On Finding Balance and Letting Things Go

Letting small children plant 60 marigolds will test your limits of perfectionism and impatience!

Magical Mama Esther wrote recently and asked:

I would love to see you comment on being able to let things go. I regularly read your blog because I want more magic in our home. But I just can’t let the cleaning/organizing off of the front burner. I want my children to remember a fun, relaxed home, but I am afraid that they will mainly remember Mom always wanting the house to be clean. Any suggestions?

Good question!

I’m not sure I’m the one to ask, as I tend to have the opposite problem.  I am too good at letting the housework go while having fun!  🙂 

Whether you’re trying to get more done, let more go, or otherwise change how you’re spending your time at home, here’s some things that can help:

  1. Make lists.  Lists keep me on track for getting writing done, keeping up with housework, doing laundry, prepping meals and so on, but they also keep me on track with kid things.  My lists almost always have entries like “One-on-one with Jack” and “Read to Alex.”  Those items are just as important (or more so!) and putting them in writing helps us  remember that.
  2. Start a record.  When you know you’re recording the day-to-day things, it makes you a little more accountable.  Find a way to start noting the special things you do in the day (or whatever else you’re working on improving).  You can start blogging magical moments, check in on a parenting list, jot things down in a journal or even resolve to write at least one happy family memory on a daily calendar each day.  Knowing that you’ll be checking in is a great reminder to fit that special time in.
  3. Talk to yourself as if you’ve already changed.  I use this little trick on myself to get myself doing more housework sometimes.  I’ll purposely repeat things in my head that I want to be true, such as “I just can’t pass a mess without cleaning it right away” or “When I’m antsy I always have to tidy something.”  Neither of these are typically true in the least for me, but when I start to hear them in my head I do start to live by them!  Say the things you want to be true often enough, and they will become a part of how you are.  If you want to make more magical moments with your kids, some good thoughts to insert might be ones like, “Today’s too nice of a day to spend inside cleaning!” and “I can’t wait to do some silly crafts with the kids!”.
  4. Pretend your someday self is watching.  Will you one day regret spending so much time on housework and missing out on those magical moments with the kids?  Then get in the habit of seeing scenes from that far-from-now self who’d be beating you up for missing your chances.  This is also a good way to get past annoyances a lot of the time.  I often look at the present as if I’m looking back on it and see how I’d react, and the answer is laughter, patience or empathy far more often than it’s anger if I look at it with that distance.  Some day, this moment will be a memory.  What kind of a memory would you like it to be?  What lesson will it have taught you or your children?
  5. Practice.  Whether it’s being silly, tidying up or taking time to make things special, the more you do it the more naturally it comes.  Never mind the times you didn’t do what you wished you had — every time you do is something to celebrate.  And then do it again.

One of the wonderful things about parenting is that we get so many thousands of chances to do it right every day.  Every minute is a new minute where we could do something fun, silly, messy, loving or special.  Don’t focus on what’s missing, just fill the next minute with something wonderful.

What about you?  If you have tricks to help you keep up with all that you want to, please add them in the comments!


Filed under the little stuff

13 responses to “On Finding Balance and Letting Things Go

  1. I like the idea of what I hear in my head, becoming true – now I just have to think about what to tell myself 🙂

  2. Christine Heart-Skaggs

    I pick two days for a real good cleaning. For example, on Tues., I clean in the morning (4 hrs max) the upstairs bedrooms and baths-dust/vaccuum/mop. On another day, it’s the downstairs- bed/bath/half/bath (dust/vac/mop), kitchen/livingroom (dust/vac).

    I keep a small round laundry basket in each bedroom and on the washer (for kitchen stuff). Each one equals one load and when they are full, that’s when they get washed.

    I can flex the days/times but it pretty much follows my kids. During my cleaning time, they do playdough or some other self directed play. And there are days/weeks when none of it happens but it’s not as bad.

  3. this works for me: I set aside a time, say, 1 or 2 hours of a morning to clean. Then I set aside 1 or 2 hours of that same morning to only play with the kids… nothing else.. Then I might do the same in the afternoon. It means the kids know that I am going to stop and play with them after a while, and it means that I can give my full attention to each activity, (instead of cleaning the bathroom and feeling guilty or playing with the kids and fretting about the ironing pile.)
    The other thing that works well if I need to clean is to give them a clean spray bottle filled with only water and a cloth, and tell them they can clean too… they LOVE spraying and wiping, then it becomes a family activity!

    • Jenny

      These are very practical ideas. Thank you for sharing what works for you and your family. I’m going to try these!

  4. Christine Heart-Skaggs

    You could also just set a timer for 15 min a day and pick one room to clean. That works as well and you tend to get alot done since you only have 15 min.

  5. Andrea

    I agree with what Christine mentioned….clean 15mins a day. I found the website http://www.flylady.net and she has weekly zones to clean about 15mins a day. This has helped me on my track of keeping a neater house (not necessarily “clean”), but still having plenty of time with the kids.

    As well, I always say “the kitchen timer is a mom’s best friend!”. Besides helping to settle sharing disputes, setting time out limits, I turn it on to tell the kiddies that mommy needs 15 mins to do XYZ, when it rings we will play again. And as soon as it buzzes, I’m all theirs again.

  6. Jan

    Now that I’m a recycled mom (raising a grandchild) I don’t regret one minute I spent having fun with my boys as they were growing up. Sure, our house was probably the messiest on the block but we were too busy having fun to care. They grow up so fast-treasure every minute!

  7. Thanks for all of your ideas. I am a list person and I think I will put the kids and fun ideas on the top of the list more often. Wish me some magical days!


  8. The forever conundrum of motherhood. Do I clean so Daddy doesn’t think I am a slacker? Or do I play with my kids and take them to the pool, or park, or hike, so they have fond memories of their childhood. There isn’t an exact science I don’t think. For me I am learning to let some things drop on some days, and pick up those pieces a few days later while dropping the ones I was hanging on to so well the previous few days…balancing every plate every day is an impossibility!


  9. threegirlpileup

    I have two approaches that are kind of contradictory, but I find a balance of these works for me.

    First, I sometimes stay up late so that I can clean/organize/set up activities without interruption. Then I get to wake up in the morning to some ease and an inviting space for us to start our day.

    But I have to be careful not to do this too often, or my fatigue makes it hard to focus and get things done, never mind being present for the kids. So the other thing I do is try to go to bed early at least a couple of nights a week. The added bonus is that I often wake up early in the morning and have some mama-time before the kids are up.

  10. Mom of 2 boys

    Thank you! I like your writing very much. I have two wonderful boys – 2.5 and 1. And each day I try to be a better parent. Yesterday they were out and I had all the time to – clean up, cook, shoe shopping for myself and pedicure. I opted to do the last 3 that i enjoy the most and I am so glad I did. 😀 Oh and just enough clean up so my boys can mess everything again…which they did as soon as they came home!

  11. I love the advice to talk to yourself as though you have all ready changed – this works! I have talked myself into loving broccoli, tofu and exercising, among other things. It sounds silly, but it works. Thanks for this post, even if it’s old, good stuff to remember.

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