inspire you. But when that is all we talk about, it then makes us doubt ourselves when we find ourselves in those hard moments. It helps to know that in reality, these things are hard! And they are hard for all of us. If you find it to be hard, then know you are normal. You aren't a failure. You aren't doing something wrong. You are normal.  Let's talk about some of these difficulties.

Cleaning Can Be Hard
Finding time to clean can be hard. Actually doing the cleaning can be hard. Watching your children undo your efforts from the last 60 minutes in about 60 seconds can be...hard. You are not alone! All parents struggle to figure out when to clean, how to clean, how often to clean, and how much to worry about the messes the children make. Here are some posts I have written about cleaning:
This was one of the hardest adjustments for me being a SAHM. Being an extrovert and going from spending my time surrounded by people in life to spending my time in my house all day every day with a baby (cute, but baby) who couldn't even smile at first was an emotional challenge to say the least. 

Things have gotten easier in this department over the years in a way as social interaction is more prevalent with things like texting, smart phones, and social media sites. Those things, if used, bring with them a whole new realm of difficulty as a mother, but they can sometimes be helpful in the department of getting some social interaction and not feeling so cut off from the world. You have to be careful that you don't allow social media to become a replacement of people who are physically present in your life, and social media has recently started to be identified as often leading some to depression and anxiety

There are some things you can do to help with this loneliness and isolated feeling. Let me tell you it is never worse than when your oldest is a baby. This is when the days seem to never end and you feel very alone. It does get better.

Take the time to call a family member or friend. Initiate conversation. Invite a friend over to your house for the day. Have girls night out with friends without kids. Go out with friends during the day with your kids. Have a standing day at the park with your friends. Get involved in church and/or community activities--these are great places to meet people. 

See also 

Boredom Can Be Hard
Hey, our kids are awesome. But their interest level as young children is a bit different than ours. There is also a great deal of monotony to each day. I have heard it said, "The hours will crawl but the years will fly." 

Figuring out your new social life will help this boredom. You can also look into Developing Talents. Find some things that you can do at home that will be of interest to you. Take some time to do things you like every so often. 

But also work to change your perspective to accept your season and that it is a hard time that won't last long. You want to stay connected with yourself, but you also want to Avoiding Selfishness. At my point in life, I don't ever feel bored--there is too much going on with the kids to feel bored consistently from day to day. 

Mealtime Prep Can Be Hard
Mealtime prep can be hard--especially dinner! That is when the children seem to lose their minds. See Managing Dinner Prep Time for my tips on this time period. 

Bedtime Can Be Hard
Bedtime is often a challenging time of day. We are all tired and parents and children have opposite goals. See Strategies for Making Bedtime Smoother.

Time Management Can Be Hard
How do you balance time among house management, time with kids, friends, family, husband, and yourself? I recently wrote about this: Balancing Household Responsibilities with Family Time

Feeling Jealous of Husband Can Be Hard
This is a really hard one! My husband gets to have a change of scenery each day. He gets to talk to other adults each day. He gets to have things like "Doughnut Thursday" every week. Husbands have an easier time leaving the house to do things--we moms feel like we need to make sure he will take care of the kids while we are gone. When there are scheduling conflicts and both have something going on, it is usually the mom who stays home unless other arrangements can be made. 

I feel jealous of my husband doing things like traveling for work. I know it is work and isn't necessarily fun, but it is a change of scenery and it is time of no taking care of kids, cleaning, or cooking. It is sleeping without having to keep yourself partially awake so you can attend to a child in the night if needed. It is leaving your bed unmade and coming back to it nicely done up. 

I really like the quote "Jealousy is when you count someone else's blessings instead of your own." A trick is to be happy for the other person--to love them so well that you feel happy for their blessings and successes. 

And it is all about perspective. There are things my husband can be jealous of. There are days I get to go spend several hours sitting at the park in the beautiful sun while my kids play and I talk with my friends. I rarely miss a cute thing my kids say or do and I am there for essentially every "first." 

Getting past the jealousy takes being happy for your spouse and finding the good in whatever your situation is now. Be happy in your moment. 

Yes, there are many things to love about being a SAHM. But we have plenty of difficulties to face each day. Hopefully these thoughts can help you do that.

What tricks do you have for battling these difficulties?

Kaitlyn Child Summary: 7 Years Old

Kaitlyn at an Art Museum

This is a summary for Kaitlyn from 6.75-7 years old.

Eating is good. I think for the first time in her life, she is just eating meals without having to be prodded to eat some portion of it. She eats what she knows she is supposed to. The pickiness she was having last time  has gone. 

I shared this on McKenna's summary, but Kaitlyn and McKenna are now sharing a room instead of Kaitlyn and Brayden. Things are going well. Kaitlyn is in the same room, so it isn't that different for her. She needs about 11-12 hours at night. 

Kaitlyn still did piano, dance, gymnastics, and swimming. She also did her first year of basketball during this season. she really enjoyed it!

CRUSHES Kaitlyn is a little boy crazy. I think that is crazy for a child of her age, but I know it isn't unheard of. For a long time, she had a crush on a friend of Brayden's. This was great because this friend has no interest in girls at all and she didn't see him all that often so she could have this far off crush. The boys mom thought it was cute and she said she always had crushes on boys at that young of an age, too.

