When we had three young children four and under, we went to a parenting seminar in which the wise teacher (Gregg Harris) taught us how to manage our day—and get in the things that are truly important to us: “Attach things that are important to you to something that is already in your schedule.”
I was a struggling young mom, trying to teach our little ones to obey, love each other, enjoy learning, be helpful, desire God’s Word, play creatively, and more. However, like many young stay-at-home moms, I had prioritizing and follow through problems. Mr. Harris’ advice helped me get a handle on my preschoolers’ days.
One of the places in our home in which lively discussions were usually held (and continue to be so, especially when all thirteen of us are home together!) is the dinner table. There is a lot of talk online and other places about the importance of the family dinner table. I am so grateful that we took the time to be sure that we ate four or five meals a week together in the evening—around the table.
Here are some tips to get your family dinner time back—and get your table talk on:
I recently looked up top resolutions for the new year—and saw some interesting lists. They were the typical ones you would expect—lose weight, exercise, get out of debt, eat more healthfully, spend time with family, etc.
But what struck me most was the recurring use of the word MORE.
|Image from scoutiegirl.com
Twenty-five years ago when I was a young mother, housewife, and homeschooler, I had trouble getting all of my work done every day–while teaching a young son to read, keeping a curious preschooler out of everything, taking care of a toddler, nursing a baby, etc. Truly the statement “the days are long but the years are short” was never more real to me.
I had problems that many people who are “self employed” have–plus the added “benefits” of having a lot of littles around making messes and needing seemingly-constant attention. (I really do think they are benefits–but when a man is self-employed, he usually doesn’t have to take care of a home, feed a crew, and provide constant care and supervision to little kids! He just, well, works!)
The greatest problem that those of us who are self employed and/or homeschoolers and/or housewives with littles is that of prioritizing. The second greatest is motivation. Why clean this up when it is just going to become a mess again in thirty minutes? Why fix a hot meal….three hours later, I will need to start another hot meal!
I have found many ways to get the motivation needed to make it through those days of many littles and lots of homeschooling needs–but that would take a book to explain, so for today, I would like to address the concept of prioritizing.
When I had little kids, I loved creating systems–toy storage systems, closet organization, bookshelf perfection. These were things, however, that should not have been high on the priority list. The priority list needed to include daily work, like dishes, laundry, meal preps, child cleansing, reading lessons, and unit studies. Not systems!
My husband would come home at the end of the work day, and I would take him by the hand and lead him through the house, making a path through clean laundry, unbathed children in pj’s, and stacks of dishes, to show him the toy shelves with all of the toys sorted into baby wipe containers with picture labels on each shelf so that the kids could put the toys onto the right shelves. It didn’t even dawn on me that I should have done dishes and laundry BEFORE doing those amazing toy shelves.
After he saw my prize-winning shelves, Ray would roll up his sleeves (literally) and dig in to help bail me out from my day of misplaced priorities. We would get the dishes and laundry done; he would call me “closet lady” –and then we would often repeat the cycle again in a few days.
As we added more children to our home (and more kids in school), it became obvious that I could not continue to put contact paper on every box that came in the house and hand make labels with bright magic markers. Something had to give–and it was then that I came up with the solution to all of our laundry and dish (and trash!) problems:
Treat laundry, dishes, and trash just like brushing my teeth. I brush my teeth at least twice a day (sometimes three or four if I eat something spicy or I am going out in the evening). And I began doing the same with dishes, laundry, and trash.
We still adhere to the below schedule twenty-five years later–though I have seldom done this daily work once the two oldest children could handle these tasks, about ages ten and seven–the youngest child or two of the family who can handle the work has always done the daily tasks (so that we more, um, accomplished kids and parents can do harder jobs, like cooking, shopping, cleaning out freezers, weekly bathroom cleaning, discipling teens, mentoring young adults, teaching fractions, organizing closets (!), etc.).
TWICE A DAY LAUNDRY, DISHES, and TRASH TASKS
Bedtime: (1) Run the dishes from the evening in the dishwasher
(2) Put laundry from earlier in the dryer (“fold ups” only; we have always done hang ups in the moment, moving it before it spins out and hanging it up when it is nearly dry so that we don’t have to iron)
3) Start another load in the washer before sleeping
Morning: (1) Unload dishwasher and put away any big dishes that were drying on the counter after last night’s dinner
(2) Fold and put away laundry in the dryer
(3) Move washer load from washer to dryer and dry it
(4) Gather trash all over the house in the big bag out of the kitchen trash can and take it all out; replace bag
Noontime: (1) Do second load of laundry in dryer (fold and put away)
(2) Start tonight’s first load of laundry in washer
(3) Load dishes from breakfast, lunch, snacks, and cooking and run dishwasher
Evening chores: (1) Unload daytime dishes
(2) Load dinner and dinner prep dishes
(3) Bag kitchen trash again and take it out (we only gather from everywhere else once a day, in the morning)
This assumes chore sessions are in place. Even if you do not have good chore sessions right now, you can start with a five minute session before or after each meal and get laundry and dishes done then (even if it is just you doing them). Four five minute sessions can keep everything up if you have a dishwasher. (Note that we do a load or two of “hang ups” in another chore session in addition to that twice-daily laundry schedule. “Hang up” laundry is a weekly chore, separate from the daily laundry.)
When I didn’t have a dishwasher, I still kept this same routine, but I just kept hot sudsy water in the sink all day (reviving it as needed) and washed dishes and put them in the drying rack as I had them, definitely at least after each meal, but I (or a child) would often run out and wash a sinkful here and there.
Doesn’t TWICE A DAY for each chore (fully done–trash, laundry, and dishes) and twenty total minutes of work a day sound completely doable??? It is! You can do this!
Twice a day–just like brushing your teeth!