As a young mom, I often receive well-meaning advice from mothers who are in new seasons of their life – the empty nesters, the grandmothers – to savor every moment with my children because “they are only young once”. I don’t think any mother needs reminding that “the days are long but the years are short”. We know this by the bags of outgrown clothes, the toys that are no longer interesting, and even just by scrolling through the pictures on our phone and realizing just how much our children’s faces have changed in a matter of weeks. “Enjoy your children. The dishes can wait.”
No, the dishes can’t wait. The dishes can’t wait because they have already waited. The plates you see in the sink are from last night’s dinner (and it’s now 3:00 PM). That faint whiff of sweet, yet putrid air you breathed is the ketchup left on my daughter’s plate. It has chemically morphed into a glue/adhesive overnight. The dishes can’t wait.
Setting Priorities vs Identifying Essentials
As mothers, fathers, parents, we have to set priorities in our lives. Most parents would agree that spending time with their children is at the top of the priority list. However, there is a difference between priorities and essentials. We can prioritize our faith, our marriage, and our children in our lives, but in between those things we need to go to work, we need to shower, and we need to wash the dishes. The dishes can’t wait.
“Time spent playing with children is never wasted”. These comments that encourage being present in our children’s life can also be harmful. Am I wasting time because I’m washing the dishes instead? I feel guilty when I’m washing dishes instead of playing with my child, yet I also feel guilty when I’m playing with my child and the sink is full of dishes.
As parents, we need to stop allowing ourselves to feel this guilt. It’s a known fact that our children are growing up and sometimes we will miss out. Sometimes I’m able to get down on the floor with my daughter and play with building blocks and sometimes I have to wash the dishes.
Identifying Essential Responsibilities
To balance my days between a present parent and responsibilities, I identified “5 Daily Chores That Can’t Wait”. These are the chores I must do every day to keep the ants away, to have clean underwear, and to keep the bills paid. Your “Chores That Can’t Wait” may be different from mine, but here is a list to get you started:
- Wash the Dishes- I go into “auto” mode after every meal and wash the dishes and cookware (or load them into the dishwasher). Usually, my toddler waits in the high chair and we “talk” and sing while I clean.
- Make my Bed- Making my bed changes my whole day. Even if nothing else in my bedroom is in order, my tidy bed is. Make Your Bed, Change Your Life is a must-read article from the Huffington Post.
- Clean the Highchair- It’s so easy to move on after my toddler’s meals without cleaning her high chair. However, I immediately regret it at the next meal. I now make it a point to wipe down her chair, tray and rinse her sippy cup. The floor may or may not get swept but at least her chair is clean and ready for the next meal.
- Wash Clothes- We practice a minimalist wardrobe and own a week’s worth of socks, undershirts, and underwear. The downside of a minimal wardrobe is weekly loads of laundry. I wash four loads of laundry a week (whites, casual/socks etc, and “nice clothes” which I separate into light at dark). This isn’t overwhelming, but I have to stay on schedule. Another sub-responsibility which I consider essential is putting away the laundry after it dries. No explanation needed there.
- Sort the Mail- Everyday when I bring in the mail, I immediately recycle the “junk”, and open the important letters. The important letters are either put in a “to file” stack or a “to do” stack. Then, once a week it’s easy to file everything or sit down and pay bills. This has become even more important now that I’m pregnant and receiving medical bills through the mail.
For a sarcastic take on the topic, check out this Huffington Post article. I promise it will at least make you smile.
What other “well-meaning” advice have you received regarding parenthood?