One day, Kaitlyn came home just giggling. I asked her what was up and she said that a boy in her class said he wants to marry her. Oh boy. He is a very cute boy and comes from a great family, but I liked it better when she had a crush on a boy who she rarely saw and who didn't even think about her :)

A great quality about Kaitlyn that I wish I could bottle up and pass around is that she is a hard worker. She is very willing to work hard to get good at something. She will work and work and work at whatever it is she wants to be good at. She takes instruction and direction very well. 

Kaitlyn loves art. Our school does a night each year where students display art work they did. It is judged. Kaitlyn entered in every category except one (and she did very well). She just loves it so much that she wants to do it all.

Magic Tree House books really took off for her during this period. She has also enjoyed the Tales from Dimwood Forest books, among others. She still does a lot of art and still loves stuffed animals. When she is playing with McKenna, she plays dress up or with Barbies. She has come to love Pokemon cards in the last few weeks. 

Here is our typical school day schedule.

7:00--wake up. Eat breakfast. Get Ready. Practice piano. Chores.
Go to school.
Come home from school.
4:00--Homework. Free play until dinner.
5-5:30--dinner. Family time
7:00--start getting ready for bed 
8:30--in bed


  • child summary 

Strategies for Making Bedtime Smoother

Bedtime is simultaneously one of the best and worst times of the day. As parents, we are looking forward to getting our kids in bed and having a break. The kids are tired and cranky and most likely looking for ways to delay bedtime. We are also tired and less patient. How can we make this process as easy as possible?

1-Have a Start Time
You want to have a Consistent Bedtime, yes. You should also have a bedtime "start time." This is the time you start the process of getting ready for bed. The time you start this will depend on what you have in your bedtime routine and how long it all takes to get done. Give yourselves enough time that you can move through the routine comfortably without having to lose your cool in order to herd the cats--I mean, kids--along toward bed. Much of the time, our impatience as parents comes from us wanting our kids to move faster. If we give ourselves enough time, bedtime can go at a comfortable pace without having to be impatient. 

2-Have a Routine
Have a set routine in place for getting ready for bed. You can even have a set order--not just a "do these things" but a "do these things in this order" routine. This way, your children can do things more independently and with fewer reminders. If your children struggle to remember what to do and/or in what order, make a chore chart list, a chore card pack, or something similar that they can consult for help in knowing what to do.

Ideas to include in the routine are: go to the bathroom, get pajamas on, brush teeth, clean up messes from the day, read scriptures, read story, say prayers. 

See Bedtime Routine: Storytime for some more on our routine.

3-Work Toward Independence
No matter what it is, things can be easier when parenting if your child can be independent at it. This is when the chore charts I mentioned above can come in handy. 

Another aspect to your child being independent is that he has to be shown how to do things and you have to be patient while he learns. A painful process to observe is that of a child learning to put on his own clothes. It takes a long time and you just want to jump in there and do it for them. Take this into account with your start time. Have enough time that your child can do the things independently that he can do. As he practices, he will get faster. 

4-Stagger Bedtimes
Sometimes it helps to stagger bedtimes. There may be things you want to do as an entire family (for example, we do family scripture study and prayer), so you can do those things together and then put some kids to bed earlier than others. You can have older children quietly sit on the couch and look at books while you put younger siblings to bed. It makes it easier to start to reduce the number of children you are working with at bedtime.

5-Have Older Children Help
If you have older children, have them help the younger children with bedtime tasks. Brayden and Kaitlyn often read a bedtime story to McKenna at night, especially if one of us is gone at bedtime. You can put an older child in charge of inspecting teeth, of helping with clean-up, with reading stories, etc.

6-Make it Fun
If my children are taking longer than usual to get ready for bed, I try to make it fun by having a "Can you get the room cleaned in five minutes" thing. Sometimes it is a "If this isn't clean in five minutes I am coming down with the bag and anything not put where it goes is going in my bag game" (fun for me, not them). Beating the clock is always a nice challenge that gets kids thinking more about being fast and less about delay tactics. 

You can also offer incentives. We often save fun activities we have planned that are indoor for after the kids are in their PJs and all ready for bed. So if we want to play a family game or watch a show as a family, we have the kids go through the routine before the activity. They are always very fast workers when they are trying to get done with enough time for the activity to take place. 

7-Let Your Child Read
Once your child is capable of handling the freedom, allow your child to read for a few minutes before lights are out. This will get your child reading more independently, and it will also give your child something to look forward to once in bed. If your child can tell time, tell him the time to turn lights off and go to sleep. If not, you can go tell your child when it is time to turn lights out. I personally prefer to not allow the freedom until the child can tell time. 

Related Posts/Blog Labels:

What do you do that makes bedtime smoother at your house?

Exotic Table Cookbook {Giveaway}

Today's giveaway is for a copy of the cookbook Exotic Table by Aliya Leekong. There are more than 100 original recipes in this book. These recipes are very unique with a mixture of Western foods with new spices and ingredients. She took inspiration from Istanbul, Lima, and Greece--to name a few. 

I love new recipes. I can't make the same recipe within 30 days of each other (personal issue--I like variety!), so I am very excited to try this out!

