Getting the chores done

by Sky

What systems do you use to keep your household running smoothly?

I’m starting to think about going back to work, but will need to streamline the household work first. We have a once-monthly housekeeper, but the rest of it is my job. DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM, but his participation is limited by his work and commute. (His own stuff is always impeccably neat, at least until the children find it.)

For chores, I’ve just assigned each day of the week a time-consuming chore:
Mondays = Laundry
Tuesdays = Baking & dusting (I have to do a fair amount of baking due to kids’ food allergies)
Wednesdays = Floors & errands
Thursdays = Laundry again
Fridays = Meal planning & grocery shopping
Saturdays = Yard work

About a month in, this seems to be working, except that with sports practice and games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I often have to throw in another load of laundry on Saturdays.

I clean the bathrooms and kitchen and tidy up the kids’ toys every day.

My kids all have their own chore lists – even the toddler. There is a small cash incentive for each chore completed, because my kids are not motivated by stickers.

The chores for the younger two include making their own beds (with help), wiping the kitchen table, putting dishes in the sink, sweeping the floor, and putting away toys.

The oldest (6) is expected to make her own bed and lunch. I’ve heard that some of her friends can do laundry and cook breakfast, so we are working on those. With the return to school and sports, the incentive system is not getting me the amount of work I would like – DD decided this morning that she would rather watch Curious George than get 25 cents for making her bed.

How have you gotten your kids to do their chores? What kinds of chores do you expect them to do?


196 thoughts on “Getting the chores done

  1. My kids are 15 and 10. Both are responsible for doing their own laundry and putting their clothes away. I use the term “putting clothes away” loosely. 10 year old DS stuffs them in the appropriate bureau drawer. 15 year old DD leaves them in the basket and then fishes them out on an as needed basis.

    We have a cleaner come every two weeks who dusts, vacuums, changes sheets, etc. The kids are responsible for making sure their rooms are picked up so that the cleaners can vacuum. If they fail to do so, then they get to vacuum their rooms on the weekend. They’ve each had to do this once or twice. And if DD fails to wash her sheets and/or out put out clean sheets, then she gets to do so herself on the weekend (she’ll be doing so this weekend).

    This summer, I started having each kid cook once a week. They each receive either $5 or 60 minutes of screen time (their choice; DD wants cash; DS wants screen time).

    Kids are responsible for unloading the dishwasher (unless they cooked).

    DD does the dishes when she’s home (in the spring, she’s usually at soccer practice). She gets $10 for every 4 times she does the dishes (which in theory is $10 a week which takes the place of her allowance).

    DH is responsible for yard work. He gets irritated that the kids don’t help more – but he seems to think this will miraculously happen of the kids’ own initiative. This summer it wasn’t much of an issue as it was very dry and we didn’t water the grass – so it went brown quickly and didn’t grow.

  2. I will be in and out today because I have hired a sitter so I can clean out the garage.

    Now all I have to do is get 8 strollers, 7 bikes, 2 sleds, 5 beach chairs and two umbrellas, a lawnmower, a snowblower, all our garden tools, the grill, a portable generator, and some booster seats into an 11′ by 20′ garage, leaving room to park the SUV.

    Defying physics, one day at a time :)

  3. And the kids are expected to put their dishes in the dishwasher after a meal.

    DD makes her own lunch. We still make DS’s lunch.

  4. When we were a household of five and I worked I found it easier to throw in one load of wash a day. Kept the mountains of clothes at bay. Even the youngest can bring their dirty clothes to the laundry room if you give them one of those cheep bags (a smaller version of the ones you get at Williams Sonoma and then first thing when they get back in the afternoon have them pick up and put away their clean clothes. I found laundry overwhelming if it piled up.

    Teach the kids to wipe down the bathroom sink after using.

    I don’t think kids should earn money for doing chores. They should understand that they need to contribute to the care and upkeep of their surroundings. I don’t mind an allowance but don’t tie it to chores. Chores can be associated with privileges – watching tv – computer time – I wouldn’t use it for reading or outdoor playing time.

    Lots of luck too you. It is hard to keep a home, make dinner, have time for your children and most especially for your husband when you work – but don’t worry the time goes by in a flash!

  5. “DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM”
    I would stop right there and reset expectations first before doing anything else. :)

    We have a cleaner every 2 weeks. We also have yard people who do that stuff, except the trimming and weeding, which DH likes to do (the former) and doesn’t get done because it looks perfectly fine without (the latter).

    The bathrooms do not get cleaned more often than when the cleaners come. If I were motivated, I might clean the toilet with the swishy tool once a week, but it doesn’t need it more often than that.

    I sometimes vacuum once a week if there is a large amount of food on the floor, but not any more often than that. If we had a cleaner once a week I would never need to vacuum.

    I wipe down the kitchen counters maybe once every other day, maybe. Sometimes I wait until we are having people over.

    We do not make the beds in our house.

    The kids’ chores are putting their toys away, keeping their room clean, and helping with dishes. The 7-yo also likes to help with cooking. We do not do incentives; we just say that “nothing else can be done” until they do that particular chore. Then if they resist, we start ‘throwing away’ toys until they comply (usually only takes 1).

    I do laundry every Friday (my day off) and Saturday, but if we are away the laundry (and folding, especially) will wait until we come back.

  6. I have a pretty low bar for help from kids and a pretty low bar for the state of my house lately. I don’t have a good schedule other than I tend to do laundry on the weekends and maybe one load mid week. We just started giving my 8 year old chores and an allowance with the start of the school year. She has to set the table, get her homework done before dinner and put in the correct place and clean her room on the weekends. We had some missteps with actually putting her homework in her school binder the first month but now she seems to have gotten it and is doing great. I have a harder time regulating the play room because the mess is from all three, but my oldest only gets sporadic help from the younger two. The four year old in particular is not pulling his weight and he is not motivated by stickers, money or really anything. I’ve tried punishing him for not helping his sisters but that still doesn’t seem to help.

  7. My current goal is to get the dogs to put their toys away – the one who would do it doesn’t take toys out at all, and the other has no interest in learning another trick. Any tips on training a dog are welcomed. No, this hasn’t been on the top of the “to-do” list so I really haven’t moved forward.

    Right now, my mom does the laundry, I do the cooking, DH does the dishes, and everything else is “whoever is free.” It’s a horrible system. The bathrooms don’t get clean as often as they should, sheets and towels are not changed frequently enough, and DH and I live out of laundry baskets – or rather, all the clothes are neatly laid in DS’ cradle (unused by DS who is in his own room). We take what we want from the pile… apparently we are teenagers that way.

    I’ve taken to keeping DS’ clothes put away and sorted (one basket for clothes he can wear and one for clothes he’s outgrown). His toys also have spots so they aren’t everywhere all the time. We set up a play area with those foam flooring squares and provided him a basket for his toys. Every night, after he’s in bed, I organize that space so it doesn’t look like a scene from Twister.

    I need to get a better handle on meal prep/planning. I think as the weather cools, I’m going to start spending a free weekend day cooking and freezing meals. This way we have more last minute meals and less of the same. My mom is a great sous chef, as long as she knows what the meal plan is. I should capitalize on that.

    I’ve been operating under the theory that if my son is looking OK and well groomed/fed, we are OK. I think I need to up my game.

  8. Sky – for the garage, check out the FastTrack system. I know that Home Depot sells it. The interchangeability is very nice.

    Our kids unload the dishwasher and vacuum the kitchen floor. They help sort laundry, and they actually enjoy making sock balls now. They pick up their rooms, the playroom, and the basement before the cleaning lady comes.

    A couple of weeks ago I put them to work with me cleaning the porch and deck. With buckets of soapy water and a couple of dish brushes, they did a semi-decent job cleaning the white balusters, and there are quite a few of them.

  9. I’d have to say that right now our household is limping along. We have twice a month service – cleans bathrooms and kitchen well, dusts and sweeps/mops floors through out, changes beds, etc. Starting about March last year things started getting out of control with the end of school year push and all the projects that go along withi it. Then with my dad’s death and taking on caregiving for my mom, it has only gotten worse. In the past couple of weeks, I seem to have started the tide turning the other way, but am leery to feel too positive.

    So, given my not so hot track record, take these suggestions with a grain of salt. First, try laying out your week and chores so that you do them only when you would not be at work. For example, in my area going to the grocery store after 3 pm until about 10 pm is a total nightmare. You will likely find that you need to move things around a bit.

    Second, if your kids are at home now, but will be in day care/after school care when you return to work, do not think that most of the mess they create during the will also disappear. It’s character may change, but it likely won’t be signficantly less work.

    Third, if your machine has a delay setting, I found it helpful when I washed everyone’s clothes to do one of two things – either set it to wash so it was done as soon as I woke up, then I could get it dried and folded before leaving the house or set it so the wash was finished as I was walking in the door at night, then I could flip it and I or sometimes a child could fold it in the evening. I would do one load every day rather than trying to do multiple loads in a day.

  10. Like Old Mom, we don’t pay for chores. The kids do chores to help keep their house clean and functioning. The 16 year old mows the lawn. Both kids unload the dishwasher, make their beds, keep their rooms tidy, and take out the trash. They also do additional chores if asked with minimal push back.

    Things I do that they could do themselves include packing lunches, doing laundry, and folding clothes. I don’t mind and if I’m busy, they can take over as needed.

  11. L, I have tried resetting this expectation and have been told that if I cleaned up all day as I went along, it would be easy.

    When I leave DH in charge, he sets the kids down in front of Netflix and cleans.

    But he’s only in charge for an hour or two on a weekend, and (a) I don’t want to clean all the time; and (b) sometimes I turn off the TV and let the kids use their toys instead of admiring the nice clear plastic shoeboxes on their labeled shelves :)

    If I had an hour between the last kid falling asleep and his arrival, I could clean up, but we are still fighting the bedtime battle with DS1.

  12. We don’t pay them to do their chores, but we pay them to do ours in lieu of us having to do them or pay someone else. Kids – own laundry, clean own room, pick up the bathroom they use, set table or do dishes – this rotates monthly – but if you cook an adult will do the dishes. Mainly lawn care is what they get paid to do. DD#1 packs her own lunch, but if her cocoa thermos cup is out and clean, I make it for her in the morning. DD#2 still uses the Daddy’s little girl ploy to get hers pack as I’m usually gone by then.

  13. Sky, that sounds like it could be a bigger problem. Maybe if he has a day off and is in charge of the kids he would see that the entropy they create is SUBSTANTIAL. Especially with the bedtime issues, it is not a realistic expectation that everything is spotless!!!!

  14. On routine household management – I pay bills on the 15th and the 30th, and on those same days is when I also deal with any non-time sensitive, general paperwork that needs to be done (renewing AAA memberships, signing up for sports, etc.), as well as any filing or shredding. That system works pretty well.

    I have also found that a load of laundry every day is easier for me than a bunch of loads on the weekend.

    I used to meal plan a week at a time. Now I meal plan a month at a time. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s actually easier. Every Sunday is something to grill, every night DH works late (which is once/week) we do breakfast for dinner, and every Friday is pizza. That only leaves me with 4 meals to fill in, and if I do a month at a time it saves me brain effort every week. I print off a calendar page, jot down the planned meals on each day, and stick it in the kitchen drawer. Then when it’s time to make the grocery list I just pull it out and see what I need.

