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Kids are a lot of work. No doubt about it. When you become a
parent, you enter a strange new world of regularly cleaning someone else's bodily
fluids, smashing or dicing every single meal into oblivion, lugging around
a small suitcase full of someone else's items every time you leave the house,
and doing (at minimum) double the dishes and laundry.
A very wise friend of mine once told me that, as a mother,
it is her job to work herself out of a job. By that she meant that mothering
doesn't mean doing everything for your kids. On the contrary, it means training
your children to take care of themselves, and to someday be able to care for a
home. Of course, this training will happen under your roof, which means that you
need to allow them the opportunity to learn about organization, maintenance,
and routines while they are still living with you.
When my son was about three, we moved all of our dishes to
lower shelves so that he could start helping us to unload the dishwasher. Now that
he is in kindergarten, he gets up at six in the morning and, after feeding the
pets and having some breakfast,
it's his responsibility to empty the dishwasher before leaving for school. Of
course I look through the dishwasher first to make sure there isn't anything
super dangerous in there, but usually he is able to do all of it and get it
done on time. Kids can contribute a lot if we give them the time they need and
the space to make mistakes.
He gains an important life experience while I am regaining my sanity with a few moments of quiet.
By far the hardest thing about teaching your children to do
chores is knowing what to expect of them and at what age. Of course this will
vary from one child to another, as they all mature at different rates, but
there are plenty of resources that will help you to know which chores you can
start instituting at which age.
Some good examples for appropriate chores for toddlers are things
such as putting toys away, wiping up spills, and putting clothes in the hamper.
A preschooler should be able to make their own bed, pull weeds, wash plastic
dishes, and fix their own cereal. Of course older children (ages 10 and up)
should be able to do things for you around the house such as fold laundry, wash
a car, cook a simple meal, and change their own bedsheets. The
full list has plenty of other ideas as well as tips for making it happen.
An important one? Don't give
allowance for these mundane, keep-the-house-running types of chores. To
give rewards or reimbursement for the kind of work that they will be doing all
their lives without any pats on the back sets a child up for frustration later.
There are some things we just have to do because we are part of a family and
because we must maintain the things that we own. I admit, though, what works
for me is that if my son hasn't completed his chores before school, he doesn't
get screen time later. Loss of privileges can be a huge motivator for some
Yes, it took time and work to train my son to do the dishes.
But now, even though he's only six, I am reaping the rewards and can sip my
coffee in the morning while the dishes are being put away. He gains an
important life experience while I am regaining my sanity with a few moments of