Since posting my schedule, I’ve been asked several times about how I am able to clean and accomplish so much with very young children (mine are 3 and 9 mths). First of all, I just want to let it be known that I do not accomplish my schedule perfectly every day! Not even close!
It is a guideline, a helpful reminder of what I should be doing to keep me on task. It is a way of splitting up the things that need to be done to make them more manageable and more organized. It offers structure and routine to our day, so that I do not give in to the temptation to just do whatever I want and idle away my time.
That said, there is probably no such thing as a day when I accomplish everything on my schedule perfectly. One of the key aspects of life with young children is flexibility! That is why I switched from a “schedule” over to more of a “routine”, the main difference being that I am not ruled by the clock. So if the baby has a really fussy morning, or the toddler dumps honey all over the floor, plans just shift a little and our day is not ruined.
Ok, disclaimer finished. On to my real post. 🙂
So, how do I manage to clean or work on household projects and the like with littles underfoot?
Believe it or not, it’s rarely during naptime. The toddler is awake pretty much all day, except I try to achieve an hour in the afternoons where both children are down for a nap/quiet time at the same time, so that I can work on blog/computer tasks. Other than that, one or both of them is always with me.
The most important way that I get my jobs accomplished throughout the day is by doing them with my children, teaching them to work alongside me. Over the last couple of years, I have been inspired by several articles in one of my favorite magazines, Above Rubies (a free magazine), to train my children to work alongside of me and to teach them diligently to help around the house when they are young, in order to reap the rewards of this as they grow older and more capable. I wish I could just invite you to sit down on my couch, put up your feet, sip on some tea and read the articles… since I can’t, I’ll try to briefly explain them to you!
The first article was called “The Life of a Queen”, and was written by a mother of 16 (maybe only 11 at the time when she wrote it- lol, only 11). She described how she trains each of her children, as soon as they are old enough to learn a task. When something needs to be done, she considers who is the youngest child, capable of learning, who needs to learn to master this task and then asks them. But she does not only ask them to do it- she trains them how, and afterward inspects their work and offers corrections.
Now, with a house literally full of children, she has worked herself out of a job. She no longer does any of the cleaning or laundry, or even much of the cooking! Instead, she is home schooling, teaching, training, mothering, gardening, and loving on her kids! Sounds like a pretty great end goal, for being diligent to train my children now.
The second article was about teaching young children to work. The mother in the article had only a 4 year old and 2 year old and was pregnant at the time of writing it, so it was very encouraging to hear from someone in a more similar boat. She wrote about how even very young children can be trained to do many jobs around the house, and how they can be taught to do them cheerfully, quickly and diligently. She has taught her children to help put laundry away, to put away the dishes, to set the table, etc.
I was inspired. If it can work for these two moms, surely it can work for me!
When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I began thinking of chores that our almost 2 year old could do. I began to teach her to put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher, to wipe the table, to spot clean the floor, to bring things to the garbage for me, etc.
Now at 3, I have added things such as clearing dishes from the table after a meal, putting items back in the fridge, helping me sort laundry, wiping the bathtub (I still do a quick follow-up scrub for good measure), wiping walls and doors, learning to sweep and mop, making her bed, putting hers and her brothers dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. Next I plan to work on vacuuming.
You may be wondering what I do with the baby in all of this! Usually it is one of four options.
- He is sitting on the floor near me, playing with a few toys or books that I have brought to where we are working.
- He is on my back in the Ergo, my most beloved baby carrier!
- If I am in the kitchen, he is sometimes bouncing in his jolly jumper in the doorway, or sitting in his high chair, with toys, a cup of water, a spoon, a wet cloth to chew on, etc.
- Sometimes, he is napping and I try to take advantage of these naps to do more laborious tasks, like mopping or really deep cleaning.
Another thing you may be wondering is “Does she really let her 3 year old mess around with household chemicals?” The answer is no! Because I don’t use chemicals- all of my cleaners are natural and non-toxic, so I can feel safe letting her scrub away at the tub, under my watchful eye. Using non-toxic cleaners without dangerous fumes can make a huge difference in our ability to clean near our children!
Here are a few practical links to help you out further:
Above Rubies article- How we taught our children to work
Natural household cleaners (a series I wrote last fall)- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
Homemade cleaning recipes using simple ingredients from Passionate Homemaking
Crystal has a few wonderful articles that have also encouraged me in this area- Cleaning with children and Children Playing by Themselves