    Kids and chores – we do not pay for chores, and they don’t have assigned chores. They are expected to generally take care of themselves, their things, and their space (e.g., laundry goes in hamper, put away their own clean laundry, don’t leave your stuff laying around, clear your own dishes and put them in the dishwasher). They also routinely take care of our animals – exercise the dogs and feed the cat – but I don’t think they would consider those chores.

    We have a weekly cleaning lady, though, and if they have not picked up their rooms adequately for her to dust and vacuum in there, they do have to give her their allowance ($4 each) in exchange for her extra time working around their mess.

    Sometimes they are super helpful and responsible, and sometimes they are lazy slobs. I find the most effective way to motivate them is natural consequences (don’t put your laundry in the hamper and you won’t have clean clothes, or more recently – if you leave your empty G2 bottles around the house, Mom will stop buying G2). This works better for them than paying for chores, and has become easier as they’ve gotten older and care about things like clean clothes and post-sports refreshing drinks.

    They have recently asked whether they could do extra things around the house in order to earn additional screen time. Their request is under consideration.

  15. I will watch this thread for suggestions since we do not have a good system, and all of my childhood memories relating to cleaning involve nagging, so that is not a good resource to fall back on. I will say the kids were awesome at packing the camping things and cooking dinner when my foot started to hurt.

  16. I do a quick clean/pick up/organizing every day. The kids are expected to keep their rooms neat and pick up after themselves. I also do periodic organizing/cleaning out of our closets. DH handles cleaning out the garage. In our house, scheduling time to do a little bit every day prevents backlog of chores. Both DH and myself didn’t grow up getting paid for chores, it was just expected as part of living as a family unit. We have continued with this. It was harder keeping the clutter in check and things clean when the kids were younger but now that they have grown, it is easier. In general, our house is pretty neat and clean.

  17. Laundry addendum: I keep the specialized clothes (bathing suits and dance clothes) all together. I also keep running plastic bins of the stuff they are outgrowing in the laundry room, labeled with size/type (boy size 5T, etc.). When the bins are full, they go up to the attic. We are keeping all of the clothes for my younger siblings who are yet to have kids. Once that happens, those bins will be gonzo! (Other than the heirloom blankies made by grandmothers, etc.)

  18. Sky: I wonder if you and your husband might shift your evening paradigm. I have a friend who is a SAHM, and her husband also works long hours. He often walks through the door around 8:30, and the house is a mess, as expected when one is chasing young kids around. However, what he does when he gets home is putters while they chitchat. He’ll wander around the house, straightening papers, folding throw blankets, tossing toys into bins, starting the dishwasher, rinsing the dog bowl etc. while she sits with a glass of wine for a minute and updates him on the day. He says the puttering helps him unwind a bit after a long day at his desk/commuting, and makes him feel like he’s putting the house to bed. It’s very sweet to watch – I don’t think they developed it as a “rule” – it just became a habit – but I wonder if a similar routine would work better for the two of you.

    (They live in a city where I often visit for clients, so I spend the night with them a few times each year and regularly observe this routine.)

  19. @Sky – if the kid refuses to fall asleep – have him help you with cleaning up at the end of the day. That sort of thing worked when I was a kid. If I took my parental chore time/down time I was put to work.

  20. Also, one more thought from me. One area where I have really failed on this is the kids’ sports. Because we are on the go in the afternoons, I generally get everything together for them. This all came to a head this past weekend when one child had a swim meet, the other had a golf tournament, and somehow it was 100% Mom’s responsibility to do every. single. thing. to. get. ready.

    I take full responsibility for getting us to that point, but I also took drastic measures. From here on out, my only role is to (1) wash any sports uniforms that are left in the basket in the laundry room, (2) give them a ride. I told them if they missed a practice or an event because they didn’t have their act together, it was between them and the coach and I honestly didn’t care if they got kicked off a team (and I really find I don’t care – that might not have been the case before this past weekend, but wow did it change my own attitude).

    I share this only because sometimes I find it helpful to learn from where others screw up. And I definitely screwed up by being so hands-on over the years in this area (ironic because I pride myself on being hands off in other areas like school work).

  21. Louise, that is brilliant!

    DS hates cleaning, so it might just be enough to make him more cooperative. Plus DD will be less angry about his going to bed later if he only gets to clean the playroom floor.

    Will try tonight and report back :)

  22. Hello everyone!

    Long time no talk but this is a topic i can sorta contribute to. I don’t have kids but i have a crazy work schedule so I have a weird chore schedule thing going on as well.

    I’m a big believer in having meals prepped in the freezer and then just having to defrost and cook. I would recommend looking into crockpot meals as I cook those overnight and then just put in the fridge in the am. I also do chores in little chunks. For example, last night I did laundry and tonight I’ll fold it.

    I cannot stress enough the importance of my cleaning lady.

  23. I do most of the tidying around the house, as I care most about it. Having a messy house interferes with my peace of mind. Sometimes DH will “help”, but most of the time, it’s more trouble than its worth to get him involved. I used to resent it, but then I learned (and am learning) to outsource larger things to DH that I hate doing. DH makes and takes the kids to all doctors’ appointments. He does school open houses, most of the activity pick up and drop off, etc. He does all the car maintenance work (which involves going to the mechanic for a new tire, etc).

  24. We have a cleaning woman 1x/wk; that keeps bathrooms & kitchen clean, carpets/rugs vacuumed, hardwoods swept, furniture dusted well enough. Usually we sweep the hardwoods once between her visits.

    DW runs laundry and tries to do it thru the week so the weekends are not endless. I’ve offered to do more on that front, but get the thanks, but no thanks.

    We never paid kids for routine chores like cleaning rooms, dish duty, emptying trash/recycling, taking containers to/from the curb, shoveling snow off the front walk and top of the driveway near the garage.

    We do pay for certain larger chores, usually involving MAJOR crap removal (i.e. in advance of a garage sale, and then to goodwill for the gems left unsold), lawn mowing, mulching, sometimes raking leaves, painting.

    I do bills and the school-related paperwork for the one kid left at home…I try to set the bills up in the bank’s bill pay when they come in, so they’re done. DW generally handles the other house paperwork, social stuff. This all just kind of evolved.

    Meals…DW tries to plan for the week, one night always seems to be leftovers (fine with me…quick, easy), one night some kind of pasta, we almost always grill fish 1x/wknd, usually Sunday, year round. Sometimes I grill both nights of a weekend. We’ve been trying to do ~2-3 dinners/wk without a starch for a couple of months and none of us seem any hungrier later in the evening than before.

  25. We keep a separate bag for items that may travel in connection with a sport when items get washed, the go back in the bag. When the kids leave an event, the put things back in their bag. When it is time for the event the bag is grabbed, we have done swim bags that have worked great. As I type this, I realize we need camping bags.

  26. I’m honestly very surprised that almost everyone has a cleaning lady.

    In our case we rely on the cleaning spirits and passive aggressive guilt trips. What that means is someone will feel the cleaning spirits descend upon them and feel the need to clean. At which point everyone else feels guilty and chips in. It’s a very informal system.

  27. Houston: I get the daily topic emails but honestly most of the topics are stuff I just can’t relate to so I forget about checking in.

    Rhett: I resisted the idea for awhile but I realized I work hard and I hate cleaning. I even upped the roommate’s rent to pay for it.

  28. We have done the same thing with sports bags. There are karate bags, soccer bags, swim bags, etc. depending on the time of year. Right now it involves a lot of reminding with the 5 and 7 year old, but my goal is for them to be responsible for the stuff. So at this age I say in the morning, “Remember, you have karate after school, so get your bags together.” They throw in the clothes, flip flops or whatever easier shoes for after practice, etc. I still pack lunches because I haven’t found a way to make it simple for my 7 year old to pack a lunch while we still do the other two. I freely admit that this is one of those areas where I’m just making my own life easier.

    We have a group come in to clean every two weeks. DH and I share the laundry over the weekends, though he does the lion’s share of the folding. The 7 year old puts her clothes away and often does much of the folding, the 5 year old tries to tell us putting the clothes away is “too hard,” so we do it with her to get some cooperation. I’m training them for that NOT to be my job. I generally meal plan a week at a time. I’ve tried to do more, but it’s ended up that I need to look at the week and figure out when we’re home late for sports, when I have school related meetings, when I have my own social stuff, etc. It always seems to change at the last minute. So a week at a time I look. Nights we’re home without major activities I try to cook something that requires a bit more of my attention. Nights with activities we make due with crock pot stuff, lots of leftovers, or things that can easily be prepared in advance.

    I’m thinking it’s time to start an allowance for the 7 year old. It creates drama with the 5 year old, though, so I haven’t done anything yet for want of figuring out what I really want to do. I need some sort of “rule” that I can just state to forestall the “It’s not fair” brigade, and so far I don’t have a rule I like. So I’m liking how this got added on. My inclination is to add allowances as a learning mechanism for money, and to make it simple for me to implement. (3 jars per kid x 3 kids sounds too hard, for example!) I just expect chores. No one pays me to do dishes, cook dinner, or fold laundry either….

  29. Getting kids to do chores: I would wait until they started something fun, then made them stop to come do the missed chore – such as mid-video game, when they cannot save the level(!!) or when they were playing outside with friends. They developed the habit of asking if there was anything else before they ran off.

    Sky, your family benefits financially from your going back to work – I would encourage you to outsource more and ask your husband to come around to more realistic expectations. My husband is very neat, so I get it. We agreed to making clean living area and kitchen a high priority, other then things less so. Our kids clear their places, put dishes in dishwasher, wipe down counters, etc. our tables are frequently homework central, so there was an exception for schoolwork clutter. We outsource lawn work and my husband does all laundry except my hand wash. My kids transitioned to doing their own in their mid-teens. Eliminating clutter and clearing out cabinets (so there is a place to put stuff) is a big help. In my opinion, this will be tough if you’re carrying all the weight. My husband really wanted me to work, so he was willing to adapt.

  30. We have a similar clothes system as L. I’m hoping to keep most of DS’ clothes for future children (mine or friends).

    We also do the same thing as A parent for bags. DS’ diaper bag is always ready to go – just add toys, bottles, and my wallet. My work bag is like that – everything for work gets put in there and I just grab ‘n go in the morning. My wallet lives in that bag, so it’s an easy transfer on the weekends. Our luggage is set up the same way – things that we only need for travel are already packed. I also keep bins of like things for the same reason – the dogs have their own toy bin, DS has his own toy bin (opposite sides of the same room to eliminate confusion on the dogs’ part). It makes prep and clean up easier.

    I need to grill more often… it’s quicker and very easy… I also need to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet. Any tips on the vegetarian meals would be greatly appreciated.

  31. “someone will feel the cleaning spirits descend upon them and feel the need to clean”

    We would never have those spirits descend. We need to be forced into it knowing that the cleaning lady is scheduled to come soon.

  32. Has anyone found tying meals to a day of the week really worked for them? I mean a system like Monday is pasta, Tuesday is tacos, etc.

    I’ve been planning my meals based on the supermarket circular, but then I usually have to come up with a recipe after the fact.

  33. Rhett, my little ones (almost 2 and 4) do not like to leave mommy uninterrupted time to mop a floor. If I try to mop, someone has a hand in the bucket, someone else is “helping” me add more soap, and the next thing I know I’m standing in a giant puddle of muddy water.

