I recently found this article I wrote for a magazine, several years ago, when we had six children. I found it interesting to reflect back on how life has or hasn’t changed since then. We still follow the same jobs system that I talk about in the article, although since moving house my whiteboard is still yet to go up, so I use a piece of paper instead. Otherwise, I can honestly say that this system has been a life changer. Thanks to the Lord for the hard days which push us to find new solutions.
‘Let me paint a picture of an average moment in my life a year ago. Lunch finishes and children scatter, all five to different parts of the house where each creates a mess a tornado could be proud of. When boredom sets in, they change to another room producing more tornado like behaviour! Before I know it, my post lunch cup of tea has led to 10 messes spread throughout the whole house. All manner of disasters from toddler doodles on the walls, little girls’ dresses all over the bedroom floor, and boys experiments with water leading to a bathroom flood! I’m left with a kitchen to clean up and mess in every other room. Aghh!
I asked God for help and strength but as I still had my human strength I tended to rely on that. The tidy up begins and as quickly as I tidy they made another mess. With five little whirl- winds I could never keep up. It suddenly struck me I was doing it all, all the cleaning, and all the tidying. Then a thought came to me. If I should find myself expecting again I would have to toughen up a bit and get them helping, but how?
It was soon necessary to start figuring out an answer as baby number six was now on the way! Within days of finding out I was pregnant the exhaustion set in. There wasn’t a moment in the day for the next eight months when I didn’t want to crawl into bed, plus enduring the dizziness and nausea. God had me right where he wanted me, for when I am weak He is strong.
I asked God again for help and it came through a friend at church who gave me an old portable whiteboard. This whiteboard and my rocking chair became “household HQ.” After every meal I would write up all the little messes I could see around me. I broke them down into child-size pieces and they could choose which to clean up. We had a system to make it fair. The youngest three got to choose the easiest jobs first and the two eldest would take it in turns to pick a job off the list. I put their initial next to the job and they crossed if off when completed. It included tasks such as: clear table, wipe side, laundry on, empty tumble drier, pick up five toys, empty bottom of the dishwasher etc.
The key elements of this system were small jobs, choice for the children, and consistency. Ironically, my exhaustion was the best thing that happened to me as now my children know how to clean up after themselves. I had no choice but to step back and let them learn.
Now, the scene in our house after lunch is much prettier. The children are keen to choose their jobs and get them done, then it’s free time. If they didn’t want to work, they would get an extra job. This kept them motivated!
I used to wonder how I could keep up with lots of children while pregnant, but God showed me that when I am weak He is strong. To my friend, it was just an unused whiteboard, but God used it to answer my prayer for help.’
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