  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight May 2, 2014 (so that means you will not be able to enter on the 2 at all).
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Cleaning the Baby's Room

It gets hard to clean a baby's room when the baby is sleeping ALL THE TIME. When baby isn't sleeping, baby needs you to feed her, hold her, bathe her, dress her, and play with her. So it can be tricky. Baby's room seems to go one of two ways--it stays insanely organized because there isn't much activity going on in it, or it gets cluttered and messy because you can't find the time to get in there and clean it.

I have some strategies for keeping baby's room clean and organized even while baby is occupying it so often. 

1-Plan Ahead and Be Ready
If you are going to make the most of your 5 minutes here and 10 minutes there, you have to have a battle plan in place. Otherwise you will spend half of that time deciding what to do. I correlate what I am doing with the rest of the house that day. So if it is laundry day, then I plan to put the laundry away at my next chance. I put the basket of clean clothes right outside the door. Then when the baby is awake (or it is time to be awake), it is go time! Whether you plan to dust, vacuum, or organize, have a plan before it is time and have your supplies ready.

2-Think Through Schedule and Choose Cleaning Time
Think through your baby's routine and decide when it would make the most sense to try to work it in. If your baby is the type you have to wake up from naps, go in at the end of a nap and hurry and do some cleaning right before your baby is suppose to wake up. When Brinley was a young baby, I would start vacuuming my house a little before her morning nap was supposed to end. Her room was the last on my vacuuming tour. I would go in and vacuum. If it woke her up, she would just lay there watching me while I hurried and did the room.

Here are some times when I do cleaning--these are just examples. You can look at these and find something that works for you or it might spark and idea that works for you.
  • Right at the end of a nap. You can talk to your baby if she wakes up while you are in there. A bonus of doing this is that the baby learns it is okay to wake up and stay in the bed for a bit.
  • During Independent Playtime. With young babies, I do independent play at the floor gym with me in the room. The baby doesn't have good enough eye sight when young to be following you around. I would do some quick cleaning during this time.
  • During Tummy Time. I have a hard time not interfering with my babies when they are struggling. If I give myself a task to do, then it allows the baby to work at rolling over and exercising those muscles before I swoop in and save the day. 
  • During Free Play. No matter the age of your baby, you can lay or set your baby on the floor in the room and have your child play while you do something. 
  • During Blanket Time. Blanket time is another great time that you have to do some cleaning. 
  • At the end of playtime. Right now, I often go in the room at the end of Independent play and do some cleaning. We are both already there.
  • Right before nap or bedtime. Go into the room 5-10 minutes early and do some cleaning right before the nap or bedtime. 
  • During Naptime. When Kaitlyn was a baby, I had her take a couple of naps a day in my room each day. I could get some cleaning done in her room when she was napping in mine.
  • In the Evening. You might find it works to have your spouse take the baby for some playtime while you do some cleaning in the room.
3-Clean Fast 
Once you start the cleaning, you need to move quickly. Move fast. 

4-Accept Cleaning in Chunks
You have to accept your opportunities you have. You might not get it all done in one chunk. I find this to be especially true when I am going through clothes. Babies outgrow clothes quickly, and when I am going through the closet to get out the clothes that are too small, it will take me several days of doing quick cleaning to get it done (by the way, a trick I have here is to just pull clothes that are too small as I am doing laundry. When I fold something too small for any of my kids, I set it aside and move it to the storage room later). 

5-Keep Things Simple
Some tasks can be make simpler just by how you organize it. Laundry is faster to put away the fewer clothes you have hanging on hangers. Fold what you can and put in drawers, on shelves, and in bins. This will enable you to put the laundry away in 5 minutes flat. 

6-Stay On Top of Things
Are you the type of cook who cleans as you go or who cleans when you are all done? I am a clean as you go type in everything. I have never had an issue with a baby's room getting messy, so it surprised me the first time I ever heard a mom talk about it. I have noticed over the years there are many who find it a challenge. If you clean things as you go, it will stay at least picked up and clutter free. It is like the tortoise. Slow and steady. If you get out the lotion, put the lotion right away. If you have some diapers to put away, do it. This works well for a baby's room because you only have a few minutes here and there. Use those minutes to keep things in order. 

Today is our BFBN Pinterest Day--check out the other ladies blogs in the BFBN today for more fun cleaning tips. Check out our joint Pinterest account for all of our favorite cleaning tips.

Poll Results Post: Crib to Bed Transition

Here are the results from our latest poll. Here are the questions with the results:

