I have a rule in my house that was a complete game-changer in terms of my personal happiness and it wasn’t a rule I created for my children—it was a rule I created for myself.
Mama is off the clock when the kids go to bed.
Now, for some of you reading this, you might think this is a given; but for those of you stay at home moms, you know that you never really “leave the office”. You are always effectively “at work” and the work is never ending. When the kids go to bed, it’s tempting to finish folding the laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer since that afternoon, clean up the aftermath of dinner preparation, or catch up on the stream of emails you’ve been neglecting. The harsh reality is that engaging in your household chores will not leave you with a sense of satisfaction or accomplishment, but rather a feeling of sheer exhaustion, for you are effectively working 18 hour shifts, 24 perhaps if your little one still wakes in the middle of the night.
Which is why I clock out when the kids go to bed. I don’t do laundry. I don’t do dishes. I don’t pack lunches. I guess you could say that I don’t do anything productive. Except that I do. When the kids go to bed, I recharge. This might mean a long shower, a good book, time with my husband. And having this predictable time “off” every evening makes me a more patient and enthusiastic parent, not to mention a better wife.
I know what some of you are thinking. “How do you expect me to accomplish the things that need to be done if I don’t use the time that the kids are sleeping?” Good question. Here’s the answer: Create a mental list of the 3 most important things for you to accomplish prior to the kiddo(s) bedtime. Then, be disciplined and time manage accordingly.
For me, I need my kitchen clean, including the dishes washed, the counters wiped down, and the floor swept. I also need the laundry folded and tucked back into the basket. (Note, putting the laundry away before bed is a bonus; it doesn’t HAVE to happen for me to rest easy.) I need toys picked up out of the way of walking paths. (Again, this is where I have gone through the mental process of realizing that having ALL the toys picked up off the living room floor is not necessary for me to rest. I just need them picked up enough not to be tripping hazards.)
Everyone’s list of 3 chores might be different and that’s ok. It’s not important WHAT your 3 chores are; what’s important is that you go through the mental exercise of determining what you feel necessary to accomplish by bedtime.
The next step is to determine how to accomplish these things and a rough timeline. For me, I aim to have the laundry folded before I start making dinner. The kitchen clean up happens after dinner, between 6:30 and 7:00 pm, which is a very manageable time frame for me. Lastly, right before we head upstairs to start bath time, I have the kids help me pick up toys (for a fun clean up game, see Make Cleaning Up Toys Easy & Fast: Play the Freeze Game).
Before I adopted this routine, I remember feelings of defeat, like I could never get ahead of the housework. There was always a sense of needing to “do more.” Now, most nights I feel a sense of accomplishment before bedtime and as the kids nod off, I feel a sense of freedom—freedom to take care of me—which is refreshing.
Featured Photo by Laura Taylor