Let Them Help

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Cleaning as a Type of Self Care

One of my fellow blogger friends recently published a post on How to Introduce Chores into Your Child’s Life and allowing your little ones to help around the house. Before I even clicked onto the article, I started to think, “our daughter is only 2… she can’t really understand sticker charts and things yet… can she?” But as I started to reflect a little bit more, I think I realized that she had already inserted chores into her own life from watching how I run around like a mad woman on cleaning sprees.

One thing I do for my own self-care is clean. I know, it’s a chore, so it sounds silly that I consider it part of my self-care. But I do. If my surroundings are cluttered, my brain and thoughts and emotions and soul feel cluttered. That may also sound dramatic, but just follow me here.

I crave organization. I like feeling accomplished and productive with a bed that’s made, clean kitchen counters, a welcoming and open kitchen table. I feel like I can breathe a little deeper when I’m not distracted by clutter.

Our house isn’t ginormous. But it works. And it definitely worked for us when we moved in as newlyweds. What we quickly realized is that babies come with SO. MUCH. STUFF. Like OMG. I don’t care how much of an organized minimalist you are… a baby makes that lifestyle go down the tubes real quick.

Kids Create Clutter

Our daughter is now two-years-old,  and it’s taken me until recently to not go slowly insane at the clutter that is now around our house. Laundry baskets will sit with dirty laundry for a week until it’s cleaned and folded and then it will sit for another week somewhere else until the clothes get put away.

Sippy cups, dishes, snack packs are EVERYWHERE and on EVERY flat surface of our home. Bath toys and a step stool have taken over our only and already very small full bathroom. Our house hasn’t seen a deep clean in a while, partially because I don’t have the time or energy but also partially because it’s impossible to move/organize the clutter and still be able to function long enough to scrub something.

But man… do I miss it.

I miss scrubbing grout so that it goes from gray to white. I miss seeing soap scum actually disappear from my shower walls. I miss the smell of Pledge. I miss the calm, relaxing feeling of a clean and clutter-free living space.

I very quickly had to let go of that expectation when we brought our daughter home. But recently I’ve started to see some light at the end of the tunnel… the kitchen is remaining cleaner longer as bottles and jars of food are no more. Laundry piles are smaller as the spit-up doesn’t cause six outfit changes a day. And, our daughter has stepped up into some chores that she already loves. She LOVES getting our dog’s food every morning into a cup and pouring it into his bowl. And she recently started to help put our silverware from the dishwasher into the drawer.

Now… she can’t reach inside the drawer. Forks and spoons just get tossed in as much as she can reach. But she’s completing a chore, she asks for a high five every time she finishes and then walks away yelling, “YAY FOR MORGAN!”

….. and once she’s out of the room, I put each piece of silverware into the little compartment where it belongs.

Let Go of Expectations

I think a couple years ago, I’d feel inconvenienced by having to reorganize the silverware drawer after someone else already put the things away. But our daughter is teaching me new things every day. She’s teaching me to let go of expectations when I need to. She’s teaching me to step-up and grow-up. She’s teaching me to expect more of myself when I can, and less of myself when I should. She’s teaching me that the lessons learned, the satisfaction of a job well done, are way more important than a clean or clutter-free home. So I let her help.

Sometimes she spills the dog food and the silverware is never facing the right way, but it brings her so much joy. And for a little while my home is more cluttered than it was five minutes ago, let alone two years ago.

But I let her help.

And I let go of some of my expectations.

Let me repeat: I LET GO OF SOME OF MY EXPECTATIONS.

I let her help because not too long ago she couldn’t. And I’ve met a teenager… I know it won’t be too long before she no longer has a desire to help.

I let her help, so she can learn responsibility and make memories and feel joy in the ownership of being helpful.

Messes mean something different to me, now. Chores usually take a little longer. But I hope I remember to offer her patience as she tries, and celebrate with her, even in the simple tasks. I hope her joy in accomplishment overrides the clutter that I see. I hope I always remember to let her help.

How do you get your children to help around the house? Here are some additional tips on How to Teach Your Child to Clean Up.  

kids helping out

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Kristina is a working mama living in northeast Columbus with her husband, Mike, their always-on-the-go toddler, Morgan, and their dog, Tanner. As a professional counselor and primary caretaker of a tiny human, Kristina understands the importance of self care, whether that’s through walks and workouts with your mom village or five minutes (if you can get that long) with a hot cup of coffee. Kristina is also a part-time wine associate at a family owned shop in Westerville, so she knows a glass of wine is usually vital for self-care, too. She’s a coffee lover, a bourbon sipper, and a kayak adventurer. Kristina hopes to encourage parents in the long, sometimes very lonely days of parenting by reminding all parents that social media isn’t real life; in fact, she spilled coffee on herself while typing this bio. To follow Kristina through the moments when you are full of love and the moments you're at your wit’s end, check out “for the love” for the love.