I remember that during my early days as a mother I wished I could have a peek inside a more experienced mother's life--to see how she managed certain times of the day and stayed on top of life's busyness.
That sentiment was the impetus behind the interview series we're doing this month--it gives us a glimpse into another mother's world so we can glean advice and apply it in our own homes.
She is an amazing mother of four sweet girls who works from home full-time (her husband just became a SAHD!), and she has a lot of wisdom to share with us.
So let's get started!
1. What is one important, practical step you take that helps you maintain a steady rhythm in your home and how does it make a difference to your days?
For me, having a neat & tidy home really does make a difference in my attitude, which has a huge effect on the way our day goes.
I think a common misconception is that if you have a tidy house, you must spend hours and hours cleaning it. For us, that's really not the case at all. In fact, I'm pretty sure my baseboards could use a good cleaning, as could the windows, under the refrigerator and a dozen other spaces. While I'd love to have those areas sparkling clean as well as neat, it's simply not going to happen at this stage of life.
What I really mean by neat and tidy is clutter-free surfaces, things put away where they belong and just general orderliness (as much as possible with four little ones, anyway). If you came into our home in the middle of the day, you would most definitely see toys strewn everywhere, some dirty dishes in the sink and various piles needing to be taken from one room to the next or put away.
The key is that we clean up -- as a family -- every day before lunch and bedtime. We put all of the toys and crafts away (with exceptions for crafts that need to dry or toy sets that have been carefully set up and are still being played with).
We also wipe the bathroom down each morning as part of our routine, and I clean the kitchen each evening while cleaning up from dinner. My husband vacuums every couple of days and mops one or two rooms when he's done.Because we have set routines to help us stay on top of the chores, we rarely find ourselves stressed and overwhelmed by the state of our house...which is good because leaving a mess until the morning puts me in what my husband refers to as "a Saturday-morning snit," a name given to the mood I'd find myself in after waking up to a messy house on Saturday mornings.
2. What is a personality weakness that motherhood has made more obvious to you and how have you tried to overcome that weakness for the sake of your children?
I recently wrote a column for Simple Mom about the difference between task-oriented and people-oriented personalities. I am at the far end of the task-oriented side of the spectrum, and I have to make a conscious effort as a mother to value my littles over my list.
Because I work from home full time, being on the computer is a non-negotiable part of our day. However, I make an effort to always turn and look them in the eye when they talk to me so that I can focus on them rather than the to-do list running through my head.
I've also had to look for ways to escape my natural tendency to always be doing something so that I can just focus on the girls. I'll be honest -- sometimes this means adding "do a craft" to my to-do list, and other times it means cuddling at bedtime or sitting out on the front porch, where I can forget all about all of the tasks waiting for my attention.
3. We all have those days--where all our good plans and intentions crumble around us, the children are miserable, and we are exhausted. On a really rough day, what techniques do you use to try and turn the mood around and redeem the day in your home?
Coffee. Okay, that's a somewhat tongue-in-cheek answer, but I will admit that I use coffee more often then I'd like these days because there is a direct correlation between my bad attitudes and being tired. When I start to feel my energy slip and my attitude follow, I brew myself a quick cup and it usually gives me the energy I need to get through the slump.
One thing I never thought of before we had our fourth child was how much harder illnesses would hit our family with four little ones. Because they tend to get any sickness one after another rather than all at one time, we usually end up losing sleep several nights in a row, and we all end up exhausted.
During those weeks, when cuddling a sickling is more important than straightening the house, our house tends to get messier as well, which can contribute to my stress and feeling overwhelmed. And because I am task oriented, I can get grumpy with the girls when they interrupt my attempts to get something done.Usually, when we find ourselves stuck in this cycle, we either head outside for a walk or declare pajama day and curl up on the couch to watch a movie. Forgetting about everything that's not getting done and just focusing on being together really helps my attitude and also fills up their "love tanks" so that when it's time to tackle the chores, we're all in a much better mood.
On a smaller scale, we use two techniques to reset our attitudes during the day. I'll often declare that I need an "emergency hug" when one of us has a bad attitude. I first got this idea from Megan at Sorta Crunchy, and since I've started using it, my girls have learned to ask for a hug when their attitudes are heading south as well.
The other is a silly game I play with my toddler and preschooler, where we spit out our grumpy hearts and stomp on them and then look for a yummy happy heart to eat instead. Usually these come flying across the room or crawling across the floor, and as we watch for the mysterious happy heart together, it inevitably pulls us out of our grouchiness.
4. Is there such a thing as too much organization? How can moms balance the need for organization with the inevitable stuff chaos that happens when young children are in the home?
Yes, I think there is, and I've seen it in my own life for sure. I'm not sure you can define what "too much organization" looks like for everyone, but I think you've hit that point when you become so focused on organization that you stop enjoying your family.
I straighten and organize because it makes our days go smoother and simplifies our lives, but if it reaches the point where I'm snapping at my children for interrupting my project, I know that it's gone too far.My number one tip for balancing it all is to prioritize the things that are most important to you. I call these things your pressure points, and whether it's making the bed, cleaning up the dirty dishes, wiping the bathroom or something else, knowing which chores have the biggest effect on how you're able to handle everything else is an important part of creating routines and prioritizing your to-do list to make sure those things get done first.
Thanks so much for having me as part of this series, Jamie! I'm still figuring this whole steady mom thing out as I go, but in the end, I think it comes down to finding balance and joy in the midst of the mundane.
Thanks to Mandi for joining us today! Please make sure you check out her helpful advice over at Organizing Your Way.
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Jamie is founder of this spot called Steady Mom, editor of the blog Simple Homeschool, mama to three cute kids born on three different continents, and author of Steady Days: A Journey Toward Intentional, Professional Motherhood.