Author Topic: I want to outsource something to get more time with my kids. Am I a wussypants?  (Read 6790 times)

chilliepepper

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I posted the following in the comments section of a post from 2011, but thought I should bring it over here because that post might not be getting much attention anymore. Would love to hear how Mustachian families balance parenthood with household demands, without outsourcing anything.

We don’t outsource anything, and I take a certain amount of pride in our reel mower (need to phase out the lawn but we don't have much sunlight, what to plant? Spose that is a different topic), in my rapidly greying but un-messed-around-with hair and no makeup look, in my husband's haircuts done by Yours Truly, in the huge oil stain on our driveway from an oil change gone awry, etc.

However. I HATE the fact that all I ever seem to do is tell my kids that I can’t play with them right now because I have to cook dinner / do the laundry / clean the floor / clean the kitchen / plan the menu / go to the grocery store / clean up the mess / make them the 5th (healthy and unprocessed, of course) snack that they’ve requested today / make their (healthy and unprocessed, of course) lunches for school / pay the bills / schedule the appointments / go to the appointments / sort through the crap that piles up on my desk every day / and on and on and ON it goes.

You would think that with two kids in school now and only the toddler at home, I could get a bit more done—and I do—but only enough to keep my head above water. And ok, yes I do spend some time each day at least reading to my kids, especially the toddler because he is at home with me. However, many a time, MANY a time I have toyed with the idea of hiring a mother’s helper once a week, so that I could just focus on my kids. Or what if I just let them buy their lunches at school. This would cost me $100 a month (maybe $50-$75 more than what I spend on the lunches I pack), but would save me a good 20 minutes a day by the time I prep everything, pack it all up, and deal with the (reusable of course) containers when they come home. That's time that could be spent playing a game with my kids.

Oh, I know. Cook in bulk on the weekend. Do all the lunch prep on the weekend. Yeah, whatever. See below...and also we have church activities on Sunday which are a true blessing to us and in which we hope to bless others---but it doesn't leave a ton of time for bulk cooking (or whatever it is that people suggest we "get ahead" on over the weekend).

Same story with Mr. Chilliepepper. 9-5 job, gets home and what with dinner and evening kid-wrangling, he has no time or energy left for home projects. So weekends end up consisting of us, frantically trying to catch up on basic household stuff and POSSIBLY work on a small piddly home improvement project, or fix something that needs fixing, or try to talk through how we can do stuff better, or change the oil or whatever, while our kids either sit in front of a computer watching Looney Tunes on YouTube or wander around complaining that they have nothing to do. Ok, so yes we do do some stuff with them, but not enough. We just don’t have time. And when we do, we’re grouchy about it because of the stress of not being able to keep up with “stuff.” SO. FRUSTRATING.

Yes, we do try to get our kids to help. But there's still a lot that they can't do yet. And no, we're not going for some kind of Perfect Home. I just want to have enough law and order around here that my brain can halfway function.

I do wonder what MMM would have done if he had kids before he retired, or if he had more than one child. Could the Mustaches still Do It All Without Outsourcing anything, and still be the kickass parents that they are, hmmmmm? Any parents here finding more success with this than we are? What's your secret?

Self-employed-swami

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I'd start by outsourcing the oil changes.  That's likely to be a small expense, if you can find a special (coupon/discount).

Is there someone you can trade labour with, to get the lawn converted over to something lower maintenance?   Is there someone you know, who is handy with that stuff, that might do it for you, in exchange for some baked goods/home cooked meals that you could make with the kiddos?  (I guess I don't know if they are of the age to be able to help in the kitchen).

As for cleaning, we used to have a house keeper.  It cost us about $200/month, but it was a total sanity-saver, when I was working more than full time (I travel for work) and DH was in school full time.  We've cut that expense now, but I think in comparison, I think you'd get more bang for your buck to have a housekeeper twice a month, than pay for unhealthy school lunches.
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Nords

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Two suggestions:
1.  It sounds like you're trying to align your spending with your values.  Seems fine to me.  You're not driving an 8 MPG SUV 30 miles to the gym to walk on the treadmill, you're trying to figure out more ways to fence off family time. 

2.  Your first two seem old enough to pitch in.  They should be making their own lunches, and if they forget then they should buy school lunch out of their own allowance.  (Seems harsh, but they'll only forget a few times.  Or they'll negotiate which days they want to buy the school lunch favorites.)  Our daughter took over her own laundry chores when she was in kindergarten.  She started mixing ingredients at about the same age, and she started cooking on the stove as soon as she was tall enough.  Of course she needed a lot of supervision, but it was also quality family time.  It always takes far more time to train a kid (or an adult) to do a task than to do it yourself, but it pays off at the end.

Bonus suggestions: 
- Clean the floor less often.  Seriously.  Let it go twice as long as you normally would and see how you feel about it.
- If you're not already using one, a crockpot can cut down on the dinner labor.
- Have the kids plan the menus.  At first they make the suggestions while you do the recording, but eventually they can do it all.  Better yet, one day the oldest will get annoyed at how you do things around the house and will start downloading software to do it better.  Or so I've heard.
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Cook with your kids!

swiper

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I concur with the idea of getting your little ones to help with the cooking. Great quality time.

To facilitate, I built a "learning tower" style chair (it was pretty easy and inexpensive using construction grade pine).  Our little one uses it several times a day to help sort/mix and generally be involved in the meal making process. Attached picture


Free easy to follow instructions here: http://ana-white.com/2010/12/helping-tower.html

Self-employed-swami

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That is very neat Swiper.  I've always had me nieces and nephews precariously standing on kitchen chairs, to help with the baking/cooking
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sheepstache

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I'm a little unclear on your work situation.  You're a SAHM?  Or you work from home?  Or?

Regardless, and you might have just written it this way out of hyperbole, but the kids should be able to do something perfectly healthy and creative without their parents.   It sounds like they're not taking responsibility for their own entertainment if they act like their only options are watching TV, being with you, or being bored.  Kick their butts out to the yard, or give them an empty box to play with or something :)   I know that's not really what you asked about, and obviously an equal concern is that _you_ would get great benefit out of spending time with them, it was just something that struck me 

I know one thing I'm guilty of is sometimes letting cooking take over.  Like, because it's cheap and healthy and fun I don't worry about time management but then I realize it frequently takes over my evening or Saturday.  Don't be afraid to let the food be boring.  I mean, these five healthy and unprocessed snacks a day, it's just the same snack five times, right?  Sometimes the packed lunch is just leftovers from dinner the night before, right?

chilliepepper

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Ok folks, thanks for the replies. This is a good start. I'll answer a few questions and comment further on a few things, and then see what else people will have to say. Starting from the top...

I think we will be outsourcing oil changes. Mr. Chillie totally knows how to do it (the spill was a fluke), but like you say it's not that expensive and it will save him having a good couple hours sucked out of his weekend (that could be spent taking the boys to the playground) from time to time. OTOH...maybe he'll still do it sometimes, depending on how Mustachey he's feeling.

Trading labor with someone to convert the lawn: I think that for right now, we're ok with the hour per week each summer that one of us spends behind the reel mower. After all, it's exercise. And, in just a couple years our oldest son (now 7) will probably be able to do it. Eventually we hope to try converting it to a more Mustachian landscape, but we will need to research what we can really do, since we have big trees hence not much sunlight. I would loooooove to have an edible landscape but the no sunlight thing seems to be a problem. When the time comes to do it, I don't think we'll want to outsource. It's something we can do with our kids, just as well as cooking meals with kids to swap for landscaping help.

Kids making own lunches: Great idea, maybe I'm just chicken. Our standard school lunch is a peanut butter or sunflower seed butter sandwich, apple slices (I know whole apples would be quicker but they really eat them up if they're sliced and tend to waste a lot if they're whole), hopefully a vegetable of some sort and "treat yogurt" (Yoplait greek, <10 grams sugar and >10 grams protein) when it's been on sale and I've had coupons (won't buy it otherwise). They have no way to heat up leftovers at school, and I really don't want to ask them to eat cold dinner leftovers. Issues: One son is allergic to peanuts, and the other won't eat sunflower seed butter. If he makes his PB sandwich I'm afraid he'll get PB where the allergic one will touch it. Maybe I just need to supervise him closely for a while and make sure he knows how to do it safely, and have them make their sandwiches in separate areas. I still fear giving them sharp knives...should I get over it? Are 7 and 5 year olds old enough to cut up their own apples and veggies?

Laundry: How do economies of scale work in with that? I do think at least my 7yo would be capable of doing laundry, and would probably get a kick out of it, but he doesn't own enough clothes to make a full load and I really don't like running the machine to do small loads. So I combine everyone's laundry and sort by color, only doing a load when there's a full load of darks, lights, whites, towels/rags, or diapers. Did your daughter have enough clothes to get a whole load without running out of things to wear?