1. What age did you first move your child from crib to bed?
  • Under 1 YEAR: 1
  • 18 Months: 1
  • Just Under 2 Years (20-23 months): 8
  • 2 YEARS: 2
  • About 2 YEARS (25-28 months): 6
  • About 2.5 YEARS (29-31 months): 2
2. In your opinion, was that a good age?
  • Yes: 16
  • No: 2
  • Kind of: 2
3. If not, do you think it should have been done younger or older?
  • N/A: 15
  • Younger: 1
  • Older: 1
  • depends on their personality, my oldest is a people pleasure and very obedient, any age would have been fine, my middle son, took a LONG time he is just more strong willed
  • It (21 months) was an ok age, but would have preferred to wait longer, don't think you need to rush this unless there is a reason, we had a reason (holiday in a single bed).
4. How did you prepare your child for the transition?
  • Nothing: 8
  • Talked about it: 1
  • Made the bed smaller with bumper pads: 1
  • Started with just nights: 1
  • Talked about it being exciting: 8
  • Had child help with bed: 4
  • Read books about it with child: 1
5. What kind of rules did you set for the transition?
  • Stay in bed: 11
  • Stay in room:2
  • Call parents if something was needed: 7
  • Can read books in bed: 1
  • Only come out for potty: 2
  • None: 5
6. Did your child stay in bed at the transition, or did your child test limits a get out of bed?
  • Stayed: 12
  • Stayed initially but tested later: 4
  • Tested Limits: 4
7. If your child tested limits, what things did you do that helped your child stay in bed?
  • N/A: 11
  • Immediate Discipline: 4
  • Consistency: 1
  • Immediately return to bed: 1
  • Allow books: 2
  • Remove toys from room: 2
  • Blackout curtains: 1
8. Was there disruption to normal sleep patterns at the transition?
  • No: 16
  • Yes: 4
How long did it take your child to sleep as normal in the "big bed"?
  • Instant: 15
  • About a Week: 3
  • Several Weeks: 1
  • 6 months or more: 1
Any words of wisdom? Advice?

"know their personality. I knew she would be fine. my son does not have the same natural self control. work on building self control first by requiring them to stay put at various times throughout the day."

"We only had a very small crib, so we had to do the transition early. Now I'm happy we did, it might be easier this way. With he bumper pads I can make the space bigger as she grows."

" I am so glad I waited until she could truly understand the transition and her need to obey. There was no reason to hurry to a big bed in my opinion. We opted not to do the toddler bed since she had a double bed in her room anyway, so she moved right to that big bed. We used pool noodles under the fitted sheet to help her not fall out for the first few weeks in the big bed. 

Right at 3 years old, we started allowing her get up and go potty independently since she can do that completely on her own now & understands that it isn't a playing opportunity. 

I also bought her the "Ok To Wake Up" alarm clock right at 3 years old too. You can set it however you want for alarms or just light options and you can customize the times. It also has a separate nap timer you can set. She loves the responsibility of being allowed to get up on her own when it turns green. I love that it takes the pressure off us since she's no longer waiting for us to come in, but rather just waiting on the clock to change colors until she can get up for the day or from nap. It has been great!"

"Keep the same routines and just be firm about the fact that they should stay in the bed. Try and transition between age 2-3. I think around age 3 it may become harder. Once our DD could open doors, she started getting out of bed. I didn't feel like I could discipline, because I want her to get out of bed if she needs to potty. Now we have the OK to wake clock and that has been working well so far. She still has trouble with knowing its ok to get up and potty if she needs to, so that has caused some accidents."

"Be consistent in your responses. Stay calm, difficult to do at the end of a long day. We instituted the you may get out of bed to potty rule when it was appropriate."

"I think success can depend temperament/maturity of child and prior training by parents so child already understands behavior expected. Also consistency in rule enforcing always. Truth be told it was some fervent and desperate prayer. I was so scared it would be a failure bc he seemed so young but we believed it was our only choice, so I begged for mercy from God. He answered above and beyond my expectations."

"I'll also add that my daughter started climbing out of bed (crib) at 19 months. I thought it was all over and knew she wasn't ready to stay in a real bed on her own. I ended up telling her firmly that if she climbed out again she would get hurt, so she must stay inside. She said "okay." Happily and has never done it since. I tried this as a last ditch effort and thought it would totally fail. I'm so glad I got those extra 9 months bc now she's 100% ready and I love the extra cuddles we get in bed at bed time before lights out." (ultimately moved her at 29 months)

"it totally depends on your kid, my middle son does not do any change or transition well, so I expected this fight, but I know with consistency and patience all children can learn…. "

"Prepare them ahead of time for the transition."

"Leave it as long as you can, it doesn't need to be rushed, unless you have a reason, remove all distractions and be firm and consistent. The whole taking him back quietly to bed everytime he got up didn't work for us, we had to ignore him, now he gets up less."

"Be consistent - I think success in the transition of crib to bed is a direct correlation to your consistency in training and disciplining in every other area of your child's life. Don't give up!"

"Don't be afraid to go straight to twin bed, not toddler bed. My child stayed in bed in part because of the bed's height and that made transition easier."

" I won't move my second born to a bed until I think he's ready, new baby or not. It caused unnecessary stress for us. Blackout curtains were very helpful."

Helpful Posts:

Brinley Toddler Summary {20.5 months old}

This is a summary for Brinley from 20-20.5 months old.

Sleeping was great. Everything was as you would want!

Eating was also great. 

Play was great. She is obsessed with the "outside-side." The word "cold" is a four-letter word to her. She doesn't care if it is cold or not, she wants to play outside-side. Luckily for her, it is usually nice enough for outside these days. 

See a trend? She was just so great during this time. Seriously one of those ideal periods in life.

She was super patient and super self-entertaining. These are the moments you live for :).

Brinley is a very good cleaner. One day she was wanting to go outside, and my husband and I were fishing up something. I told her we would take her out when we were done. She was one-track-minding it and didn't like that answer. So I gave her a baggie of those magnet latters to play wiht. She was very interested. 

For about two minutes.

Until she dumped them all out and wanted to go "outside-side." I told her she could go outside after she cleaned up her letters. 

