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April 03, 2012

Time Management Tips for Mom: How to feel better about a day full of thankless tasks

I’ve been meaning to blog about this topic for quite a while now. It’s something I think many mom’s can relate to:  how do you make yourself feel good about a day full of thankless tasks? Have you been there, too? This is how a participant in last summer’s It’s About Time online workshop described it. 


Other than tranquility because the house is picked up, I have no reward for completing tasks. I don't get thank yous, I don't get praise. How in the world do I make myself feel good about a day full of thankless tasks?


...I go go go until I drop and then I resent everyone and everything around me. I feel like I am doing all the support work (house cleaning/errands/school support/etc) and everyone else is enjoying the fruits of my labors. It is almost as if I want to stop so someone will notice the nice things they are missing.


Of course, when I stop laundry piles up, dishes are everywhere, the visual clutter drives me nuts and I feel depressed. Eventually I pull myself up by the bootstraps, get everything back in order and the cycle starts again.


Laundry basket-72-copyright-simplify101I would bet most of us mom’s have felt this way at one point or another—feeling as if we’re doing so much for our family without thanks or recognition. Plus, so much of what moms do in a day get’s undone almost before our eyes. The kitchen stays clean only until the next meal. At best, laundry stays caught up for a few hours— as soon as someone goes to bed and changes into their pj’s, the hamper is back on its way to full! It can be so frustrating. 


So what’s a mom to do? Here are some ideas:

Ask for help.
If you find yourself taking on most of the household responsibilities yourself, ask for help. Even young kids can help with simple tasks, and little kids get great pleasure out of being a helper. Tap into your child’s interests and natural desire to help. For example, when my son was little he loved garbage trucks. So getting him to empty the trash cans was a piece of cake! Make helping out part of the family culture and everyone wins. Your kids will learn basic home keeping skills which will serve them in adulthood, and you’ll get some much needed assistance. Your family members may even begin to appreciate everything you do for them. 


Remind them. From time to time, I will remind my kids about what I (and my husband) do for them. For example, if my kids complain about having to put away their clean clothes, I ask them if they would also like to sort, pre-treat, wash, dry, fold AND put away the laundry, or simply put away their clothes like they have to do now. After having this short conversation, their reluctance to put away their clothes passes quickly, and their complaints turn to thanks each time I drop off a batch of freshly folded laundry. 


Remember the big picture. When I start to get frustrated by what feels like a never ending household to-do list, I remind myself that I chose this. I chose to be a mom, and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. When the laundry starts to pile up I remember that I won't always have to do laundry for four people. In the blink of an eye, I’ll be doing laundry for three and then it will be for just two of us. Keeping the perspective that this is a choice (and one I would make again in heartbeat) really helps, as does the recognition that my current to do list is temporary. My to-do list will continue to shrink as my kids get older and take on even more responsibilities, until ultimately they (gasp) move away. 


Orange-clock-250Carve out time for you.
Take intentional, rejuvenating breaks from your to do list. What activities relax you or make you feel like your needs are being met? When you start to feel resentful of your to-do list, make it a point to take some time for yourself. Think back to a time when you felt better about your to-do list... what things did you do for yourself then? For me, exercising is huge rejuvenator, whether it’s yoga, running or boot camp. Exercise is good for the body and it’s great for the mind—it’s a little slice of quiet time where I can even complete a full thought. What activities rejuvenate you?


Give yourself permission to have fun, even when there’s work to be done. Here's the thing:  there will always be work to be done! So waiting until ALL the work is done to give yourself a break simply won’t work. Stake a claim to some fun time just for you. Decide how much time feels right and will fit into your schedule, and then figure out when it will happen. Could you get up earlier on weekdays to do something fun before the kids get up? Could you go to a dance or exercise class on the weekends? When you do take time out for fun, it’s a win-win. You’ll resent your to-do list less, and you’ll be more energized to get things done.


Are you a mom? I’d love to hear from all you! Do you ever feel burdened by your to-do list and if so, what do you do? Thanks for sharing!