Kids helping with dinner: I love this idea, I really do. In our current stage of life, my toddler is pretty high maintenance in the late afternoon, so cooking dinner is challenging enough let alone trying to let people "help" me at the same time. On a good day, I will do the dinner prep while my 1yo is napping...but this precludes having the other guys help because they are at school at that time. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to do better than this.

Cleaning the floor less often: Haha, I feel like I already do that! And I hate it! The feeling of crumbs and dirt under my feet is like nails on a chalkboard, so I get very twitchy if I go many days without sweeping. Mopping is a different story...I barely ever mop, even though I really wish I did. Vacuuming...Our den has a dark green carpet and if I don't get to it once a week, I'm very unhappy.

Crockpot: I love how people think the crockpot is the best thing since sliced bread. I do use it sometimes, but I find that whether you throw stuff in a pot in the morning or in the late afternoon, you still have to throw stuff in a pot. And oftentimes, some of that stuff still has to be cleaned and cut up to some extent. Throwing stuff in a pot in the morning while also trying to get everyone out the door is at times just one more thing than I can juggle.

Kids helping with menu planning, I like the idea. Not sure I'll love their choices (tacos pizza hamburgers lather rinse repeat), but maybe once a week. :)

Learning tower chair: LOVE. IT. I must make this right now! I looked at these a few years ago when the first two were little, and they were like $300. I don't know if there was an online tutorial at the time, but now that you've found it for me maybe I can put it on my Christmas list. :)

Sheepstache's questions: I'm a SAHM. You would think I'd be able to manage, right? I do have some stuff that I do: Volunteer at school, attend a midweek study group at church, swap babysitting with friends from time to time. But all in all, I do have the luxury of being at home.

Hyperbole...guilty as charged. :) It's not that they just absolutely don't know how to play independently. However, I really feel like I should be getting in at least 30 minutes per day of quality, focused time with them. I think if I could do that, they would be a lot more content to find ways to entertain themselves. 30 minutes...it sounds like such a small thing! Yet I can't seem to carve it out. One problem is that I am not a playful person, and I honestly would much rather be working. I love work. And when I do try to play with them in the middle of an unraveling household environment, I get very grouchy very fast. So it's either jump ship and go sweep the floor, or start yelling at them and it's just not fun anymore. I feel like if I could just get some order in my world, I could relax and just play. Hence my frequent pondering of hiring a helper or paying someone to clean up from time to time. Even though I really love doing it myself.

It's really not five snacks per day. Well...maybe on the weekend. But they're starving when they get home from school, and starving again before I can get dinner on the table (earlier dinner, I know). I really, really need to find an hour a week to just cut up a big sh!tload of fruits and veggies. Those, plus Cheerios with or without milk, are our go-to snacks.

chilliepepper

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Oh, I was going to ask those of you who have replied: How many kids do/did you have?

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1. Try "playing" first up i.e. every morning play with your toddler for 30 mins. School agers are a bit more difficult I think paying attention to them when they get home is sufficient.  You could set up a family tradition playtime for them e.g. Sat night board games or sat arvo at park, whatever.

2. Generally I think it is a recent invention that we have to play with our kids ( invented by the "I spend quality time with my kids every day for 30mins before they go to bed" 2 parent working family who rarely sees their kids because they are working all the time). Whats important is that you are with them and they are learning and modelling from your interactions with them.  And for kids a lot of the time they actually want to "play" by "working" with you. Mothers in bygone days sent the kids out to play whilst they did the housework. Helping with the chores is a way to provide entertainment and teach them about these things... it will be a while before there is much useful output... it will take effort for you to teach and supervise.  I tried quite simple things like "pick up your dirty clothes and put them in dirty clothes basket." Bring the dirty clothes basket to the laundry. Take the garbage out and put it in the bin. Bin-night : kids put out the garbage bin for collection. Bring the mail in. The all hands on deck house blitz: we go from room to room picking up, sorting, putting away and throwing out. The kids do a lot of running, mum mainly sorts and gives orders: you can do a lot in 20mins. Make it fast and fun.

3. I agree with all the suggestions about them entertaining themselves, not needing endless snacks - just one type of snack will do  etc etc.

4. I wouldn't let a 5 and 7 year old have a sharp knife to cut up fruit, especially if they might jostle each other... . Mind you I still manage to make mine sandwiches by making them on the weekend and freezing them...there are other things they can do - mine make their own breakfast and arvo tea: they could do cereal and toast at a young age, and help themselves to fruit, yoghurt etc. My son always likes leftovers for arvo tea/breakfast.

5. When you have a toddler I remember that really you are lurching from one accident/event waiting to happen to another. Be patient with yourself.

6. Try to figure out things that multi-task to save time.

7.  Housework/cooking/childminding expands to fill the available time......and in my house it still does unless I make sure I put the important things into the schedule first.

8. If you decide that paying for some service is "trying to align your spending with your values," then I think thats fine.  However be warned of number 7, you may find very quickly you are still as busy without achieving that "playtime".  I'm now only working 2 and a half days, and already my 2 days off during the week are full of essential chores/jobs for the household, and I'm not doing what I'd hoped... I have to now apply some discipline to make sure I'm doing what I really wanted to do with the time, not just fritter it away on more housework, cooking and errands. ( oh and theres a thing called the internet...)


(Since you asked: I have 2 kids, single mum, who works, runs the house and looks after kids etc. I have had lawn mowing service, and cleaner once a fortnight, pay for car service and paid for essential childcare in order to work. If I had been lucky enough to be a SAHM, I probably wouldn't have had the cleaner.  )

chilliepepper

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Mind you I still manage to make mine sandwiches by making them on the weekend and freezing them...there are other things they can do - mine make their own breakfast and arvo tea: they could do cereal and toast at a young age, and help themselves to fruit, yoghurt etc. My son always likes leftovers for arvo tea/breakfast.

What kind of sandwiches do you make that are still palatable after being frozen? I had a friend that used to do this with PBJ...I was skeptical, but maybe it's not as bad as I would think?

I do like for them to have oatmeal (much more food for the buck than cold cereal) and some form of low-sugar protein for breakfast. Not sure I'm ready for them to be frying eggs...and the one time awhile back that I tried to talk my 7yo into making his own oatmeal, he got all stubborn and refused to do it. I was like "hey, look---you're a big guy now, how about making your own oatmeal? Here's the measuring cup, scoop it out into the bowl like this..." and he was like "I don't waaaaaaaaaant to!..." What a little...d'oh... I wonder if I could try again with a different approach...any suggestions? Maybe I'll try with the 5yo. Sometimes if one doesn't cooperate on something, the other does. Then I could reward him handsomely and that might motivate big brother to rethink his stubbornness.


6. Try to figure out things that multi-task to save time.
Well, yeah. I think I do this pretty much every waking second. Case in point: Reading MMM in the loo. ;)



7.  Housework/cooking/childminding expands to fill the available time......and in my house it still does unless I make sure I put the important things into the schedule first.

8. If you decide that paying for some service is "trying to align your spending with your values," then I think thats fine.  However be warned of number 7, you may find very quickly you are still as busy without achieving that "playtime".  I'm now only working 2 and a half days, and already my 2 days off during the week are full of essential chores/jobs for the household, and I'm not doing what I'd hoped... I have to now apply some discipline to make sure I'm doing what I really wanted to do with the time, not just fritter it away on more housework, cooking and errands. ( oh and theres a thing called the internet...)

Yes, this. I do wonder if I would improve my lot at all by outsourcing, or if I would just turn my attention to some other form of work like the desk drawer full of papers that each represent some sort of task that needs to be done. This is what often happens when my mom comes to visit. She is ALL OVER the kitchen and the dishes (the washing up, as you would say I think), so I don't have to touch them while she is here, yet I don't find myself making any more quality time with the kids---instead I catch up on languishing projects. See...like you say, the problem might go deeper than time constraints. But I also wonder if by hiring someone (maybe a teenage girl saving for college or something) to come and be IN THE HOUSE WITH ME doing some of my busywork for me while I focus on kids, would provide a sort of accountability if they knew what I was trying to accomplish by having them there. Hmmmmm...

caligulala

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I feel you. I have a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old at home. The fact is, I don't want to play trains or do crafts with them. I'm not that kind of person. It's okay to not be interested in that stuff. It doesn't mean I'm not interested in or involved with my children. To the contrary. I love spending time with them reading or teaching them how to do stuff.

We have a house cleaner that comes on an as needed basis. When the 1 year old was tiny, that was every 2 weeks. Now she comes maybe once every 6 months. It's great to have it as an option, but it doesn't really free up much time.

I let our 2.5 year help with some veggie chopping. Mostly mushrooms or other softish things, but my friend's 3.5 year old is completely competent with a knife and chops his own fruit and stuff. He knows it is a tool, not a toy. I learned how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave at about 5, they actually turn out fairly decent. I'm sure your boys know how to use the microwave safely.

