When did I decide it was okay to have a spotless house, but not a healthy family??
As a Stay at Home Mom, I have many responsibilities. First and foremost is the physical and emotional well being of my toddler, who is a spunky little 2.5 year old boy. Second comes the daily “running” of the household. This includes (but is not limited to): meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry washing and putting away, dry cleaning, bill paying, any errand under the sun you can name, lawn maintenance, and the occasional emergency or time sensitive matter that may come up that needs to be dealt with accordingly. Doesn’t sound like a lot at a 70,000 foot view, but when you get into the weeds of it all, it is. I will be the first to admit that I have NO clue how full time working Moms do it. I just don’t. I am good at time management and multi tasking, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how working moms cram everything into 6:30pm-10:00pm.
When speaking with another Mom friend one day, telling her about nutrition classes I was taking and how I really need to put more of an emphasis on food in our home, she immediately told me she felt guilty as well, but on a whole other level. For me, we eat out maybe once a week, but when I don’t feel like cooking we just eat whatever we can find, no thought to it. For her, it was eating out, almost every night. She knew it wasn’t good for them or the kids, but she felt she had no other option. Then it struck me…why is that the only option??? Further discussion led to the realization that a lot of moms (me included) feel like the house chores must be done, everyday, no questions. If something needs cleaned or washed or ironed, that goes to the top of the list. If there is no time for meal prep, grocery shopping or cooking, then out to eat or a drive thru it is.
I took this to some other Mom friends and when asking them, it was kind of split down the middle. Some said that dinner always came first and if there was time for the house chores, they would get done. While some said the daily house work came first, dinner came when it was time to cook, and if there was no time, alternatives were met. This led to me to ask, “Why is it ok to have a spotless house, 100% of the laundry done when we have plenty of clothes to last a long time, etc and put our family’s health second, and really last?”. Do we think our husband’s will think us stay at home moms did nothing during the day if the only real accomplishment is putting a healthy, delicious meal on the table for everyone? If so, what was the husband’s reasoning for thinking that way?
Being a researcher at heart, I wanted to look into this, but did not have the time to make it an actual reliable and valid study, but we did do a little mini test in our home! Here is what happened:
For one week, family food and health came first. We defined this as being meal planning and prep (including grocery shopping), cooking, and family “fun” time. It is summer and warm and any chance we get to take our son outside or for a bike ride, it is good exercise, so we counted that type of activity as health. This food and health definition would come before any other house chores that weren’t deemed necessary or immediate. For example, if a bill was due and it needed to be paid that day, well I took the time to pay that. If a shirt my husband was hoping to wear for work hadn’t been ironed, then he agreed to pick a different one. Make sense?? He agreed not to do any more or less around the house. I have a great husband and any time that I am bogged down, he always pitches in to help more, but for this to work, he needed to do the same things he usually did as if I wasn’t falling behind!
The results?? Well, we are still married! Ha! No really, it actually didn’t have an impact on us that much. If anything, I think for my husband it actually made things better, because he knew going to work every day he had breakfast and lunch. He didn’t have to each a granola bar or go out and take time off work to deal with lunch. So for him, I think it decreased his stress level, and probably double so because he was also eating healthier and getting the benefit of feeling that as well.
Me, well I am a different story! The first day was probably the hardest to be honest! I am not used to letting things sit around or out or dirty dishes sit in the sink. I pretty much had to sit down and just focus and breathe at the end of the day!! I found a cleaning schedule a long time ago that has always helped me keep the house clean (15-20 min a day and the entire house is cleaned each week). I will be the first to admit that my house will never be “dirty”, but it can be strowed from time to time! I did still manage time to get those quick cleanings in, although I did not mop the floors…they will have to wait until next week. My handy Roomba though, has made it’s way into almost every room of the house this week.
I remember my first real food challenge came that first day as well! We had agreed no eating out, only eating at home, and 85% healthy (if he wanted some pretzels and dip I wasn’t going to stop him). I had agreed that for me, everything I plated was homemade. We got broccoli in our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box that week so I planned to make a quinoa chicken and broccoli bake. My son loves it, so that is a win. What I forgot was that it used 2 cans of cream of chicken soup. Sigh. What was I going to do?? For one I didn’t even have those to cheat and use, and I thought to myself, nope, this is not going to get me! I quickly looked up a recipe online for a copycat cream of chicken soup and found one that got really high reviews. Find it here: https://www.melskitchencafe.com/homemade-condensed-cream-of-chicken-soup-and-how-to-sub-in-recipes/ If anyone has a toddler, you know, if taste is off by a little they won’t eat it!
It actually really tastes like the canned variety. It is definitely going to be my “go to” recipe for here on out. I don’t even need to try any others. I found that making the soup was super easy and viola! Dinner! The soup didn’t even set me back that much time either. We did decide to go on a family bike ride while it was still light out, we had a blast! When we walked back in it was bath and bed time for the little one, and I saw all the dirty dishes and instantly felt the stress. So I said I would clean up as long as it took my husband to give our son a bath and then it was snuggles and bed time. That is exactly what I did. Not everything got done, and at the end of my night, I went to bed with dishes in the sink.
The middle of the week was much of the same. I had planned meals pretty well so there was no random running to the store for an ingredient. It was my son’s last week of preschool (he goes 3 times a week for 4 hours). So I did the health and food first. Usually while he is gone, I workout, clean different parts
of the house and pay bills and mow the lawn. This week I meal prepped for dinner, made my husband’s breakfasts and lunches to take to work, and also made sure to exercise. It is the height of strawberry season here, so when I had one day that needed no prepping, instead of cleaning the house I decided to go to the local you-pick and picked 3 gallons of organically raised strawberries (roughly 19 pounds), and prepped and froze them when I got home. I was tired and sweaty so I counted this as a win for the day. I put away delicious healthy berries for our family and I also got a workout in over those 2 hours in the field!
Picture: End of the week and our Den survived…kind of.
The end of the week came, and while the house was cluttered and dishes are still in the sink, we are all still alive. Honestly, looking back, probably a little happier and better off. I think I am. I am a lot less stressed, and I don’t feel like my husband is looking at me like I am a failure. Hopefully after this we can find a happy medium. Food does need to come first in our family above regular house chores, and I am hoping this was the motivation to make that happen. Now, if someone popped by unexpectedly, I probably wouldn’t let them through the front door…but I would bring with me a health strawberry snack for them that I had the time to actually make this week!
Picture: The kitchen is a little more cluttered than normal, but man was there a lot of cooking going on this past week!