    And when I vacuum they scream, because none of them can stand the noise even on the Miele “quiet” setting.

    At least when the cleaning lady is cleaning I can take them in the backyard :)

  34. Sky – we have taco Tuesday, Friday pizza, one weekend night is take out. Dance night is “fend for yourself” (DH and I need to leave by 6:30 for dance, so it’s tight). I end up planning 3 nights per week, or 6 nights every 2 weeks (which is how I plan). It makes it easy for me, but sometimes I forget to fill in a day and we sub in pasta or breakfast for dinner.

    I use those fixed days, plus the ingredients in our veggie box, plus what’s on sale. Sometimes it’s “ooh, this is on sale, pick it up” and I’ll fill in a day, or prep enough to freeze it.

  35. And when I vacuum they scream

    Perhaps a Roomba might be better? Then you can take them somewhere while it does its thing?

  36. Rhett, we own 3 roombas, but only DH uses them – I find that on our hardwood floors they seem to echo throughout the house (we don’t have rugs due to allergies).

    I really like the scooba, though, for the tile floors in the basement.

  37. I’ll also bring up my old nagging tip. Don’t say, “Please take out the trash.” Try, “Can you take out the trash while I empty the dishwasher?” I find that works much better.

  38. Rhett– That works better on me, too. When DH and I had scuffles over the chores we figured out that as soon as it was nicely pointed out that one of us was doing a chore, the other would not mind popping in to do another chore. How you ask can be a huge help.

  39. OK, wait. So, you have three kids 6 and under; a DH who works routinely until 9 PM and who has neither the time nor the inclination to pitch in but nevertheless expects the house to look pristine; and allergy problems that require you to insource a lot of what others may outsource to protect your kids’ health. I hate to tell you this, but you already have *more* than a full-time job. So my first suggestion would be to think hard about why you want to add another job on top of that one — if you reallyreally want to do something else, great, but that’s different than if it’s just a “feel like I should” kind of thing.

    If you do decide to go back to work, there are some pretty big expectation adjustments (a/k/a “lowering of standards”) that will be necessary on all sides. Because if you try to do everything that you are currently doing (supplemented only with whatever “help” can be provided by toddlers and kindergarteners), your head will explode.

    Top of the list is your DH. “I have tried resetting this expectation and have been told that if I cleaned up all day as I went along, it would be easy.” Umm, Haxian “wow” here. This is a really big red flag, waving frantically in your face — he clearly doesn’t understand everything you do and doesn’t seem to respect the level of effort you put into making things perfect for him. Honestly, IMO, this is pretty much a dealbreaker for going back to work, unless you plan to replace yourself with Alice from the Brady Bunch — if he is going to expect the same tidiness, without being willing to contribute to making it happen (e.g., by spending his available evening time and weekends cleaning and straightening), then he will not be satisfied if you manage to achieve only 90%; meanwhile, you will be killing yourself to get that 90% and will be frustrated as hell that he is criticizing when he should be prostrate with gratitude that you are still managing that much. S, I would recommend having some long talks with him about what *he* is willing to do so you can go back to work — and if the answer is “all you need to do is. . . ,” well, that tells you your answer right there: he doesn’t get it, and he won’t get it. Paid employment is going to work only if you can clean/pick up to YOUR standards, and he understands and accepts that anything beyond that is on him.

    And then you’re next on the list. You seem to have pretty high standards for cleanliness and neatness yourself. Would you be happy if the bathrooms only got cleaned, say, weekly, instead of daily? Or would you be in there at 11 PM scrubbing, because X is toilet training and you just can’t handle knowing that there’s pee and stuff dried on the floor? For the food allergies, do you really need to bake most things yourself, or are there places like Whole Foods where you can buy more “allergy-safe” foods, you just don’t do that because homemade is better/cheaper/etc.? If you veer to the latter category, then again, think hard about how happy you will actually be going back to work — if you can downgrade your own expectations, great. But I’ve known too many women who feel like failures because they can’t meet their own standards of order and cleanliness, and I’d hate for that to be you.

    The kids are the easiest to manage — it’s much easier to change their expectations than the grown-ups’. :-) I’d just sit them down, explain that mommy is going back to work, and so that means that we are all going to have to pitch in more around the house (btw, best if Daddy has this conversation — and then leads by example!). Even little kids can fold their own clothes and put them away, with a little supervision; you can have family folding time, where you work on yours while they work on theirs, and once they get the hang of it you’ll be done in 20 minutes (or, again, lower your expectations — when I get behind, I frequently have a “clean” pile and a “dirty” pile and just basically move stuff from the former to the latter as I wear it). They can also set/clear the table, or help load the dishwasher. The elder can help the younger get breakfast — I bought two plastic 1 c. liquid measuring cups, poured milk in one and juice in the other, and put plastic bowls and spoons down low so the kids could get their own breakfasts from about 4 on. You can also make sandwiches the night before and put the kids in charge of putting their own lunches together. Finally, probably the biggest thing is the kid activities. We just had to limit to one at a time per kid to keep our own sanity (not counting swimming — we sucked it up until both could swim safely).

    I’m sorry to be Debbie Downer today; this is actually me trying to be supportive! I want you to go back to work if you want to! But, wow, you manage a LOT on a daily basis — I’m exhausted just reading your post! So I think it’s important to look realistically at the tradeoffs, because there are still only 24 hrs in a day, and so when you add hours of other obligations in, you have to take the equivalent number of hours of other stuff out. And I’d really hate for you to end up making tradeoffs that leave you all less happy (like cutting kid activities, or cleaning bathrooms every two weeks), because now you’re not running your family like you really wanted to.

  40. I found that the kids and DH do well with lists of things that need to be done v. me asking them (which can be taken as nagging).

  41. “In our case we rely on the cleaning spirits”

    We exorcised those spirits long ago.

    We have a cleaning lady every other week. This morning I realized that school is in full session because the laundry monster is taking over the living room. Everyone who doesn’t fix dinner does the dishes. The kids make their own breakfast and lunches. Any kid who is nearby is likely to be drafted to empty the dishwasher or take out the garbage. Over the summer, one kid decided that she needed to clean the house everyday. If I had any idea what caused this behavior, I would write it up and sell it.

  42. One past job I had included a multimonth crunch time and I had a monthly menu that rotated proteins and carbs. Then I had a shopping list with the ingredients for those meals prepared. Before shopping, I’d do a quick freezer, pantry, frig check to see if everything was needed. If something was on sale that would hold or freeze until it came up on the menu, I would buy extra. Hmmmm…maybe we need to reinstate that system, only I am no longer the cook and my DP (darling partner) is more of a whim cooker.

    Rhett @ 12:11 – So, so true! Thanks for the reminder.

  43. We don’t have a cleaning person. The cleaning spirits descend when we’re having company over. Other than that, there’s no set schedule. The kitchen and the family room get cleaned regularly just because we’re in there all the time. I tend to do it. DH does major jobs, including outside stuff, repairs, car stuff, house maintenance. He cooks most nights and we split the dishes. The kids mow the lawn, help with snow removal, walk the dog, set/clear the table, clean (?) their rooms and sometimes cook. They get cash for helping with big jobs (leave removal, putting down mulch, staining the deck). I plan our meals a week out, which is a huge help. Each person is responsible for their own laundry, even the kids. They get allowance but it’s not tied to chores.

  44. We have only one kid, but boy is it a lot of work. Besides, DH and I are essentially lazy when it comes to household work. DH travels for work and in my opinion is psychologically just burdened by the thought of how hard he works. In reality, his evenings are completely free and he is usually vegging out in front of the tv in his room, eating nice dinners on his per diem etc. But because of the said burden, he gave up playing in this team sports activity on Sundays – you know because how can he do it anymore? He has a traveling job you see. The said burden also makes him resentful of having to do any work when he comes home. I usually roll my eyes and move on, but after kid it has been causing major strife between us. We have a townhome, so we dont have lawn care etc, but even things that need to be done around the house like fixing leaky faucets, installing shelves in the laundry room etc. have not been done.

    So as a result, we have washed clothes folded and heaped on the bedroom floor because there is just one shelf in the closet, paperwork laying about because we don’t have enough cabinets to keep it all sorted and stored etc.

    DH is also cheap when it comes to spending money on the house, except when it comes to spending money on things he wants. So he will not mind spending money to buy this big tv and Bose system, but he will cheap out when it comes to buying a stand for the said tv or is too lazy to take time and effort to mount the speakers on the wall. SO the tv is sitting on my dresser and the subwoofer is occupying precious space on the floor.

    Can you tell I am upset? We have been fighting almost every day lately. So I have decided to hurt him where it hurts the most. I have scheduled a handyman to come fix things around the house that need fixing and going to spend this weekend purchasing stuff that needs to be purchased to make our lives little saner. That involves buying a nice closet organization system, and some other pieces of furniture. The monthly housekeeper is going to start coming every two weeks if not weekly. Hopefully when he sees money going to stuff he deems not important, it will motivate him to be more proactive and take ownership of stuff around the house.

  45. Sky,
    I am a stay at home parent, and I think LFB has a point. Your time looks packed. When the kids get into school full swing, the evenings will be packed. Is going back to work feasible as scheduled? I would consider a clean sprint with the kids every night with the tag line: If we clean up we will have enough time to see Dad before bedtime. They clean anything your husband would notice from 8:30 to 9, then they mob him when he gets home and you get 9 to 9:30 to unwind before getting the kids to bed.

  46. LfB, thanks for the reality check :)

    I want to go back to work because I am a bit bored. OK, a *lot* bored.

    And in the long run we will need the money for college and retirement, which we don’t save enough for right now.

    My more rational side says that it would be easier to wait until the second child is in school full-day and the local grandparents are retired to go back to work. That will be at least another year, possibly 2 if the grandparents don’t retire soon.

    But I’m worried that if I stay out too much longer I will have a really hard time breaking back into the working world – I’ve been out for 4 years now. So I keep thinking that if I just find a local firm that needs a part-timer who doesn’t care about office space or benefits, then….

  47. does anyone else bicker constantly with their spouse about how the chores are split.
    he is a SAHD and I work FT with a commute. He thinks I never contribute enough.

  48. Dell: good for you for hiring the handyman. You live there too and deserve a functional space and sanity.

    Sky: I agree about setting expectations.

    I saw a survey recently that said that once people got married and both spouses worked, the housework tended to fall heavier on women because people reverted to traditional gender stereotypes. I’ve seen this among my own friends and it definitely causes a lot of resentment.

  49. I agree w/ LfB. You’re doing a ton. If you want to do it all, that’s great. If you don’t, I’d cut back, especially if you return to paid work. I don’t think your DH should expect you to keep the house to his standards. You should get the house to your standards — if he wants to do the extra to get it up to his, let him go for it. He who insists that super high standards be met should be the one to meet them, imho.

    My DH is so finicky about laundry. Solution: he has taken over our laundry (mine and his–kids do their own). Washes, dries, folds, puts away. I do all the meals and all the family finances and admin. Only I care about whether the place is picked up, so I do that more than DH, though he makes an effort b/c he knows it matters to me. We have outsourced weekly cleaning, gardening and snow removal. We each like doing the few big chores we have, and we’re able to keep up with them. We did not like it when we had those plus vacuuming, bathrooms, etc., and we never kept up with the other things.