I think the most important thing to do when I'm feeling overwhelmed and like I don't get anything done (which is often) is to sit down and think. I'm not as effective at strategizing or thinking up new ways to do things if I'm thinking and doing something else. And remember, we find time to do the things that are really important to us, so if that quality time is top priority, it will get done. But not wanting to do it doesn't make you a bad parent.

tooqk4u22

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As I read through this thread I went from sympathizing to feeling that you are a bit of a complainypants.

On one hand you want to free up time so you can spend more time with the kids, on the other hand you don't want to make the necessary adjustments or do things with the kids that they would want to or be inclined to be doing.  I get if you are not a playful person but you are the adult and the parent so it is on you to adjust and not them. 

The cooking thing is a perfect example of how to add value - sure it adds more time but that is more time with them.  I was cooking with my 3 yo last night (definitely took a lot longer and a butter knife easily cuts a lot of things but not the kid) and me and my 5 yo made pancakes for the family yesterday morning.  Me and my 7 yo raked leaves in the afternoon while the other two were playing outside. 

BTW I work and put in a lot of hours - I could either update the bathroom or other chores or do things with the kids - the bathroom has been on the list for quite awhile now :).  My DW is a SAHM so I get what where you are coming from - she is busy and experiences this same feeling as you do.  My advice to her is always the same - choices have to be made and things need to get done.  Things don't need to get picked up right away. Pasta and sauce with a veggie is quick and easy, and a staple in our house.

It is amazing how you can fill up a day, the trick is to realize that you don't need to fill up the day. Stop worrying about instilling order in your life, it is damn near impossible with three little kids so relax and have fun with them because they won't be little for long.

Nords

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We have "just one" child, who apparently was the model for the book "Your Fussy Baby and High-Needs Child".  In retrospect, we feel very lucky that she was born first instead of third or fifth... or eighth. 

Today she's 20 years old and a college junior.  She routinely teaches her classmates how to cook, how to clean, how to do laundry, how to change the oil in a vehicle, how to unplug a toilet, how to apply for a credit card, how to balance a checking account... you get the idea.  She helped me change out a toilet when she was eight years old, and it created some family stories that we still laugh about today.  She had her checking account at age 9, her credit card at age 13, her first job at age 14, her first IRA deposit at age 15, her first oil change at age 16.

Each child presents their own challenges in their own ways.  Instead of comparing your kids to someone else's kids, perhaps you could compare your current life (and relationship with your kids) to the life (and relationship) you want to have.  It's hard now, and you're unhappy.  The suggestions you're getting here may seem overwhelmingly impossible, and I'm sensing some "Yeah, but..." in your responses.  If you make one small change every week, that'll give you time to see how it affects the kids (and you) and to decide what you want to do next.  That will at least start you on the road to "less unhappy".

Or you could continue picking at the suggestions until you find the perfect solution.  Good luck with that.

Kids making own lunches: Great idea, maybe I'm just chicken. Our standard school lunch is a peanut butter or sunflower seed butter sandwich, apple slices (I know whole apples would be quicker but they really eat them up if they're sliced and tend to waste a lot if they're whole), hopefully a vegetable of some sort and "treat yogurt" (Yoplait greek, <10 grams sugar and >10 grams protein) when it's been on sale and I've had coupons (won't buy it otherwise). They have no way to heat up leftovers at school, and I really don't want to ask them to eat cold dinner leftovers. Issues: One son is allergic to peanuts, and the other won't eat sunflower seed butter. If he makes his PB sandwich I'm afraid he'll get PB where the allergic one will touch it. Maybe I just need to supervise him closely for a while and make sure he knows how to do it safely, and have them make their sandwiches in separate areas. I still fear giving them sharp knives...should I get over it? Are 7 and 5 year olds old enough to cut up their own apples and veggies?
Yes.  You are chicken.

The point here is to train your kids to tackle their own chores.  They will not do it as well as you can do it.  They will not measure up to your standards.  That's not the point.  The point is to teach them to tackle their own chores in a safe manner (you're also keeping an eye on their safety while they're doing it) and to help them develop their own standards.

The answer to your "Are they old enough" question is generally "Yes.  The oldest is old enough, and probably the middle one too."  They're old enough to cut up their own apples & veggies because you're teaching them how to do it safely and then (this is the important part) keeping an eye on them while you're doing it all together.  That means three knives and three cutting boards, and eventually four.  Ideally with separate food prep stations you won't have peanut contamination, but you know how to handle that better than I do.

I'm not sure I understand why do you care what temperature their dinner leftovers are.  More to the point, which is more important to you:  having more free time to spend with your family, or ensuring that your kids have a hot lunch?  They can put together the next day's lunch right after dinner, keep it chilled safely in the fridge overnight, and take it to school in a paper bag or a thermos pack.  It'll be fine by the time they open it up. 

Laundry: How do economies of scale work in with that? I do think at least my 7yo would be capable of doing laundry, and would probably get a kick out of it, but he doesn't own enough clothes to make a full load and I really don't like running the machine to do small loads. So I combine everyone's laundry and sort by color, only doing a load when there's a full load of darks, lights, whites, towels/rags, or diapers. Did your daughter have enough clothes to get a whole load without running out of things to wear?
Our daughter bought clothes at Goodwill & garage sales, so she had plenty of clothes to wear while generating a full load of laundry.  The kids could also add their bed linens or bath towel to that load, especially if they want to combine loads. 

This is not about optimizing laundry loads.  This is about teaching your kids to do laundry.  There's going to be some inefficiency, some waste, and some downright messes.  It's training, not perfection.  However it's great family time together, you're getting a chore started on their time instead of just your time, and you're teaching them life skills.  So perhaps the "economy of scale" is the least of these priorities.  Set your expectations low and don't try to teach everything on the first load.  Try to find something positive to say about each attempt instead of going straight to the deficiencies.  As your kids do more laundry loads, they'll get better about sorting and full loads and all the other advanced laundry techniques.

Kids helping with dinner: I love this idea, I really do. In our current stage of life, my toddler is pretty high maintenance in the late afternoon, so cooking dinner is challenging enough let alone trying to let people "help" me at the same time. On a good day, I will do the dinner prep while my 1yo is napping...but this precludes having the other guys help because they are at school at that time. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to do better than this.
Crockpot: I love how people think the crockpot is the best thing since sliced bread. I do use it sometimes, but I find that whether you throw stuff in a pot in the morning or in the late afternoon, you still have to throw stuff in a pot. And oftentimes, some of that stuff still has to be cleaned and cut up to some extent. Throwing stuff in a pot in the morning while also trying to get everyone out the door is at times just one more thing than I can juggle.
You may be able to find something in your dinner prep that can be done ahead of time when the kids are home-- especially the evening before.  Washing ingredients or mixing the dry ingredients?  Cutting veggies?  Cooking something after dinner for the next day and then leaving it in the fridge overnight?  Give them a chore during dinner prep-- even if it's just fetching utensils or setting the table or stacking dirty dishes in the sink or wiping counters.  Load up the crockpot the night before, stick it in the fridge overnight, and just plug it in the next morning.

You could take this question straight to the Dollar Stretcher Forums (stretcher.com) where people with a lot more experience than me have made this work for years.

Cleaning the floor less often: Haha, I feel like I already do that! And I hate it! The feeling of crumbs and dirt under my feet is like nails on a chalkboard, so I get very twitchy if I go many days without sweeping. Mopping is a different story...I barely ever mop, even though I really wish I did. Vacuuming...Our den has a dark green carpet and if I don't get to it once a week, I'm very unhappy.
OK, perhaps you're not willing to choose between family time and clean floors.  In that case, how about family time by cleaning the floors?  Kids can vacuum, sweep, and use a foxtail/dustpan.

Here's a general guideline to consider:  if nobody does things in the house as good as you can do them, then everybody will continue to "let" you do them.  Training is all about achieving a minimum standard with a minimum level of safety, and then improving from there.  If you expect them to ramp up to your personal standards on the first attempt, then you're going to end up doing it by yourself again.
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grantmeaname

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Today she's 20 years old and a college junior.  She routinely teaches her classmates how to cook, how to clean, how to do laundry, how to change the oil in a vehicle, how to unplug a toilet, how to apply for a credit card, how to balance a checking account... you get the idea.  She helped me change out a toilet when she was eight years old, and it created some family stories that we still laugh about today.  She had her checking account at age 9, her credit card at age 13, her first job at age 14, her first IRA deposit at age 15, her first oil change at age 16.
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Norman Johnson

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Nords is right. My mother wouldn't teach my how to do laundry until my dad made her. And my sister and I never went grocery shopping or were allowed to clean the bathroom or anything. Your spare time aside, it makes for a really difficult life when a person is suddenly supposed to know how to do all that stuff when they are on their own.

You are being a little chicken, yes. ;) But it's hard to change and it can be even harder to give up control. Start small! And just expect mistakes and waste. As a bonus, you'll get to spend more time with your children talking with them too. Many hands make the work faster and more enjoyable!

