Posted in Parenting

The Driveway Rumble

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is hang out on our driveway.  We moved to the town from the country, so a paved surface is kind of a novelty.  They rumble around on bikes, scooters, and ride-on toys, while I sit with a coffee or tea at my bistro set.  (Or plant myself at the mouth of the driveway as a human barrier between them and passing cars.)

For me, it’s a rare opportunity to soak up some warm sunshine while the short summer is here.  I relish the chance to sit for a while and sip on something while enjoying the beauty of my children as they play.  For them, it’s a chance to motor around together and have the full attention of a happy mom.  A mom who is happy because, quite honestly, she is meeting her own needs while simultaneously meeting theirs.

This, I believe, is the true nature of play: it’s fun for everyone involved.

As a younger mom, I nearly wore myself out with all the “playing” I did with my son.  I thought that I should do whatever he wanted when we spent time together, because he was the developing child and it was his needs that were most important.

To a point I still believe this.  Sometimes as parents, we need to sacrifice our own desires to support our kids in their interests.  (No, I don’t actually feel like playing Lego/trucks/Uno/fill-in-the-blank, but I’ll do it for you, because I love you and what you like is important to me.)  However, if taken to the extreme, we defeat the very purpose of play.  It’s supposed to be fun!  For both parties.  And let’s face it: they’re kids, and you’re not anymore.  What is fun for them will not necessarily be fun for you.

I’ve also noticed that my mood really impacts my kids.  My joy multiplies theirs, and their joy multiplies mine!  Because of this, I’ve come to re-frame the way I think about playing.  I now think of it as sharing joy.

When we have a chunk of time to spend together, I ask myself, “What could we do to have some fun?”  For us, this may look like:

  • Playing on the driveway, as I mentioned
  • Walking or biking to a park
  • Skating a few laps around the neighborhood rink (the little guy just slides around on his boots)
  • Going tobogganning
  • Cooking or baking something yummy together
  • Heading to the dollar store and spending pocket change for a small toy, activity, or treat
  • Doing a special, seasonal craft (e.g. making Christmas decorations or coloring Easter eggs)

None of these activities are a drag for me, because they are things that I actually enjoy too.  When I structure our time in this way, a few neat things happen:

  • I am more patient in dealing with the inevitable squabbles and behavior problems, because I’m in a decent mood myself.
  • The kids learn that the wants and needs of other people matter too (the world doesn’t revolve around them, and that’s actually ok)!
  • I have a chance to pass on my passions, and the kids learn from what I teach them.
  • The kids experience things that are different from the usual play that would occur either on their own or with other children.

And you know what?  In the middle of these activities, I often find myself spontaneously joining in on what the kids are doing.  We’ll throw a ball back and forth, push a truck around, or dig in the sandbox.  It is still about them and their needs.  But because I haven’t sentenced myself to an hour of doing just that, I can do it cheerfully.

Quality time spent with your children is never wasted, but if it’s fun for you too, your children will feed off of the joy that you are sharing with them.

Do you like playing with your kids, or is it difficult?  What kinds of things do you do together?  I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

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Posted in Parenting

Chore-a-day Cleaning Schedule for Busy Moms

Today I am sharing a simple cleaning schedule that I have followed (more or less) for years.

Everyday tasks such as dishes, laundry, and meal prep are listed, plus one additional cleaning chore for each day from Monday to Friday.  There’s a blank spot for each day, to fill in what you are planning to make for supper.  In the Thursday column, there’s another blank spot to fill in one monthly job of your choice.  (See the list below the schedule, for a few suggestions.)

By having this schedule in place, my house can stay reasonably clean without much thought or stress.  And on the weeks when I don’t complete each and every task (hey, it happens 😉 ) I simply take a breath and start again, from scratch, on Monday.

For more background on how this routine came about, see this post.

To access the pdf file of the schedule to print, click here.

Let me know in the comments – what is your cleaning routine?  And if you try my schedule, tell me how it works for you!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

 

Posted in Parenting

Cleaning House on Auto-Pilot

Ah, cleaning.  The necessary evil, some might say.  I’ve flip-flopped between having a good and bad attitude about it.  In the end – one way or another – it needs to get done.

The internet is loaded with housecleaning schedules and lists of all kinds.  We’ve all seen them on Pinterest.  As a younger mom, I found these schedules fairly helpful.  Because quite honestly, I wasn’t sure how often I should be doing all the different tasks.

After a while I made my own schedule, and put it up on the fridge.  I followed it pretty well, most of the time.  Then I had a second kid, and even the schedule I had made (as basic as it was) became a little too daunting.

These days, I work off of a list of priorities.  I knock off the things at the top of the list first, which are the most important (think: basic survival).  And then I work my way down, in-amongst the multiple interruptions that may occur throughout the day.  The things at the end of the list – truthfully, they don’t often get done.  Needless to say, my house is not sparkling clean.  But we stay fed, and clothed, and in a basically neat and sanitary space, as often as I can possibly manage.

