"Cleaning isn't just woman's work," says Linda Cobb, the Clean of Queen®. "People get the misconception that if they stay home with their children, everything is their responsibility. But having a baby is a full time job."
This week, we're going to focus on tackling chores as a family. Yes, that means kids and Dad too! Here's a step-by-step strategy to get the whole family involved so that you can whittle away the mess together.
- Set the timer. Plan this activity for a Saturday morning, or a day when everyone is home. Talk it up beforehand, and let everyone know the time limit. The ticking timer adds an element of game show to the action. How long you set the timer will depend on the state of the house and the size of your family. Do you need to clean three rooms? Are there two 3-year-olds who can help out?
- Engage the children. Kids need to see cleaning as something fun, not taxing. (The timer helps here.) Yet the responsibility factor is also important. "You're raising your kids to be good parents, or to be a good spouse, by giving them chores now," says Cobb. Remember, you are the house manager—therefore you are the person who will teach and train them. But any good manager makes work feel rewarding.
- Give everyone a role. The key here is to give children chores they can succeed at. Do not give a child a telescope duster unless you want your cleaning session to turn into a light saber fight. Do give small children easy tasks. "A 3-year-old can take a lamb's wool mitt and dust the tables," says Cobb. Play lively music and keep infants in a swing or bouncy seat within view (as long as you're not stirring up too much dust or using harsh chemicals) as you all clean.
- Keep the critiques to yourself. "Nothing is ever good enough," says Cobb. "That's what I hear from men." If you're commenting on every mistake your husband or children make, they're not going to want to participate. Instead, praise them. A little praise goes a long way (rewards are OK too). Then, based on what you've seen, give some light instructions at the start of the next family cleaning session.
- Watch the timer. Keep everyone in the house informed about how much time is left. This will help keep them motivated. When the timer goes off, the cleaning session is over.
One rationale for cleaning together is that it helps develop good habits in your children. It also makes the cleaning go that much faster. Now you have more time to enjoy together. You might want to have a fun group activity lined up for your cleaning crew for later—a bike ride together, a picnic, a rainy-day movie ... whatever fun spring activity suits you!