Okay, busy Moms… ever feel like your spinning your wheels? Maybe just putting out fires? Wouldn’t it be great to learn some hacks for busy, busy Moms?
It can be incredibly difficult to balance home, school, work, family, and extracurricular activities. And, it can be even more tiring if all mom is doing is fighting the fires the family experiences each day. I know — this school year I’m coaching three robotics teams, running four children in extracurricular events, teaching a preschool, and keeping up with housework, children’s homework — life in general.
I’ve also been fighting, and recovering from, thyroid cancer. During the worst of it, I was just putting out fires. I’ve spent the last five months realizing what an energy and time deficit just putting out fires creates. Because of this, I’ve also learned some powerful techniques that make it so that instead of just putting out fires, I actually have time to do fun things. This monthly series, Hacks for Busy, Busy Moms, will discuss seven simple actions that make any mom’s day go much better.
The first technique requires the most work up front – but it also offers the greatest reward – an automatically clean (almost) house. We spent three months working this out in our family, but now we’ve got it down. And it works amazingly!
Okay, so who makes the most messes in the family? Honestly, it’s the kids, right? When moms are busy, busy, there really isn’t much time to handle all the messes kids can make in a day. This technique helps the kids take more responsibility for their messes and cleans the house as well.
Get the Kids on YOUR team
This technique takes just a little bit of organization to accomplish and a little bit of time to teach. But then it works beautifully. My kids, ages 11 to 3, are all able to do this with minimal support from me or my husband.
So, here’s what to do – break the chores that need daily maintenance into age appropriate groups. (We call them zones.)
Things like taking out the trash, keeping the floor swept up, making sure the dishes are put away, moving the laundry, straightening the bathrooms, and vacuuming are all chores children can do with great success.
These chores are also what help keep the house feeling tidy, and keep the house in order.
After zones have been established, write down what needs to be done in each zone on a daily basis. The list is important because it helps kids know when they’ve accomplished what they are expected to accomplish.
Establishing clear and attainable expectations help kids know what to do, how to do it, and when they’ve successfully completed the job. It also keeps parents from adding more and more onto the job. Click here for a free printable of what our zones and lists look like.
Assign one zone to one child for the week. Give the responsibility of that zone to that child.
Teach them what to do
The next step is teaching the children how to accomplish the lists. IF you don’t want to teach them how to do the job, don’t write it down and expect them to do it. All children need to be taught how to clean – it’s one of those necessary life skills – and they don’t come knowing how. Spend an hour or so teaching how to clean up each zone with the assigned child. Then, step back, and let them work.
Remember, they are learning. Demanding perfection, or going back and cleaning after them, will just make them resistant to cleaning. Teach them step by step, and let them learn over time. If the cleaning isn’t how you’d like it, help them achieve the level of cleanliness you desire by working alongside them. A gentle example goes a long way when teaching a new skill.
Integrate the zones into family life
Make sure to build Zone Chores into the family’s daily routine. We do zones after school and before bedtime. The kids know that these are the times to do their zones. This routine anchors the completion of the zones into our daily life. It lets everyone know what they are supposed to be doing at what time.
And finally, allow for privileges once the zone is completed. My kids know that if they want to have free time, their zones need to be completed. Free-time is always a fantastic motivator!
Our Family’s Zones
Here’s how it looks in our house:
Our Zones are: Kitchen, Family Room, Dining Room, Bathrooms, and Hallways
Each child is assigned a zone on Monday. My three-year-old is always assigned the Hallways (because that’s the only chore she can do at this stage and age in life). The other children rotate through all the zones – which means that during a four-week month, a child only has each zone once. I help my five-year-old when she is assigned the kitchen – but she can handle the rest of the daily maintenance the other zones require. We work on our zones right after school, and during bath time (we only have two bathrooms, so doing zones while waiting for a turn is a great use of time.)
This is the first hack for busy, busy moms. Try it out. Let me know what your zones look like and how your kids do with them in the comments below.
Getting the kids on YOUR team is only one of the hacks I’ll be discussing in the coming months. Check back next month for more!