Nords

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Today she's 20 years old and a college junior.  She routinely teaches her classmates how to cook, how to clean, how to do laundry, how to change the oil in a vehicle, how to unplug a toilet, how to apply for a credit card, how to balance a checking account... you get the idea.  She helped me change out a toilet when she was eight years old, and it created some family stories that we still laugh about today.  She had her checking account at age 9, her credit card at age 13, her first job at age 14, her first IRA deposit at age 15, her first oil change at age 16.
Nords Jr. for Badass Mustachian of the Year! Seriously.
Re-reading that post, I don't intend to give the impression that it was easy or flawless.  There was plenty of crying, screaming, and temper tantrums-- and sometimes she got upset too. 

Her first semester was extremely rocky, both financially and academically.  But she had the tools, and eventually she picked them up again and resumed using them.  I can't imagine how she would have survived the college experience if she had not already learned the financial basics.  It kept her out of credit-card trouble and gave her more time to study her courses.
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DoubleDown

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...I honestly would much rather be working. I love work. And when I do try to play with them in the middle of an unraveling household environment, I get very grouchy very fast. So it's either jump ship and go sweep the floor, or start yelling at them and it's just not fun anymore. I feel like if I could just get some order in my world, I could relax and just play. Hence my frequent pondering of hiring a helper or paying someone to clean up from time to time. Even though I really love doing it myself.


THIS is the root of the issue. Please, please, please ponder what you have written above, it is very revealing. It is not a bad thing, just recognize it for what it is.

You seek order, at a very high level. Without it, you feel uncomfortable and the need to be doing something about it. It is not that you do not have enough time, or enough hired help. Honestly, all the time and hired help in the world wouldn't help. It's about being able to enjoying simple pleasures in life, and trying to let go of that need to constantly be in control and have order.

Everyone above is saying the same thing with their excellent suggestions about having the kids help in the daily activities. But fundamentally, at a deeper level, I suggest you find a way to try to let go of the need for so much perfection in the daily routine. So the floor has some crumbs on it -- let it go! Why is this nails on a chalk board to you? Kids spilled some milk attempting to pour it -- no problem, that's how they learn, easy to clean up!

What I am suggesting is probably very difficult, but I really recommend some introspection to understand why you feel you need such tight order, and a way to let go of it so you will have more peace and sheer joy with your children (and husband) without feeling like something needs to be done. I'll bet I'm not the first person in your life to point this out, or that you haven't thought of it yourself before!

To be hardcore, since I'm some anonymous guy on the internets, I will say plainly that there is absolutely no way a SAHM does not have the time to maintain an orderly household with three kids. I know, I know, it's hard -- but if you let go of the feeling that everything has to be Martha Stewart Perfect, you will find you have plenty of time in the day to get everything done AND have time to unwind and spend with your kids! As a rule, barring anything unusual, if it takes you more than 2 hours a day for housework, and 2 hours preparing meals, you are working too hard at it.

totoro

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We have four children.

Here are some tips for your situation:

1.  Time in the day:  find another nearby mom in your situation and trade a couple hours of childcare two or three or times a week.  Good socialization for your little ones.

Use this time to: 
1.  Get the book speed cleaning by Jeff Campbell.  Read it, get yourself organized with the apron and clean.
2.  Cook in bulk once a week and freeze. 
3.  Prep vegetables and fruit for the week.

If you have a higher need for order I say accommodate it.  You will be stressed and unhappy if you can't meet this need a bit more and it will impact your family.  If this plan does not work for some reason you could consider hiring a child minder - they are cheaper than cleaners and you could clean like a maniac while they play with your toddler.  You can then spend some time in a more relaxed state with the kids.

You also might want to arrange for playdates after school for your older kids on a rotating basis.  All of this time with others with your kids would lead to destressing for you and greater ability to "play" with kids.

I don't think I did everything the most efficient way.   I still make my kids lunches because I love doing it.  I also do most of the cooking.  My kids clean and do cleaning, laundry and yard work.

Other time savers for us:

1. live close enough to schools/store that you all can walk
2. live in a smaller space with less to clean
3. have a chore chart for kids (I am not super organized with this)
4. get up earlier and do stuff before the kids wake up




c

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Wouldn't having the kids help out with things like cooking etc actually be spending quality time with them? My niece and nephew are learning to cook. One is 6 the other is 4. My SiL is VERY particular about her home and she does not handle stress well, but she enjoys this and so do the kids. They can, with supervision, make rainbow pancakes, grilled cheese and scrambled eggs. They help out with other dishes, stirring stuff etc. The older one cuts things up. The kids love it and she finds it a way to spend time with them while getting stuff done.

She has a demanding full time job and both the kids have special needs.

I wish my parents showed us how to do things like this when we were young. All of my siblings battle with "basics" as we had a full time housekeeper for cleaning and my father did all the cooking and didn't like to be disturbed while doing it.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2012, 05:41:41 PM by c »
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chilliepepper

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Wow, lots to chew on today! A couple well-deserved punches in the face, a slew of great tips, and even some good laughs. Thanks, everybody, for your input. Wish I could have been participating throughout the day, but well, you know...busy and all. I really do feel encouraged, that by making some changes I can get the time I want with my kids AND maintain law and order. Thanks!

Here are my comments on a few (ok, well quite a few) of the things that have been said.

On one hand you want to free up time so you can spend more time with the kids, on the other hand you don't want to make the necessary adjustments or do things with the kids that they would want to or be inclined to be doing. 
Actually, I do want to make the necessary adjustments. Note I said I'm not a playful person; this was meant as a confession not an excuse. I'm not looking for ways to get out of playing with them (or spending time with them or whatever). It's the opposite---I'm trying to figure out how to get myself to DO this thing that does not come naturally to me. I want to make the adjustments; I'm just trying to nail down what they are---and I've gotten lots of good tips here which I'm keen to get started on. I had been thinking that if I brought in an occasional helper for designated times, I might get a double benefit of having some of the busywork done, and also having NO EXCUSE (at least during those times) to not be focusing on my kids. BUT---with the good tips here, maybe that can be avoided.

The suggestions you're getting here may seem overwhelmingly impossible, and I'm sensing some "Yeah, but..." in your responses. 

Not overwhelmingly impossible---on the contrary many of the suggestions here are likely doable but might just need a little tweaking for my current situation. For example the cooking thing---again I say, I love the idea. I just need to figure out WHEN I can involve them, since most of my cooking is done either while they are at school or during the toddler "witching hour" when I'm already trying to juggle cooking + fussy toddler. It's also been suggested to have them help after dinner. Again, that's when I put the baby to bed, and then it's homework, playtime with dad, story time, and by then it's their bedtime (or past it). So for now (at least till the baby's a bit older), my "tweak" of this principle is that cooking lessons might need to occur on Saturdays. That being said, they did all do some lettuce dunking tonight, the 7yo cut up his own apple, and the 5yo made himself a rockin' ssbutter sandwich. See, we are getting somewhere. :) 

Or you could continue picking at the suggestions until you find the perfect solution.  Good luck with that.

I'll do my best, thanks. ;)

I'm not sure I understand why do you care what temperature their dinner leftovers are.   

I actually don't care; however I do care that I'm sending them with something that won't end up in the trash can. PB/SSB sandwiches seem to work for that (no need for hot lunch as you have implied), so when there are leftovers, they usually go with DH who can microwave them at work.

This is not about optimizing laundry loads.  This is about teaching your kids to do laundry.  There's going to be some inefficiency, some waste, and some downright messes.  It's training, not perfection.  However it's great family time together, you're getting a chore started on their time instead of just your time, and you're teaching them life skills.  So perhaps the "economy of scale" is the least of these priorities.   

This is a great point---giving myself permission to do things less efficiently for a season, in the interest of teaching them lifelong skills. I love it.

OK, perhaps you're not willing to choose between family time and clean floors.

Well, if you're going to put it THAT way...! ;)

...I honestly would much rather be working. I love work. And when I do try to play with them in the middle of an unraveling household environment, I get very grouchy very fast. So it's either jump ship and go sweep the floor, or start yelling at them and it's just not fun anymore. I feel like if I could just get some order in my world, I could relax and just play. Hence my frequent pondering of hiring a helper or paying someone to clean up from time to time. Even though I really love doing it myself.


THIS is the root of the issue. Please, please, please ponder what you have written above, it is very revealing. It is not a bad thing, just recognize it for what it is.

Oh believe me, I have pondered it. I do ponder it. Every. Single. Day. If I weren't trying to be Mustachian (or could afford it period), I'd probably be in therapy.

Everyone above is saying the same thing with their excellent suggestions about having the kids help in the daily activities. But fundamentally, at a deeper level, I suggest you find a way to try to let go of the need for so much perfection in the daily routine. So the floor has some crumbs on it -- let it go! Why is this nails on a chalk board to you? Kids spilled some milk attempting to pour it -- no problem, that's how they learn, easy to clean up!

