When my first born was a baby, I used to anxiously wait until she was asleep, then I would whisk through the house and clean up. When she woke up, I would be all eyes on her, sitting and playing and taking care of her until at last she would fall asleep again. Repeat.
But, that got old fast. Real fast. I started getting resentful to the fact that I never had enough time for myself and it was so incredibly tiring trying to entertain a baby for hours on end. So, I changed all that fast and started taking her with me to get everything done.
Now, my kids are 3 and 5 1/2, and unless it’s an accident, I almost never clean up when the kids are awake .
1. The House Doesn’t Magically Clean Itself
Does it take mama half a day to clean up a big mess? Sometimes. Can we not go out and play until all the dishes are done and the laundry is hung out to dry? You betcha. That’s the way the way it is. I’m not mean about it, and I don’t ever force them to clean up. But, they have to see exactly how much effort is required to clean up a particular mess. If they get tired of waiting for me to clean up… guess what? Sometimes they start helping out.
2. Their Sleep Time is Me Time
We have a big family bed and we’re usually all asleep at the same time. But, if for some reason, they’re asleep and I’m not, you can bet your bottom that I’m not going to waste that precious time cleaning up. I do some yoga and meditation. I do some writing. Drink a cup of tea. Stare at the wall… you know, things that will recharge my battery a little. I hardly even do work (as in the work that I make money from) when they’re asleep.
3. Babies and Kids Love Being Involved in ‘Real Life’
When my kids were babies, I used to carry them around in the sling, or put them on the floor or bed near me and they enjoyed watching what I was doing. Kids want to be included with household activities, as long as the inclusion is done in a fun and fair way. Involving children with household activities makes them feel a great sense of ownership and sense of belongingness to the family. Babies that are tired of playing, might want to just be a wall flower for a little and watch what’s going on. I also make sure that all of my cleaning products were natural and non toxic, so the kids can help me with everything, even things like scrubbing the bathroom tiles.
Developing a Positive Attitude Towards Cleaning Up
I never force my kids to clean up. Nobody is forcing ME to clean up, why should I force them?
When I go about the house activities with a positive attitude, then the kids pick up that attitude. They see that it’s just a part of life. They’ve watched me do it all a thousand times before, so they know what it looks like. They know how much time it takes to clean up. When they feel like contributing, the urge to participate comes from within. The desire to have a clean space doesn’t come from bribes, threats or rewards… Just like when I do chores, the only ‘reward’ I get is the satisfaction of a clean house.
Kids learn from watching, so I make cleaning up fun and light. Never a burden. I don’t do sticker charts or assign chores or anything like that.
When the house is cleaned up, instead of grumbling about how long it took me to clean all by myself, I say, “Ah, isn’t that nice? Now we can play with our things better and we’re not tripping over toys.”
When the house is clean, man, do they really appreciate it, and they tell me so!