Crafting a happy home, family and life through simple living.

No, The Dishes Can’t Wait

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.

Why washing the dishes makes you a more present mother. Defining responsibilities in your day


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.Why the Dishes Can't Wait

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


48 thoughts on “No, The Dishes Can’t Wait”

  • If I don’t have my dishes cleaned and put up before I go to bed, I go insane.. LOL!!! The times that I have left dishes in the sink, I worry about them all day.. I’m a little OCD when it comes to my kitchen, but its a good thing! 🙂 And if my bed isn’t made before I step foot out of my bedroom, i’m losing my mind. 🙂 So I agree that there are Chores that Can’t Wait!!

  • This is so true! Especially as a stay at home mom if I never cleaned or did the dishes I would go crazy because I’m in the house so much and I would be constantly surrounded by mess. Your essential list is exactly what I do as well. I know people mean well when they say things like “dishes can wait” or “it goes by so fast.” But sometimes i wish they would remember even a little bit of the struggle of how long the days feel and how you have to do the dishes sometimes. Great post!

  • This is such an interesting post, I don’t have kids but because of our work schedules I rarely see my other half and when he’s home I want to spend as much time with him as possible but I end up spending most of it cleaning and washing dishes because our housemate doesn’t pull her weight and I can’t stand the house being a tip – I just keep telling myself it’s getting me prepared for when we do start having kids! 🙂

  • As of right now my dishwasher is my best friend! I always love loading it up I find it so satisfying ahhah because that’s all the work I have to do! The machine gets to scrub off all the grim. The second best part of unloading it again because I get to inspect my plates and see if the dishwasher passed or failed at its job! Lol

  • I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. As a soon to be empty nester (our baby starts college in the fall), I truly cherish when my boys are all home for holidays and the noise and chaos are back in the house. I am a type A personality and therefore the dishes couldn’t wait. To compromise a bit I made sure I scheduled in playtime, story time, and alone time with each of my littles. When you have a brood of kids, sometimes 1 on 1 time can get lost in the shuffle. Actually scheduling it in ensured me that I would always have that bond with my boys. Oh now don’t roll your eyes at me, it worked! 🙂 haha

    Here’s a tip from this child raising vet. When your kids finally do move out and if they live close-ish like mine do. Insist they bring their laundry home. The extra work is nothing for me and it makes sure my boys are home twice a week. Once for laundry drop off and once for laundry pick up. 🙂 My girlfriends thought I was crazy when I told them this, now they do it too!

    • Thank you! And your tip made me a little emotional (im 27 weeks pregnant so it doesn’t take much to make me cry)! I love your idea of a schedule- I try to incorporate one into our days too. PS- I love your website/blog. I bookmarked it so I can keep coming back!

  • I really enjoyed this post! I also like to rinse dishes after every meal and then I will load into the dish washer throughout the day. I involve my older kids with cleaning and give them small duties to do while I am also cleaning, we turn up the music, sing, and clean.. it is so much fun!

  • Thank you for talking about this! I think it’s good for our kids to see that we have an attitude of work before play on the important things like basic cleaning and laundry. Because nobody is really happy when it’s time to eat and there are no clean plates because you didn’t take time to wash them. Also, the high chair thing? Big yes! Occasionally I forget to wipe it down right after a meal and then when I’m ready to use it again I have to scrape and scrub at the now dried on junk. Great post!

  • Interesting post. I’m quite acquainted with the ketchup glue. It would be nice to have a dishwasher (I’m a food blogger.) But, for now, I just do the best I can. 🙂

    • I used to categorize a dishwasher as a “want” and not a “need”, but ours broke last fall and we went about 5 months without one. I definitely consider it a “need” now lol! But handwashing also made me more aware of the amount of dishes we used and made me appreciate my dishwasher.

  • This is great! I think it’s important that our children see us doing the “hard things” and not just playing all the time! It helps prepare them for real life. Such a great post mama. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Wow, these are great tips even for people without children. I’m trying to practice a more minimalist lifestyle and have definitely found that doing things such as the dishes right away definitely feels better in the long run.

  • So true!! I aim to wash the dishes every single night before bed and making the bed!

    It’s weird how making a bed can make the whole room look clean!

  • I loved this article! I HAVE to have the house clean and tidy before I go to bed or otherwise it will literally never get done! And this way, I know where things are, can lay my hands on toys that are needed and never need to worry about clean clothes! Then I find I have more time on my hands to play with the kids and aren’t carrying around the guilt of a messy house!

  • If I don’t make my bed my entire day is off too!! I thought I was the only one, thank you for making me feel normal. Oh and the highchair, you hit that one out of the park!! And I love your list!! Thank you for the great post!!

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I feel guilty if I’m not doing the dishes and I feel guilty if I’m not with my little man, so it’s a catch 22. I needed to hear that my chores can wait.

  • I love this. I’ve been struggling with keeping up the last week or so. My hubby is in the Army and has been away at training. I have three kids and three dogs and am trying to get my house ready to sell so we can move for the 10th time.

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