What I am suggesting is probably very difficult, but I really recommend some introspection to understand why you feel you need such tight order, and a way to let go of it so you will have more peace and sheer joy with your children (and husband) without feeling like something needs to be done. I'll bet I'm not the first person in your life to point this out, or that you haven't thought of it yourself before!

Ok, this just makes me laugh. If you could SEE my home, you would know that I'm not going for the Martha Stewart look in any way, shape or form! I haven't said once that I'm seeking constant control, perfection, or tight order. A few crumbs, fine. Spilled milk, no problem! Have the kid wipe it up and move on! All I'm saying is that when people can't walk across the room without tripping, when I can't sit on the floor with my kids without getting up and having to brush a layer of dirt/hair/crumbs/WHATEVER off my behind, when the baby is constantly showing up with marbles, dirt, legos or (today) a STRAIGHT PIN in his MOUTH for cryin' out loud, I get a little twitchy!

To be hardcore, since I'm some anonymous guy on the internets, I will say plainly that there is absolutely no way a SAHM does not have the time to maintain an orderly household with three kids. 

Bwahahahahahahaha! Absolutely no way...unless she's too busy sitting around eating bonbons and checking her facebook all day like I clearly do! For the record...how many kids do you have?

As a rule, barring anything unusual, if it takes you more than 2 hours a day for housework, and 2 hours preparing meals, you are working too hard at it.

Sounds about right to me. I think I'll try again to audit my time and see how it all adds up.

If you have a higher need for order I say accommodate it.  You will be stressed and unhappy if you can't meet this need a bit more and it will impact your family. 

Thank you. Someone understands. :)

sheepstache

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There's already a lot of information on this thread about how to involve kids in chores but you might also enjoy this book I just read called The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.  Obviously, it's from a Jewish perspective but I think that aspect is more about incorporating spirituality and tradition into family life, which you might like since you mentioned church.  It's not a step-by-step book but it does offer some specific examples of what's appropriate at what age and is just philosophically trying to get at the idea of teaching children what it means to be part of a family and respecting them without putting them in charge, all through simple concrete measures. 

Also, Bakari (where is Bakari, anyway?) posted something awhile ago about time management that seemed pretty hardcore: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/an-exercise-to-%27create%27-more-hours-in-your-day/msg40127/#msg40127


chilliepepper

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Thanks, I was just reading Bakari's post the other day and it looks like it will be really helpful. The book looks good too; I'll check the library.

I think something has gone wrong in our parenting. It's not that we have bad kids...I think they're generally pretty compliant and pleasant to be around; no tantrums or big drama most of the time. However, even though we know the importance of involving kids in work around the house at an early age, we just haven't known how to sell them on the idea---and we didn't get started early enough. With only 1 kid, it didn't seem that important. When #2 came along, we went through a few years of major life circumstance upheaval (in addition to having the Most Miserable Baby on the Block), where we moved several times and lived with friends for 8 months. During that time I think I was in survival mode and though I knew I should be involving them (and I sometimes did), there maybe wasn't enough stability or routine for us to settle down into habits that could be easily handed down. And along the way, when we've tried to get them to help out, I think it's been with a wrong approach. We've framed it as "work." As in, "ok, put your legos away and then we can play." Or, "we need to clean up this mess before you can watch TV." In this approach, "play" or "TV" has been seen as a reward for doing something they didn't want to do. Unintentionally giving them a message that work is bad.

Now, with the baby, I think I've wised up a little to where "work" is not "work." It's just another one of the fun things that he and mommy do together. We "play laundry" together almost every day, and he doesn't know it's any different from playing trains...in fact, I think he enjoys it because he wants to mimic what he sees me doing. I could tell a hilarious story about how we ALMOST had to spend $300 bringing in a fixit guy for our dryer, as a result of his "help."

But with the other two, who view even cooking as "work" a lot of the time, I need to do some damage control. Need to figure out how to get their buy-in on participating in household tasks, now that they feel that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter. I could share more about the many, many ways we've tried to teach them to have some responsibility...but now I hear the baby is awake, so ready...set...go! Meantime, if anyone has suggestions on how to help entitled kids to re-enter the real world of being helpful and responsible, I'm all ears! Hopefully this doesn't go too far beyond the scope of this website.

happy

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What kind of sandwiches do you make that are still palatable after being frozen? I had a friend that used to do this with PBJ...I was skeptical, but maybe it's not as bad as I would think?



Most "spreads" freeze quite well: peanut butter, vegemite, honey, cream cheese, Peck's paste, homous etc
Meat such as ham, salami etc
Cheese
baked beans
Egg with mayonnaise
Ummm trying to remember all the things I've tried over the years. We have "phases" where something is in for a while then out.
Salad type fillings DON'T work eg lettuce, tomato.

Usually I involved them in giving feedback and they were happy enough to try something they fancied but come home and say "that didn't work Mum".

As far as "rehabilitating" your kids...they are only 5 and 7 so I would gradually build in some jobs bit by bit.  Present it as something you are doing together at first. My kids have been doing chores for a long time, but I still need to remind them frequently (age 14 and 17), and intermittently have stern words about non performance.  In the beginning pick something quick, easy and foolproof, so you can give them praise and its not too much of a pain supervising. And something that won't make the household grind to a halt if not done properly/on time.

 

herisff

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But with the other two, who view even cooking as "work" a lot of the time, I need to do some damage control. Need to figure out how to get their buy-in on participating in household tasks, now that they feel that everything should be handed to them on a silver platter.
Why should you get their buy in? They are members of the family, and need to do their part.
- Laundry: why should they just do their own? Again, they are members of the family and can do the entire family's laundry with supervision.
- Hot breakfast: oatmeal in the slow cooker the night before, turn on before you go to bed. The kids can do that, under supervision at first.
- Meal prep: they should not be playing while you are preparing the meal. They should be setting the table, cutting soft veggies (while young), or doing other household chores while you do things they can't. If you're not comfortable w/ not being able to supervise them closely, then they can do homework while you prep & cook and then they can set the table once done with homework.

You are not their servant. They are members of a working family and need to do their share. It's not work, it's family participation. Why should they play while you work? The oldest can watch the youngest while the middle child puts out the garbage. You get the idea.

Can you tell I was part of a large family? I'm #4 of 5 children - we all had to do our share.

DoubleDown

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Ah, thanks for the additional info chiliepepper, that helps!

Okay, you aren't seeking martha stewart perfection, just a reasonable sense of order and safety. I guess I can buy in to your goal of keeping marbles and straight pins out of a toddler's mouth :-)

Maybe some de-cluttering is in order, and some simple rules with kids. Others have already touched on how, as members of the family, kids should be expected to help out. You don't have to sell them on it, it's all about giving them freedom within boundaries, setting limits (and building self-responsibility at the same time). You could adopt, for example, a "one toy out at a time" policy. Put EVERYTHING away, then from now on allow only one toy out at a time to be played with by each child. No new toys (marbles, legos, straight pins) are taken out until the child puts away (themselves) the one they were previously playing with. Then you won't have to be constantly policing whether something dangerous is lying about or that you can't even find a place to sit among the stuff.

You sound like a good mom. I think you're unnecessarily harried, that you're feeling overwhelmed by how much there is to do, but there really isn't as much to do as you think. Give your kids a safe environment, and leave them to it. As we've agreed, it only takes 4 hrs. max for meals and housework. So you have lots of time left in the day for other things, including naps, leisure time, playing, whatever.

Have them as part of the daily routine, not you as their servant. I've known a lot of parents in your situation. They feel overwhelmed all day, and at the end of the day they're worn out. But to be blunt, these parents are making too much out of it, they just need to have a simple routine.

You asked about my situation: I have two kids that I've raised on my own. I work full time, and did all the housework, homework, errands, making lunches, etc. in the evenings and on weekends. I rarely, if ever, felt harried, and my kids have turned out to be fantastic, responsible kids. I think if you seek simplicity and let go (and use the practical suggestions folks are giving here), you will find you have PLENTY of time and energy to get everything done without hiring help. And you have a husband!

Best of luck to you!

chilliepepper

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Why should you get their buy in?

Welllll...because I lost my cattle prod and I get tired of nagging?

- Meal prep: they should not be playing while you are preparing the meal. They should be setting the table, cutting soft veggies (while young), or doing other household chores while you do things they can't. If you're not comfortable w/ not being able to supervise them closely, then they can do homework while you prep & cook and then they can set the table once done with homework.

You are not their servant. They are members of a working family and need to do their share. It's not work, it's family participation. Why should they play while you work? The oldest can watch the youngest while the middle child puts out the garbage. You get the idea.

Can you tell I was part of a large family? I'm #4 of 5 children - we all had to do our share.

