Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kids and stuff - the early years - help needed!

In light of Monday's post, I received this email from my friend Melissa, a great mom with five kids ages 6 and under. Here's part of her email. Maybe some of you can relate to this. I sure could:
My reason for e-mailing you today is a question about how you coped in the early years with your kids. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in that movie "Groundhog Day". You know the one where he repeats the same day over and over again? I feel like I go through the same routine day in and day out just to repeat it over again the next day! They make the messes, and I clean them. I have 5 children that seem to undo everything I get done! Sure, I make them clean up and pick up toys, but often it just seems like an explosion took place in my house!

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only parent living in a pig sty. Even if I do get it all clean, it doesn't stay that way for long! Any suggestions on how to teach my young children to clean up after themselves?
If you have known me for any length of time, you know that I am far from a perfect homemaker (or why would my son have omelette plates littering his room??). I don't particularly enjoy cleaning, so I have avoided it, wrestled with it, fought against it, but in the end, finally come to terms with it. As I've said before, no matter how long I'm doing it, even though I've gotten better at it (out of necessity), I'm quite sure housekeeping will never come easily to me.

HOWEVER, there are some things that DO help make life easier, keeping up with little ones.

And that's where you all come in!

I thought it would be fun to have lots of input for Melissa and for anyone else who might be overwhelmed by their little mess-makers (or by their own messes), whether or not they are outnumbered by their offspring.


If you would like to write a post sharing your story, a tip, a helpful book or website, leave a comment with a link to your post. If you do not have a blog, you can just leave a comment with your suggestion or...just your commiseration.

I'll post some thoughts on THURSDAY (tomorrow's a busy day), so you can write them now, or take a couple of days to think about it and add your two cents to my post Thursday.

Here are some posts to get your brains going:

Confessions of a reluctant homemaker
What is a homemaker?
Homemaking vs. housekeeping
Ever feel out of control?
Perfect or best?

I'm looking forward to hearing from you!!


Anonymous said...

(Thanks for the opportunity to share Katherine!)

Melissa - I HEAR YOU! I too have five kids, a bit more spread out than yours though - my oldest is 8 yrs old.

I'll try to keep this short. Here are some things I've learned:

1. I have one room that I try to keep tidy most all of the time (our living room). I find that helps me so much, just having that one place that's orderly.

2. A wise woman once told me that a mom's ability to let her kids have fun is in direct proportion to her ability to allow a mess.

3. And lastly, know that it gets better! Please hear me when I say this. You know how you have your kids pick up their messes right now? (which often takes so much longer than doing it yourself...) Well, keep doing it! You will one day reap what you've sown.

In the meantime know that I'm in the repetitive clutter-filled trenches with you!! Hang in there!


Unknown said...

I am living the same story! I only have 3 kids, but 1 husband, 3 dogs and 2 cats add to my mix, too....my granddaddy says to be grateful for the minor problems, they could be big ones. Yesterday, I went into my 12 year olds room and their were 3 dirty plates, a Cheetos bag and a half a loaf of bread in his room.....I feel your pain! Anissa

Tammi said...

Excellent timing. I was going to post about kids and cleaning today anyway. :)

Tonni said...

I don't have any kids... yet! But we're planning on a big family, and I am trying to learn everything I can in the mean time! I happened upon this website recently, and really enjoyed reading through the archives, she seemed have alot of tips and tricks and creativity!

Maureen said...

Hello! Stumbled across your blog recently. I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am also a mother of 5 ages 18 down to 4 yrs old. I completely understand the mess! I was introduced to a website several years ago that changed my life and my home. www.flylady.net/ The site may seem overwhelming at first. Don't try to do it all at once. Start out small. I can assure you it works! Thanks for allowing me to share.

Blessed with 5,

Angela said...

I could not agree more with Maureen! The flylady is great for kids too! You set a timer for 15 minutes and kind of "race" clean areas, get kid sized brooms, dusters, etc. and have them help so they learn how to pick up and take care of themselves as they grow. Each day has a zone to focus on so there is no need to be overwhelmed :) Also a chore chart that rotates chores based on age is something I plan on implementing soon w/ my 4 and 2 year old :)

Elspeth said...

I recently felt just like your emailer. In fact posted about it. I hope this gives hope:

I don't have 5 under 6 years, but 4 over 12 years and 2 under 2 years (all girls, no less!) I have had my share of overwhelming days lately too.