    On kids, I expect them to help when asked, and to be cheerful/gracious about it. No pay. No “my job is taking out the trash, so don’t ask me to now clean the kitchen.” No “that’s X’s job, not mine,” etc. We all live in the house, and we all need to do what it takes to keep it clean, no matter what that is and when it needs to be done. However, I always ask them nicely and I always thank them when they’ve done it. When they do things without being asked–clean the kitchen, feed/walk the dogs, straighten the family room, offer to start dinner, offer to go get the groceries–I thank them profusely and make a big deal about it. I don’t require they meet my standards–if they clean a huge mess of a kitchen and forget to wipe the counters, I thank them for their efforts and I wipe the kitchen when they’re out of the room. Same if they load the dishwasher but don’t wash the pots. Or unload it but put stuff in the wrong place. I don’t want them to think they can’t do it as well as I want, so why bother trying. I want them to think that any effort they make to help out will be hugely appreciated — and it is.

  50. “I thought about a ceiling rack but the builder back in 1941 made it a 7’9″ ceiling. DRAT.”

    How tall are you? Is that why you picked that handle?

    A couple things I’ve done to maximize use of garage space:

    -Along the walls, we have some shelves that are high enough to walk under without bending over. At our previous house, that was about 6′ high (neither DW nor I are that tall); at our current house, it’s more like 6.5′ high, installed by previous owner.

    -I have a bunch of infrequently used stuff hanging from hooks above where the cars are parked. Kids’ bikes go over a car hood. Extension ladder hangs above DW’s car. You probably can’t put much above an SUV roof, but there will be room over the hood that is easily accessible and suitable for stuff like the beach chairs. Just make sure to screw your hooks into rafters.

    I’m curious; why do you have 8 strollers? Do you need that many?

  51. “I saw a survey recently that said that once people got married and both spouses worked, the housework tended to fall heavier on women because people reverted to traditional gender stereotypes. I’ve seen this among my own friends and it definitely causes a lot of resentment.”

    We nearly entered this trap. I worked longer hours with a longer commute and had to do everything around the house. I literally snapped at month 2. Sitting on the kitchen floor, ugly crying because I was strung out. It worked. DH picked up a lot of the work and now splits pretty evenly with me. During tough times in grad school, he picked up the lion’s share. Now it’s falling back to even, with an added dynamic of another adult (who likes cleaning… weirdo), another dog and a baby.

    Slight tangent, how do other adults who are caregivers for their parents monitor meds for the parents? My mom ran out of mood stabilizers and didn’t say anything for 3 weeks. I kept wondering why she was overly sensitive. How do I make sure that she keeps her meds up while not stepping on her freedom?

  52. “VW is now trading at a P/E of 4.9 with a dividend of 4.58%”

    that is tempting, if I bought individual stocks. I’d have to look into what % of their sales come from diesels, and whether this affects their diesels outside of the U.S.

  53. strollers…we need to pare these down soon, but you can easily accumulate regular/infant seat one, umbrella one for easy portability, double stroller, single jogger, double jogger. That’s five.

  54. Rhett – DH was thinking about buying some this a.m. and I said no.

    We wait for the cleaning spirits to descend or have a dinner party to keep our house in line. DH is too cheap to get a cleaning person and we’re trying to save major money this year.

    Sky – I agree w/LfB. The days I stay home with the kids (and I think ours are maybe around the same age), the house is a mess. I cannot keep up. with their tornado of mess. I can maybe do some dinner prep during nap time and bake something if I’m feeling particularly wholesome, but after entertaining all morning sometimes I just want to relax during that time. Honestly I think I get more done while working because I’m much better about managing my time and I can use my lunch hour to run to the grocery store or do other errands.

  55. @Sky — yeah, I *totally* get that (major part of the reason I was miserable in ABQ; you have done far, far better than I ever could have). So start having those conversations! I also like the idea above (I think it was L?) about practicing new routines, but I’d take it a step further and actually live your life as a practice run to see what would it actually be like to be gone for XX hours/day? Say 4 hrs/day, 3x/week. Set aside that specific 4 hours to do *only* child care (i.e., the stuff someone else would be picking up when you go to work), and then do your cleaning/laundry/chores/pickup/groceries/cooking/etc. only outside of those specific periods. How does that feel? What needs to give? Then have some conversations with your husband about what he thinks is important vs. what you think is important.

    FWIW, one thing I did learn from watching DH is that sometimes you really can do less and get away with it. I used to get *so* mad, because whenever he’d give the kids a bath, I’d take care of something that needed to be done (including sometimes doing “his” job of doing dishes), but whenever it was my turn, I’d come downstairs to see him reading the paper or playing a computer game. But then I thought: who says I’m the one that’s right about this? What’s wrong with grabbing a little downtime? Now, personally, if DH ever told me that “all” I needed to do was XYZ, I’d go from 0 to full-out-white-hot rage in 0.2 seconds. But then again, maybe there’s nothing wrong with plopping the kids down in front of a cartoon for an hour so you can do a quick clean/dinner prep/etc., if that helps you get through everything else and maintain your sanity (and as long as you *both* agree that this achieves a reasonable level of cleanliness).

    I think it was Moxie who first said that the key to her success was setting the bar really, really low. That is the single-best advice I ever heard on this board, and I have completely adopted it as my motto — it helps me focus my effort toward the things that *we* care about the most, and drop/minimize all of the other crap that gets in your head.

  56. Oh, and I totally forgot: growing up, we always had “cleaning time”: Saturday mornings as soon as everyone was up, but no later than 10:00 AM. My stepdad would put CCR on the stereo (because he could hear the beat over the vacuum cleaner), and I’d know it was time to get out of bed and start cleaning. The reasons it worked were because (i) we all did it together, and (ii) no one was allowed to do anything fun, ever, until the cleaning was done.

    I hated it — my mom was a neat freak, I was NOT, and I resented having to keep my room to some arbitrary standard I didn’t sign on for. BUT: it worked. The cleaning got done, with a minimum of whining.

    Added advantage here, of course, that if you pick a weekend time, you can get all five of you pitching in, vs. just you and the kids. :-)

  57. On med monitoring…I may be more involved as I count out the pills each Sunday into her weekly pill box. At that time I look to see if I can fill the entire next week, if not, I use the Walgreen’s app to scan and request a refill. I just have to pick it up before the following Sunday. The same thing with her non-prescription supplements/meds. As soon as I can’t fill the entire following week, that item goes on the shopping list.

    Other steps I took –
    1. Set up a pharmacy account to order online and/or via their app. I put her email and my phone in so we get both email and text notification. They send a reminder when it SHOULD be time to reorder. For a drug that is on a regular schedule that works great, but not so much on an as needed drug.
    2. Look at the Care Zone or Senior Care apps – they give you reminders for things, but the best part for me is I always have a list of her meds when we go to the hospital/doctor.

  58. I agree with everything LfB said–it sounds like you’re doing a superhuman amount already, so you and your DH definitely need to have some conversations about what needs to shift/change in order to facilitate you going back to paid work so that it’s not a total misery for you. Honestly, it sounds like you should have that conversation even if you decide not to go back right now.

    The chores situation in my house growing up was more or less as Risley described–there were certain chores expected on a routine basis (setting/clearing table, folding laundry, mowing the lawn) and we each generally had our particular assignments, but there was no toleration for “that’s not my job.” If you were asked to do it, it was your job. And chores were unrelated to allowance or other incentives–you did chores because you were part of the family and that’s what was expected of family members. Cuts down significantly on the whining/negotiating/etc. (not that we didn’t whine). Of course, Baby June is too young for us to have had to implement any of these strategies yet.

  59. I enjoy reading all the recommendations, and in hindsight I could have done things a bit differently. My now grown kids keep their rooms like pigsties, but that’s fine with me since I don’t see it. I’m a control freak about some things, like laundry. Actually, I find it very annoying that when other household members do the wash, they are apt to leave clothes in the dryer and even in the washer for a day or more, where I will find it when I’m ready to do the laundry. So I prefer to do all of it. Plus, I don’t trust anyone else with my precious clothes.

    I’m waiting for Rhett to chime in that if a wife isn’t bringing in money she’d better darn well keep the house clean to husband’s (reasonable) standards. ;)

  60. I just started using a medicine app to track my meds. *slaps hand to forehead* Why didn’t I do this before???

  61. I’m waiting for Rhett to chime in that if a wife isn’t bringing in money she’d better darn well keep the house clean to husband’s (reasonable) standards. ;)

    On one hand, he does seem to work very long days to keep them in apparently quite comfortable circumstances. On the other hand, there are opinion he might be better off keeping to himself.

  62. Sky,

    Has he ever taken care of the kids while you were away? Maybe a girls weekend might be an idea? Just to give him a sense of what you’re dealing with.

  63. As a SAHM, I was keenly aware that my H’s participation in household management was “limited by his work and commute”. A main reason for my decision to stop working was to make things less stressful for all of us, and that meant doing almost all the home stuff. But since we juggled for about ten years with both of us working FT+ with kids, my H had a good idea how much work childcare involved.

  64. Rhode — When I was managing meds for my mother, I got one of those seven-compartment pill boxes that have one compartment for each day of the week. I would go over to her place once a week (she lived close by at the time), and I would fill each box for the week with whatever pills she was supposed to take. That way the only thing she had to do was to take the right pills on the right days, which she was capable of for a while. Each time I refilled her boxes, if I noticed that a bottle of pills was running low, I would buy a replacement (or call in for a refill).

    When she went into assisted living, I signed up for a pharmacy service that delivered packets of medication directly to her apartment. The packets were also sorted by day (and even by time of day), so all the staff had to do was to open the appropriate packet at the appropriate time, and give her her pills.

    On topic, since I left biglaw a few years ago, I have generally been home in the afternoons (I now work on my own and can largely set my own schedule). During that time, I get the kids from school, talk to them about their day, help with homework, help with any school-related drama that might have taken place during the day, take the kids to extracurricular activities, run errands, return phone calls and e-mails for work, cook dinner, get dinner on the table, attend to laundry and the dishwasher if and as needed, etc. etc. etc. Suffice it to say that my afternoons are busy. Soon after I went to my current schedule, DH (who generally comes home at about 6:00, even though the school day ends at 3:00 — after his kids leave for the day, he generally works late at school and then goes off to exercise) would complain about the clutter that he would come home to (e.g. kids’ stuff on the living room floor, or on the kitchen counters, or strewn willy-nilly around their rooms). He was of the “all you have to do is…” mindset — e.g. he essentially told me, “all you have to do is tell the kids to clean up after themselves, and then follow through with them.” I told him in no uncertain terms that the last thing I needed was another afternoon chore on my plate, and that if it was so easy organize a clutter clean-up, he could surely cut just a few minutes out of his after-school activities, and come home a little early, and organize it himself. That was the end of his nagging. To his credit, he now he leads a clutter clean-up with the kids every weekend, and just lets it go during the workweek.

  65. Oh, and in terms of cleaning — our standards are woefully low. I justify this by citing to the hygiene hypothesis; by keeping the house in, shall we say, non-pristine condition, I’m exposing my kids to lots and lots of germs, and this will give them really strong immune systems! So, gold star mother award to me!