But seriously. This all sounds really good and right---lines right up with my vision of how a home SHOULD function. I'm just curious, though...without their buy in, exactly how DO you get them to participate? My siblings were all much older than me, so I was brought up more like an only child. "Large" (not that my family is THAT large, but anyway...) family logistics were never modeled for me. I've known a couple of big families that did a great job of involving their kids, and usually the parents came from a long line of large families. The moms were usually too busy to divulge their secrets to me. :)

One thing I know is that we've let TV and video games creep in. So the minute they wake up in the morning, they want their 15 minutes of "game time" and the minute they get home from school they're asking for their TV time. I think I need to cut them off from those things so that when they get home from school, they belong to me instead of YouTube. If the baby takes a later nap, he'll still sleep a bit after they get home and maybe that can be my focused time with them, whether it's working together or playing. I could say "you can have your TV time after we do some work," but I really hate to frame TV as the reward. What do you think about that?


chilliepepper

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As we've agreed, it only takes 4 hrs. max for meals and housework. So you have lots of time left in the day for other things, including naps, leisure time, playing, whatever.

Yeah! WTH am I doing all day long? I am SO pulling out the voice log I did one day of what I did every single minute that day. Maybe I'll type it up and post it here for analysis by the experts. :)

And you have a husband!

Heyyyyyy, maybe THAT is my problem! ;)

totoro

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re. the tv/game time.... unplug it.  take the internet access away |(ie. the modem and not all the devices) except between set times and then only if all the chores are done.  don't give game time in the morning, wait until the evening.

ShavenLlama

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One thing I know is that we've let TV and video games creep in. So the minute they wake up in the morning, they want their 15 minutes of "game time" and the minute they get home from school they're asking for their TV time.

Tonight when you go to bed, reach behind the cable box and/ or router and unscrew the coax cable.

"Aw, shucks, I guess the cable's broken! I'll call the guy, but you know sometimes it can take DAYS for them to show up..."

DoubleDown

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I'm just curious, though...without their buy in, exactly how DO you get them to participate?

...

I could say "you can have your TV time after we do some work," but I really hate to frame TV as the reward. What do you think about that?

I personally don't recommend tricking your kids with unplugging modems, etc. I do highly recommend this book I checked out from the library several years ago on the advice of a parenting expert (I mean a real, professional, parenting expert). It will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know in very practical terms, it applies exactly to the situations you are describing, and it's a quick read:

http://www.amazon.com/Setting-Limits-Responsible-Independent-Boundaries/dp/0761512128

(I included this link from Amazon just because it gives a good description of the book, not because I'm encouraging you to buy it there)

Erica/NWEdible

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Um, yeah, you are describing a pretty typical reality for any perfectionist with kids. There is ALWAYS a time, money, expectation trade off. I feel your pain. Deeply. Here, tattoo this to your brain:



Yes, your 7 (8?) year old is old enough to use a knife safely. My oldest has been chopping with real knives since she was five. Don't underestimate your kids OR the pride they will get for doing things on their own. But you have to spend a fair amount of time putting in the foundation.:) Here's a whole post I wrote about how irritating it can be to lay that foundation with kids, but why you should do it anyway. http://www.nwedible.com/2011/11/slow-painful-truth-about-chores-and.html

Good luck!
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DoubleDown

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That cartoon is funny, thanks for sharing it. However, when getting to the sentiment behind it, I think there's a hidden "dangerous message" that is exactly what our OP is wrestling with.

See, I have seen a lot of moms in this situation. In fact, I had an (ex) wife that sounds a lot like your situation Chillie. Now in her case, she was a SAHM, while I went to work all day then helped with the kids/house when I got home. When I did get home in the evenings, I heard all the laments about how hard it was dealing with the kids, house, etc., all day long. And the house was pretty much a mess.

My (now) ex and her sister, sister-in-law, friends at the playground -- all of them commiserated about how hard it was to be stay at home moms, how there were not enough hours in the day. It was the topic du jour, every day, like they were competing to see who was busier and more harried. And without voicing it, deep inside I was thinking, WTF? How hard could it be? I mean, she literally was describing HOURS of phone calls to her sisters each day how they were discussing how they had no time, and sharing over the latest episode of Dr. Phil (meaning she had time to catch that, too), and so on. So I felt that their time probably wasn't managed so well, and they were in this ridiculous race to be more busy (while wasting more time).

Please understand I'm not suggesting this is your scenario. Just that I hear a lot of (mostly moms) complain about how they can't do it all.

So, fast forward, where she became an ex-wife. I quickly had to be a single dad, still working, and I learned what a big, f*ing joke it all was. It was NOT hard as my ex and all the moms at the playground described. They just made it that way. Seriously. Now you or anyone could say, "you must be cutting corners somewhere, your kids are probably running around looking like they were raised by wolves, hungry, and just emerged out of the forest into humanity." But that's not the case.

I could pick kids up after school, make dinner in 20-30 mins, spend an hour on chores and cleaning up the kitchen during the evening, make lunches with them in 10-15 mins, baths/showers every other night (letting them do it themselves as age appropriate), help with homework. In total, it took maybe 2 hours at night on average, leaving another hour of time for relaxing, reading, playing, whatever. Weekends give plenty of time for grocery shopping and errands, plus some additional cleaning, laundry, etc.

So I just know from experience that unless a parent is dealing with a special needs child or something, it is not that hard, and you CAN have it all (clean house, kids, and sanity). That's why I probably come off as a jerk, I've just been jaded against the complaining I continue to hear from other parents at the playground who express amazement that I've been able to raise kids on my own.

I think you are on the right path, and I applaud you for trying to improve. Check out that book, it will bring a lot of sanity into you and your kids' daily lives. There will be no more nagging, cajoling, cattle prodding...

totoro

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"tricking your kids"... um, no.  they know that the internet is off and there is no temptation.  they don't even ask.   

i haven't read that book and i'm not a "real professional parenting expert" so maybe i'm missing the boat.  all i know is that this reduces conflict and works for us.  i don't feel that i am tricking them at all.  i feel that i am reducing temptation.

if i worked in a bakery boy would i be tempted to eat more sweets.  i'm not around it so i don't even think about sweets most of the time.  i view this method as aligned with human nature which makes things easier for everyone.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2012, 12:57:31 PM by totoro »

totoro

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Doubledown, you are sooo right.  I know someone who fits this category to a "T" and uses her SAHM role to not work and complain how hard everything is while the house is an absolute disaster and the kids are unkempt.  It can be infuriating for those left to pick up the slack.

That said, I think the OP is not in this camp.  She is looking for solutions actively and trying to improve things for everyone.  The attitude you refer to seems to go along with a refusal to acknowledge what can be improved or seek out solutions. 

People who act like your ex may have a high degree of self-interest and little motivation to change.  They may also have other psychological issues that interfere with reality testing.

chilliepepper

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I could pick kids up after school, make dinner in 20-30 mins, spend an hour on chores and cleaning up the kitchen during the evening, make lunches with them in 10-15 mins, baths/showers every other night (letting them do it themselves as age appropriate), help with homework. In total, it took maybe 2 hours at night on average, leaving another hour of time for relaxing, reading, playing, whatever.


That sounds about right for an evening with two school-age kids in a 3-person household.

That said, I think the OP is not in this camp.  She is looking for solutions actively and trying to improve things for everyone.  The attitude you refer to seems to go along with a refusal to acknowledge what can be improved or seek out solutions.

Thanks, Totoro. Yeah...if I was watching Dr. Phil or spending hours on the phone during the day, I don't think I would have any business complaining about things not getting done! Heck. I don't have any business complaining anyway, and I hope I'm not. Like you said, I am after solutions. A lot of good pieces have been added to the puzzle here. What remains for me to ponder is, do these pieces add up for me to form a complete picture? Or would hiring some occasional help, for a season, be  (in the words of a lurker who PM'd me, yes you know who you are!) "the best money I ever spent?"

I really appreciate everyone's engagement on this topic. I realize we've gone somewhat afield from the overall topic of this website, but it's been super helpful for me! If anyone wants to continue discussing, I'm game---just don't want to be hijacking the whole forum.


lhamo

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Instead of comparing your kids to someone else's kids, perhaps you could compare your current life (and relationship with your kids) to the life (and relationship) you want to have.  It's hard now, and you're unhappy.  The suggestions you're getting here may seem overwhelmingly impossible, and I'm sensing some "Yeah, but..." in your responses.  If you make one small change every week, that'll give you time to see how it affects the kids (and you) and to decide what you want to do next.  That will at least start you on the road to "less unhappy".

This is the essence of a lot of the research about how to make sustainable positive changes, but I don't think I've ever seen it put quite this simply and elegantly before.  Very nice, Nords.  Thank you.


Ashem

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O.K., o.k., I'll stick up for you. Being at home with a kid all day is the hardest thing I have ever done. Not much in life has ever overwhelmed me, but being home with children 24-7 was at times more than I could handle, and I only have 2.

My youngest just started full-time school, so now I have plenty of time to do 10 loads of laundry a week, shop for food, pay the bills, cook every dinner from scratch, pack their lunches, help with homework, mop the floors, read my favorite blogs, call a friend, read a book, play with my kids, etc.
Doing those things with a toddler following you around is another thing altogether. Every chore takes 3 times as long. It's like taking a goat with you everywhere you go.
Doing those things in the evening after your kids come home from school is a different story too - the house remains in the same condition you left it in that morning.
Plus, you've had a break from them, whether you've been at work or home alone. The few times I freelanced when my kids were little, I actually missed them
and was so much more patient when I got home. You sound like you need a break.

