father and son cleaning house

Let’s Cut Right To It, Because:

  1. You are probably working from home.
  2. It is good for your kids. They live here, too.
  3. Now more than ever, you need to take care of yourself.

You’re probably less interested in the “why” of getting help around the house, and more interested in the “how” of it. I get it, but you need to understand the “why” first and believe it

Taking care of yourself—physically and mentally—is incredibly important, especially right now. Stress, anxiety, fear, and plain old fatigue will all take their toll on you. That toll will impact you and the people that you care about. I see it in myself and in my own home. I feel fragile, a lot.

COVID-19 has me working in quarantine with five kids. My wife works in the medical field and is keeping “normal” long hours. My at-risk mother-in-law lives with us. Sooooooo…

You know the deal. I’m at home, trying to put in a full day’s work and finish my projects, making sure school work gets done, keeping an eye on my at-risk mother-in-law, and generally holding down the fort—including keeping it clean and organized. Oh, and when my wife gets home, I try to have dinner ready and we try to do Family Movie Night or Game Night and keep all the sequestered happy. It is a daunting task, and I’ve never felt so exhausted. You feeling it too? It often feels like a lose-lose situation.

If I focus time on my kids and mother-in-law, I feel like a bad employee.

If I focus time on my work, I feel like a bad dad and son-in-law.

I can’t possibly do it all. I just feel stressed out and guilty.

When in the world am I supposed to take care of myself?

Start with the basics.

The house needs to be kept up and your kids need stuff to do.

Those dots connect themselves, but how do you do this without having another thing to do?

  • I got the ball rolling by laying out expectations in a family meeting.
  • I also sent out this text message in our family group text after days of exhaustion:

Hey Family! I know everyone is taking care of their own living areas but we need to work together on shared spaces like the kitchen, dining area, and living room. We are trying to stay afloat during this – Mom is working full time, I’m working full time from home, and Grandmom isn’t our maid. (Thanks for all you do, Grandmom!)

Some Stuff That Needs Doing:

  • Kitchen needs to be swept and mopped.
  • Dining room & front door area swept and mopped.
  • Living room vacuumed.
  • Lawn mowed when it dries.
  • General sanitizing wipe down.
  • Help with cooking dinners.
  • General cleaning up after yourself, especially in the kitchen.

There’s enough for everyone to do a little. Thanks in advance. Hope this isn’t received as snarky. Totally sending with a heart full of love for all of you. Just need help. You guys are my favorite part of being quarantined! ❤

That was the text. I didn’t have high hopes. I figured a couple of kids (maybe) in drips and drabs would hopefully mark a few things off the list in the upcoming week. Maybe there would be a little less work for Grandmom and me.

Then something incredible happened.

My son, who is without a doubt the “lone wolf” of the whole crew and was in quarantine before it was cool, immediately came down and started sweeping the kitchen. What? Soon, everyone started popping out of their rooms and joined in. They cranked out a very thorough cleaning of everything. We even game-ified the cleaning by adding some rounds of Nintendo Wii in-between cleaning jobs. In a couple of hours, the house was spic & span – and get this – we all had time freed up to do our stuff. Even me!

I can’t call it a Christmas Miracle; maybe it was a COVID-19 Miracle? It was like something out of some wholesome unrealistic sitcom or Disney Channel show. It worked. But let me be clear, I was fortunate this time. It usually doesn’t play out like that. But I learned some valuable info that day…

There is no way I can keep up with housework, school work, and work work AND have time and energy left for self-care plus some gas left in the tank to have a little quality time with my wife when she gets home from work. You can’t give what you don’t have. 

And my kids can and will and need to help.

Let’s Break It Down

So how do I keep this ball rolling? If you break down my text, you might find some reasons why it was effective that might help you get your kids helping more around the house, have some structure in their day, and burn off some energy. Hopefully, this will lower your stress levels by freeing you up for working on work and remember, working on yourself.

Here’s what I did in my text to get my kids to help around the house:

  1. Started positively.
  2. Acknowledged what they were already doing.
  3. Was realistic and honest about our new situation.
  4. Listed very specific things that needed to get done.
  5. Gave them a choice of what they wanted to do.
  6. Thanked them in advance.
  7. Tried to preclude any misinterpretations.
  8. Affirmed my love for them and that family is the most important thing.
  9. And here is the kicker – I TOLD THEM I NEEDED HELP.  (I didn’t suggest it. I didn’t imply it. And I didn’t say, “It would be nice.”)

I probably should have added a timeframe for the work to be done by. Missed that one. 

We made it a challenge and made it fun. We worked together and multiplied our efforts.

Apply these principles in a way that works for your kids at their ages. 

Don’t be bashful with the We Are In A Global Pandemic And I Need Your Help Around the House card. Just don’t try to do it all yourself. And don’t sweat it if it all doesn’t get done. It isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we. Take care of yourself.

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