And she did it! She picked them all up and put them in the baggie. I didn't actually think she would be able to do that independently. As soon as the last letter fell in the bag she exclaimed, "Kay! Outside-side!"

One day she was drinking some water and spilled it on the floor. She ran over and grabbed a towel, wiped it up, then put the towel back.

She definitely displays some OCD tenancies. She can't walk past the closet door with it open without her shutting it. It is quite amusing (and thrilling. Absolutely thrilling). 

8:15--wake up. Eat breakfast (fruit, cereal, and milk)
Get ready. Clean with mom.
10:00 Independent Playtime.
11:30 Play
12:00 Lunch.
Play with McKenna.
1:00--Nap starts
4:00-4:30--wake up. Snack. Play.
7:30--Sippy of milk, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00.


Allow Grief to Be Felt

As we face the difficulties of life, I think we tend to think we need to face them without emotion. We have led ourselves and each other to believe that if we are sad about something bad happening, it means we lack faith. We unwittingly pass this mentatlity on to each other as we say things like, "At least he is in a better place now" or "You know you will see her again" to each other. These comments are meant to console those grieving, but it carries the message that with the proper perspective, there is nothing to be sad about.

We need to allow ourselves and each other to grieve. 

I don't just mean for the extreme situations in life. Not just very hard illnesses or death. No. Any sort of grief we encounter in life should be dealt with--and I mean felt.

Grief hurts, but it can be the salve that helps us heal when it is allowed to do its work appropriately. The first step in handling grief is to recognize that the pain is a normal part of the process. It needs to be acknowledged, not avoided. Steven Eastmond

As I approach the anniversary of my baby Braxston's death, this is the message I wanted to share this year. 

Do you know what is very normal? To be upset when something bad or sad happens. It is normal to feel the emotions that come with it. I got thinking, the experiences we go through are what shape us into the people we become. If we suppress the feelings associated with these experiences, then we suppress the growth we can experience when we allow ourselves to go through the grieving process.

I decided to do some searching on this idea. I found some gems that say things better than I.

 I have learned that grief is the price we pay for loving someone—and that the price is worth it.   Steven Eastmond

At first, I felt that my grief meant I lacked faith. But with time, I understood that grief was a normal, healthy response to my son’s illness. In God’s plan for me, grief was a refining fire that transformed my love for others, my perspective on life’s challenges, and my faith in Heavenly Father. ASHLEY ISAACSON WOOLLEY

Elder Lance B. Wickman, an emeritus member of the Seventy, explained: “Grief is the natural by-product of love. One cannot selflessly love another person and not grieve at his suffering or eventual death. The only way to avoid the grief would be to not experience the love; and it is love that gives life its richness and meaning

When I turned to the scriptures for comfort, I learned that grief is a godlike attribute that goes hand in hand with love. Jesus grieved alongside Mary and Martha at Lazarus’s death (see John 11:33–36). Isaiah said that the Savior would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). God wept as He spoke to Enoch about the wickedness of the world and judgments to come on His beloved children ASHLEY ISAACSON WOOLLEY

 In my observation, grief can change our nature if we let it turn us to the Savior. ASHLEY ISAACSON WOOLLEY

And grieving over my old expectations for my son’s life allowed me to let go of them, freeing me to see my son as a beautiful child of God with an eternal destiny, regardless of the imperfections in his physical body. ASHLEY ISAACSON WOOLLEY

No matter your challenge in life, do not try to suffocate the grief you feel over it in fear that it shows a weakness in your faith. Allow that grief to be felt and you will be able to learn from the experience what you need to. As you grieve, continue to pray and to stay close to the Lord. But it is okay to feel sad and to feel whatever emotions you are feeling with grief.

How Clean Should You Keep Your House? {I will no longer apologize for having a clean house!}

How clean do you need to keep your house?
How clean do you need to keep your house?

I started this post really thinking I need to prepare myself to slacken up on my standard of clean for my house. As I have gone through my thoughts on it, and as I have read comments from readers and my friends on Facebook, I have come to a conclusion--an epiphany of sorts for myself. I will no longer feel the need to apologize for having a clean house! Now, mind you, it is FAR from as clean as I would ideally prefer it to be. Way far. My house has literally not been in my ideal version of clean for over 7 years (I thought this through). Sometimes, my house is downright a complete disaster, in fact (like last week when I read Ender's Game all day and did zero cleaning. That was of course the day my neighbor came over for a surprise visit. But I didn't care--she is a mom, too, so I know her house is messy sometimes. Guess what--if mom does zero cleaning and people continue to live at home that day, it gets bad). But most of the time for the most part, it is in a state I am not embarrassed for any random person to drop by and see what is going on.

Surprisingly to me, the Mommy Wars has not seemed to extend all the way into cleaning your house. For some reason we have no trouble criticizing menu choices, sleeping locations, and discipline methods quite harshly. But the definition of clean isn't the subject of extreme venom among mothers (or am I missing it?). Why this area of truce? I am not sure.

Despite lack of name-calling, there are little comments that get made. Those who prefer a sterilized environment make comments about the health of their children and those who prefer to do less cleaning make comments about happier children existing in messy homes. For the most part, however, people remain pretty understanding about different people having different standards of clean in their homes.

