A special thanks to Laura from The Beautiful Unknown for this great guest post on managing motherhood, home, and life in general. Check out her blog, The Beautiful Unknown, for more inspiring posts on motherhood and everything that goes with it.

 

“Mommy, you’re my hero,” my oldest son says when he is running around playing superhero and saving the world from imaginary bad guys because thank God he does not see the real ones at his age.

The first thing that comes to mind when he speaks this affectionate phrase is not a picture of me in a cape blowing in the wind, a mask hiding my identity, and me standing on top of a tall building with my chest puffed out. Instead I think about the term “Super mom” and if I was really super this house would have been cleaned two hours ago, a five course meal on the menu for dinner and me still working my full time job and going to school. We all know that term, “Super mom.” And we have all most likely cowered under the qualifications, thinking there is no way we could do it. And yet we try and we keep adding things to our list until we feel less like “Super mom” and more like “Super failure.”

But that is not the point of motherhood. It is not to deter us, to tear us down, or for us to compare. It is for us to love our children, raise them the best way we know how to make the best people they can be. We are always looking, comparing, thinking, I wish I was that mom, she has it all together.

The truth is, we don’t know what other people are going through. Most likely behind closed doors those mothers are just as exhausted and feeling just as inferior.

One of the beautiful things about motherhood is that instead of comparing and doing it alone there are so many women working together, sharing their stories and giving tips (whether solicited or not!) and just being supportive.
So I look at myself, a young mother at the age of 26 with 3 kids aged 4 and under and I think, What do I have to give to other mothers?

The beauty of motherhood is that age makes no difference, how far down the path you are doesn’t matter either, but what you can share that may help another mother out matters. My dear friend, that is my goal for this post, to share a bit of my life on this path of motherhood- what I call the beautiful unknown- and hopefully it will help someone else make a little sense of their own path and have a smoother morning or two.

Structure. I cannot say this enough. There are many people that are easy-going and laid back and that may work for them. For me, when something goes off-schedule I get stressed. I know you have heard that children need structure and that they like it too; I have found this to be incredibly true. I do not schedule every minute of every day-kids need room to be creative- but certain things are scheduled, such as nap time, snack times, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. My children also know what to expect as far as what is and is not acceptable behavior/response.

Consistency. It takes 21 days to form a habit. Be consistent. Do not give up on yourselves or your children and how you want the house to run. Just like a child that is potty training needs to be reminded to go to the bathroom so does a child require reminders of other rules, such as bedtime, cleaning their room, etc.

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When I first had my son, my house was always neat, clean, and orderly, but the older my son gets the more that is slowly becoming a fading memory. Living at home with a toddler is a full time job whether you work or are a stay at home mom. Once my son learned to walk, my house looked like it blew up. He was getting into everything. I couldn’t get one thing picked up before he was ready to pull out the next. My “free” time has dwindled more and more the older he gets. So I’m having to learn how to keep my house organized and clean without spending all of my time doing that. As I’ve mentioned, my son is only 15 months old, so I’m still learning. However, I wanted to share a few things I’m learning along the way.

 

1. Teach your kid what he/she can and cannot touch.

At first, I just taught my son what he could and could not touch based on safety concerns. I am slowly learning that he just shouldn’t get into stuff for the pure fact that he shouldn’t get into it. In order to manage my life, I have learned that he can’t have full reign over everything and I have to set limits based on the fact that my life can’t revolve around picking up his messes.

2. Set times to pick up your house.

As I said before, my life revolved around picking up after my son when he first learned to walk. I’m pretty sure I could spend 12 hours a day picking up after him if I let myself, but I would get nothing else done. Therefore, unless I have company coming, I am learning to set 2-3 times per day to pick up after him. I tried once a day and that seemed to be a bad idea because it took me too long to clean up. The 2-3 times per day seems to be the perfect amount to keep the house sane while not working myself to death.

3. Teach your kids to do age appropriate chores.

It’s amazing to me how quickly kids pick up on things. My son is only 15 months old and has already learned to put his clothes in the hamper and occasionally helps put some of his toys away. Obviously, he is still learning so I can’t expect perfection, but I don’t think it’s too early for him to pick up on some good habits. I’m having to learn to let go of the reigns sometimes and let him clean up after himself. Sometimes it just seems easier if I just do it (you know so the clean clothes don’t end up in the hamper too), but I do think it’s important for him to learn to do chores that are suitable for his age.

4. Plan out your week to allow for cleaning time.

As far as actual cleaning (i.e. dusting, vacuuming, etc.), I’ve learned that planning is the key. I usually set one morning to get all my basic cleaning done and then get my deeper cleaning done at various times throughout the month. I’ve found that if I don’t allot time for cleaning, it just doesn’t get done. I encourage you to sit down and write out a schedule for yourself so time doesn’t get away from you.