  66. First, I second LfB. Mr. WCE had a come-to-Jesus moment when I went to my grandmother’s funeral when the twins were potty training. I was gone for four days. He was going to take care of the kids, keep up with the potty training, buy the groceries on the list and pick up the house, because I don’t do well enough at it and he was off work. When I got home, the twins were in Pull-Ups (couldn’t keep one on the potty while cleaning up the other’s accidents), the house was its usual level of messiness, the laundry hadn’t been done, and the groceries hadn’t been purchased. Sky, you need to find an ailing great aunt in the Caribbean.

    I was afraid you were going to take a job similar in intensity to your husband. Is he willing to coordinate childcare for days off school and take time off for sick kids? How much outside childcare would he think is OK? Are you “let’s hire two nannies” kind of people?

    I just returned to work after a hectic year. Baby WCE’s clothes and hand-me-downs have been sitting on the floor waiting to be organized. The refrigerator shelves/drawers need to be washed. I work ~24 hr/week at my employer and ~4 at my small business, pump for/nurse Baby WCE, manage the finances, deal with homework/school stuff, do the laundry except Mr WCE’s exercise clothes, cook 6 nights/week and have been trying to use the produce from the garden and fruit trees. (impossible garden pie, corn chowder, apple casserole and stuffed green peppers have been on recent menus)

    Mr WCE will be gone ~7 weeks over 4 months, between work and hunting trips. When I got home yesterday, he was napping with Baby WCE, who got her first cold at childcare and has been up a lot at night. He might claim he does more than I admit, and he handles yard stuff including spraying fruit trees and auto repair, but he is still accustomed to committing to lots of home projects and then expecting me to cover urgent stuff when he’s sick/tired/gone/gets a migraine.

    I can offer blindingly obvious recommendations (throw the sheets from the upstairs beds in one day and the sheets from the downstairs beds in another so you’re not delayed by the dryer) but you’re already a better home manager than I am.

    I second the general recommendation to do what you care about. I care about healthy food and am willing to cook. I care about limiting screen time and making the kids do their assigned chores. In practice, Mr WCE doesn’t care enough about either of these to follow through regularly. I do not dust. If Mr WCE cares, he can dust and he did, but only every few months, when I was home full-time. We have an every-other-week cleaning lady who does the floors, bathroom and kitchen thoroughly because my standards are lower than what Mr WCE would like. When we both worked full-time, he expected me to cook and do laundry solo and ALSO help when he felt like cleaning.

    Basically, I am not a poster child for home management.

  67. “our standards are woefully low”

    You are never invited to my house. :-)

    Of course, it could also be about relative vs. objective. My house is objectively clean as compared to a mud hut, yet it is still a Big Fat Giant Mess compared to most of my friends’ and what I read on this board.

    Exhibit A being that even in the worst of the potty-training, I have never, ever, even considered cleaning my bathroom daily. Or every other day. Or every third day. . . .

  68. I never realized my low was so high until I went to friends’ houses… my house looks immaculate in comparison…

    Two weeks ago, I went to a friend’s house to pick up something I loaned her… there was a distinct path from the door to the kitchen. The rest of the floor was covered with their stuff and their baby’s stuff. I never felt so proud of my level of mess. At least you can see the floor.

    You may not want to walk around my house barefoot, and the tub surely needs a scrub. The carpets upstairs need a deep clean, and I find dog food crumbs and twigs/leaves/acorns all over the house. But the dog and kid toys are put away and I have a meal plan.

  69. SSM – I made your unstuffed chicken cordon bleu and it was good. The plan had been for my DS to cut the grass and to help me make the dish, but that somehow got switched to him cutting the grass in exchange for not having to help me with the dish!

  70. Milo – I made your egg casserole. I baked it, cut it all up, froze some for next week,and reheated a slice from the fridge for breakfast this morning. It is good! I went ahead and added 12 eggs instead of 10. All the other ingredients were “total container,” so it didn’t seem balanced to not use a “whole container” of eggs as well. :) But I did only use half a container of green chiles because I already had that in the fridge leftover from another recipe (black bean burgers). ha ha

  71. This apple casserole is one my mom got from her German land lady. Things weren’t so great there after WW II. One of my kids loves this recipe.
    1 1/8 c all purpose flour
    1/4 t salt
    2 T cooking oil
    1/2 c hot water
    ~2-3 c sliced peeled apples (I use an apple peeler)
    1 c milk
    cinnamon sugar, if desired
    Form dough with ingredients through hot water. Roll out in a rectangle, place apples on top and roll up jelly-roll style. Top apples with cinnamon/sugar, if desired. Pour milk over top and bake ~45-60 min at 350 or until the milk has a skin on it and the dough is a bit hard. Serve with additional milk or cream.

  72. You will use additional flour when you roll out the above recipe, until the dough is not super sticky.

  73. GB – Oh, cool. I think it was my SIL who discovered it, and my Mom has made it a bunch. I don’t know that I’ve had any other egg casseroles, so when Cat asked about it in comparison, I wasn’t really sure.

    DW brought it to a Mom’s thing at church last week (where EVERYONE has to bring something, therefore each item is barely touched), so I’d been eating the leftovers.

    My Mom makes a really good shrimp lasagna that I should share sometime, but I have to get the recipe first.

  74. We have a house cleaner who comes every other week. I try to be out of the house when she is there so that I have 2 minutes of a gloriously clean house before my kids wreck it. Luckily, my husband has no such ideas that the house should be neat when he arrives home. He is satisfied with less than half the house in tears and a meal mostly done. I am not a natural housewife and he knows this.

  75. On lower standards, the wife and I will discuss some unmarried female colleague of her and ruminate on exactly why that person remains single. She always comes back to that person’s decision not to lower her standards. I laugh hoping it is a joke.

  76. lagirl – the 9/15 topic had a bunch of recipes:

    Egg Casserole:

    10 eggs, well beaten
    1/2 C flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper
    1 16oz container cottage cheese
    1 16oz package shredded Monterey Jack
    1 4oz can chopped green chiles
    1 lb sausage, cooked and drained. (the tube of bulk sausage works well, break it up small)

    Break and beat eggs in bowl. Separately, mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Combine flour mixture and cottage cheese, then add this to the beaten eggs. Add grated cheese and chiles and sausage into the egg/cottage cheese mixture. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

    Can also be prepared the night before, refrigerated, and baked the next morning. Bake for 45 min in that case.

  77. This has evolved for us. When we were newlyweds, we hired a cleaning lady 1/mo and it seemed like a splurge. After the first baby, we went to twice a month with the cleaning lady. When kid #2 came along, we went to weekly cleanings and a yard guy. At 3 and 5, kids are starting to have more jobs around the house. I don’t care about perfection, so I’m fine with having the 5yo vacuum and the 3yo wipe off the kitchen table etc between visits from the cleaning fairy. DH and I both do laundry, though DH tends to lack follow through in that department. The kids like to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and front loaders make that possible for small children, so that’s a win. I think the keys for us are low expectations, shared calendars, outsourcing, and m&ms for good little helpers.

  78. Rhett, you’re big on the rhoomba. We have a tri-level with a finished basement, so four levels. It seems like we’d have to be constantly moving it around and setting up the gates so it doesn’t fall down the stairs. Or am I missing something?

  79. It seems like we’d have to be constantly moving it around and setting up the gates so it doesn’t fall down the stairs.

    It has a sensor that detects stairs so it won’t fall down them.

  80. One tip from growing up – there used to always be squabbling about washing dishes some other family member had left in the sink. The rule was made that if you saw a dish in the sink, it had to be washed and put away. It sort of became ingrained into everyone at home, so no stray dishes stayed in the sink waiting to be washed.

  81. By cleaning bathrooms every day, I mean dealing with obvious messes with a Clorox wipe :). We are starting to toilet train child #3.

    WCE, when I worked after DD, my job was about as intense as DH’s job is now and I made as much.

    There is no way I could get up at 6 am, get all 3 out the door by the 7:15 train, work all day, walk in the door at 7, take calls while getting the kids fed and to bed, and then log in to work by 9 pm and sign off at 11, and get up 2-4 times with the kids at night. It was a nightmare doing it with one child because I was always tired and she was always angry.

    I’m thinking more 3 mornings a week at a local firm, so I can leave the youngest with a sitter.

  82. Agree with Milo on totebagger low standards. When the frequently unemployed in law nephew vacated what used to be MILs house, there were months worth of dirty diapers all over the house, and “inches” of dog feces on the floor. Apparently the furniture rental repo guys streamed out of the house gagging. So my low standards suddenly look very very high.

  83. We don’t have paid cleaning or yard help and it shows. And with the kids back to school and the homework and activities in full swing, it’s harder to get their assistance both because most of their evenings and weekends are already spoken for, and because I’m home later due to extra-curric pickups, so I’m not around to harry the kid(s) who don’t have something that afternoon.

    So there’s laundry on the couch, some folded and some awaiting folding, papers on the dining room table, and the bathrooms are looking nasty. But at least my daughter has been cleared to walk boot-and-crutch-free again so if I can just break her of what’s now a habit of lounging on the couch and disordering the cushions and leaving cups and wrappers around, and gently remind her of the concept of tidying her own mess, that will help.

  84. MBT, apropos of nothing, is your son into reading wuxia? I ask because my son is big into that and the closely related genres and I know he and your son have overlapping interests.

  85. Louise – In my house the “dish in the sink” rule would mean that everyone would avoid the kitchen so that they never saw the dirty dish!

    My house stays pretty clean because the kids are not in it any more (except for school vacations)! The new dog creates the biggest mess with a lot of shedding. While I am praying for El Nino this winter, I also realize that it will lead to a lot of mud coming in the house after dog walks.

    As a SAHM I kept our apartments/house pretty clean and had a cleaning lady once a month or every two weeks. We also cleaned before she came, so that helped as well. DH was always satisfied with the level of cleanliness, so that was very nice as well!

  86. Everyone keeps talking about the bathroom being dirty. I’m in charge of bathroom cleaning as its my favorite room to clean(nothing so rewarding as the gleam of freshly washed porcelain). You Clorox scrub wand the bowl, Clorox spray the toilet rim and outside, Clorox the counter, windex the mirror and swifter the floor. It takes 5 min tops.

    Note: using Kiehls we generate almost no soap scum so I don’t need to Kaboom the shower that often.

  87. We started getting help cleaning when I was pregnant with DD#1, working full time and dealing with the gestational diabetes. At first it was sporatic. When I went back to work after maternity leave, after a few months and DD#1 starting to crawl, it was clear we needed to out source something to keep up. House cleaning was the easiest item to outsource as things like grocery delivery weren’t available.

  88. I would like a cleaning lady and I have had cleaning crews come clean my house. They do a better job on the bathrooms but nothing else floors, furniture etc. was dirty enough where their cleaning made a significant difference. If I stopped doing any cleaning in between then there would be a definite difference.

  89. Sky – I could write many paragraphs on all this, but I encourage you to sit down with your husband and ask him point blank if he is willing to pick up any additional chores or have a different type of household if you go back to work. Before he starts in on the “after tax you are not bringing in any net money if you have to outsource all this stuff”, make sure he understands that you are not going back now very part time for the current money, but because you need to keep your hand in to ramp up later. He may then point out that when three kids start having more activities and random days off for school schedules and weather, you won’t really be able to ramp up much more in a conventional law job and still maintain the sort of highly organized household that you have described in past posts, at least not without hiring at a minimum a 20 hour a week housekeeper/cook/laundress or child activity/homework coordinator or some combo.

