TheStressedMom.com posted this list of 10 daily habits for a well-run home last month, and yesterday social media brought it to my circle. These habits would probably help a lot of people. People like me? Not so much. If I were making a list of 10 daily habits for moms–or 10 habits for a happy home based on life in a family like ours–I’d need to flip almost everything she recommends on its head.
1. When to wake up
StressedMom says: Wake up early.
NothingByTheBook says: Sleep as long as the baby sleeps. And then when you wake up, and the baby is sleeping, stay in bed working on the laptop until he wakes up, because that’s a minor miracle.
2. When to go to bed
StressedMom says: Go to bed earlier.
NothingByTheBook says: Sure. Go to bed when you’re tired. When you have little kids, and you’re exhausted by 7 p.m., get thee to bed and sleep. But if late at night is the only time you can work–the only time you can get alone time–the only time you can grab to read that book–the only time you can snuggle with the gorgeous dude who helped you make them babies–take that time. (Sex is more important than sleep. But that’s a topic for a separate post.)
3. How to spend your evening
StressedMom says: Evening preparations: Make sure everything that is needed to leave the house in the morning is prepped and where it should be.
NothingByTheBook says: This is a great idea. I love it. Never gonna do it, though, because, well, what does everything encompass? You never finish everything. And tomorrow always throws you a curve ball. And do you want each of your evenings to be mostly about tomorrow? What about tonight? Do the important stuff you have time for–but not at the price of NOT taking the kids for a post-supper bike ride or romp in the park.
4. Plan to eat
StressedMom says: Institute meal-planning.
NothingByTheBook says: I meal plan. Really. It took me nine years of thinking, wow, that’s a pretty good idea, I should do that, and by the third baby’s first birthday, I was actually doing it. It started with Taco Tuesday and Pizza Friday–shamelessly copied from my neighbour down the street who was meal planning for decades. It now includes “Shit, I forgot to defrost something” Monday (slop in a slow cooker day) and “What the Fuck’s For Dinner” Thursday. Left-overs Wednesday. Fake Firepit Saturday. Roast Sunday–no, we’re going out for dinner without the grandparents. Save the Roast for Monday. Woo-hoo, no slow cooker slop this Monday! Should I do slow cooker slop on Tuesday instead, ’cause I have no lettuce for the Tacos?No, we’ll do pizza. But then on Pizza Friday, do we do tacos? Or…
Really, you know what saves my meal-planning bohunkus? Not weekly meal planning or grocery shopping, but getting dinner going at like, 2 p.m. Or 4 p.m. Or whenever the moment for chopping/popping in stove/oven occurs. And not waiting until at 5:45 p.m. someone–usually me–is having a blood sugar crash. And if it’s one of those days–when nothing got defrosted, pre-chopped, or prepped until 5:45, guess what’s for supper? Appetizer of cereal, followed by peanut butter and jam sandwiches, with apples for desert.
ASIDE: I think it took me years to realize that the little buggers need to eat supper (and lunch, and breakfast, and second breakfast, and pre-supper) EVERY SINGLE DAY. My friend Nicole, mother to four boys, has a great post about this insight here.
StressedMom says: Do one complete load of laundry a day.
NothingByTheBook says: OK. But also, give yourself a day or two a week off laundry. I have small children who like to play in mud. I cloth diaper. I have an untoilet-trained dog who piddles everywhere. My daughter paints twice a day; my husband changes his clothes thrice a day; the boys flood the bathroom if not quite every day, then every other day for sure. I could spend my life doing laundry.
Almost every day, there is a load of stinky/wet/pukey/poopy/yuck! laundry that has to be done. (Makes the load of “just dirty clothes” almost a pleasure to do! “Look! I popped this load in the laundry and I don’t have to wash my hands! Woo-hoo!”) When the universe is kind to me, and no one has peed, puked, or mudded over something–I take the opportunity, and don’t do the laundry. Because tomorrow, there will be a load. And another one…
StressedMom says: Do your dishes done in the evening before going to bed.
