In my household, both my husband and I work on roughly the same schedule. Our work days end at the same time and we get home in time for supper, where we rush to put together a decent meal so that everyone can sit down together. When food’s eaten, we play for an hour or so, bathe our daughter, get her ready for bed, then take a deep breath before we tackle the day-to-day chores.
These rules help us keep our home intact until the weekend, where we can catch up on all the chores – and the fun – that we might not have gotten to during the week.
#10: Food comes first
This rule works on a few different levels: Before mom and dad can play, the food has to be cooking. Also, before junk is eaten, some manner of real food has to touch our child’s lips.
On the cooking side, sometimes my daughter’s eager to help, stirring the stovetop food as we safely hold her, or mixing dry ingredients in a bowl. Other times, it’s a game of mommy-daddy ping pong where she’s the ball, bouncing between whoever’s currently holding her and the parent who’s actually being productive. It means all-hands-on-deck when making supper, but it exposes her to the process of making healthy meals. We learn by doing, and hopefully some of those skills will rub off, allowing her to be comfortable in the kitchen as she grows.
For me, the key ingredient for successful after-work meals is a prepared meal plan. Without planning ahead, I find it’s a mad scramble to figure out what to have, let alone cooking it in time for everyone to eat together.
Armed with my trusty plan, weekday meals get whipped up right quick-like.
#9: No phones at the table
This goes for mom, dad and toddler (no, she doesn’t have a phone, she has a “phone”, which she loves about as much as we adults love our adult-type-tech). No surfing, no checking tumblr, no reading the latest facebook post… and no “wheels on the bus BEEP! BEEP!”
We try to use the dinner table as a place to spend 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time together. Sometimes we chat about our respective days; sometimes we talk about the food or upcoming events. Always in person: no phones (or “phones”) allowed!
#8: If it fits in the dishwasher, it goes in the dishwasher
This is my favourite rule.
When dinner is done, with minor exceptions for special items that are too sentimental (Nan’s hand-me-down china) or dishes that take up half the bottom rack (my favourite lasagna pan), everything that touches food ends up in the dishwasher. Sure, some of those one-of-a-kind plastic decals that I used to love get worn off, but at least it’s clean.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling especially productive, I may hand wash a few things during the week, but usually that sucker is running a metric marathon every evening.
I’d give up my phone before I’d give up that workhorse!
#7: Everyone helps
This includes my daughter and both of us work-weary parents. While it may take twice as long to enlist the “help” of a toddler, it’s so rewarding to see her learn a useful life skill. She loves to load cups on the top rack of the dishwasher (the right way down!), and she’ll clap gleefully for every sock that makes it into the hamper. A little encouragement and enthusiasm and she’ll stay focused until her (admittedly brief) chore is complete.
Small steps. Eventually she’ll be doing her own laundry.
(A mom can dream, right?)
Speaking of laundry…
#6: Folding is optional
During the week, I usually wash a load a day, and anything that’s washed makes it into the drier. Beyond that… well the rule says it all: Folding is optional on weekdays. Sometimes, clean dry laundry makes it to a carefully selected heap on the bedroom floor. Other times, it makes it to a neatly folded pile in a basket to the side. Even rarer, neatly folded items make their way home to a dresser or closet.
Not usually, but it’s been known to happen.
Corollary (#6.5): The dirty pile must not touch the clean pile
On the off chance the laundry doesn’t get washed between Monday and Saturday, it can pile a bit higher than the laundry baskets allow. That carefully selected clean dry laundry pile? It’s nowhere near that towering monstrosity of old socks and crumpled work shirts. Never the twain shall meet!
#5: An hour a day keeps the grunge-monster away
As an adult, I’m cursed to pay taxes on the things I buy and the money I earn. This particular tax (a chore-tax if you would) of one hour a day keeps the worst of the grunge at bay. On occasion, it even “earns” me extra time to focus on fun outings on the weekend instead of playing chore catch-up.
When I neglect to pay the chore-tax, though, the grunge builds up a horrible dirt-debt that takes hours off my precious weekend family time. To avoid that aweful fate, I suck-it-up and do some housework after the little one is asleep.
“A penny saved is a penny earned” as they say.
#4: Tag out when tempers flare
True of both toddlers and parents, sometimes you just need a “time out”. If I’m home alone, the mommy “time out” may take the form of stepping into a separate room and taking a few deep breaths before re-engaging the Tantruming Toddler Titan.
#3: Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Even though my husband and I are both parents, we’re both people too. And as people who each work from nine-to-five, monday-to-friday every week, a mid-week break from all-family-all-the-time is necessary to maintain mental and emotional balance.
For me, I volunteer on Tuesdays. For my husband, he slays virtual dragons on Thursdays. Once a week, we each regularly solo-parent, and once a week, we each regularly get a night out to recharge. Our daughter gets to experience some alone time with both of her parents, and both of us get to interact with humans outside of our immediate family.
It’s win-win for everyone!
#2: Bedtime before Overtime
Both my husband and I are lucky enough to be able to work from home, if the need arises. When we do, though, from supper time until our daughter’s bedtime, we’re on a lunch break. It may not work for everyone, but it works for us (and I’m so grateful that it does).
Finally, and most importantly…
#1: Ignore all the rules
The best part about knowing the rules is knowing when to break them!
So, go ahead, take these rules and make them your own.
Or, better yet… share your experiences: What rules keep your family running in tip-top shape?