How do you get chores done while watching the kid all day by yourself? Is it even possible? Do you really have to do five things at once? These are all valid questions. Although there are no easy answers, there are a few tips and tricks available that may help you to get more done.
Routines are extremely important. It may seem a little obsessive, but routines really help both you and the child know what to expect. With adults, expectations not being met can be a big source of resentment. In my experience, children aren’t much different. Being very clear, and explaining to your child what you are or will be doing as you go through the day helps to avoid tantrums. Of course, some meltdowns can’t be avoided; however, it’s all about attempting to mitigate the damage, so to speak.
Timing is everything. Let me repeat that: timing is everything. I’ve spent so much time with my child that I know her moods well. I know exactly what I can get away with and when. I have it down to a science, and my science is tight. It all depends on the day, the hour, and sometimes the minute. Regardless, some days you just can’t get anything done. It doesn’t matter if it’s laundry, dishes or writing a blog—sometimes the child just won’t let you do it. Yesterday, we had a very clingy morning. She wouldn’t give me a second to myself. I just took a deep breath and moved on from my work and played with her. Then in the afternoon, she calmed down and played with her dolls by herself. Bang, that was my time-window. I ran and made the most of it.
Some time-windows are very short. You have to be very efficient to be effective and productive. Hence, the attempts to do five things at once. Sometimes I am doing dishes, with a load of laundry in the dryer, while mentally taking notes for some writing later, as the kid eats lunch. Oh, and maybe while watering the lawn as well. All at the same time. But be careful, it’s easy to forget what you’re doing, and you may leave a wet load of laundry in the washer too long after it’s done. To keep track of it all, I always have several notes and checklists on hand. It’s also easy to lose track of where you are in the week, and what chores are left to do. Again, keeping checklists helps me know what is queued up next as the week progresses. I suggest after getting up in the morning, over coffee make a list and sort out what you need to do that day. Then jump to the list whenever a time-window presents itself. Not a very spontaneous or fun way to get through the day, but it’s necessary.
In my experience, it’s always easier to have something in shape and simply maintain it every week, then it is to let something go all to H-E-double-hockey-sticks and try to get it back into shape. The latter is a lot of intensive work. Mow the lawn every week, keep up with the laundry, and clear the sink of dishes often. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, that’s simply your life now. Embrace it. Things will be easier for you in the end.
Since every parent and every child are different, there are no real answers. Try as many different takes on the situation as you can, to see what works for you. I’ve tried it all. I’ve tried doing all the vacuuming in one day, or only vacuuming one room every day all week long. I’ve tried to do all the laundry in about two days, or just doing one category of laundry each day (which seems to work best for me). Obviously, if you have help (like grandparents close by), go for it. Use what you can. But if you’re mostly alone, then you need as many techniques and tools as you can get to make the most of your time. And there will be a lot to do during your time. All I can say is, learn to do five things at once, and enjoy the silence when you can.
What techniques have you developed to help you get it all done? What works for you?