Guess what. I like to clean. I like a clean house. I like clean. I have always liked clean. It is who I am. It isn't who I was raised or trained to be. It is me. My mom is one who doesn't mind a messy house (at least not enough to fight the mess much). I am not criticizing my mom--it is her. She would much rather be out cleaning horse stalls than cleaning bathrooms. I, on the other hand, would a million times more prefer to be cleaning the bathroom.

You know how people say kids are happier in messier homes? Maybe that is true for some, but it wasn't for me. While still in elementary school, I created a chore chart for my family (including my parents) and I was quite dismayed when they didn't follow the chores I had outlined for them. I did a lot of cleaning at my house growing up, which I don't think my mother minded. I liked the house best clean as a child and I feel the same way today.

And because of that, I will no longer apologize or feel guilty for having a clean house!

After I wrote Balancing Household Responsibilities with Family Time last week, my husband gave me a call. In it I talked about my conflict with keeping up on household responsibilities and family time. My husband called me and said, essentially, "I wanted you to know that I think you do an awesome job at balancing between the family and the house." He then elaborated on why and told me he was surprised I felt the way I did, but he supported me if I felt like I needed some improvement.

I thought about it from a subjective point of view--looking at facts. My house is usually clean, but I don't clean all day. I am naturally organized, which helps. I stay on top of things, which helps. I have my kids help clean, which helps (a TON!). But I only clean to a certain point in the day (usually by 10 AM, I am done until nighttime pick up). I spend time with each child each day. For example, McKenna and I spend an hour together each day playing board games right now--just me and her. They do get time and attention from me. We spend a lot of time together as a family.

Despite those facts, I have felt guilty about having a clean house. And why?

Here is the underlying message I pick up from cute sayings like, "Clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy" (which I do really like)--if your house is clean, your kids are neglected and unhappy.

That doesn't have to be true.

The time one mom spends on sewing, I might spend on cleaning instead. The time one person spends on pulling weeds, I might spend on vacuuming instead. And I am okay with that because I like it!

I have no doubt that there are plenty of moms who don't keep their houses as clean who feel like talk about keeping things sanitary for the health of their children is a stab at their level of concern for their health and wellness. I think it is time we all think through our own standards, accept them, and stop feeling guilty about it.

Now that I am done with the rambling, here is the post I originally wrote for today:

When I hurt my foot this past January, I was bed-bound. It wasn't fun. As much effort as my family put in to keeping up on things, it obviously is hard to replace a person in the family, especially the mom! Things slipped.

As I watched them slip, I took note of how life still flowed on. I also noticed how I liked not stressing about messes that were being made. Over the years, I have adjusted my expectations to help myself not be so stressed about messes, but I realized I hadn't released it all.

So it got me thinking. What should my standard be for a clean house? I believe it is important to have a clean house for many reasons. My brain is clearer when it is clean--which means I can mentally focus on other things better. I feel more calm when the house is clean. I believe the spirit of the Lord dwells where there is peace, and I believe cleanliness can bring peace. There is a sanitary side to cleaning. I know for a fact my children sleep best when their rooms are clean. There are many reasons I like a clean house.

But what should my definition of "clean" be at this point in my life?

On Facebook a while back, I asked you all what your hardest thing is about being a stay at home mom. There were many comments surrounding this idea. How clean should we keep our house? How do we find that balance? And how do we know how to achieve a balance when we aren't sure exactly what we are trying to balance? I also remember seeing this topic of "How often should xyz be cleaned" often on shows like Oprah back in the day. This topic has long been examined.  

You know that quote--trying to keep a house clean with children at home is like shoveling snow during a blizzard. Ha! It is true. That is why I have adopted my personal rule that I only clean at certain times of day. It is easier to "shovel" a couple of times a day than it is to shovel all day long.
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I enjoy cleaning. Really enjoy it. I like the process as much as I like the results. But something definitely needs to give during the blizzard. So what measuring sticks should we use when deciding how clean to keep the house? I have some ideas.

Decide What is Necessary
How often is needed for something to be clean enough that it is sanitary? This topic actually has people on different ends of the extremes. Some worry about bacteria building up everywhere and you can soon find yourself feeling like a lousy parent for allowing such a variety of things to be growing in your house by your neglect of every nook and cranny. 

There are also those who say that having a house too clean leads to children developing allergies (this has long been a favorite of my mother's because as much as I like to clean, she hates it. And, anecdotally, I have no allergies). The idea here is similar to the point of vaccinations; small exposure to pathogens allows the body to build up immunity to it. Also, having pathogens to fight prevents the body from fighting allergens instead.

You have to decide what you are comfortable with. How clean do you think things need to be? What absolutely needs to be cleaned each week? In what way? What is necessary to do to keep your family healthy?

My personal opinion here is in the "moderation" view. I don't think the house needs to be hospital clean. But I don't think things should be left to grow in the house, either :).

You know what you think. How often should the bathroom be cleaned? Some say once a week. Some more often. Some are happy with once a month. What do you think?

Decide What is Good Enough
Do you know what I would find ideal? My base boards would be cleaned once a month. My blinds wouldn't collect dust. My ceiling fans would be wiped clean at least once a month...I could go on. But those things don't happen here. I have my list of what is necessary and most of the time, necessary is all we have time for. So those things are good enough. If you took a stroll through my house today, you would find several rooms with sparkling base moldings (I have recently cleaned some) and several rooms with dirty base moldings (it has been a while).

