For me, one of the hardest things to figure out as a parent is the balance of taking care of my house and taking care of my family. I have these physical responsibilities–I need to cook and clean. Making meals, doing laundry, and keeping the house clean and organize really are enough to keep you busy. Then you add a husband and children to the mix. I need to teach my children. I need to read to my children. I need to play with my children. I need to spend time with my husband. I am also supposed to be “me” and have “me” time doing what I enjoy doing so that I can be a balanced person. I should also serve others and help in my church and in my town. I need to attend to the emotional and spiritual training of my children. I could do things like garden and sew clothes to help save our family money.
When you think about it, it gets a tad overwhelming.
And the question always arises–how much time should I spend cleaning and doing the myriad of other chores versus how much time should I be spending with my children.
Oh how I wish I had the answer. I don’t. I do have some ideas to give you to help you determine this for yourself. I also have some tips to help you with implementation.
How Children Spell Love…
Dr. Anthony P. Witham said, “Children spell love…T-I-M-E.” Giving our time to our children is giving our love. I can’t tell you how often I am told by the older generation about how quickly the time goes and how much I will miss these days. I recently grilled a friend of mine who is a great-grandmother. “Okay, but do you really, really miss having things perpetually dirty. Things like windows?” I know this woman takes great pride in her windows and she washes them more times in a year than I have washed mine in my lifetime. She sincerely replied, “Yes, I do.” I pressed her further, “So after your grand children and great grandchildren leave, do you leave the finger prints up for a while or do you clean them?” “Oh, I leave them!” was her reply.
I love these thoughts from Thomas S. Monson:
“Near the end of his life, one father looked back on how he had spent his time on earth. An acclaimed, respected author of numerous scholarly works, he said, ‘I wish I had written one less book and taken my children fishing more often.’
“Time passes quickly. Many parents say that it seems like yesterday that their children were born. Now those children are grown, perhaps with children of their own. ‘Where did the years go?’ they ask. We cannot call back time that is past, we cannot stop time that now is, and we cannot experience the future in our present state. Time is a gift, a treasure not to be put aside for the future but to be used wisely in the present.”
For more on time, see:
Make a List of Priorities
With these time thoughts in mind, I think it is helpful to actually sit down and write out your responsibilities. Write down the tasks you need to accomplish. Write down the tasks you would like to accomplish.
Next, prioritize these items. Think, “In ten years, what will I regret having neglected?”
While in the moment, I think cleaning is a big priority for me in life. I think I want my house very clean. But when I look at these things written down, I realize there are other things I hold in much higher priority level that for some reason often get pushed to the side in favor of other things. Perhaps it is because it is easy to see the fruits of your efforts while cleaning, but it is not so immediately easy to see the fruits of effort put in on something like praying daily with your child.
This past weekend, we had our bi-annual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This idea of balancing my household responsibilities with my family time has been on my mind as I have felt I needed to revamp how I am allocating my time. This quote came up during the conference:
It really couldn’t be put more simply than that. The only things that need to be accomplished are prayer, scripture study, and having Family Home Evening each week (read more about
Family Home Evening here.)
Sure people need to eat and all of that kind of stuff, but I know I for one often make that more complicated than it has to be. In our modern world, eating can be done easily and simply (and the kids never mind those meals).
This quote reminds me of a couple of others I have seen on Pinterest in the past and have written about:
Make it Part of Your Routine–Have it On Your List
Once you realize what your priorities are in the grand scheme of things, a trick I find works for me is to put it on my list. One thing I wanted to do daily with McKenna was to practice reading with her each day. This has been very easy for me to push aside and let other things take its place. Several months ago, I added it to my list of things to do each day. Now it doesn’t get pushed aside!
Do this for anything you find you push aside. Do you want to have one-on-one time with your child each day? Put it on the list! Whatever you want to do, add it to your “to do” list. That way you won’t forget about it.
Also, choose a point in the day when you want it to happen and make that part of the routine. Make it part of daily life. Children have less to think about and rarely let parents forget about things. Your child will remind you when it is time to read scriptures together if you make it part of every day.
Along the same lines, make certain things that are important to you a tradition. It is important to me that our family spend time together. We all enjoy playing games, so each Sunday afternoon, we have a tradition to play a game together. We rotate who gets to choose the game and we all play it. The kids never let us forget that Sunday is time for a family game.
Involve Children in Chores
Now, as nice as spending all of this time is together, the reality is that certain things must be done. Laundry must be faced at some point. No matter how simple the meal, it must be made. Have your children join you in these tasks. Not only will you be able to teach your child how to do these things, you will be spending time with each other.
Don’t think that the time you spend with your child must be done so in “fun and games.” Those things are nice, but that isn’t all there is to life. Work is valuable and teaching our children to work is valuable. You can still have fun while you work, but there is nothing wrong with spending time with your child planting a garden, making dinner, folding laundry, sweeping, etc.
Many hands make light work, and if your children contribute to making the work around the home “light,” then the parents will be more readily available to happily have those fun times.
For more on chores, see:
- 5 Steps To Teaching Your Children to Do Chores
- Creating a “Good Helper”
- Everyone Cleans
- Getting Children Actively Engaged in Household Responsibilities
- Making Work Fun
- Teaching Children Life Skills
- Teaching Children to Clean
- Teaching Your Child To Clean Up After Self
- Work and Responsibility
- Work: More than Economic Value
- Working Chores Into Your Day
Let Things Slide
This one is so hard for me! But this was a valuable lesson I learned while my foot was severely hurt this past Winter. It is okay if things get messy sometimes. It is okay if you don’t get everything to the state of perfection each day. The world keeps spinning.
Whatever you do, don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to keep things clean all of the time. Most of us start out with kids and try to keep things up all of the time. Once I had three kids, I realized it was absolutely ludicrous to try to follow my kids around all day cleaning up after them. We all have our morning chore we do each day. We all help clean up after meals. And then we all clean up before bed. I no longer try to keep things in a constant state of clean.
Let them be kids while still teaching them to be responsible. Again, this is another one of those balancing acts.
Simplify Where You Can
It is easy to over complicate life. It is easy to try to do things just because we can. For example, I could spend a lot of time decorating things up all cute for my kids birthdays. I love to do crafts. I would enjoy it. My kids would enjoy the result. But ultimately, it is pretty low on my list of priorities and so I just don’t. I love this quote:
Life is complex. Very complex. Our opportunities are endless. Because of how complex life is today, we really need to put effort into bringing simplicity to our lives. Figure out what this means for you.
What You Don’t Need To Do
Here is what you don’t need to do. You don’t need to take spending time with your children to the extreme. You don’t need to spend every available minute with your child. You don’t need to let your house get all messy in order to spend time with your children. Children can play alone at times. Children can play with each other. Children can spend time entertaining themselves. So don’t read this and think you need to be giving every available moment of the day to time with your child. We really do all need time apart to do our own thing. Remember, the title keyword here is “Balancing.” We do have real-world responsibilities. We do need to have time to ourselves sometimes.
You also don’t need to be perfect. Try something out for a while and then analyze it. How are you feeling about the balance? Do you need to let up on the “chores”? Do you need to give more attention to the chores? It is okay to tweak things as you go.