As for the housekeeping, I try to keep the main areas of the house (kitchen, family room, and main bath) in presentable shape most of the time. I try to keep everyone in clean clothes and serve balanced meals. With a two month old I'm not getting much sleep right now so I tackle other jobs as I have energy and opportunity. I do have the advantage of having my teenage girls to help out during the summer because they are out of school. Now in the fall, I may be pulling my hair out, but today I feel like I can offer a little advice!

Rachel Anne said...

What a great topic! Three things helped me in the early years and they continue to help me now:

1) Sister/friend to talk to. (Thanks, Kath)

2) Bonnie's Household Organizer, ye old book which saved my life. It helped me organize my days very simply so I could function.

3) CHUCK. I have baskets/containers/cupboards in every room that clutter can be chucked into at a moment's notice. Yeah, the container is a mess, but the room looks picked up.

I'll add a fourth. Pat yourself on the back for every small thing that you do to help your family, even if it's the same thing over and over. Realize that raising a family is messy, often discouraging business. You have to keep encouraging yourself and look for ways to find purpose in the mundane. You may have to lower your standards just a bit, at least for a time. As Chris said, it does get better.

Anonymous said...

I have 5 girls from 11-3 years old. It does get easier as they get a little older. Here are a few suggestions that work for us.
1. Clothes or shoes have to be picked up and put away. Even the little ones can gather shoes and put clothes in a hamper at the end of the day.

2. Edit constantly! The more that is out for them to mess up especially toys the more mess you will have. Put away or file away whatever you don't need or the kids are playing with.

3. Some things such as games and puzzles are better off being brought out only by Mom. Then you can control that it gets picked up and put away with all the pieces still in the box. -It also saves from having to repurchase three different versions of the same game as your kids are growing up.

4. Stay organized as much as possible.

5. Smile, it will get easier and soon the baby days will be gone and some part of you will yearn for it again.


Anonymous said...

The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson will surely give you some direction!!!

Jill said...

Great post idea! I started to comment here but it became to long.

Also raising 5.

Ginger said...

Great Stuff. Here's a tiny idea, but it's huge on prevention. I LOVE the pelican bibs and my four have all worn them. (Even my messy 4 year old did for a while) It minimizes the food mess under the table, and after a meal, just rinse and set out for the next meal. I don't know why everyone doesn't use one, cloth bibs just make more laundry!

Laura said...

I find that just knowing this is a season of life and that it will be over before I know it helps me keep it all in perspective. I also keep our calendar relatively empty which isn't always easy in society today.

Another tip is giving kids the opportunity to pick up their things lying around the house and then whatever remains is yours and they have to earn it back.

Consistency in discipline is an absolute must which is often hard when tired and frustrated but it really does pay off in the end. If I chose to fight my kids on a particular issue I make sure I win no matter what. They need to know you aren't wishy washy and that for certain rules your feet are in cement.

Pray, lots and lots of prayer!

I do hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Who knew there were so many of us keeping up with your blog who have 5 kids, Katherine!!

My five are between the ages of 12 and 5. The first, third, fourth and fifth are boys. I am married to a man who has OCD and NEEDS things to be clean and orderly. Talk about exhausting!!

I nearly killed myself trying to do it all and be it all - literally. Only by the grace of God do I sit here at my computer today. Ladies, please realize your job in life is not forgotten or unnoticed. Our Heavenly Father sees all and know all. While we think we are working for our family, we are really working only for an audience of one, and that is God!

Now, a few things we do that work - most of the time!

Toys are only permitted in certain areas of the house. Obviously this has to be adjusted for each family depending on their floor plan and the age of their children. In our case, no toys downstairs.

If the kids leave something out, I assume this means they don't want or need it so I throw it away. (or hide it) First time your child doesn't have their backpack for school or their cleats for soccer, they will have learned a very valuable lesson.

No help - no privilege. TV, video games, play dates, sugar treats, etc. all those things are earned, not automatic. If the kids won't help, I won't provide any extras in life. Again, great life lesson the first time they are told "no" because they have not contributed.

Lastly, my husband and I have worked hard to help our kids understand that being a family means being a team. How do they feel when someone on their soccer, baseball, volleyball, etc. team is lazy or they just don't show up to participate. It causes them to be frustrated. Well, that's how Mommy and Daddy feel when they are lazy or just don't show up to help.

Thank you Katherine and Melissa for opening this discussion. Us Mom's need to glean ideas off each other more often than not!

mholgate said...

Ladies! I am so blessed with all of your tips and advice! I had no idea there were so many other women out there with as many kids as I have!

I think lately what has been bothering me is that since we got back from vacation I haven't been able to get my kids back into routine.

