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Mama Drama: Decrease Packing Pressure

Dear Mama Drama:

Every time we travel, even for a weekend, I find myself stressed and short-tempered by the time we pull out of the driveway. I’m always running around packing everything and the rest of the family is waiting on me to get it done. There are so many details to keep track of that I worry my kids will forget something if they pack themselves, but managing everything takes all the fun out of traveling for me.

~ Travel Weary Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Travel Weary:

I’d be stressed and cranky too if I were doing all the work while everyone stood around and watched. You need an action plan to get the rest of the family involved and taking responsibility for their travel gear.

Have suitcases or bags for each of your children if they are old enough to pull one on their own (age 4 or 5 is a good barometer depending on their strength and stature). This will help in the organization of belongings as well as redistribute responsibility as you pack and transport luggage.

Create a packing list for each child of all the items they’ll need to bring including specific clothing (i.e., 3 t-shirts, 1 dress shirt) toiletries, stuffed animals, books, and games. Give this to your children who can read and have them set out the items on their bedroom floor. This way you can take a quick peek and double check that all items have been accounted for before they go in the bag. For children who are not yet readers (or need a bit more organizational support), read the list aloud as they pull out the necessary items.

Pack together. Packing a suitcase effectively is an important life-long skill you can teach your children. By doing it with them, you’ll save yourself tons of time and frustration down the road. Explain your thinking as you make suggestions of where to put different items such as shoes, underwear, toiletries, etc. Be flexible if they have divergent ideas and problem solve together if you have concerns about whether an item will fit or may be too fragile for that part of the bag. After doing this a few times, you’ll be able to hand off the lists and relax while your children develop the confidence and skills to manage their own belongings.

Make a list of critical items you don’t want to forget. Enlist your family in helping you make sure that list is completed before heading out the door.

Pack ahead of time. Last minute packing makes everyone stressed out. Packing all that you can the night before you leave decreases the pressure to remember everything at the last minute.  Additionally, getting a head start on packing for your little ones who can’t do it themselves lets you just grab their bags and go when you’re ready.

Finally, clearly designate and communicate a time that everyone needs to be ready to leave. Be sure to allow some wiggle room for mishaps, bathroom needs, and other unexpected events.

Moms often have all these lists and skills in their heads, so can easily end up doing all the work and feeling frustrated. Relinquishing control over the details and redistributing responsibility will help traveling become a wonderful rather than wearing endeavor for you.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Mama Drama: Cheering Chores

Dear Mama Drama:

I feel so frustrated trying to get all of the housework done, laundry cleaned, lunches made, and still find time to be with my kids. They complain that I’m always too busy for them, but there is so much to do.

I also feel like they don’t appreciate how much I do for them and that they are not asked to do very much at all. It seems like the more I do, the less respectful they are to me.

~Choking on Chores

(photo credit)

Dear Choking:

I think you found the answer in your question. You are doing all of the work and your children are taking you for granted. They don’t understand to value of the work you do as they have not been asked to contribute. They have lots of time to hang out, but you can’t join them because you are so busy doing things for them. Get them involved and plan to play a game or go for a walk together when the chores are done.

Giving children responsibilities around the house gives them a sense of accomplishment, teaches them life skills, and increases their self-esteem. Not to mention that if they are doing some of the jobs, you won’t have to.

Children as young as two can help around the house. Obviously, different aged children can handle different responsibilities and need varying degrees of supervision. Getting them in the routine of helping when they are younger can prevent it from being seen as a burden later on. When asking your children to do chores, be sure to teach them how to do it and offer support and encouragement. Recognize the effort they put into the job, even if it isn’t done perfectly. Remember to resist the urge to redo the job for them as that will defeat the purpose.

Small children can contribute by cleaning up their toys, putting books in a basket, wiping down the front of the refrigerator or dishwasher with a sponge, or wiping up the spots on the kitchen floor with a wet paper towel. As children get older they can sort their dirty laundry, put away clean clothes, use a small broom and dustpan to sweep small areas, and use non-toxic cleaning wipes to wipe down the counters and floors in the bathroom. Most kids love to vacuum, although they are often not strong enough to do it until they are a little older. Other helpful tasks are watering plants (use a squirt bottle for little kids and a pitcher for older ones) and dusting with an old sock or non-toxic dusting wipe. As they get older have children help make lunches the night before, gather their items for school, and fill water bottles to help mornings run more smoothly.

Children like to be helpful, so use that natural inclination to get them involved. Let them know you need their help and that you’ll be able to have more fun together when they pitch in to help. Then be sure to follow through with the fun!

How do you readers involve your children in daily chores?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.