Practical Dad

Balancing Children and Housework

If there's been a source of tension between my wife and I over the years, it's been about getting the housework done.  What needs to be done and when?  What should be done and when?  And those are two very different things, believe me.  Taking an active role in the household means that there has to be a balance struck between the children and the housework.  The children's health and safety can depend upon having the housework and clutter under control, yet kids require frequent and significant interaction for them to develop and housework can take a backseat.

It's not easy to strike that balance and there are going to be times when it might appear almost impossible to do. 

So what might help avoid some of the headaches that this causes?

  • Decide with your mate where your focus should be.  My earliest belief was that I should be spending the large majority of the time with the children and I did so; but it became apparent that the sloppy household would create issues.  Is your mate a neat freak?  Then that might create problems since the clutter and dirt that children create is significant and the interaction with them suffers.
  • Decide with your mate about what should be done.  Create a list of what those chores and items are, as well as a general schedule of how often they need done.
  • Be clear about both your and her expectations of the satisfaction level for the chores.  Does vacuuming mean that you just run the vacuum or does that also include an attachment for use along the edge of the baseboard?  Do you use a polish for the furniture when you dust or just run a rag along it?  Does it make more sense to vacuum and then dust, or vice-versa?
  • Knowing these things, who's going to be responsible for the items?
  • Be honest about what you actually know how to do.  The truth is that most women were raised to pay attention to the household and picked up more information than guys did.  If it bothers you, flip the situation - would you want your mate to ask how something is done before she dismantles part of the engine or takes something apart?  Sorry if that appears sexist, but it's the truth.
  • Take a lesson in how to do something before damage is done.  I never bleached laundry until I was home with the kids and managed to ruin multiple pieces of clothing; and the replacement cost came at a time when the funds weren't really available.
  • Learn what things you can do while you interact with the children.  Can Princess play with clay at the table while you clean the kitchen and talk to her?  Can Junior play with toys in his room while you're in hanging up the clothing?

There's no hard/fast answer to this question and it works out differently for each family, but with some effort, honesty and patience - on both parts, ladies - there can be some reasonable balance found.

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