Being a working mom (even being a stay at home mom for that matter), maintaining a clean and smooth running household is a formidable burden and one which often falls primarily on the shoulders of Mom. From my personal experience and from years of informal, non-scientific data collecting from other mothers (aka venting sessions), I have written this article as a point of reference for husbands and older children everywhere who ask the question, “How Can I Help You?”
Guideline #1 – and this is the most important piece of advice I will share with you – please don’t ask mom “how can I help you?” Do you wanna know what mom is thinking when you ask this? Mom is thinking, “why don’t you open your eyes and look around this place and figure it out yourself!?” The truth is that to maintain a clean and smooth running household there are about a million things that need to be done at any given moment. And all it really takes for caring and interested family members to help is to just do any one of those million things instead of asking mom for direction.
Just in case this is still confusing, I have a put together a generic list that can probably apply to any household that includes things you can do at any given moment without asking the question, “how can I help you?”
1. See the bed that hasn’t been made? MAKE IT.
2. See the piles of folded, laundered clothes sitting on top of the bed; on the treadmill; in a laundry basket; on the dining table; etc.? PUT IT AWAY.
3. See the little plastic sleeves that previously held a straw and were attached to a juice box and are now strewn all over the house? PICK THEM UP AND THROW THEM AWAY.
4. See the clothing thrown on the floor? (Is it dirty? Is it clean? Was it clean but now it’s dirty because it was lying on top of dirty clothes?) PUT IT AWAY IF CLEAN or PUT IT IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM if dirty. (This may require you to perform the “smell test” which is a task that mom does not particularly enjoy.)
5. See the large pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room? SORT IT.
6. See the pile of dishes sitting in the sink? WASH THEM.
7. See the dishwasher full of clean dishes? PUT THEM AWAY.
8. See the light bulb in the garage; in the hallway; above the bathroom vanity that has been out for weeks (or months!)? CHANGE IT.
9. See the empty roll of toilet paper or paper towel still attached to the holder? THROW IT AWAY AND REPLACE IT WITH A NEW ROLL.
Don’t have a light bulb? Out of toilet paper? Out of paper towel? GO TO THE GROCERY STORE. (Kids, if you don't have a driver's license, leave this to the Dads.)
10. See the pile of mail, catalogs, junk mail? SORT IT AND THROW AWAY WHAT’S UNNECESSARY.
11. See the shoes lying by the front door, by the back door, on the stairs, under the table, in the toy chest, etc.? PICK THEM UP AND PUT THEM IN THEIR DESIGNATED AREA. (Addendum: KEEP PAIRS TOGETHER. A mom would think this is a given, but I feel obliged to point out the obvious here for the dads and kids.)
12. See the empty carton of milk; empty box of soda; empty box of Capri sun; empty cereal box? THROW THEM AWAY.
13. See that wet towel on the bed? HANG IT UP.
14. See that toddler waddling around like he’s carrying a 2 lb. weight in his diaper? CHANGE HIM.
15. See the poop stuck to the side of the toilet bowl that was left by you after your last BM? GET A BRUSH AND CLEAN IT. (oh yeah… I went there.)
Note: This is not an all inclusive list, but I think it’s enough to get started. And enough that there is no reason to ever interrupt mom when she is going off on a wild tirade about how no one ever does anything around the house to ask the ever annoying and obnoxious question, “Well, then, how can I help you?” (another unacceptable variation is “Just tell me what you want me to do.”)\
In closing, I just want to send a message to the moms out there whose tireless efforts often go unnoticed and consequently unappreciated:
Keep at it. Sometimes you just have to scream and let all your frustrations out. But in the end know that those little monsters (including the husband) do actually love you and would be lost without you. You are doing God’s work (yes, even when doing the laundry smell test).