The point here is that so long as you have kids, you are most likely going to have to drop your ideal standards some. Have the baseline "good enough" worked out in your head.

Keep it in a State of "Non-Embarrassment"
This is a big thing for me. I want to be comfortable enough with my house that I won't hesitate to invite anyone in who shows up at my door. So what needs to be done for this to happen? Do a quick pick-up of the area by your front door each day so you can be in a state of ready.

Keep in mind, anyone with kids knows from personal experience that sometimes the house is a complete disaster. We all know it! My good friend and neighbor has seen my house it its absolute worst states ever. She is similar to me and really likes a clean house (and she has 8 kids so her battle is more intense than mine). When she walks in on my disasters, she never bats an eye. And for some reason, she still perpetuates the myth that my house is always clean. Perhaps it is because she knows that in reality, if you have children, the house will be dirty at times. It just will. So even with my non-embarrassment policy and efforts, there are times the house is perfectly embarrassing. And those are usually the times people drop by.
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Make a List of Priorities
This is keeping along the same train of thought I have been on. Now you have an idea of what your policies are for clean. What are some other things you find important for your day each day beyond cleaning tasks? What about meals? What about time with kids? What about gardening? What about prayer and scripture study? What do you need to do to get kids ready for each day? What about time with your spouse? To read more on my tips for finding balance among all of these things, see this post.

Deciding these priorities will help you get a reality check with how much of your necessary cleaning will be able to happen.
Simplify the "Stuff"
It is a million times easier to keep a house clean if you don't have too much stuff in your house. If everything has a spot in the house, it is easier to clean up the stuff. Taking the time to reorganize drawers and closets is well worth your time!
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Don't Overschedule
It is also a million times easier to keep the house clean if you are able to spend some time at your house. If you are always running from place to place, you obviously can't clean. And then things land in random places and stay there for a while.

As You Clean
Have your children help you clean (more on that below). There will be times your child will vie for your attention as you are cleaning. I have two thoughts. It isn't bad for a child to learn to entertain herself. If she isn't helping you, it doesn't mean you must entertain her. It is okay for a child to play by herself or with a sibling for a bit while you do something.

It is also okay for your child to learn to be patient. If you are cleaning up breakfast and your child wants you do to something for her, it is perfectly fine for you to say, "I am happy to help you in five minutes when this is done." What a great time for your child to practice some patience! Brinley is 20 months old and she waits patiently. Any child can do it (this is assuming it is a non-emergency situation).

Sometimes the child just really does need you. This is a moment to drop the cleaning and attend to the child. I don't just mean some physical emergency. Sometimes Brinley grabs my leg with a "Mama!" that I know means she needs some loving. At that moment, I pick her up and decide to kiss her 100 times. I usually get to about 20-30 before she is pushing me away and wants to get down. I go at least ten kisses beyond her first protest, then I put her down and she happily goes along with playing.
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Realize it WILL Get Messy Again (Soon)
It will get messy! Cleaning is a constant practice. It isn't something you do once and move on. It gets messy faster than you would like. Accept this fact to stay sane.
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Allow Kids to Make Messes
When I was pregnant with Brinley, it was hard to keep up with the kids and any mess made me stressed out. This carried over. Once my foot was hurt, I saw the messes could be cleaned up quickly, especially with their help. So the biggest thing for me that changed with my hurt foot was that I stopped worrying about how big the mess was.

There is balance here. I don't think kids should be allowed to run through the house pulling out every thing that suits their fancy. No ransacking. But it is okay for messes to be made during normal playing. Even big messes.
Enlist the Troops
By troops, I mean the kids. Kids are more likely to be reasonable in their mess-making if they know they will be required to help with the mess-cleaning. So allow them to have fun making those creative messes, but require them to help clean those up. A big mess is overwhelming to a child, so make sure as you clean, you give them one task to focus on at a time. Don't be afraid to make it fun--sing songs, set the timer, race, etc.

Even if it isn't a mess the child made directly, I am a HUGE believer in families working together to get chores done around the house. This is time you can spend together. Having the cleaning task before you helps you both to be more emotionally willing to open up and have sincere conversations. These are moments your children will share what is on their soul.
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Evaluate Where Time is Spent
I feel like we as parents and people know when we aren't spending as much time where it should be. We know when a child needs more attention and time. We know, if we take the time to think about it, if we are spending more time than we should on any one thing. We get that guilty feeling inside. It doesn't take long to think, "I should cut back my Internet surfing" or "I need to give myself a break before I pick up that next book" or "I need to make sure I read my scriptures first thing in the morning so I don't keep putting it on the back burner and forgetting about it." With some contemplation and honest evaluation, we can all correct ourselves. I would expect we all need to correct ourselves often. Not evaluating your time spent is like traveling by foot from New York City to Los Angelas and not checking the map frequently. You can easily get off course and realize you are far from your life's goals if you don't frequently reevaluate.

Standards of Clean
Here are some "standards" you shared with me. I think something to notice here is that there is a variety of answers. I think that shows you--you choose what works for you.