I say hire a housekeeper once a month, just for 6 months or a year. I did that when my second child was a year old.
While the house got dirty in no time, it was a huge relief just knowing they were coming. 5 women would clean the house from top to bottom in one hour - they would even dust ceiling fans and change the sheets. Once you put your little one in preschool 2 or 3 mornings a week, do it yourself. Even cleaning can be enjoyable when you can do it uninterrupted.

I'm sure everyone on this board "wastes" money in one way or another. Since you probably can't travel much with 3 young kids and eating out is most likely more trouble and expense than its worth, spend that money on getting some help instead.







chilliepepper

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My youngest just started full-time school, so now I have plenty of time to do 10 loads of laundry a week

Only 10? ;)

course11

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I'm a new mom (I have a 7 month old) so I'm not speaking from a whole lot of first-hand parenting experience. Having said that, two things struck me:
  • It seems like if your kids complain about something you ask them to do, they get to opt out. Is that what's happening? Are there consequences for their lousy attitude / slacking / not doing what they've been asked to do? I keep hearing how offering choices can work well ("you can make your own sandwich, or you can set the table. Which do you want to do?"). Have you tried that? Seems like you need more of your kids DOING stuff regardless of their attitude about it.
  • Where's your husband in all this? Did I miss that?


chilliepepper

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I'm a new mom (I have a 7 month old) so I'm not speaking from a whole lot of first-hand parenting experience. Having said that, two things struck me:
  • It seems like if your kids complain about something you ask them to do, they get to opt out. Is that what's happening?
Nah. No opting out for complaining. When they say "I don't waaaaaaaaan't to," my typical matter of fact response is "oh that's ok. You don't have to want to. You just need to do it." I try to keep my response cheerful without being flippant. The context for this, of course, is those times when I haven't really given them an option (i.e. "Boy, please pick your jacket up off the floor."). I think there are times that it's ok to ask a kid if he wants to do something---but then if he says no, he doesn't want to, I have to honor it. After all, I asked. This was the case with the oatmeal that one time. In that case, I really thought he would want to do it, so I asked. "Hey Boy, how would you like to make your oatmeal this morning?" Then, when he said he didn't want to, I didn't really feel like I could at that point say "well, you have to," because I had set it up as an option. And don't think for a second that they won't pick up on the subtle nuances of how you present something.
 
Are there consequences for their lousy attitude / slacking / not doing what they've been asked to do?
Yeah...but I think we're still trying to figure out what types of consequences are most effective for our specific kids; and of course, a consequence that works for one kid might not work as well for another. AND...I've found that I can impose all the consequences I want, trying to build good habits...but the minute I lift the consequences, the old habits return. For example, over the summer I was charging them a dime each time I picked up something of theirs off the floor. This worked kind of well (or maybe I was just getting rich...hmmm...). However once school started I eased up, because I felt like we were in a period of adjustment and it seemed there just weren't enough hours that they were home, for me to be constantly nitpicking about their cr@p all over the place. They say don't try to work on too many issues at once, and the transition to school was an issue that had to be focused on for awhile. Pick your battles, you know.

Same with helping with chores. I was making them do a lot more during the summer (with some good results), but during the school year with them gone most of the day, I really can't just let all the chores pile up all day until they get home. So I do a lot of them while they are gone. Well, as much as possible, given that I have a "helper" most of the time, who helps to make the chores take a lot longer. And then, it seems like there's just not that much TIME from the time they walk through the door after school until they go to bed at night. So I can give them some work to do, but I also need to allow time for a snack, homework, good ol' honest to goodness unstructured playtime, dinner, getting ready for bed, and reading time. So...all that to say, I suppose I have let them slack to some extent since school started. This is new to all of us (their first year in full day public school). Maybe we'll have it figured out by the end of the year.

As far as lousy attitude goes, yes...usually when they start to whine or cry about something I've asked them to do, they are asked to go whine or cry in their room. Sometimes, I "discover" through their whining that they must be "very tired," so they get to go have some resting time or we need to cancel playtime with dad because everybody is too tired.

I keep hearing how offering choices can work well ("you can make your own sandwich, or you can set the table. Which do you want to do?"). Have you tried that?

Yep. Choices are great. As often as possible, I set things up as choices. Sometimes the boys try to pick "neither," but I try to stick to my guns and insist that "neither" isn't one of the options. :)


  • Where's your husband in all this? Did I miss that?

Heh. That's a whole 'nuther can of worms. Should I go there tonight? :)

Suffice it to say that my husband...bless his heart...is a good man, of solid character. I really do think he is wise when it comes to the big issues in life, and he's faithful to me and the boys, and I think he's probably a lot more involved with his kids than many other dads. He's also good about keeping up with the "manly" stuff like taking care of the cars (yes we still have two; need to figure that out) and fixing stuff when it breaks.

That being said...he really can't be counted on for help with household chores. He does pitch in occasionally, but this is the exception not the norm. I really feel that while he's highly productive at work, at home he's more of a consumer than a producer. He's another body to feed, clothe, and clean up after (not a slob, but certain evidences of his presence don't get attended to until I attend to them). He knows that I wish he helped more, but what can ya do. I'm not going to force him. On the parenting front, he is great about playing with the kids for 10-15 minutes just about every night, and occasionally taking them to a playground or for a bike ride on the weekends. But in general, he mostly only does things when I request it and doesn't seem to have a high sense of ownership in the whole situation. It frustrates me to no end but again...what can ya do?[/list]

course11

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Thanks for the response! As I said, newbie parent here so I'm basically as eager as you are to hear the advice & experience of others. I hope you're able to figure out some changes that will work for you. Good luck!

DoubleDown

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Since "consequences" for kids was brought up again, I'll repeat: Every parent should read the short book, "Setting Limits" by Mackenzie (no, I don't get royalties). It is all about using natural or logical consequences (those are different things, and if you don't know the difference, you really need to read it) in order to raise responsible, independent children.

@Chilliepepper: Your approach is not working (no worries, we've probably all been there at one time). This is why you have complaining, cajoling, nagging, bargaining...

The example of charging a dime to pick a kid's stuff off the floor for them: I could have told you that would not work, and the lesson you unwittingly taught them is Mom will pick up after you for the right price. There is NO connection you have set up for a child to build on to gain responsibility. The logical consequence of a kid not picking their things up is they can't get anything else out to play with, or do anything else until the item is picked up. Ten cents to a small child is meaningless. Or at the age it does become meaningful, they just might decide to pay that fee to watch you clean up after them. These kinds of lessons day in and day out will almost certainly translate into lazy, entitled, and irresponsible teens and adults (typically associated with delinquency, drug use, hanging with the wrong crowd, etc.).

Getting to play with a toy matters to kids though, so having that limited until they pick up their other stuff will instill in them that their behavior has consequences. That kind of lesson day in and day out will translate into responsible teens and adults, even when "no one is looking."

Or asking about making oatmeal -- assuming that was a rhetorical question by you, then when the kid answers "No I don't want to", the next statement is a clear choice with limits: "Well you can either help make oatmeal, or you won't eat. Which do you choose?" If they choose not to make the oatmeal, that's it, the consequence (not eating) is realized, and the matter is resolved until the next meal time, period. You can be pretty certain their hunger will change their approach for the next meal time. They learned a valuable lesson that their actions have real, understandable consequences, and it becomes part of their character.

Please read the book.

tooqk4u22

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A couple of things that were done this weekend that is somewhat related to this thread:

- kids were playing with toys and boardgames and had a few things out (but looked like a complete mess) then they went to get something else and I said they had to put a few of the other things away as shouldn't be more than 1 thing out per kid (3 of them).  They put the other stuff away - did they do it as neatly as I would have liked, no, but it was done.

- made cutout cookies with them, holy crap was this an absolute mess and fun. Finished up around bedtime so we left the mess for the morning, yikes, but we all pitched in to clean it up.

- oldest (7YO) made oatmeal (whole oats in the microwave, not on the stove) for the two younger ones and made me coffee on sunday - had some grinds in it and it was weaker than I would like but overall a good darn job for never having done it before. I asked how did he know how to make it, he said it was by watching us do it - he never asked a thing about it.

I assure you none of this was picture perfect, but if I had expected it to be I would have pulled my hair out instead of enjoying it.

Erica/NWEdible

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Since "consequences" for kids was brought up again, I'll repeat: Every parent should read the short book, "Setting Limits" by Mackenzie (no, I don't get royalties). It is all about using natural or logical consequences (those are different things, and if you don't know the difference, you really need to read it) in order to raise responsible, independent children....Please read the book.