Here are the things I keep on my mental list, in order of importance:

  • Dishes (there are always more)
  • Laundry (ditto)
  • Food (meal prep)
  • Tidy (put all/most of the things away)
  • Clean the bathrooms
  • Sweep or vacuum floors

Those 6 things, on a good week, I can keep up with for the most part.  When I have the luxury of moving beyond the basics, these are next:

  • Mop the floors
  • Wipe down kitchen cupboards and appliances
  • Organizational tasks (e.g. sorting through clothing)
  • Dust
  • Clean doors, windows, and walls

During the years of having a child under 3 at home, it is the exception (and not the rule) that I actually complete those final items on my list.  And for those of you who have more than one child under 3, well – bless your heart!

The nice thing is, after being a mom for a whopping 8 years, the list has become pretty automatic.  Which is helpful for me, because I do become overwhelmed with a lot of commotion, or when jobs pile up so high that I know I can’t possibly do them all.  My tendency, in those situations, would be to circle the house in a distracted and confused way, jumping from one task to the next and then forgetting what I was doing before.

Now, when I get to that overwhelmed place and can’t imagine laying eyes on a cleaning schedule of any sort (like really: just shoot me now), I flick on my auto-pilot.

Dishes, laundry, food.

Everything else will wait.

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And once I have a handle on those 3 things, I relax a little.  Any step beyond that is icing on the cake.  The further I move down the list, the more competent and relaxed I feel.

Sometimes I have a bad week, and I don’t move beyond the first 3.  Yikes.  This is when I take a deep breath, collect myself, and decide that I will be starting fresh on Monday.

Because, the cleaning will always be there.  My children won’t.  They’ll grow up, and move out, and the house will probably stay a lot cleaner.  But while they’re here, they need to be cared for and nurtured.  That takes a lot of time and effort.

So in the meantime, my husband and I put up with the stubbed toes (seriously, those toys are everywhere), sticky floors, and overflowing laundry baskets.  And no, it’s not always with a smile on the face.

I think other moms probably keep up with their houses better than I do.  But, I’ll keep on tryin’.  And besides, when it comes to loving my kids – that’s one job I know I’m best at.

What’s your housecleaning routine?  Do you like schedules, or hate them?  Any cleaning advice for me?

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Mental health, Parenting

Hey Young Mom, Your Feelings Matter Too!

The other day, I took my kids to the park.  In order to get a bit of exercise myself, I opted to do laps around its perimeter rather than just sit on the bench.  As I walked and kept one eye on my children, I devoted the rest of my mental energy to naming the different feelings I’d had over the past few days, and why.

This may seem like a rather strange, self-involved thing to do.  But lately I’ve noticed something about myself.

I don’t know how I feel.

As a kid, I remember believing that I needed to get out of the way so the adults could have their important discussions.  As I grew, I learned to care about others and put them ahead of myself (a good thing, but it needs to be held in balance).  I entered a helping profession, and my mind was filled with my clients and all their stuff.  I became a mom, and was quickly consumed by my children and all their stuff.

In the meantime, however, I forgot about all my own stuff.

Why is this a problem, you might ask?

Because un-dealt with stuff has a way of boiling over at the drop of a hat, in ways that can harm yourself or the people you love.  You bump your head, and explode in tears.  Your kid spills his milk, and you nearly take his head off with your words.  Someone says something offensive to you, and you’re despondent for days.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

There’s a lot of talk these days about self-care.  That’s important too, but right now I’m talking about something else: self-awareness.  Self-awareness is what allows us to recognize and name our feelings.  Going one step further, we identify the cause or trigger behind the feelings.

This is as simple as:

  • I feel lonely when I take the kids to the park by myself.
  • I feel anxious when my children are sick.
  • I feel joyful when we go out for ice cream as a family.

After becoming aware of how we feel and what is causing it, the next step is to take ownership of and responsibility for our feelings.

Ownership: These feelings are mine.  Others are not experiencing them in the same way as me.  And other people may not have a clue how I’m feeling, unless I tell them.

Responsibility: My feelings are not the fault of other people.  There are things in my power that I can do, in order to deal with my own feelings.

This can look like:

  • I’m going to ask the neighbour if she would like to come to the park with us and hang out.
  • I’m going to stock the house with the supplies I need in case children get sick, and ask for help or emotional support from other people when they are sick.
  • It’s been a rough week.  Maybe we should do something fun together and get some joy back.

As a mom, and as a human being in general, caring for others is essential.  But when you are so others-focused that you are not dealing with your own emotions, and taking steps to deal with them, your ability to help people will be severely limited.  You have feelings, your feelings have causes, and these things are worthy enough to be dealt with.  For your family’s sake, and your own!

Can you relate?  How are you feeling today?  (Do you even know?)

Warm wishes,

Lisa