Dishing Up More Time with a Side of Sanity

It’s the all-too-common excuse for why we can’t seem to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves: there’s just not enough time in the day!

This is especially true for mothers and even more true for working moms. Having been the stay-at-home-mom and the working-outside-the-home-mom, I know that when we ladies go back to work, we not only add the responsibilities that come with the office but we still take on the daily household management.  Even with an exceptionally helpful spouse, the day-to-day tasks of managing the children and the home tend to fall on a woman’s plate.

So where do you find the time?  Because you do need to find the time. Time to exercise. Time to read a book. Time to just breathe so that you have enough energy to make a healthy meal for you and your family.

There are many time-saving techniques out there but I won’t bore you with those. Instead, I’ll leave you with two tips that have made the biggest difference in my own life.

The first one: Empower your children.

{image credit: Dandee-Designs.com}

Whether they are 3 or 13, start taking a long hard look at the things you do for them day in and day out and figure out which tasks they can do themselves. For small children, maybe it’s just little things like undressing themselves before bath time instead of you hovering over them and peeling all their clothes off each and every night.  Perhaps it’s a basic sticker chore chart where they can feel proud of their hard work at the end of each day. We started with a very simple list of: make your bed in the morning; brush your teeth and hair; tidy up toys in the evening; brush teeth and get into pj’s. The boys saw the chart and didn’t need me hounding them to do each thing which opened up time for me to do other things.

Once you start recognizing these enabling tendencies (and believe me, it’s every good mother’s weakness!), you’ll be amazed at how the little things all add up.  Our boys have work station desks for their crafts and drawing supplies and we’ve given them scissors, tape dispensers and paper to use as they wish. Not only is this recommended by educators for healthy development, it also means the boys have everything they need to wrap their own presents. How many times have you wrapped a gift for your child to take to a birthday party? My answer? That would be, zero. Most kids will love getting to wrap a present but if they balk at the idea of doing it themselves, then let them take the present unwrapped to the party. They’ll see all the other nicely-presented presents and feel pretty foolish for not listening to you in the first place. Lesson learned.

Plus, how cute is this?!

{Apparently I also save time by not cutting my child’s hair.}

Maximize your time by prepping lunch snacks once a week (i.e. cut-up veggies in the fridge) and then letting the kids pack their own lunches. Put a list on the fridge of each item they need to include until they’re confident. Even a child as small as 5 years old has the skill set required to put snacks in a container and make a sandwich. At just 5 1/2 years old, Jack woke me up one morning to announce that he had made his own turkey sandwich, complete with cheese he cut himself (gulp!), mayo, mustard, lettuce, turkey meat, and of course, ketchup (naturally). Don’t let the little rascals fool you into believing they aren’t capable — they’ve just been conditioned to complain as soon as things prove a teeny bit difficult because they know you’ll just do it for them. My answer? Let them go hungry one day at school and then see how quickly they’ll make that lunch. Reality is the best form of discipline.

Call me heartless but then again, I’m the one who actually finds being a stay-at-home-mom simple. Yes, I said that. I know every child is different (although I think that’s mainly used as an enabling parent’s cop-out) but I simply don’t relate to women who complain about mothering being hard work. I think it pales in comparison to most of my former career positions! But guess why? My Kindergartener’s make their own lunch.  Better still, they make their own lunch while I sip a coffee and read the paper.

As for older kids, you may have already formed some bad (enabling) habits that will take some re-training to change. But it’s like a Band-aid — just rip it off quickly and aggressively. If you don’t think highly enough of your kids’ abilities to do basic tasks, how on earth do you expect them to magically be able to take care of themselves when they move out (which will be here before we know it)? Equip them now and everyone wins!

Think about this, while they were wasting time watching TV, you came home from a hard day at work and then spent 30 minutes putting away their laundry, packing their lunches for the next day, cleaning their bathroom, picking up after their mess, and who knows what else!  Guess how many productive ME-things you can do in 30+ minutes? A lot.

This brings me to the second helpful tip: Stop Repeating Yourself.

Having a frank discussion with older kids to let them know you’ve decided they should do more for themselves is a good starting point. Then, ask once. AND ONLY ONCE.  Remember, they are quite capable of listening, doing, and following through. It’s just that they tune out most of what you say. And let’s be honest, we parents get so repetitive that we shouldn’t blame them for tuning us out anyway. So stop repeating. And say it once. How’s that work, you ask? Here’s the integral part to this equation: if your child suffers a consequence after not acting the first time you give an instruction, they will adapt very quickly to avoid future consequences. If you repeat yourself ten times before finally dishing out a consequence, they will adapt to letting you repeat yourself ten times before acting. You create your own beast, mothers.

Case in point: You’ve asked them to clean their room and they ignore you. Usually you ask them five more times, each time getting louder and more frustrated until you finally snap and they give each other that eye-rolling “mom’s losing it” look and finally get to cleaning. Or worse, you cave and the room isn’t cleaned at all. Next time, try this: Give them the instruction once. When they ignore you (because remember, they are conditioned to ignore you until they recognize your tipping point), go ahead and clean it for them. Yes, clean it for them. Without so much as a word. If they notice and thank you, just say “your welcome” and nothing else.  Leave them wondering. Then, after you fork over their weekly allowance later that week, tell them they owe you for “Cleaning Services Rendered” and make them give you that allowance right back. Watch them break down like little babies when they realize that all the things they’d dreamed about buying that week just disappeared into thin air.  I’m pretty sure they’ll never let you clean their room again.

When Tim and I first decided to implement this Reality Discipline technique after reading this book last year, we tried this scenario with our four-year-olds (and their $2 allowance). Over a year has gone by and they still remember that lesson. I can’t pick up one toy in their room without them stopping me, worried that perhaps I asked them to clean up and they didn’t hear me! They know that Mom asks once. And only once.

Plus, imagine all the time you’ll save just by not repeating yourself?

Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay

3 thoughts on “Dishing Up More Time with a Side of Sanity

    • Natasha (Domestica) says:

      Thanks for pulling this one out of the archives! One year later and it’s still TOTALLY TRUE. The boys are a product of reality discipline and I love how capable they are to do things for themselves, which frees me up to do other more important things for them and with them!

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