    If he is really resistant, you have to do some hard thinking. A lot of families think that they would have a somewhat mixed role deal, but find it doesn’t work out that way. There are as many UMC SAH women who find that the family likes the arrangement just fine and will come close to sabotaging a reentry into the workforce, as there are UMC men who keep waiting for their SAH wives to offer to shoulder some of the breadwinning that is grinding them down. It may be that you have to start strategizing now to discover and establish a consulting or home based business that can get last you through all of the school years.

  90. HM – I will have to ask him tonight. He reads constantly, but right now is reading books borrowed from a friend so I don’t know the genre. I googled wuxia, and it definitely sounds like something he’d like. Thanks!

  91. We have had a cleaning lady since very early on. DH’s line was “It’s cheaper than couples therapy” (remember, he had a failed marriage behind him.) Sky, I would punch your DH’s lights out, but I’m cranky. It would really be great if he had some way to see how much work is involved with three small children. And how exhausting boredom is.

  92. Sky – you should leave him with the kids for a long weekend. And don’t prepare anything in advance.

  93. I agree with Meme’s post. I have mentioned before that there have been a few SAMs I know who have asked me about workforce re entry but have not followed through. I know of only two women who went back to part time positions like the type Sky has mentioned. The other women of my acquaintance continued on the paths of working full time but trying for positions with flexibility or stayed home, especially the ones with three kids.

  94. Sky – I only have two kids, but whenever I left DH alone with them nothing got done except keeping them alive. That was fine; I really didn’t have any other expectations. It definitely allowed him to see how much work it was just to care for small children – when you add in cook/cleaner/household manager – he appreciated me and all that I did. I did not have your desire to keep my foot in the door of the working world, so I think Meme’s suggestions are good ones.

    I know that posters have suggested going away for a weekend – have you ever left him with all 3 kids for a whole day or even half a day? I would be curious to know how he fared.

  95. Sky, I can’t limit my work to 3 mornings/week very easily but if you can find such a position, I think you should absolutely take it. I went back to work 24 hr/week when my twins were in preschool. Mr WCE is willing to help with hands-on childcare (he got them ready three mornings/week) and doing that forced him to recognize that they don’t just get themselves dressed and ready.

    i have a housecleaner in part because I know the woman I hire, she has four sons of her own and some of my friends employ her. She does a great job and, due to her husband, I want her to have access to some money of her own, to buy groceries and stuff her kids need. I pay her more than the contract services make and she works quickly and efficiently while her kids are at school. She used to bring her youngest (preschool-age) child with my permission. We live in a muddy climate with a white kitchen and getting the house back to “good” every two weeks saves my sanity. My kids have basic chores (putting clothes away, setting/clearing table) but DS1 just got tall enough to turn the kitchen sink off/on and they are very distractable. Mr. WCE cannot be responsible for important paperwork and a housekeeper is the best solution for a man who wants a clean house and four children and a wife who works at all.

  96. DH has not had all three kids by himself for more than an hour or two.

    Unfortunately I do not have a great aunt who is ailing off in the Caribbean. Maybe I should adopt one ;)

  97. Sky – I do 80% and could probably do 60% if pressed, and less if I didn’t require benefits. I also have a friend who does contract work at an hourly rate, on a schedule similar to what you’re contemplating. Please do feel free to email me at L juggle atty at gmail (all one word) if you would like to discuss reentry. I can’t remember if we are in the same field or not but it might be similar *enough* to talk about at least. :)

  98. “DH has not had all three kids by himself for more than an hour or two.”

    I would suggest a whole day at least, if not a weekend. :)

  99. I agree with L. Preferably a weekend. Really, seriously, right know he doesn’t even know what he doesn’t know and you’re not going to be able to discuss things productively until he has a better sense of all the things you’re doing that are invisible to him.

  100. It has a sensor that detects stairs so it won’t fall down them.

    Ah. When they first came out, the reviews all talked about the hassle of setting up gates to keep it penned in.

    WIll it actually make the turns to get into all the bedrooms?

  101. Speaking of household cleaning, I wish to thank the posters (I think there were several) who suggested that I get a spot bot or similar handheld wet vac when we adopted the cats. Mine are very healthy and have never had a litterbox accident, but from time to time even the healthiest cat barfs from eating too fast or from an unfamiliar food (such as the similar but not exactly as ordered variety sent by Petco in the last delivery). The evidence disappears as if by magic.

  102. He must see that three kids are a lot of work and action, right? I am baffled how someone can spend any amount of time with 3 small kids and not realize this. My husband has never had our three for any appreciable amount of time, but he is observant enough to be a little scared for when I go away next month for a weekend without them. He has already requested that I set up some babysitters to help out for a few hours…

  103. Milo, I was wondering where you were. I was remembering your “work like a mule” comment from last December. We have Christmas followed by three birthdays in the next three weeks, and your comment stuck with me. It’s how I felt, and being almost 8 months pregnant didn’t help.

  104. Catching up with the Volkswagen post, I think all the conscientious South Korean engineers I edit for deserve raises even though they have NOT been able to get their diesel engines up to US pollution standards.

    Legislating environmental requirements does not make them achievable. And after puzzling over how Volkswagen diesel engines could perform so well, I’ve decided my BS detector is pretty darn good.

  105. WCE – I feel like we’ve stumbled into Easy Age. They do a pretty good job of occupying themselves, even playing with the youngest. The older two are capable of legitimately helping out, as I described above. They don’t require nagging to complete homework. The youngest loves preschool.

    Even the other night after dinner, I made a fire in the fire pit, and they were just roasting their S’mores independently. It’s these little things I notice that start to add up.

    DW would surely cite a myriad of counter examples, but, you know, big picture, things have been going pretty well. I’d forgotten my mule comment.

  106. Regarding VW, I’m really curious how many owners who were previously attracted to the “clean diesel” are going to make sure that their cars don’t get anywhere near the dealership for any recall work. And if so, can/will states and other localities make the requirements of new emissions tests retroactive to existing vehicles? That seems problematic, too. And if they do, there might be a few potential buyers living in areas not subject to emissions testing who will take a deeply discounted, non-fixed diesel VW in the used market and squeeze 200,000 miles out of it.

  107. Milo, as far as I can tell, one of the prime effects of emissions testing is to transfer vehicles from areas with emissions testing to areas without it. Most people aren’t willing to spend more than a few hundred dollars to fix an emissions problem.

    Emissions is also an area where removing the worst 1% of vehicles (as a function of miles driven AND emissions per mile, so collectors can keep their Model T’s) would be of enormous social benefit. Cash for clunkers was a clumsy attempt to recognize that, I think.

    My sons are getting easier, but the transition to school all day is rough on the twins. DS1 can mostly track his own stuff now. First grade was when he transitioned to knowing what day of the week it was for knowing when he needed his library book, PE shoes, etc. None of my sons regularly knew what day of the week it was in kindergarten.

  108. I, too, support the weekend away idea. I’ve left the kids with DH when they were young. It made him appreciate me more, but it enabled him to learn some new skills, as well. Visit a friend. Take a class that gives you an excuse to get out in the evening and forces DH to take over more responsibilities.

  109. Back in the days when Little Bear was regularly screened at our house, I would find myself pondering how Little Bear’s family managed to have such a serene, gentle existence. Mother Bear never seemed to do any heavy work, just stirring soup or baking or sewing or knitting. And she never yelled at Baby Bear, perhaps because when she would ask him to do something like get dressed he would simply do it, or at worst would find some creative way to dawdle that would take up the whole story at the end of which he would do whatever it was without Mother Bear having to repeat herself every five seconds. “Well, Mother Bear only has the one cub,” I would tell myself, “and apparently he’s a lot more independent than his target audience since he spends most of his day in the woods.” I would also remind myself, “These are cartoon bears and were never intended to be an accurate representation of life with small children.” But it didn’t really help.

  110. one of the prime effects of emissions testing is to transfer vehicles from areas with emissions testing to areas without it.

    The vast majority of vehicles that fail inspection don’t end up in the crusher?

  111. honolulu mother – I remember that show so well. It was calm and soothing – although I never understood why Little Bear didn’t wear any clothes but his parents did!

  112. And she never yelled at Milo, perhaps because when she would ask him to do something like get dressed he would simply do it, or at worst would find some creative way to dawdle that would take up the whole story at the end of which he would do whatever it was without Milo’s Mom having to repeat herself every five seconds.

    It totally works.

  113. Rhett, it does, but your comparison coming immediately after SSK’s post was an unfortunate juxtaposition.

  114. Sky, direct question — what are the odds you can actually get DH to look after the kids for a weekend?

  115. although I never understood why Little Bear didn’t wear any clothes but his parents did!

    It’s sort of like Donald Duck never wearing pants but wearing a towel when he gets out of the shower. The only explaination that works is that you can only see “it” when his feathers are wet.

  116. Rhett – that makes sense. When he goes swimming, he takes off his sailor’s jumper, but he puts on trunks.

  117. Rhett – same reason people bring towels to nude beaches. Want to dry off the nether regions, particuarly if they are covered by feathers that take long to dry.

  118. RMS, he wouldn’t watch them for a weekend. If I were suddenly hospitalized (which, let’s face it, is the only way I’d be away for the weekend) he would call in backup.

  119. But to be fair this is partly my fault, because if you never have anyone else put your kids to bed, it is not a surprise to come home to a house full of wakeful children at the end of the pta meeting.

    Also one of the things I’m working on….

  120. While we are slagging Mr. Sky, let me point out that I would find it hard to fill in for wife in the corporate world with any level of efficiency. Her company has 30 people named Xi, so I doubt I could come in and get a first email out in less than an hour.

  121. But Sky has worked a similar job herself and has a good idea of what his day entails. The problem seems to be that he doesn’t have a real sense of what her days are like, and it’s human nature to assume that work done out of your sight can’t be all that hard.

  122. Sky – why would he call in back-up? Because he thinks it would be hard to do alone or because it isn’t his job?

  123. He knows they are a lot of work.

    Twice in the last week another parent has asked me if I’m worried about my kids being kidnapped, and I replied that I’ve read “The Ransom of Red Chief.” Whoever takes one will pay me to take the child back.

  124. Since our move, we haven’t had consistent cleaners. Panic cleaning sprints for guests got us through the summer. The problem is we have a lot of space and it takes a cleaner a of time to clean it all (I know, imagine the tragedy of having a very large house). I really want someone to come in and half-a$$ do everything. When cleaners come, it takes a tremendous amount of time, everything sparkles for about five minutes, then the grime returns. If I could afford 1/4 of Rhett’s hourly rate, I would want him to come spend 5 minutes in each of my bathrooms, and in 15 minutes we could call it good enough. I don’t know how to find a cleaner that will clean the just right amount.

  125. Ada, sometimes I want that, so I tell the housekeeper exactly what I want done and in what order and that I don’t want her to spend more than 4 hours, so what isn’t finished then isn’t finished.

    After I had asked for it a few times, she knew what I meant by a light clean and that she could get done with our house in time to do another house in the afternoon.

    I’ve also had her come in just to do the kitchen and bathrooms, as that’s most of the heavy work.

