As a domestic engineer I have to find a balance between keeping house and engaging my children. Confession: I do not enjoy cleaning! But without cleaning my house, it would look like a new episode of Hoarders in a week. If keeping a clean house were my only job during the day, I would bust out the cleaning in the morning and enjoy my hobbies in the afternoon. However, with two little ones, simple tasks like laundry and folding clothes can turn into a game of “avalanche mountain” on the couch in a matter of seconds! Giving time to my toddlers is a must! Once I begin to ignore my girls and get task oriented, then my girls get ‘in my way’. They become annoying and not a blessing! So, how can we balance caring and playing with daily chores, projects and cleaning?
My sister-in-law gave me an egg timer for Christmas a few years back. I would suggest everyone have one! For every hour, or when I remember to do this, I set the timer for 15 minutes. For 15 minutes, I give undivided time to Alani. No phone. No chores, only fun! Giving her this focused time every hour or so keeps her cup full and enables me to work without her demanding my attention. Right now, Knox will only play with me for about 5 min before SHE is distracted and wants to run around the house. The first 20 min of every hour is dedicated to the girls. The next 40 min is designated for chores, cleaning and projects.
*note: Ignoring your kids for 40 min every hour is NOT what I am talking about. We all need to learn how to work with our children on projects, chores and errands. Asking them if they want to help fold their clothes, sweep or do dishes (a.k.a. play in the water at the sink) is a great way to teach them responsibility. What I am suggesting is carving out one-on-one time every so often, so your children are not being daily overlooked while you focus on tasks. Without daily, consistent one-on-one time, your kids will work for your attention in negative ways. Mine show it through whining and staying right under my feet. That is often my cue to set the timer.
As my girls get older, I will increase the time of uninterrupted play-time and extend the block of time past an hour. An example for a 4 year old might be: 30min one-on-one, 15 min chores WITH mama, then a ½ hour for free time. Some kids will require longer amounts of attention than others, so be flexible. This is not a cure all for your small children following you from room to room. By now you have probably learned the art of including your children in most anything you do. But think about it. Do you get task oriented? Do you bring your children along on errands or do you make your errands an adventure for your kids? Do you notice your kids behaving in ways that suggest they are trying to get your attention? Pause. Stop what you are trying to get done and enjoy them!