"I know many people who would think my house is not near clean enough for them, but it works for us. I hate to clean and I work 20 hrs a week so I do what I can." Petra

"My standard is that my bathrooms and kitchen HAVE to be first priority, everything else is a matter of just being picked up and I do it as I can BUT dirty kitchen and bathrooms are my focus and I try and stay on top of them. " Garity

"My standards are clean kitchen, clean counters/surfaces, swept floors, uncluttered, and generally tidy. Things aren't spotless, but with kids and pets, there's no way to keep it that way without neglecting my family in favor of cleaning. I think a reasonable amount of dirt is healthier than a completely sanitized environment." Erin

"I can live with a gross bathroom but not with dirty hard floors, for some reason!" Katie

" I make sure the kitchen is clean and things are orderly, table wiped down, clothes clean, floors vacuumed once a week, bathrooms cleaned once a week. Dusting I honestly don't do nearly enough, maybe once every 2 months?" Amanda

" I jokingly say that Heavenly Father has a sense of humor and he looked down on me and said "She is OCD. Send her 5 kids. That'll cure that!" Some day it will be spotless again, but until then it needs to be clean enough that if someone prepared food in a house in my house's state, I would still eat the food, and the toilet better be clean enough that I would use it without covering the seat with toilet paper!" Alicia

"I clean bathrooms at least once a week. The kitchen is a daily thing - dishes done every night, counters and table wiped down. I usually do laundry on Mondays and Fridays. I also vacume every day as well - we have two dogs and I hate the hair!" Amy

"I agree each kid made me less odc! But I am a bleacher at least once a week!:)" Beth

"I do have a sign on my wall that says "Good Moms have sticky floors, laundry piles, messy ovens and HAPPY kids" and I truly believe it. That being said, I don't want my home to be dirty. Messy or cluttered I dislike but tolerate. Dirty - ie, dishes in the sink all day, crumbs on the counters and tables, too much dirty laundry in the hampers, or dust bunnies in the corner of the hallways. " Jennie

" after my second child came along 2 years after my first I realized I had to just let some of it go because there are more important things in life than cleaning! However,  I keep a very clean house. Spotless, no. Presentable at all times, yes. " Elaine

"My house only gets really cleaned when we have people coming over for dinner... I pretty much do the bare minimum after work and dinner -- what I absolutely must do before I collapse into bed at night." Julia

"It is important that the house is clean, no dust, bacteria etc, however, for a pregnant mom, working mom, any mom, sometimes the house gets unorganized, but hygiene is number 1 priority" Meli

"I like the appearance of a clean house - so no clutter - but sometimes dusting or the less obvious forms of cleaning take a backseat when life is busy (ie newborn, sick, etc) and I think we have to let ourselves be ok with that every once in awhile " Lacey

" I attempt to keep it clean, but it doesn't rule my life. " Anita

"To me, a clean (not immaculate) house makes me happy so it is a priority." Rita

"Picking up, swiffer vac on the floors (we have all wood), wiping the counter and a clean sink are my basics, no matter the season. I'll do it after kids are down if I have to start the next day fresh and it doesn't take long at all. For real cleaning (dusting, mopping, bathrooms), I take some time on the weekend when my hubby is home to blitz it rather than trying to clean all week and feel like I can't be available to my kids. " Bethany

"I tend to let things go and make the kids a priority, but then my husband comes home and is totally stressed out by the disorder. So I tend to try and keep up with a threshold of organization and cleaning that maintains peace in our home. Sometimes that means letting the dishes go and focusing on two needy toddlers, other days it means turning on a show and vacuuming the entire house. Everyone has to give and take. In the end though, I'm more concerned with the spirit in our home and whatever might be detracting from it." Alyssa

"I agree the home needs to be sanitary and pay for that now every two weeks. (80$) I think it is worth the expense to be able to spend time together without feeling drawn to clean." Katie

"Each day, I make sure the kitchen is clean and living area is clean. I also like the beds made, that happens around 75% of the time. Each day, I try and do 1 cleaning task- additional dusting, or cleaning fridge, or wiping down all appliances, or scrubbing a bathtub, or organizing 1 closet. We have 5 kids, so Saturday morning everyone helps w/chores. " Sandee

Pearls of Wisdom
I had many readers and friends share things I loved. I wanted you to read them, too.

"I'm going with comfortably lived in." Danielle

"I think a house needs to be clean, but not be more important than the time you could be doing something with the kids:)" My Aunt Lisa

"tidy and reasonably clean.... but most important a place your family wants to be" Jan

"I need an orderly environment but I have been freed knowing that there are seasons in which it must move down on the priority list simply because maintaining the same standard causes a lot of mental stress." Rachel

"As long as Natalie has clean floors to crawl on, the bathrooms and kitchen are sanitary I am calling that good enough for now." Lisa

"My grandmother has a little sign in her house...saying its "clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy." I think that's a good spot to be in. " Erin

"I believe that for many women, myself included, the state of the home is part of our identity. So we judge ourselves harshly and feel judged by others depending on how clean and attractive it is. But I don't believe this is a healthy way to think; I think scripture teaches that there are higher priorities in life and we need to work against our instincts sometimes to put first things first such as family relationships and hospitality." Penny

" As I know these days will not last forever I see clutter as the visual reminder that my body did what it was designed to do and provided some much life in our home. I will clean and de clutter when he goes to college." Katie