I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work." So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you! That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)! Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and "join the conversation" in the comments.
(More from me on being a working mom here.)
(More from me on being a working mom here.)
I first met Hollie last December when she was the winner of my "Get & Give Away". Immediately I was drawn to her blog because of her faith and humor and just all-around genuine writing style. Today, I've asked her to share a little about how she keeps up with household chores and cleaning on top of a busy work schedule & life in general:
Hi y'all. I'm thrilled to be blogging as a part of E's series on working moms. It's a hard job working outside of my home and spending long hours away from my little guy. Not every mom has the luxury of staying home full time. Some of us don't have the desire to stay home-- and that is OK! Personally, it gives me a feeling of purpose when I bring home a paycheck, like I'm really making a valued contribution to our family. I hope my son grows up and sees his father and myself working hard to make a living and a life for us.
Here's our setup: My husband is a youth pastor and sometimes it feels like he works 24/7. I'm a nurse and I work 2-3 twelve hour shifts each week. My work hours are long and my commute is long, which means those days I don't see my boy at all and I have very little time at home to be productive. I might have 4-5 days at home each week, but when you start factoring in our church events and all the other "stuff" makes for limited downtime. About 9 months after my son was born, I was nearly crippled by the amount of stress I was carrying around on my shoulders. I wasn't a nice mom or wife. I could hardly get anything done on my days off because the amount of work needed was absolutely overwhelming. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone especially if I had a quick turnaround (like only 1 day off between a couple of work days). Sure, I was treading water as long as everything was calm, but as soon as the waves came along, I felt like I was drowning.
Something HAD to change.
Some people eliminate stress in their life by cutting out "extracurriculars." Some folks exercise. Me? I clean. Just ask my husband. Anytime I get exceptionally angry at him, I vent my frustrations by feverishly cleaning. So I knew that having a perpetually clean house would make me feel so much less anxious. It's like the clutter makes me claustrophobic or something. So I sat down with my husband one afternoon and we came up with a game plan. He was just as eager to have a happy wife back.
As a side note: I thought it was a little ironic that E asked me to write about keeping up a house, considering it wasn't something that came natural to me. More like, I was a complete failure before kindasorta figuring things out. Side note over.
It might sound a little like a second grader earning an allowance, but we implemented a daily chore chart. You see, before having a baby, I'd clean the entire house once per week in a single day, devoting several hours to the vacuuming, bathrooms, dusting, etc. Nowadays, I don't have those giant chunks of time to devote to cleaning anymore, so it just wasn't happening. Like, I'm not just saying that either. Literally, at one point in time, our bathroom didn't get cleaned for at least 8 weeks. And that's probably a conservative estimate.
Enter the daily chore chart. First, we prioritized our most important household needs. Then we discussed a schedule that would best fit our lives. Plug in needs to schedule and voila! A daily chore chart is born. I clean one or two "big" things and a few minor things around the house each day. That's it. Each part of the house is touched over a week's time, so there's no stress in thinking that there's too much to do in one day. Also, I added in a day for meal planning and a day for grocery shopping. So, not only is there an order to cleaning, but our dinners are now low-stress as well, because I'm no longer standing in the pantry trying to come up with a meal out of garbanzo beans, penne noodles, graham crackers, and pork chops.
I cannot even tell you how successful this has been in our house. I'm talking like a 71% reduction in my overall level of stress (and a totally arbitrary percentage). Waking up in the morning to a clean house is such a relief and weight lifted off of my shoulders. If we have a surprise knock at the door, it doesn't strike fear into my heart. I don't ever wake up and feel overwhelmed at the amount of work to be done. Finally, there is order instead of chaos. It's been so easy to keep up with each day's task, and it's gratifying to "check" things off the list every day. We always have the groceries we need to make the meals we've planned for. Most importantly, it's allowed me tons of free time to spend with my little boy as well as a little extra guilt-free time for myself.
I've learned a few things over the last few months, so here are some tips:
- Allow yourself to be flexible. It's so easy to make an idol out of a clean house. This might be the most important thing I tell you: don't let yourself become a slave to your cleaning routine. Some days get busy with errands and appointments and once I'm finally home, there may not be time to accomplish one or all of my daily tasks. Sometimes the baby pee pees out of his diaper and the sheets need to be changed on Monday. Or maybe the groceries don't get bought until Tuesday. This is messy parenthood-plus-working life. Things come up. Be flexible.
- Make your schedule fit your family/needs. You might notice that I vacuum twice each week, which is because we have a big black dog that sheds all over the house (honestly, I could easily vacuum every other day). Maybe you don't need to vacuum that much, or maybe you'd rather pull weeds once a week and mop only once a month. Maybe you can only spare 15 minutes per day -- this is where you prioritize your needs and plug in your top problems into the schedule that fits your family.
- Realize that things will never be perfect. We all have kids!!! There will be crumbs on the table. They will pull toys out faster than you can put them away. My house is clean, but it's far from perfect. There will come a point where you just have to let it go and remember that each task has its appointed time. There has to be a balance. Don't eat away precious time with your baby trying to keep up with all the little messes.
- Just do it. Roll up your sleeves and give it a substantial try for a few weeks. My husband was willing to help out (and do the chores on my work days! What a great hubby!) for at least a month just to see how things played out. Within about 3 days I knew this was going to be a great fit for us.
I can't pretend that every step of this is easy; I have to fight against my own tendencies to be lazy and selfish every day. I'm not a naturally organized person, but when I make a concerted effort to uphold our daily chore chart, things just feel more simple. And anything that makes life as an employee-slash-parent more simple is a win in my book.
Read more from Hollie at her cute blog, Blog-o- hollic.
THANK YOU HOLLIE!
So, how about you? Do you follow a weekly cleaning schedule?
How do you keep up with your house work and other chores?
Have a great weekend friends!!