3 Things by Heidi Gollub, Free Fun in Austin
All mothers struggle with balance.
Although I have five children, I do not corner the market on chaos. In my experience, one little addition to the family is all it takes to make life topsy turvy. For me, things got crazy on day one of baby number one. Sleep went out the window, laundry seemed insurmountable, and the thought of bathing another human on a regular basis was overwhelming.
Gradually, after adding a second and third child to our crew, volunteer work started to pull me in all kinds of directions—PTO, HOA, school, church, a children’s shelter. Every spare minute was spoken for. With the addition of a fourth child, I was forced to cut back on volunteer hours, but then I started working from home.
And so it goes, the push and pull of family, friends, work, and more. The balance is ever shifting and almost always leaves you feeling like you aren’t doing it quite right.
I once read an essay by a woman who had been named Mother of the Year. She wrote that on the same day she received the honor, she forgot to pick her kids up from school. That little tidbit made me like her more. It’s encouraging to realize that we’re all a bit of a mess.
This morning, I raced out of the house barefoot, with wet hair, having not eaten breakfast, shoes in one hand and baby in the other, running late for a meeting. En route to the meeting, I realized I was on autopilot, heading to my kids’ school. For a second, I couldn’t remember where it was that I was supposed to be going. I figured it out and put my socks on while waiting at a red light, only to realize that my socks didn’t match. Most days I wonder at what point I will start to feel like an adult.
My mother has often told me to not stress out about cleaning when someone new is coming over, because my guest will feel more comfortable if the house is not immaculate. I struggle with this, but I see the truth in it. When I visit a seemingly perfect house, it makes me feel discouraged about the state of my own home. It’s easy to forget that pretending to have it all together can sometimes have the unintended side effect of making someone else feel inadequate.
And so, I will tell you that following this morning’s chaos, my son came home from school with his pants on backwards, my baby never got a decent nap, and I didn’t manage to get dinner made. Clearly, I haven’t gotten the hang of the balancing act, but hey, I did get to go out to eat tonight.
If you can’t handle the structure of chores charts, play Let’s Make a Deal with your kids.
Here is how we play the game at our house:
Kid says, “Can I play my DS?” I say, “Sure! I’ll make you a deal. Just fold one basket of laundry and then you can play until dinner.”
Another kid asks, “Can I turn on the TV?” I say, “You bet! I’ll make you a deal. Empty the dishwasher and you can watch one show.”
I love this game because I get to say yes a lot and the chores get done quickly, without any nagging. The kids like it because their reward is immediate—there’s no waiting until the end of the week for allowance and then waiting again for someone to take them somewhere to spend it.
My kids have caught on to the rules, and now often ask first what they can do to help, in the hopes of earning a reward. With the kids pitching in one odd job at a time, the house gets clean(ish) and I focus less on what has not gotten done. As an added bonus, the kids enjoy their video game time more when they feel like they’ve earned it.
My favorite smart phone app is called RetailMeNot. Billed as “thousands of coupons in your pocket,” this app makes bargain hunting a cinch.
Basically a mobile version of RetailMeNot.com, the free app allows you to search for coupons on the fly. This past month, I saved 15% at H & M, 40% at Macaroni Grill, and $10 at Aéropostale, simply by showing coupons on my phone. No advance planning, no coupon clipping, just saving money when you’re out and about.