Prevent parenting burn-out, step 4: Encourage independence and responsibility.
I have a simple theory that keeps me from losing my mind with four young kids in the house: If my kids CAN do it for themselves, then most of the time, they SHOULD do it for themselves.
For example, when they say, “Mommy, can I have some water?” I say, “Sure! Help yourself!” (I’ve got the kid cups stored in a cabinet low to the ground, so they can get the cups themselves and head to the little dispenser in the fridge.) My three big kids (now ages 6, 8 and 9) are responsible for a lot of small household tasks that add up to huge time savings for me: They put away their own laundry; they make their own beds; they clear their plates after meals; they put their homework folders and lunches into their book bags themselves each morning; they clean up after themselves whenever they get toys out; they take turns with basic chores like vacuuming, cleaning windows (oh how they LOVE spraying cleaner on the windows!), emptying the non-breakable stuff from the dishwasher, carrying clothes from the hamper to the laundry room, and wiping down the table.
All in all, they probably spend 5-10 minutes a day, and 15 minutes on Saturday mornings, carrying out their little responsibilities. I love watching them do their jobs around the house—I can tell they feel grown up, and it gives them a sense of pride, knowing they help keep our household running. Even my 6-year-old does a fantastic job helping, and she’s so proud to feel like an important, useful member of the family.
All of this keeps our house from descending into utter ruin, and keeps me from spiraling into overwhelmed exhaustion! You’d be surprised how much your kids can do for themselves…try expecting a little more, and then have fun watching them rise to the occasion (while you sit for two minutes with your feet up, sipping a cup of tea).
Here’s a helpful post about chores, and how they teach kids to embrace responsibility at home—I met Renee earlier this year at a writers’ conference, and I just love her blog!
Want to back-track and read more about preventing parenting burn-out? Click here to read about ways to carve out “Me time” as a mom; click here for thoughts on quieting your self-critical thoughts; read a post on nurturing your marriage after kids here.
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Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.