5. Don’t expect Perfection.

I am a perfectionist at heart, so this was a hard pill to swallow. I have learned that sometimes good is good enough. It doesn’t have to always be perfect.

 

I would love to hear some more tips and time savers in keeping a clean home, so please share in the comments section below or submit in the Submissions area.

 

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I know as parents, we are supposed to be teaching our children, but sometimes I feel that my child is teaching me. Today, as I was dusting my house, I realized my 15 month old son was following me around eyeing my dusting supplies. I knew he wanted to help mommy clean, but I just felt I had so much to do, I just continued with my chores knowing it would slow me down. The more I watched him, the more I knew I was missing out on one of the most important things in my life, teaching my son. I finally got a clean rag and handed it to him. You would have thought it was Christmas morning. He ran through the house “cleaning” everything in sight with the biggest smile I have ever seen. It was so worth it and so rewarding to slow down and “teach” my son.

I’m one of the biggest fans of time management and implementing new techniques to maximize my time each day, but I think even time management needs some management. If we are always so focused on our time management of getting everything on our list done, then I think sometimes we miss out on some of the greatest blessings in life.

Lesson learned: I truly believe goals and time management are very important in order to stay on track and get things done, but sometimes it does pay to slow down, enjoy the blessings in life, and realize the “list” can wait a few minutes.

I’m planning to continue posting “Lessons Learned from My Child” as I run across them. Follow my blog to read more.

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Trying to manage your time better? Check out this article by guest blogger, Brian Lachniet, who just happens to be my husband. He has his own blog on his passion, computer programming, at www.blachniet.com.

Time is a precious resource. We never seem to have enough of it. I’m a software engineer and my industry, like many others, is constantly trying to find ways to make more with less time. In this post I’m going to detail a process that I’ve used to improve my efficiency on tasks at work and at home.

Collection

If you do this step correctly, it will be painfully tedious. Start by tracking the amount of time that you spend on every task throughout the day. I mean it, every single little task: cleaning dishes, responding to emails, giving your child a bath, paying bills, making dinner, mowing the lawn, etc. Track it all. Before you start a task, write down the name of the task and the time you are starting. Before you move on to the next task, write down the time you finished and the total amount of time it took.

Notice that we didn’t plan out the tasks that you want to do yet. We’re just getting a record of the things that you actually do throughout the day and the amount of time it takes you to do them. Do this for a week.

You may notice that this really helps you stay focused on a task. You may be less likely to allow distractions to slow you down, because you want to see how fast you can get the work done. However, you may also quickly notice that you spend a lot of time tracking the amount of time you do things. That is why you only do this for a week.

Analysis

Now it’s time to take a look at all the data that you’ve gathered. There’s two important piece of information you should extract from your data collection:

  • For each task, the average amount of time it takes you to complete
  • The total amount of time that you spend on tasks throughout the day

In addition to gathering this data, you should also take a look at some of the tasks that took the longest and try to think of ways that you could reduce the time you spend on them. You may have already thought of ways to speed them up in the previous step. Something that you can do to speed up almost any task is to reduce the number of distractions that you have. Maybe you need to have your son play in his room while you make dinner so you don’t have to chase him down to retrieve the pots and pans that he stole.

Planning

After you’ve gathered the information from the previous step, you can plan tasks for the upcoming week. You have a set of tasks that you would like to complete in the upcoming week and you have an educated guess of how long each of those tasks will take. You also know how long you generally have during each day to complete work.

Let’s say that you generally spend 10 hours total during the day on tasks. Go ahead and plan the work that you want to complete on each day of the upcoming week. Use your estimates of how long each task takes to make sure you don’t plan for more than that 10 hours per day.

You may notice that a side effect of all this planning is that you actually end up with more time on your hands. The planning helps you focus on the task at hand and you don’t waste any time during the week trying to remember what work you needed to get done.

Rinse & Repeat

I like to repeat this set of steps every few months. The collection and analysis steps can be rather tedious and time consuming, so you don’t want to have to do it too often. The planning step should happen on a weekly basis. By performing the entire set of steps again in a few months you can account for any environmental changes that might cause some of your tasks to take longer (maybe another child), or account for new tasks that you need to complete on a regular basis.

As far as tools, I love using Toggl to track my time. There are a lot of time tracking tools out there, but I love Toggl’s simplicity. However, an app is not the best choice for everyone. For some people, an app may just be another distraction, so a pen and notebook might be best. The most important part of all of this is to make it work for you. Everyone works differently, so you need to find the way that you best improve your efficiency.

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