  126. Ada, I would ask around for references. Part of why our cleaner is such a good fit for us is that she has 4 sons of her own, so she’s used to working around Legos and clutter, and I pay her for a set number of hours (4 for biweekly or 5 for monthly). Like the Milos, it also forces picking up the house every couple weeks, which is a good thing.

  127. @ Sky – start by leaving two kids at a time with Mr. Sky. You can say that the time you spend with one kid – (going to the park/a movie/shopping) is mother/son or mother/daughter time. Say that it your way of having downtime. That way Mr. Sky is not overwhelmed at once and is not likely to call backup defeating the plan. Make the treat time into a carrot for good behavior for the kids. This is not a prefect situation but a compromise win/win situation where Mr. Sky gets experience at managing two at a time at first and then gradually you can leave all three. When Mr. Louise is in charge, he either sends the kids outside to play, has them sitting quietly on the sofa watching sports on TV or helping him clean the car, the garage etc. If they are being a nuisance, they are put to work.

  128. LFB at 12:16 said everything I was thinking, except for: Um, Sky, you have 3 kids under six, a husband who doesn’t help at all, and you cook from scratch because of food allergies. And you are thinking about cleaning out the garage? I can’t decide whether your standards are as high as your husband’s or you are trying to please an emotionally abusive partner. No one can do what your husband expects of you without a staff. But it seems like you are buying into the expectations, and that worries me.

  129. He “knows’ the kids are a lot of work, but he really doesn’t “know”.

    Both Sky and husband seem to have high expectations, maybe to their detriment.

    As meme and others have suggested, going back to work PT has its pitfalls. Some PT mothers complain they get half the pay for doing three-quarters of the job while handling 90% of the home responsibilities. I couldn’t find a happy way to work PT, so I opted to become a FT SAHM.

    I think the suggestion to have Mr. Sky experience for a day or two what it’s like to care for small kids is a good one, but it looks as if there is enough resistance so maybe this won’t be the solution. Good luck, Sky. There is no perfect solution, but I’m confident you’ll work this out in a way that makes sense for you and your family.

  130. My low expectations* have saved my sanity, but I also have regrets about not trying to achieve more. It’s a trade off.

    * Housekeeping low expectations generally means things are picked up and relatively neat, but disorganized/overstuffed drawers and closets, grimy sections of the walls and baseboards, and dusty corners are not attended to as often as they could be. The downstairs guest bathroom is usually clean, but the same cannot be said about the upstairs bathrooms.

    Here’s a conversation that’s somewhat relevant, about the accuracy of a male’s aim in the bathroom.

    May sound crude but is a real issue in our home.

  131. If I’m remembering my cast of characters correctly, Sky went to an Ivy League institution and worked in BigLaw. So her high expectations have served her well in some ways. This sounds like a difficult stage of life, Sky. I’m sorry if my previous remarks were unhelpful. As CoC says, there’s no perfect solution. Sometimes it helps to know that.

  132. “have you ever left him with all 3 kids for a whole day or even half a day? I would be curious to know how he fared.”

    I did great. (all survived every time).

    But yeah, lots of things that DW thought would get done, didn’t. All necessary personal and room sanitation was performed, nutrition delivered, sleep achieved. When older, add in school/scheduled events attended, homework done. Anything beyond that, was a nice to have (IMO), such as clutter removal. I’m kinda OCD about a neat kitchen and (our) bathroom, so those were pretty much as good as ever.

  133. I must say Mr. Austinmom was great with small kids. He was left many a time for the weekend or slightly longer with 2 under age 7 due to work and/or volunteer activities I was active in. Maybe I should be more grateful. He is more at a loss with teens and I find them easier. He doesn’t handle managing the varying scheudles, school requests (usually email or something like signup genius) and relatively constant flow of paperwork well at all. While he is technically in charge of managing DD#2 in MS, I still end up catching the ball before it hits the floor.

  134. From observing my grandkids (2, 4, 6) and their parents, this is a tough stage, in their case exacerbated by a cross country move and health issues within the last 18 mos. Mom feels like she is gasping for adult air and Dad is dreading 20 more years of the breadwinner straightjacket. Both feel constrained and unappreciated. You don’t have to be MMM to see how other choices would have made some of this pressure much less acute, but it is what it is.

    I can recall when my own youngest of four hit two years old and I went back to my alma mater for a six session work re-entry workshop (most of the attendees had older kids) I made a five year career entry plan (I had to learn an actual trade first, so there was 2 years of schooling and a professional exam involved before a paycheck), which was delayed by one year when family events intervened, but I did have my first day of (heavy full time) work 6 years later. There is no reason Sky can’t achieve quality part time work, but there will be tradeoffs and it will take a lot of perseverance on both the home and professional front.

    I always say that part of the problem for two earner UMC families is that they have no cultural experience with “staff” – upper class individuals “outsourced” everything from child minding to education to household maintenance to cooking, and they spent their days in leisure pursuits or overseeing the property/investments or some sort of family sinecure job. Their voluntary hands on work, such as care of horses or boats or gardens, may have been dedicated and dirty, but there was always staff involved as well.

  135. DH’s line was “It’s cheaper than couples therapy”

    we’re in couples therapy

    I need to sell DH on this idea, the housework chores cause so many arguments

  136. Wine – I’d offer my full-out ugly cry in the middle of the kitchen as one way to open DH’s eyes. It worked for mine, but he’s sensitive and hates to see me *that* upset. I think I cried myself into a panic attack that night.

    This discussion reminds me of a friend who told me one thing – when you land in a job after PhD, hire a housekeeper. Everyone needs a wife – especially career-driven women. My friend is more career-driven than me, but she has a point.

    I wish you luck Sky. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.

  137. A number of people seem horrified that I leave the house for six days every few months to do other, optional, work (to be fair, DH is sometimes one of those people). I have been doing this since my first was a toddler, and have fortunately had wide latitude to scale up or down as needed.

    It really has helped both of us appreciate the work that we do around the house and I am not the only one who can X (when X = put the kids to bed, make school lunches, get up in the middle of the night, etc.). Not to be too self-congratulatory – we have always had live-in help to make it work. However, having a built in, regular, absence forces me to keep systems in place to make the house run a bit more smoothly the rest of the time.

  138. Meme,

    Wouldn’t it also be true that for the upper middle class like Sky parental expectations are also a lot higher. You could keep a clean house c. 1975 because parenting involved a lot of playpens, TV and letting the kids roam the neighborhood.

  139. Sky: Have you thought about hiring a personal assistant? Maybe a college student for $15 an hour who will run errands, watch the kids, etc? Create a budget to hire out some stuff, so you can maintain your sanity. As Meme mentioned, this phase lasts only a few years and then things will get easier. If your DH would call in “back up”, why can’t you?

  140. My favorite story related to this was when DS was about 8 or 9 months old, I took him to NY for a weekend to see my grandparents and other family. All the comments I got were “she let you take him by yourself?” Granted these were from the older generation, who weren’t used to the idea of a father taking care of a baby.

  141. You could keep a clean house c. 1975 because parenting involved a lot of playpens, TV and letting the kids roam the neighborhood.

    “Go outside to play” was how MIL took care of three active kids and managed to cook and clean. Of course, now that MIL is a grandparent and wants to give us advice “we let us kids play outside” has become a standard to be lived up to – no one mentions that it let MIL maintain her sanity.

  142. Rhett – Several articles and one book I have read indicate that expectations on UMC parents are much higher than in previous generations – household cleanliness, personal hygiene, household appearance (inside – uncluttered and decorated- and outside – landscaping and yard maintenance), involvement in children’s lives (constant supervision/no play pens to attending every event/activity to in depth knowledge of classroom/educational issues) and all while regularly exercising, preparing and eating only healthy (definition varies) meals, ensuring the family participates in volunteer activities, and holding down professional jobs, some of which involve travel.

    Just writing that made me feel tired!

  143. I’m leaving my husband with my 4 and 2 year old in a week and a half to go camping with my oldest and her Brownie troop. Last year when I went, DH had one of our friends over (whose wife was on the camping trip with us) for a guys night and the house was still spotless when I came home. But he has no guilt about throwing the kids in front of the t.v. to get things done and I think that’s great.

  144. You could keep a clean house c. 1975 because parenting involved a lot of playpens, TV and letting the kids roam the neighborhood.

    And being told to get out of the house for 2 hours because Mom’s going to mop and you can’t come back til the floor’s dry. So you wandered over to the schoolyard and played on the equipment and tried to climb up on the roof of the school and maybe played horse with a couple of other kids if someone had brought a basketball, and tried to climb over the fence to get into the soccer field of the junior high, and just generally acted like unsupervised kids.

  145. @Sky — So it sounds like you’re also dealing with some learned incompetence. You started out with you taking on the bulk of the kid stuff, and so it’s always been easier/part of the “plan” for you to do that, so he never had to engage and figure it out, and now he doesn’t feel competent to do so, which effectively forces you to retain 100%. Add in that he doesn’t seem to really want to or feel like it’s his job, and you have a long process in front of you to change the status quo.

    But I also think you have to. First off, you’re not happy. Sure, you guys agreed that you’d stay home — and you’ve done that. But you’re now at a point where it isn’t working any more. So you have the right to change that dynamic to something that does work for you. Your needs and dreams and goals are just as important as your husband’s and your kids’. And I’m saying that directly without all of the qualifications because IME as mom, it’s very easy to forget that.

    But your husband is also losing out. Your decision to be SAHM does not free him from his job as dad — all you did on the parenting front is determine that during work hours, the kids will be cared for by mom instead of daycare; nights and weekends, when you’d both be home anyway, are still both of your responsibilities. But I’m not even looking at this as a “sharing the load” thing — that’s the housework and the diapers and hassle part. I’m looking at the fun and joy of parenting, of why you wanted to have these adorably annoying critters in the first place (which is ridiculously easy to lose sight of when you’re in the thick of it, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day boring chore-ness of it all). Kids aren’t supposed to be just a Bundle O’Hassle that is handed off from one parent to the other like a hot potato. I would expect any parent to *want* to come home and spend time with his kids, precisely because he has such a demanding job that he’s forced to be away from them for so long. I think of Milo here; you know he has a professional job with a DC-area commute, but half of his stories are about how he did this or that with his kids (even if it’s just raking the yard or whatever); they’re just a natural, easy, much-enjoyed part of his life.

    But most people don’t like to do things that they don’t feel competent to do — it’s easier to avoid it, or even belittle the effort involved, than to be forced to admit that they don’t know how to do it. This is also a stereotypical alpha male trait — it’s almost like the more in charge you are, and the more weight of responsibility you feel, the less you can afford to admit to being imperfect or not knowing something. So he may be avoiding in part because he doesn’t think he knows what to do, because you’ve always done everything, and it’s easier to avoid and disparage your efforts than to admit it. But in the end he’s the one who loses, because he doesn’t get the chance to build that relationship with his kids. He’s going to be the single-most important man in their lives; they need him to be engaged and knowing who they are and what they need. And that includes the confidence to know that he can manage on his own for a day or a weekend or a week or whatever.

    So I absolutely love Louise’s idea of splitting things up periodically on the weekends, when things aren’t as hectic. You take one or two, and he takes two or one. Each of you gets one-on-one time with a kid, which will help him develop both those relationships and his confidence in his ability to figure out what makes each kid tick (and, I hope, give you the equally valuable chance to have some fun and engage with just one). [FWIW, we do this with the grandparents — they adore both kids, but holy wow are our kids easier to handle separately]. And then when he has two, that’s sort of like training wheels for managing all three.

