If I have learned one thing in the 6 weeks I have been on maternity leave, it’s this: I have spent the last 15 years of my life working and training to be an expert engineer and manager, not an expert stay-at-home Mom. I have not taken any early childhood education classes. I do not have years of experience creating enriching programming for my children or improving my home to make it an oasis of peace.
My house is a mess. The kids have had way too much screen time. And to be honest, I have treated this time off more like a vacation than anything else. Being a stay-at-home mom is a real job and needs to be treated as such. It requires scheduling and skills I just don’t have.
In our home, we have white carpet in our breakfast nook. Trust me, it totally befuddles me that anyone would do that, but since we currently don’t have the resources to replace it with tile, we live with it. Therefore, we commonly get to deal with situations like the one we had today. I found myself on the verge of a breakdown after a perfect storm of chaos, that resulted in bright pink juice spilled on the white carpet. My kids are 6, 4, 2 and 6 weeks and we have 3 crazy dogs, so I am sure you get the picture.
The tactics I usually employed to entice cooperation and assistance from my children had failed me. Instead, I had angry, grumpy, whiny kids uninterested in helping me pick up the floor and prepare to shampoo the carpet.
Rather than pretend to have child psychology-type parenting skills I could deploy on my minions, I decided to handle the situation using the skills I do have: my work skills.
I approached the situation like I would with my coworkers. Since I never yell at my coworkers, I figured it was worth a try. Here is how to use your management skills to get your kids some on the job training:
Managing your kids in a nutshell:
Explain the mission.
At work, there is a goal for the organization that we all have to buy into, a greater purpose. I explained to my children that we are a family that loves each other and loves living together in our nice home. If we want to continue to live in our home, we must take care of it and complete our chores. That was the reason we had to clean up the juice. Knowing why we needed to do this work seemed to start to adjust their attitudes.
Create a Culture of Joy
My children didn’t immediately buy into my plea to “take care of our things” as enough of a reason to join me in this task cheerfully. So before we got started I sat them down and we discussed Colossians 3:23. “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Much to my surprise, this approach seemed to soften their hearts and they more eagerly joined in the pursuit.
Explain the process from start to finish.
My kids have never shampooed a carpet before. So I explained step by step the process of picking up the floor, moving the furniture, vacuuming, spot treating and so forth. When they knew what the end goal was and the plan for how to get there, they became excited to help contribute to the task.
Prioritize the work tasks.
My sink was full of dishes, but a project like this took precedence. The longer we waited to address it, the more likely the stain was to set. Like I do at work, I dealt with the most pressing problems first.
Choose your window.
I wouldn’t start reviewing a complicated court decree 20 minutes before needing to leave for a meeting. I need a dedicated period of time to dig in to a project like that. The same goes for this. In our case I had just put my two year old and newborn down for naps and our best bet at tackling this kind of project was to hit it right then.
If you want to focus on the task at hand, put the phone down and turn the tv off. I dedicated this time just to teaching my kids how to do this work and wanted to give it and them my full attention.
Break the project into individual tasks.
Each component of the work was a specific task we needed to complete in a set amount of time. We used the timer on my phone to pace ourselves to move the project along. We knew how long we had before we could take a break. That kept the time frame reasonable so we didn’t risk someone pulling us away to another meeting (our in this case, someone waking up early).
Like we do at work, sometimes in order to complete a big project we have to take little breaks to grab a coffee or (clear) juice and stretch. I showed the kids it was okay to step away for a minute and regroup so you can come back and complete the project refocused.
Like an employee learning a new task the first time, this required clear, specific, focused directions. I had to teach my children how to use the carpet shampooer and each step along the way. I would demonstrate first, describing each step, then let them try it. Things that seem simple to an experienced person sometimes need to be broken down to the basics for someone else.
Anticipate future needs.
After we got going, both kids started to find the work fun. We only have one shampooer. That meant while one assistant was working with the equipment, I needed to outline the next task. This helped best utilize the manpower I had and kept everyone busy. (In our case, it also avoided the “But I want to do iiiiitttttt” tantrum). While they were focused on shampooing, I looked ahead to retrieving a towel to dry parts of the carpet.
Celebrate the achievement.
Like I would with my coworkers after completing a project, we celebrated our accomplishment (with Popsicles). I congratulated the kids on a job well done and called out specific things they did well. And I thanked them for their hard work.
On the job when things require follow up, I keep a list to remember what we will need to do to move forward. In this case I decided on the following action items:
1. Restock our depleted cleaning supplies.
2. Start a savings account to replace the carpet in the kitchen with tile.
3. Invest in a new carpet shampooer to replace the ancient, yard sale one we have now.
As with any project, when the work is complete, it is good to take stock of any lessons or areas for improvement. For me, the big take away was that in the future, we will only buy clear juice…