NothingByTheBook says: OK. So long as it means I still have time to take the kids outside after supper. Or play Munchkins with them. Or do the bath and book reading and all that pre-bedtime stuff at a leisurely pace. Sometimes, things are running smoothly in the evening, and everyone can pitch in and clear the post-dinner mess. And sometimes, not.
The dishes will still be there in the morning. And the evening after. They never go away. If not these dishes, then tomorrow’s dishes.
A clean sink is not my priority. It is not necessary to my enjoyment of life. It does not fill my heart with joy when I stumble into the kitchen in the morning. I don’t mind working through the dishes mid-morning while the kids make a new type of mess at the kitchen table. Or leaving the task half-undone because we have to head out. And I’m okay with that.
7. Bathroom Clean
StressedMom says: Take 5 minutes and buzz through the bathrooms with a damp cloth…
NothingByTheBook says: I generally enter the bathroom holding a poopy or muddy child, and after I clean the poopy or muddy child, I don’t really want to spend (or for that matter have) five minutes to buzz through the bathroom.
I clean the bathroom a) for honoured guests like grandparents, new acquaintances and, as Cinder puts it, “people who don’t yet know we’re messy”; b) when the children flood it, mud it, or otherwise push it past the brink. Both a) and b) occur frequently enough that on the whole, the bathroom’s get cleaned regularly.
Note: I do hire the boys out as chaos-creators if you need to push your bathroom to the brink so you’re motivated to really clean it. Message me.
8. Order versus Chaos
StressedMom says: A place for everything and everything in its place.
NothingByTheBook says: I aspire to this. Really. But I think I have to face that I’m a slob at heart, an “everything all over the place” person, who’s inner housewife is on permanent strike. But I do have a solution. Two words: crap box. In every room, but especially in the kitchen and in the living room. An attractive box or basket dedicated to throwing the crap that doesn’t belong in that particular room when you need to get it off the floor or off the kitchen table. When it’s filled to overflowing–may take days weeks or even months (chose the size of your crap box wisely), a) put it in your crap box storage place b) freecycle the whole thing ’cause no one asked for or needed anything that was in the crap box while it was in there c) give yourself a make work project and sort through it while watching Netflix.
9. Bedtime routine
StressedMom says: Have a bedtime routine that includes putting away toys, books, dishes, trash, etc and picking out clothes for tomorrow.
NothingByTheBookSays: Have a bedtime routine that everyone in the family looks forward to, that winds you all down, and that doesn’t create make work projects for the adults—or sets the scene for late-evening breakdowns from the toddlers or preschoolers. If you can incorporate housekeeping/cleaning stuff into it with joy, bonus. Adding something like picking out clothes for the morrow to a young child’s bedtime routine, in this family, would be an utter disaster: this is not the time of day for them to a) make decisions, even trivial ones, b) decide they want to wear the blue shirt that’s in the laundry, c) start getting excited about the morning.
Having said that: my seven-year-old Flora, on nights before mornings when she wants to get going right away, goes to sleep in the clothes she plans to wear in the morning. “It’s more efficient, Mom,” she told me the first time I asked why she was getting into her dress instead of pajamas. So obviously it’s a strategy that works for some people and kids! But not Flora’s brothers and me.
10. Just say No.
StressedMom says: Do not say YES immediately to new requests.
NothingByTheBook says: Yes. Two thumbs and two toes up. I’d modify this perhaps so: Say YES to yourself, your partner and your children as often as possible. External demands–including those of your extended family–treat more judiciously. Know your family’s need for downtime and stay-at-home days and consider those when getting invitations, scheduling activities and agreeing to babysitting, volunteering, work and other commitments. Put things like “stay at home day,” “family movie night,” “chill day in preparation for big dinner party at Grandma’s house” in the calendar.
Or don’t. Maybe you’re a family of high-energy extroverts who thrives on a full calendar and running from place to place. A beautiful neighbour of mine is just that—they’re always going and running, and frankly, just looking at them come and go exhausts me. But all four of them seem to thrive on that pace, a noisy, full house, and social and volunteer commitments that would push me and mine over the edge.
We’re all different, and we all need different tips or habits to craft our own peace and harmony.
I’d like to thank TheStressedMom for posting the original list. Because it got us talking and thinking. Which is always good.