  146. I recently read that book “All Joy and No Fun” about modern parenting and the author pretty much nails upper middle class parenting. High standards and parents who feel the need to interact with their children all of the time. I really don’t remember my parents playing with us a whole lot as kids, we were just sent outside.

  147. I really don’t remember my parents playing with us a whole lot as kids, we were just sent outside.

    Right, but I also remember how much we wanted our parents to play with us at times.

    holy wow are our kids easier to handle separately

    Kids are totally different people when they are away from their siblings.

  148. I would expect any parent to *want* to come home and spend time with his kids, precisely because he has such a demanding job that he’s forced to be away from them for so long.

    That’s a pretty high expectation and certainly something that wasn’t at all common among the upper middle class before 1990.

  149. My Dad did, actually, play with us quite a bit. My Mom would, too, but, according to her, she didn’t do that so much and was happy to be the one who would always read together. Either way.

    From what I’ve heard, and I can see the way he is with his grandkids, my FIL was very involved like my Dad. Both of them had much-younger siblings, so that may have contributed. So I think a lot of what is “normal” to a guy has to do with what he knew growing up. Also, in their childrearing years, neither my Dad nor FIL (nor I) earned (or earn) the kind of money that, on one income alone, would put someone comfortably in Totebag’ville–exclusive Northeastern suburb with expensive vacations and newish Acuras and fancy preschools and expensive activities.

    My wife and I didn’t have that lifestyle growing up, and I needed her income to push us into that category. So there are tradeoffs to everything. It would be impossible to be very involved if I were routinely getting home at 9 pm.

  150. That’s a pretty high expectation and certainly something that wasn’t at all common among the upper middle class before 1990.

    That’s not really true. My dad was a master gardener and let us “help” quite a bit, and I think he enjoyed our company. Dads were always supposed to go out and toss the ball around with the kids on weekends, or let them help with fixing the car or other weekend chores. That was the cultural ideal, anyway.

  151. let them help with fixing the car

    What that something upper middle class guys did, fix their own cars?

  152. Among the upper middle class, I think the ideal was a lot more scotch and evening paper after work and the golf coarse on the weekend. Especially among the c. 1978 version of Mr. Sky.

  153. My dad did very little of the heavy lifting of taking care of little kids, but he played with us. He did a lot with my brothers and sports. He taught us all to play card games and we used to have family game night. In the summer, we would have an ongoing game of Monopoly on the porch that we would play when he got home from work. My husband works a lot and is gone a lot. But when he is home, he is very much involved. He usually handles bath time when he is home. He often takes the older 2 on the weekends to do fun things. He arranged a camping trip for the kids and some other dads/their kids.

  154. It would be impossible to be very involved if I were routinely getting home at 9 pm.

    Absolutely. My dad regularly got home around 7:30. When we were little, we hardly saw him during the week. OTOH, my current job has me working the latest I have in probably 20 years, and getting home at 5:00 is a late day.

  155. Rhett, in the 60s, yes. Some of my high school friends have fond memories of helping their dads work on the (possibly vintage) car(s).

  156. I liked this post and took some tips from it. I stayed home for 17 months after having my 3rd kid. It was a good decision for several reasons; however, I was very happy to find part time work that I enjoyed and worked for our family. Soon I’ll be going back to work part time after having our 4th. It is going to be a challenge for my husband to manage the AM and PM routines until I get home. The 3rd and 4th kids really add to the juggle.

    I’ve often thought that if I hadn’t gone back to work (part time) after having my first kid, that my husband would be a lot less competent with kid related tasks. Simply because he wouldn’t have had to figure it out on his own.

  157. Mid 60s: I think my dad was pretty involved at least with me, maybe not so much with my sister, 2yrs younger. He played catch with me in the yard, taught me card games, how to bowl, how to be ruthless at Monopoly, got me started with coin collecting. He also had a softball game AND bowling each~1x/wk most of the year. And he volunteered as an umpire for the local little league.
    He was a great mechanic and could fix anything. (I never was much on that.)

    Lower-Middle class household. He was, of course, the sole breadwinner, and got home ~530 each night. He was killed in an auto accident when I was 10, so I don’t really remember that much.

  158. My Dad was not involved in child care or the house. Those were my mother’s areas of responsibility. She worked a demanding job. But they made enough to outsource the nitty gritty of childcare and housekeeping. In their spare time, they entertained. My mother only cooked for parties and not everyday meals. There are only memories of fancy dishes, I can’t say for instance – mom, can you cook for me the chicken curry that you used to make…..

  159. “Especially among the c. 1978 version of Mr. Sky.”

    Well, I think the point is that it’s a choice. He can certainly choose to be nothing more than a paycheck for his family, if that’s what they both want. Personally, I think that would be a dumb-ass decision, and he and the kids would lose the most (Sky is sharp, she’ll figure out something to make herself happier). But it’s not my life, so it’s not my decision to either make or criticize.

    But what Sky is describing strikes me as a habit, not a conscious choice. Sure, they chose for him to work and her to stay home when what they were doing wasn’t working. But now we’re, what, 5 years down the road? And they’re still following this same pattern they fell into all those years ago, and she’s unhappy, and he’s dismissive and (borderline) insulting and disrespectful [FWIW, I am of the RMS smacking school here]. So I think they should ask themselves whether this is still working for them, or whether there are some better options that don’t require such binary roles for both of them. Doesn’t even matter what the answer is — it’s all about asking the question.

  160. “What that something upper middle class guys did, fix their own cars?”

    I didn’t grow up UMC, so I don’t really know (I think my uncle fell got in the UMC neighborhood when his kids were teenagers, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t fix his own cars). But one thing I do remember is that when I was a kid, cars seemed to be be a lot less reliable and need a lot more fixing.

  161. My dad was always the type to play with kids, but that stood out some at the time. The culture was changing from dads-who-never-changed-a-diaper to hands-on-dads. When I was in the early elementary years (early to mid 70s) we’d have kids coming by the house, “Can Mr. ___ come out and play?” My mother would ask, “Don’t you want to play with [HM]?” “Oh, she can come too.”

  162. “Dad is dreading 20 more years of the breadwinner straightjacket”

    I think it’s straitjacket, but it’s a great point.

    Sky, you might consider trying to point out to your DH the benefits of you going back to work, and especially, the direct benefits to him.

    One of the most obvious of those benefits is no longer having to wear the “breadwinner straitjacket.” There will be much less pressure on him to maintain continuous employment, and he will not have to put up with as much crap at work if you have a job with benefits. With the reduced pressure, he might even be able to come home earlier sometimes.

    I’ve mentioned here before how DW and I decided that both of us working is, in many ways, the best death, disability, and unemployment insurance, especially if both jobs have full medical benefits (more likely now with Obamacare). Even if you’re only working PT, it very likely will be much easier and quicker for you to ramp up to FT than for you to have to find a FT job directly from being a SAHM.

  163. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember any indication that Mr. Sky was choosing “to be nothing more than a paycheck for his family”. I don’t think he’s ignoring his kids or missing out on building relationships with them. Just that he doesn’t participate in the nitty gritty part of childcare, like cleaning up after them and stuff. He probably doesn’t change many diapers.

    Many of you, based on previous comments, desire 50% division of all childcare, believing that’s the ideal. I disagree, and believe that sometimes a division of labor works well. Each parent can bring something different to the table, and that can be as enriching to the family as a 50/50 split of everything.

  164. DH is involved with the kids – he just finds all three of them at once a bit much (as do we all). He often has 2 of them for a few hours at a time on the weekend already due to DD’s sports.

    Realistically, he is not going to walk in the house at 9 PM and say, wow, what a great time for me to pitch in by cleaning the bathroom! He really can’t do much during the week. If the kids are up he wants to see them, and if they aren’t we try to relax.

    Either I’m going to have to find a way for cooking and cleaning to take less time and become a habit for me, or we have to hire it out. Or both :)

  165. Sky – I do 100% of the shopping, planning and cooking. I have zero expectations that my husband will do those things. And that is fine with me and reasonable. I think what some of us were reacting to is that he criticizes the state of the house when you have been with the kids all day long. Just like you don’t expect him to clean when he gets home, I think he shouldn’t expect the house to be 100% neat when he arrives as the kids are going to bed or have just gone to bed. In the younger years of raising children, I think a little grace for all involved is helpful.

  166. “Either I’m going to have to find a way for cooking and cleaning to take less time and become a habit for me, or we have to hire it out. Or both :)”

    Are you giving up on the other option of lowering your standards and expectations? I.e., not having him actually do anything different; just have an attitude adjustment?

    E.g., “he is not going to walk in the house at 9 PM and say, wow, what a great time for me to pitch in by cleaning the bathroom,” but he can accept the state of the house when he arrives, and having to heat up some leftovers for dinner and put his own dishes into the dishwasher.

  167. Sky, are there dinner services in your area? I remember back in a previous job, there were several single guys I knew who subscribed to dinner services with local restaurants. For a set fee, the restaurant would prepare dinners for them every week night, which they would pick on their way home from work. IIRC, the cost of those meals was quite a bit lower than to normal patrons sitting down and ordering the same meals in the restaurants.

  168. What Cat and Finn said. Any combo of roles is fine; it’s the implicit criticism that sets me off. @Sky: I’m also a little concerned that you seem to think it is your job to figure out how to accommodate some paid work and relief from kid/house chores. If you’re not happy, why isn’t that a family issue, for you and DH to work through together as a team? I know the last time I said something similar to DH, it started an immediate conversation on what changes we needed to make to get me back to happy. Have you just not raised it while you’re thinking things through? Or is he sending waves that say he’s resistant (may be inferring too much, as this is how my DH acts — he never says no, but he just sort of sends these waves/vibes that make me not want to raise something).

    @CoC, FWIW, my comments about the “paycheck” thing was in response to Rhett’s theoretical 1950s uninvolved dad role, not necessarily what Mr. Sky is doing or wants to do (I realize I wasn’t clear on that). I also don’t hear anyone here is telling Sky she *should* work. This isn’t a theoretical argument about feminism and the proper role of the wife in the 21st century, it’s Sky saying “what we’re doing now isn’t working for me any more,” and a bunch of people trying to help her figure out ways to evaluate and make some changes.

  169. Catching up on the conversation – if someone is going back to work part-time, I would get more childcare than the number of hours you’ll be working to give you a little slack. i.e. if you’re going to work 20 hours a week, get 25 – 30 hours of childcare. So if you want to go to one kid’s soccer game, you have care for the other two (some kids enjoy hanging out at a sibling’s game, others (like mine) detest it beyond measure). Or if you need to go to the dentist. Or whatever.

    I think working full time can be easier than working part time (depending on the nature of the full-time job). Because I’m full time, it was easier for me to leave work a couple hours early yesterday to catch DD’s soccer game than it is for my friends who work part time.

  170. One of the best pieces of advice our family has taken from this site is to hire a college student to help manage the homework/sports schedule after school. We have three children 5 – 11. My husband has a corporate job with a lot of travel. I work 80% time as a hospital administrator. I
    could not have continued working if we had not hired after school help to manage the juggle.

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