To be honest, I was scared counting down to maidless days. After enjoying life without the endless house chores, the thought of going back to doing them worried me. It is not so much as in whether I will be able to cope, it is more about losing the quality time with the kids, if I will step into the house after work with a foul mood seeing a messy house and stepping on oily, sticky floors. I had been through that phase and it was not something I wish to reminisce about. I remember that each time when I came home from work, as I stood at the doorway and looked into the house, my mind is full of frustrations and naggings about school shoes strewn about, toys littered around, beds unmade, pyjamas on the sofa, etc. And the next thing was me picking up toys with my handbag still on my shoulder, and kneeling down to mop the floor in my work clothes. I needed to tidy up the house in a jiffy in order to feel good for the evening. Hence, the kids got the worst of me and it was nothing proud at all.
Actually those days were only 3 years ago before I decided to employ a helper. I had then changed job and work took up much of my time. With an extra pair of hands, I was able to concentrate on work and was happy that I could play with the kids after work, free of house chores. Having a helper also means that I could have my couple nights out or girlfriends nights out in peace. I could sneak out for late night supper with my hub. I freed my caregiver who is my Father-in-law from cooking as well. He was able to relax with his grandchildren instead of making time for cooking chores. In the crucial year of PSLE this year, my helper was a great help to ensure that my revision with Missy was efficient. With her around, I did not have to worry about other distractions and house chores. All was good till my helper decided to get married and ended her contract with us and we decided not to employ another one.
Why do I insist on Not Hiring Another Helper?
You would have asked me why I did not hire another helper. The main reason is a request from Missy. She asked not to have a new helper simply because she does not want to attach feelings to another helper and be disappointed and sad when she leaves. She also insisted that she will be able to help out in the house. I debated for a long time with myself and my hub about giving what Missy wants versus what I WANT. I know that with a helper, everyone has more of my time and I need not slog on my leisure hours. But I had to give Missy a chance to show that she is capable of helping out. Besides, it is time that the kids learn responsibility and independence without help. Weighing the pros and cons, the cons of not hiring a helper actually outnumbered the pros. Still, we bite the bullet and go maidless.
Weeding Out Bad Habits From the Kids
For those with helpers will know that whenever the helper goes out on her off day, the house will be messy in less than an hour. Cups piled up in the sink, toys and books all over and floors got dirtier faster too. We will know that these will miraculously be tidied and cleaned by night time and nobody bothers to even wash a cup. Hence, on the first few days after my helper left, my house is in complete mess. How things operate in the house have to change, so I thought it is time to start educating the kids. Here are some basic things that we want the kids to chip in to help and learn a thing or two.
- Ensure pyjamas and home clothes are worn at least twice before they go into the laundry basket. I have madness trying to clear the house loads everyday!
- The kids help to fold the clothes and put back into their wardrobe. Even simple things like folding clothes can learn a trick or two. I am happy to teach them how to fold it nicely and straighten out creases such that ironing is not needed for clothes worn at home. This is also for them to see how many sets of clothes they conveniently throw into the laundry basket and with the repercussions of this act happen to be more washing, drying, folding and keeping.
- The kids have to wipe all traces of crumbs and spills. It helps that my youngest spilled some honey water near our bedroom door and everyone saw that the ants infested the sleeping area because the spills were not wiped thoroughly. This also reinforced to them the long nagged rule on no food and drinks in the bedroom.
- The kids have a chance to learn how to iron their own clothes. Their grandma came by and she had a fun time teaching them how to iron and the kids were all impressed by my mum’s efficient and time-saving method of ironing clothes.
- The kids learn how to hand-wash clothes. It may seem common sense to us adults, but if the kids had never done a chore, they may not know where to start and how to do it the right way.
- The kids have to make their own beds every morning and hang their pyjamas in the right places.
- The hanging of towels has long been a persistent nagging item, hence now, I bring out hangers and designate a place for them to hang.
- Toilet manners – being considerate for the next person who uses the toilet. The kids were taught to lift up the toilet seat before or after use depending on the who is using. This prevents ammonia from filling the toilet with pee on the seats and such.
- Cooking – the kids gain many opportunities to learn cooking from me. Such life skills are better taught to the kids than to the helper.
There are more bad habits that I am trying to discover and correcting them one by one now that I can see the consequences so clearly.
Seeing the Difference in the Kids
The helper could not have left at a better time. Right now is the school holidays and all the 3 kids have many chances to hone their house chore skills. There are many times I was pleasantly surprised by their good gestures to keep the house clean.
One day when I came home from work, I saw that the floor was sparkling clean. All the shoes were neatly placed, toys were kept properly and my youngest pulled my hand excitedly to bring me to his room. On the cupboard beside his bed was a set of pyjamas neatly hanged onto the hanger. He was so proud of it and went on to show me his bed which he made his bed with blankets folded nicely too. Guess who initiated the clean up? It was none other than Missy. I think she does a better job in delegating house chores to her 2 younger brothers than I do! No wonder they say that having a girl as the eldest child is the best!
On another day, Missy saw that I was very tired and still had to wash some dishes in the sink. The moment I stepped out of the kitchen to do some other chores, I heard her wash the dishes without any prompting. It was a simple gesture, but it warmed my heart very much. If we still had a helper, I will not see this thoughtful side of her.
I know that the kids are showing their love in one way or another through helping out in the house. It warmed my heart and I am really blessed to have these children. Before my helper left, I wanted to draft a time-table for them on designating house chores. I never got around to working out this time-table. Surprisingly, it is still working fine in our house. Half the time I need any help, all I have to do is to assign and one kid or another will come helping. Of course the other half of the time falls to deaf ears especially when they are playing or engaging in some activities or if they say “Later”, I will still end up doing it because it is so much easier and faster to do them myself. Nevertheless, with 3 extra pairs of hands, most of the time, the house chores can be done in 1/3 of the time!
Holding It Together as a FTWM
So, as far as it goes, things are still working out fine without a helper. I have also constantly reminded myself not to lose my cool or get into a bad mood over house chores. I consciously kept calm and tell myself that it is alright to have a dirty and untidy house. I start to get use to it by taking everything slowly and portion out the things I want to do, like packing the shelves or cleaning a room one day at a time. The last thing I want to do is to spoil everybody’s mood or sacrifice bonding time because I want everything to be neat and clean and perfect.
I admit that at times, I feel tired trying to hold everything together.
Dealing with house chores can really get on one’s nerves because the chores are never-ending and the satisfaction of clearing them does not last more than 1 day. Everyday is a new day and it also means that a refreshed set of house chores are waiting to be done!
For a full time working mum, it is not easy to stop all stress and fatigue at the door and turn on smiles and happy mood into the house at the end of a work day. The house chores have to be managed on top of managing the kids, dealing with tantrums, educating little ones and still leave time for play and bonding. I always say workplace should value mums because if they can multi-task so well in the house, they can definitely do a good job at work.
I am still fine-tuning how to change my mindset on the threshhold of cleanliness and not let house chores take up my time with the kids. I can feel the stress and fatigue affecting my interaction with people too. Plus the lack of sleep and working late nights that make me function a little off balance. I lost my cool with the kids a couple of times. I find myself offending many people around me with tactless statements that mean no harm. I am trying to hold everything together in the house as well as social life, work life and family life. I am not a superwoman, just a normal person juggling many balls on hand and trying to find a good balance.
I may not have a clean home, but I certainly treasure a happy home. Now that I see the kids are learning responsibility, independence and thoughtfulness to others, I think we made a right decision to go maidless and I hope that we can do this in the long run together.