This summer has been very different for us. Now that I have two that have been in school, it's hard for them not to be entertained in one way or another all day. They don't know what to do with themselves since it's summer and honestly, I don't know what to do with them either! (Other than let them play outside A LOT!)

I have also tried FLYlady. I still get her e-mails for what room to do and what task. I get it completed on most days if I haven't done it already out of routine. I also have a morning and bedtime routine still.

I really enjoy Rachel Anne's Home Sanctuary Small things. I do that most every day! It helps me to remember that I am building a sanctuary for my family.

Katherine, your post on homemaking vs. housecleaning was very helpful to me. Thanks for that.

Prayer is a huge must for me! I couldn't make it without God's loving hand guiding me every step of the way.

I read a verse the other day that really stuck with me. It was Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

This is wonderful. I'm so glad that you have all chimed in. I love to write things out and think them through so this is very helpful to me.

Keep the thoughts coming! : )

ps. Chris, my friend is always telling me to try to look at mess=fun, not mess=stress, so I can relate to your comment #2.

El Shaddai Ranch said...

I am yet another mother of 5 weighing in here...

I too want to encourage you that IT'S NOT ALWAYS GOING TO BE THIS WAY. It might seem like forever, but it's not.

We struggled with the chore chart deal, and finally came up w/ something that works for us. I encourage you to try, try again - if it doesn't work the first time, tweak it (no matter what FlyLady says.)

I take care of the kitchen and living room. During the day as I notice things in the house that need to be done I add them to my LIST - then before supper time I rally the TEAM together and divy out tasks from the LIST. This way I can still focus on my 2 rooms, get the pesky chores taken care of, and get the kids to help!

I think maybe your kids are a little too young yet to fully contribute - don't expect them to be able to do it all. I think the 6 year old can certainly use wet wipes to clean the bathroom, or unload the dishwasher. But wait a while before assigning too many tasks to the little ones.

Give yourself a break! If it's a mess and you're tired GO TO BED. Who the heck cares anyway, and why do you care what they think? IT'S YOUR HOUSE!

Raquel said...

i love this topic i def. will be posting about this topic today, using my top hints to make it run smoothly.

Les & Sweetie Berry said...

Can't wait to read all of these! As a naturally flowing disaster, at 43, I have had to learn the kept home systems one at a time...and so much of life has been in those lessons. The first one that truly light bulbed for me as a mom of 4 was "It is not the big picture that defeats you, it is the smallest habits that make or break you" When I learned if I just consistently did two loads EVERY day five days a week my Mt Washmore didn't exist....and yet after the initial 3 months of not believing it, on month 4 guess what...it worked! Now all the better if one day you're invigorated to speed up the catch up by multiple loads, but try not to rely on "catchup" but "keep Up!"

but most of all....give yourself the gift of being treated well....BY YOURSELF...so you can be replenished to keep giving to others in your household, church, and life!
God Bless You Today Katherine!

Beck said...

Oh, I don't know. THe last time my husband helped the kids clean up the playroom, he was actually scooping up toys with a SNOWSHOVEL!

Anonymous said...

When up to your elbows in the tedious responsibilities of life, you'll spend much mental energy thinking about when you'll have time for yourself and your own interests. How can you put all of yourself into your time at home if you're always thinking about a future time when you can escape the routine tasks of motherhood? You have to accept your children's neediness, the myriad mindless tasks and even your own occasional discomfort - as part of your partnering with your husband toward your mutual goal of building a godly heritage for Christ. You have to treat each day as sacred in their development toward becoming healthy, mature adults. The hard, daily, repetitive work of making a home a haven, providing healthy meals, correcting and training little ones and constantly cleaning up messes is the STUFF FROM WHICH GODLINESS IS BUILT! If you don't commit yourself WHOLEHEARTEDLY to the demands of motherhood, you will never be able to do your best, because your heart will always be somewhere else. How do you make the commitment to give the area of motherhood over to God as a sacrifice of worship to Him? You yield your personal rights into His hands. You give up your time and expectations to Him - and also your fears and worries about how you will manage..... and we WAIT IN FAITH ( do not expect to see immediate results ) to see the fruit of your hard labor in the lives of your children, knowing that HE WILL BE FAITHFUL to honor your commitment to Him. :)
Keep up the great work!!!

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

This week is not a great week for me to talk about how to deal with messes (see: http://queentomy3boys.blogspot.com/2008/07/damage-control.html). **sheepish grin**

I am all ears on your ideas, though.