Tuesday Tips - Your Mama Doesn't Live Here & I'm Not the Maid!
Blending families sometimes feels as futile as mixing oil and water, but there ARE things we can do to help curb the chaos and save our sanity! I thought I'd start taking Tuesdays to share helpful tips I've picked up over the years and more recently from other STalkers. I hope you find something to help get a little closer to "living the dream" and would love for others to share any tips they have on the topic in the comments below.
The very first topic for Tuesday Tips is "Your Mama Doesn't Live Here & I'm Not the Maid!" Yes...I've actually said those words on more than one occasion! *ROFL* Cleaning up after SKIDS who were not taught to clean up after themselves and contribute to the family home in some way has been a huge source of contention and resentment in my world. In my situation, I am responsible for more of the cleaning while MR. ED picks up other domestic responsibilities. Everyone's situation is different, but that works for us for the most part. It gets a little hairy when SKIDS toss in their mess and as a SP, I'm left with the constant dilemma, "Should I say something to SKIDS AGAIN, have another tension-filled talk with SO about HIS kids, or should I just clean it up and move on with the day?" Oh...that IS the question, isn't it?
We all can agree that BD/BM should be teaching their children responsibility for picking up after themselves, but at the end of the day, we just want a clean home without feeling like a maid, a nag, or like we have to pick up parenting where the bioparents fall short. So, here are a few real-world tips for warding off messy SKIDS and a heading toward a SP meltdown!
- Make sure SKIDS are responsible for chores and held to basic household cleaning expectations long BEFORE moving in together. Roles change when you go from 2 single-parent households to one co-existing couple and adults may welcome the sharing of responsibilities. Just remember...if you are taking over cleaning chores from your SO, you are also taking on any cleaning they did for SKIDS, especially those at home full-time. Make sure SO lays down the law pre-blending families or you are setting yourself up to be an evil Step-Maid from the start!
- Give visiting SKIDS chores to do while they're there. We didn't do this for years, but are working on this now with SSs. I think it helps them feel more like it is their 2nd home rather than a "please entertain me while I'm on vacation with dad" situation, and I feel less like a doormat. It's a win-win.
- Make sure visiting SKIDS know where household supplies are stored. This sounds obvious, but I recently realized SSs didn't know where certain cleaning supplies were so they can clean up after themselves. Yes, ideally they would take it upon themselves to look, but let's be real...Will they? I gave them a little tour and now there is no excuse for leaving a mess or for rifling through my personal things. Also, make sure they actually understand they are expected to clean up after themselves even if you are the one mainly responsible for general household cleaning. They're kids and they honestly may not understand what the roles and expectations are until someone tells them.
- Leave shoes at the door. We were pretty lax about this house rule at our last home and it drove me crazy cleaning the floors and complaining about SKIDS traipsing through with dirt and grime. When we moved, we got everyone on board and I can't tell you how much this helps! Less cleaning, less resentment, happier me, happier home.
- No food and drink for kids outside the kitchen/dining area. This one takes patience and persistence, but it is SO worth it! My SSs are pretty good about following this rule and there are no spills, food left around, and sticky messes for me to contemplate outside of the kitchen/dining area. HUGE DIFFERENCE from our old house! SD17 still takes food/drink to her room and there are constant spills, messes, and resentment/arguments over stuff getting destroyed. Still working that out in our home, but I HIGHLY recommend just axing food/drink outside a couple of rooms.
- The "BioParent by Default" Rule". If a mess is made by SKIDS and no one will fess up to it, then the bioparent is responsible for cleaning it up or figuring out which SKID will. For example, SSs often pee on the seat. It drives me nuts. Obviously, I didn't do it and MR. ED knows better. I normally clean the toilets, but if SSs each claim they didn't do it, then MR. ED has to get to the bottom of it or clean it up himself. Not my monkeys, not my mess to clean up. I'm getting better at this one!
- "5 Minute Family Pick Up". Before you leave to go somewhere fun, before bedtime, while dinner's cooking, or before visiting SKIDS leave for the weekend are great times for a quick all hands on deck pick up around the house. Just set aside 5 minutes for EVERYONE to put down their phones or game controller and pick up or clean SOMETHING. If the fam can't commit to 5 minutes...there is a much bigger entitlement or disrespect problem at hand!
- Lost and Found. When we had 6 kiddos in the house and I was trying to get a handle on the crap they left lying EVERYWHERE, I started tossing every sock, school paper, hair tie, toy and miscellaneous article in a big storage bench. Eventually, SKIDS started looking for missing items and by the time they asked about it the bench was STUFFED! Eventually, they got tired of digging through a pile of stinky socks to find their things and started picking up more. Also, I did tell them anything left in the bench at the end of the weekend when the boys left from visiting was getting thrown away. That put a stop to a lot! It's worth a try!
- Lead by example. This seems like a no-brainer, but just make sure you are holding yourself to the same standards that you expect from SKIDS. It may drive you nuts that your SD leaves her clothes piled in a corner of her closet to mold and breed spiders (true story!), but how's your laundry situation looking these days? I've had to work on this myself and take a long hard look in the mirror sometimes before opening up my pie-hole to nag about SKIDS.
- Walk away for a minute and give SO room to parent. I can admittedly be pretty anal-retentive about cleaning and picking up around the house. So I've had to learn to let some things lie and at least give MR. ED the opportunity to parent his own kids in his own time. Sometimes that means I look around at the messy house and turn right around to escape to my office or jump in the car to take a thrift-shopping break by myself. If you've communicated your concerns and expectations clearly to your SO, then they know what to do in your absence. If they don't follow through with having their kids pick up after themselves...well...then the two of you have some of your own work to do. Again...true story. <3
Has any of this worked in your blended family home? Have any helpful or life-changing tips to add? Let's hear it!
Hope you are all having a wonderful Tuesday!