clean-571679_640Once you dust off those black trousers and re-enter the workforce, you advance to a whole new level of juggling. Work time. Commute time. Child time. Spouse time. Garden time. Household jobs time. Sleep time. It’s no wonder that Personal Time gets forgotten.

Let’s make three assumptions: 1) you’ve negotiated the best working arrangements possible; 2) you want to spend as much time on your family and yourself as possible; 3) you are not a robot and you need at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night to function.

Something’s got to give. Why not housework? I humbly present my patented Philosophy of Household Tasks for working parents.

Ask these three important questions as you identify each task:

  1. Do I enjoy this? Does it have more than one benefit?
  2. Do I have to do this myself?
  3. Is this more important than my child’s time, my spouse’s time and my time?

If you answer ‘no’ to all three of these questions, put that chore in the Don’t Do box.

Here’s an example of how it works (OK, this is how it works for me – you’ll soon get an idea of my priorities):

Job Number One: The Garden

To answer the three questions: Nope, nope and nope. I hate gardening, I have black thumbs. I outsourced the lawn mowing and moved happily on with my life. If you can’t outsource, accept that your lawn is actually a meadow – it’s supposed to be that long!

Job Number Two: Cleaning

Hmm. Nope, yes (I’m a single parent, so can’t hand off cleaning to a partner, nor can I afford a cleaner), nope. I have to do it but it’s not important enough to take priority over family or personal time – usually. If the house is too dirty I go slightly mad, so I compromise. Bathrooms and floors are cleaned fortnightly, kitchen is cleaned and tidied nightly. As for dusting – really? I don’t think so.

Job Number Three: Ironing

Um, are you kidding? Dropped like a hot potato.

Job Number Four: Tidying

My philosophy is: if you can find what you need, it’s tidy enough. If guests don’t like it, they can pitch in and help. To answer the questions: nope, yes (though I’ve got my kids on the case to help), nope.

Job Number Five: Laundry

Darn it, it has to be done. And I’m the only one who can do it. But if I throw a load of washing in at night and hang it out first thing in the morning, I’m generally OK. It doesn’t rule me – I rule it.

Job Number Six: Cooking

Actually yes – I do enjoy cooking and it relaxes me. I also feel a little glow at the healthy home-cooked food I’m feeding my kids. Worth it. Take-away happens when I desperately need me-time or family-time.

Job Number Seven:

Wait, there are other jobs? Nah. Forget them. Who needs to see out of windows anyway?

In Summary

I would recommend laundry, cooking and basic cleaning as essentials and leave it there. Add gardening if it relaxes you – that’s an added benefit, so worth keeping. If you must, you can do a bigger clean and tidy once a fortnight or month.

Don’t get take-away, it destroys your budget and if you do it too much it will just make you feel guilty. Cook on the weekend and freeze meals for the week for you and the baby. Pressing buttons on the microwave is not hard.

Learn your family’s needs and work around them. Do you need to ‘switch off’ from work mode before you can engage with your kids? Keep them in care an extra hour and have some you-time to exercise, have a cuppa or just relax with your partner.

Is your child asleep as soon as you get them home? Put them to bed for a nap, get jobs done, and put off your cuddles until a bit later. Are you exhausted each evening and can’t face cooking or laundry?

Freeze meals and buy extra second hand clothes for the kids so you can put those jobs off til the weekend. Voila – more time for you!

Finally remember: I told you how I do things. I know parents – perfectly ordinary parents – who love ironing, or who aren’t happy unless they vacuum the floor every single day. If that’s you, great! Embrace it. Deprioritize other things instead. Just ask yourself those three questions first, you’ll be well on the way to Household Happiness.