Before I had children, if someone had talked to me about “systems”and “right ways” to do things in my house, I’d have laughed my little cotton socks off. In my home, I’d lived on my own for over a decade and things got done how I liked, when I liked; I never questioned my “living environment” and I was happy that way.
Now though, I find that to single parent successfully, manage two companies, plan a social life (trust me it’s not hugely extensive, but, yippee!, it does exist!), progress a relationship with my partner, see family regularly, and take time out for holidays, all of this takes a lot of forethought and planning for each segment to run smoothly and serve me and my daughter well. The foundations of all of this are that my home is ordered and time spent doing daily tasks is contained. Here are a few tips that work for me and, if you don’t already have some of these in place in your own home, I hope they’ll make a difference for you too.
- Share the workload: Chores done well at home benefit everyone living there. If our children are old enough to communicate they can contribute to the smooth running of the household. The earliest chores may simply be putting pajamas under the pillow at the beginning of the day and folding clothes neatly at the end of the day—most five-year olds can do that. More advanced chores like dusting, washing up, cooking, and shopping can be shared out gradually as the children grow older. And it’s smart to encourage a gracious attitude while doing their household tasks. These are good lessons for our children as they begin to understand about responsibility and grow steadily into confident adults.
- Be systematic: Practice good systems and, when they work, repeat them until they become clockwork. For example, we only leave the bathroom after my daughter’s nightly bathtime when the bath-plug’s out, toys are put away, shampoo bottles and soap are in their place, bath mat is drying over the bath, and the light’s off. Or—meal times—we don’t leave the kitchen until we have cleared the table, put away the condiments (salt, pepper, ketchup, mayo!), done the dishes, cleaned the surfaces, wiped the table, and pushed all the chairs in. It sounds lengthy but in reality this process takes less than five minutes. Each room then is ordered as the day goes on and that way none of us have to grow frustrated around chaos and mess. Room tidy—next adventure!
- Be Consistent: It’s tempting to give our children an easy life, especially when we feel guilt around the necessary transition they may have made from their nuclear family to an extended one. However, consistency and boundaries, delivered lovingly, are the anchors for our children to hold onto in a time of change; and they’re the framework to defining what normality in a new environment is all about. So if your children where only allowed sweets at weekends in their last home, keep that rule. Keep the time and the format of mealtimes, playtimes, bath times, and bedtimes as consistent as possible. Gradually the unfamiliar bits in between will become more practiced, defined and normal giving ourselves and our children the headspace and incentive to be the happy and creative people we were born to be.