P.S. The winner of From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is Mickey who said:  ok - sorry, I don't do twitter, so, I didn't follow Amy there, I did like on facebook and I tried to subscribe,but not sure if it worked.C: laugh, cry sometimes and write about it!! I got married to a man that had two kids and within our first two years of marriage added two more! It was all way more than I ever dreamed...being a mom/step-mom is hard, challenging and the most awesome thing all at the same time.


Congrats Mickey! Email me at aby at simplify 101 dot com with your full name and mailing address and Amy will get your book sent out to you right away! Thanks. :)



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I love this post. I can identify it with so much, & I appreciate the helpful tips. I do try to remind myself that this is the life I chose--& one I ardently wished for for a long time before I got it. I also love your point about making helping part of the family culture. This is something I have been working on lately, partially because I just wanted the help, partially because I think it's important for kids to have basic home skills, but mostly because I want them to feel a sense of responsibility and participation. One thing that helped me on the household front too was explicitly lowering my standards. Obviously, there's lots of stuff that has to get done no matter what, but at some point I decided that having a very clean home just wasn't that important to me. "Clean enough" is fine now, & I focus my efforts on the necessities & the things that do matter to me, like an uncluttered look. Even if my cleared surfaces are a little dusty. :-)


Thanks Nancy! I love your idea of clean enough and focus your efforts on those things that matter to you! Great tips!



Since being on maternity leave, I totally relate to this as it seems just when we finish a meal it's time to make another, clean up, etc.
I'm very intentional about what I put on my to-do list. When I took "It's about time." I took things off my list like watching tv, and doing laundry. I'm fortunate enough that my mother in law comes once a week to do it for me. I also follow my own rhythm Some days I'm more into making the house clean and organized and I'll do the dishes and clean up during naptime, other times I spend nap time creating a scrapbook page.


Such a great idea to follow your own rhythm, Alissa! Hope you and baby are doing well. (And the rest of your family, too.) :)
~ Aby


I agree with the ask for help idea.
I used to hate trying to vacuum while other family members were just sitting around. Made it hard to vacuum, and made me feel like a maid. Then I realized that I'm not the only one responsible for keeping the house neat. I decided to ask for help, but called it The Family CLean Up. Now, whenever things get out of hand, I call for A Family CLean Up - and in minutes all is put right. Basically, everyone pitches in - here's how we do it.....

Susan DR

Thanks for this essay Aby. I really needed this one! It is true that no one notices what I do until I don't do it. But seeing in writing that I chose this makes me realize how lucky I am to be able to do all these mundane, thankless tasks - LOL! And I especially needed to hear, and now need to follow, your last point about giving myself permission to have fun. I don't take much time for me, and weekends (and don't even mention holidays!) are a time for the rest of the family to relax and have fun while I pick up after them, prepare meals, do laundry, run errands, etc. I will try to take the time to relax with them, even if it means I pay for it on Monday morning.


Great Blog Aby! I am a Mom that works outside the home so trying to get it ALL done in regards to the house stuff is really hard with only have the nights and weekends. SO instead of trying to kill myself, I know have this motto Good Enough is the new long as the house is semi clean, clean clothes are ready and we have food and the kids are happy-- I am doing ok! My kids are going to only be young ONCE and I don't want to look back and regret the dust bunnies can stay if they want and I will be outside playing with the kids...blessings! Jules


Asking help from kids is one of the great ways to manage time effectively that will help improve workflow and productivity. It makes tasks a lot easier to do and get more things done. It is also a good training for kids to be more responsible. Creating to do list like Remember the milk will help you maximize the use of time and determine tasks. Another thing that will help you manage time is to set an estimated amount of time when working on each task that will limit wasted time. Here is an article ( regarding a productivity review that can help you manage time. Remember that the key to manage time effectively is with discipline.

Andrea Woolf

Hi Aby,

I hope this finds you thriving, and your life full of Joy, Passion, and Success!
I love this article! I thought it was particularly fabulous how you tied your points together as time management tips.

Time management is something I’m passionate about, too!

You have obviously given this subject a lot of thought and it's great that you're sharing your knowledge with others. You're truly making a difference in the world. Keep doing what you're doing!
I have posted this whole article to my site and, of course, given you credit. Hopefully it will send some traffic your way!

For your reference, here is where your article appears

To your magnificence!
Andrea Woolf
Ambassador of Manifest Money,

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