This sounds very similar to "The Book" I recommend, which is called Love and Logic. It can be a bit pedantic with set phrases and whatnot but the methods have been very effective for us, though I have had to modify them to suit the very different temperaments of my two children.

For clean up, I have started calmly telling my 2 year old, "Your choice: you put it away or I throw it away." He's old enough to put things back in a bin, but he got too sassy with me once ("No, mama, YOU clean it up!"), so I started very methodically putting all his toys in the trashcan. I did let him earn them back because that was our first time with that particular consequence, but now he knows.

Since I hate the amount of crap in our house anyway, it's really no skin of my back to donate a few toys. I tell my 8 year old: "you can clean your room or I will." It's all very calm, no screaming, but she knows I will clean in about five minutes with a black plastic trashbag. She knows this because she chose not to pick up one time and so I did it for her. She didn't need all those little plastic doll things anyway.

My pet peeve is threatened but unenforced/unenforceable consequences. I'm not always perfect about this but I really try to avoid them. I try to respect my kids enough to tell them the truth, so if I say "stop running or we have to leave" or "put your toys away or I will throw them away" I fully intend to live up to my promise, and I think they know this.

Sorry, that was a bit off-the-original-topic, but since we're talking limit setting I thought I'd throw in for my personal parenting choice book too. :)
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amyable

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My pet peeve is threatened but unenforced/unenforceable consequences. I'm not always perfect about this but I really try to avoid them. I try to respect my kids enough to tell them the truth, so if I say "stop running or we have to leave" or "put your toys away or I will throw them away" I fully intend to live up to my promise, and I think they know this.

I was just about to say this!  I've taught middle school and high school for the past five years, and while it is certainly different from parenting, when it comes to discipline the most important thing is consistency.

It almost doesn't matter as much what you do for consequences / punishment as it does that you actually follow through with what you say you are going to do every single time.  It may sound heartless, but it doesn't matter whether the kid is in a transitional period, or having a rough day, or tired.  You have to follow through with the consequence you have set up every single time.  Even as a teacher, it's really difficult sometimes when I'm exhausted, it's the end of the day, and I don't feel like being the "bad guy," but deep down, kids are happier and better behaved when you follow through, and they know what to expect.

Make sure you're offering specific praise as well.  Kids get lots of general praise at school like, "You're a good / smart boy," and they often barely know what they are being praised for.  Specific praise is powerful.  If they pick up their toys without whining you might say something like, "Wow, I really like how you are picking up your toys without being asked.  I can't believe what a big boy you are for doing this on your own" instead of just "good job!"  Specific praise needs to be really consistent as well to be effective.

Anyways, you seem like a really awesome mom, and I'm sure this is all stuff you've thought of--I just really struggled my first year of teaching with students whining (it almost made me feel guilty), and these are some things that made miraculous changes in my classroom.

PJ

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My pet peeve is threatened but unenforced/unenforceable consequences. I'm not always perfect about this but I really try to avoid them. I try to respect my kids enough to tell them the truth, so if I say "stop running or we have to leave" or "put your toys away or I will throw them away" I fully intend to live up to my promise, and I think they know this.

I was just about to say this!  I've taught middle school and high school for the past five years, and while it is certainly different from parenting, when it comes to discipline the most important thing is consistency.

It almost doesn't matter as much what you do for consequences / punishment as it does that you actually follow through with what you say you are going to do every single time.  It may sound heartless, but it doesn't matter whether the kid is in a transitional period, or having a rough day, or tired.  You have to follow through with the consequence you have set up every single time.  Even as a teacher, it's really difficult sometimes when I'm exhausted, it's the end of the day, and I don't feel like being the "bad guy," but deep down, kids are happier and better behaved when you follow through, and they know what to expect.
You both are right on.  In my old job (supporting families whose children had developmental disabilities - often accompanied by behavioural issues) I used to tell parents not to ask a child to do something if they weren't prepared to follow through.  Even to the point that if your child is running around the room and jumping on the furniture, it's better for you to let him/her do it than to tell him/her to sit down at the table for dinner but not actually make him do it.  Better to let him/her leave toys all over the place or pick them up yourself than to give the instruction to clean up the toys and then not ensure that the child follows through.  Seems counter-intuitive, maybe, but the first priority has to be teaching the kids to actually listen to what you say, and they won't do that if there's a disconnect between what you say and what you do.  Sometimes that means picking your battles, not giving the instruction if you're not up to the follow-through. 
'To be human you must bear witness to justice. Justice is what love looks like in public." 
Dr. Cornel West

bogart

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Can I start by saying basically I agree with everything Ashem wrote?  I'm a WOHM to one kid and am so, so happy to be a WOHM and not a SAHM.  So, on the one hand, I'm not exactly positioned to give you advice, am I?  But you have my sympathy and with that warning out of the way, here are a few quick thoughts.

Yes to the Love & Logic ideas, or a book I liked (I haven't read L&L though am broadly familiar with its concepts -- it's too regularly checked out of my public library for me to get it %) !) was Have a New Kid by Friday (because who hasn't, now and then, wanted a new kid by Friday?).  It's less on the immediate, logical consequences and more on the "since you didn't pick up your toys when I said to, I won't take you to the mall now" approach, but I've found using its recommendations occasionally has helped.  Another great book not directly about parenting (but rather about how negative and positive reinforcements shape our behaviors, no matter who "we" are) is Don't Shoot the Dog.

I know this would be more difficult with 3, but can you spend quality time with your kids outside your house rather than inside your house?  If you are not at home, it gets much harder to do chores.  I much prefer being out-and-about with my son than spending time at home with him; harder to do at this time of year if you are in a cold climate, but we go out for walks in the woods (typically to a destination with water so he can fling rocks in it) or go swimming (our town has a wonderful indoor public pool that is very affordable), or ride bikes together, or go to a playground or play soccer or go to the library. 

In terms of cooking, something that works really, really well for us is baking (rather than "cooking" or other food prep).  I have (and would be willing to share!) a great banana bread recipe; I help DS (age 5) gather and measure the ingredients (the recipe is pretty flexibl/forgiving) and he is SO funny because he pours everything in and carefully smooths and "chops" and arranges it with his wooden spoon.  I can pretty easily get the dishwasher emptied and about half the dinner prep (or whatever) done while he is preparing the banana bread dough.  Then we put it on the electric mixer together and let that do the final blending and cook it.  If you have 2 or 3 mixing bowls (depending where the toddler fits in) you could let each kid mix one batch and bake them all together. 

Last thought:  all our family laundry goes in together, regardless of color, and is washed on cold or, if really dirty, warm.  Anything that cannot survive that experience wasn't meant for our household (I do sometimes remember to wash dark items on their own for the first wash).  Survival of the fittest!

Ashem

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I agree with the above posts about natural consequences and specific praise. The best book I've found that gives specific 'how to' instructions is "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I read it over and over and over again. The authors also wrote, "Siblings without Rivalry." Their books are based on Thomas Gordon's classic, "Parent Effectiveness Training." Really, really good stuff. I've always liked Alfie Cohn's philosophy, which focuses more on the person your child is and less on the behavior. He focuses on 'working with' your child, as opposed to the 'doing to' mentality of punishments and rewards.

Most parents go through a phase where they realize they've become a servant to their kids. Children grow quickly and suddenly you realize you don't have to dress them anymore,
or put away their laundry, or fix their snacks. My eight year old has been putting away her own laundry for years, but I'm realizing she could be doing a LOT more.
This is the next book on my list: http://www.amazon.com/Cleaning-House-Twelve-Month-Experiment-Entitlement/dp/0307730670

« Last Edit: December 11, 2012, 12:04:55 PM by Ashem »

Blazin

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Have 3 kids ages ranging from 2 to 10.   

A couple things we do that help:
1) I have started making a "to do" list for my kids for the week.  They really seem to enjoy crossing things off and the sense of accomplishment.  If they complete all items on the list without reminders/nagging etc. they can get a $1.   This has been highly effective and they seem to really appreciate knowing what is expected of them. Their lists include homework, keeping room clean, any projects for the week (i.e. Christmas present making this week), and 1 or 2 chores, sweeping after dinner as well as reading out loud with a parent. This is great, because now they are initiating things and not me.  My 6 year old is now asking me to read with him which I have a very hard time saying no to. The list has the added benefit of keeping them busy so I can concentrate on what I need to get done without alot of interruptions.
2)  We have a lunch box where all of their food choices are set in for the week (a selection of crackers and dried fruits and other lunch items) and the kids can pick what they want for their lunches each day.  We do the freezer sandwiches (and my kids have NEVER complained about them).
3) Maybe if your kids have favorite meals you could use that as a way to get them helping in the kitchen.   I have told my kids on particularly busy days if they help they we can make breakfast for dinner (their all time favorite) and they can pick what goes in their pancakes (blueberrries, raspberries, bananas...).   This seems to motivate them quite a bit and they have started offering to make dinner.   I don't let them use the stove, but if the set the table make the pancake batter and cut the fruit the meal prep is pretty simple.