The laundry is piling up, the kitty litter reeks, the bills have toppled over onto the floor, you hardly recognize your spouse, your son wants a ride to practice, your daughter needs new dance shoes pronto and the to-do list takes up three-quarters of a yellow legal pad; how did this happen? It’s those kids, eating up all of your precious time again. Isn’t there a way to get it all done? Can’t life become more manageable? Sure it can! Follow these steps to learn how to get everything done when you have kids:
Children=slave labor; okay, so the toddler will be useless in the cleaning department, but any kid from age three up can be of use picking up toys, doing dishes, loading laundry, wiping surfaces, vacuuming, dusting, feeding and cleaning up after pets. Preschoolers can handle a pooper scooper as well as anyone, and enjoy it more than most.
Stuff extracurriculars; does your kid really need soccer, violin lessons, chess club, band practice, SAT prep or volunteer hours? Surely they can get enough lessons during school hours, along with the other 39 kids in their classroom? B-list colleges cost less anyway, and with all that extra time they’ll have, the house should be spotless. With all the extra time you have, you could take a nap on the couch.
Give away half your belongings; most of us have too much stuff. Stuff robs us of time, energy and brain space while we search for other stuff, rearrange our homes to fit more stuff, and shop for different stuff. When you cross extraneous shopping off the list, time will suddenly surface, your home will feel freer, and you’ll find that hamster you’ve been looking for since May.
Give up your dreams. Sure, pursuing that promotion was exciting, challenging and rewarding, but the long hours were making it impossible to keep the piles down, keep date night with your spouse a regular thing and keep the kids in shoes that fit. While you’re at it, give up regular bathing (a real time stealer), personal grooming, exercise, hobbies and friendships; there’ll be time for you when you’re dead.
Redefine “everything”; yes, bills must be paid—preferably on time, cars must be maintained and filled with gas, humans and animals must be fed on a regular basis and attendance at school and work is a must. Everything else is a choice. How clean does a home need to be? Not very. Do you need to attend every single game your child plays in? Probably not. Does your child need dance shoes tonight? Maybe, but can she borrow some from a friend until you can get to the store? Do you need to supply healthy, well-balanced meals every night, like your sister does? Heck no, that’s what cold cereal is for. Lowering your standards when overloaded can lighten your mood and make “everything” more fun.
Tips & Warnings
Tips & Warnings
- If you’re uncomfortable requiring labor for room and board, bribe your children into good behavior and a healthy work ethic by providing goodies, gold stars, privileges and smiles in return for effort.
- If skipping all the after-school activities seems heartless (and unwise), offer choices with location in mind; after-school activities actually at school saves transport, as do activities that allow walking, carpooling or bus riding as travel options.
- Think about space before you shop; give birthday presents and holiday gifts that don’t add clutter, or take up the recipient’s already crowded space. Other parents will love you.
- Giving away half your belongings seems daunting, but once you begin, it gives you a glow, knowing your unused suits will clothe homeless women or men searching for jobs, your forgotten toys will go to children who can’t afford them, and your cans of corned beef hash will go from the back of your pantry onto someone’s plate.
- Look across the table; is your spouse as overwhelmed as you are? Do you feel like you have the world on your shoulders, and he or she feels like going bowling with buddies for the third time this week? Check in with your partner about sharing the load before you’re tempted to go out for beer and cigarettes, and never come back.
- Send the children away for a week when everything has piled up and you’re feeling panicked. Isn’t that what grandparents are for? Godparents? Incredibly supportive siblings? Nanny services? Highly paid responsible teenagers? Camp?
- Don’t even think about keeping up with the Jones’s; spending effort to maintain lawn standards, buy brand-name clothing, keep a spotless car or entertain lavishly in a manner similar to an unnamed décor/entertaining magazine magnate is silly when you have kids to take care of and bills to pay. Leave that to the retired, the independently wealthy, and the social climbers who will send their children to expensive, exclusive therapists to help them get over their parents’ emotional and physical absence.
- Hire help. It could be a housecleaner, an accountant or someone to take care of the dog poop---anyone who can help ease your burden for a modest fee.
- Delegate your nemesis to another member of the household; sometimes the laundry is the straw that breaks the camel's back, for others, it is the dishes. Your most hated chore may be a breeze to another family member; discover that member and DELEGATE.
- Getting buried in the minutiae of life can keep you from enjoying the life you’ve chosen; reminding yourself of the goals you’ve achieved, the people you love and the effort you put into caring for everyone, even when overwhelmed, may help keep everything in perspective and save your sense of humor.
- Never allow unsupervised hours after school if you want your child to reach adulthood without pregnancy, drug use, gaming addiction, juvenile delinquency or social isolation. Maybe that’s what all those piano lessons were really for when you were fifteen…
- Don’t set the toddler or young school-age children onto the bills—you’ll end up dissatisfied, more stressed, and repossessed.
- Ignore Step 4; dreams are what get us through the day, and what tomorrow can be made of (and bathing is a really good idea). Neglecting yourself helps no one.