Can we really have it all? A clean home, a happy family and a healthy body?
The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook and I came upon a particularly funny yet very familiar meme. It was a woman looking utterly exhausted. The caption read, “Cleaning your house while the children are growing is like straightening papers on a desk while the fan is blowing.” Yep I relate.
I grew up in a clean home. It just seemed to clean itself magically – I didn’t even see the process. This was, of course, because my mother knew better. Like me, my mother worked full-time outside of the home and had to clean during her “spare” time. Trying to clean while we were still awake was an uphill battle. It was preferable to stay awake until passed 11:00 pm to get that housework done. I simply assumed that it just stayed that way on its own.
During my teens, I had such a vision about what my life would be like. I wanted a wonderful husband and at least 2 children, a dog, a career in teaching, plenty time for the gym and, of course, an immaculate home just like the one I grew up in but in the country. I just didn’t plan out how it would all fit together.
What visions did I realize? Let’s see…
- Wonderful husband (check)
- 2 children (check)
- Dog (check)
- Career in teaching (check)
- Plenty of time for the gym (um…nope)
- Home in country (check)
- Clean immaculate home (ha ha ha ha ha)
Being a parent is hard whether you work in or out of the home. With so much on your plate, something has to give. I’ve come to accept this fact yet I seem to see-saw over what my priorities are. Sometimes all I can see is mess and I become solidly focused on cleaning the home and scrub every nook and cranny. All the cleaning is done but gym time and healthy living goes by the way-side. Around the dawn of swimsuit season, I panic over the time squandered away cleaning and I become a powerhorse when it came to working out and planning healthy meals/snacks. But then the housework suffered. I was completely frustrated that I could not have it all. I felt stretched and scattered – the complete opposite of mindful. As a result, I was getting nowhere in either field.
Recently, I’ve decided to do away with complicated exercise and diet plans. I wasn’t letting go of my goal to remain fit and healthy, I just wasn’t going to sacrifice my time and sanity for this. I needed some structure so I joined MyFitnessPal – a free online diet and fitness tracker. It’s simple. You enter your weight, how much you wish to lose/gain per week or if you wish to maintain and then it spits out the total calories you are alloted per day. Even though I’m technically overweight, I’ve decided to take a break from weight loss and just focus on doing my best to stay healthy everyday. The only problem was I found myself starving most of the time. I wasn’t tracking my exercise and, as a result, I was eating too few calories for my activity level. The calories you are initally alloted are based on the calories you need to just sit and breathe. But if your a busy working mom, the last thing you tend to do is just sit and breathe. Two weeks ago, I started looking through their menu of cardio exercises and was surprised to see “cooking/food preparation” and “light to moderate cleaning” counting as cardio. I spend a lot of my free time doing these very activities!
A lightbulb went on: I needed to redefined what I thought of as exercise. I work up a sweat cleaning up dirt and grime just as much as I do on the treadmill. My housework and exercise could be combined into one sweaty dirt-busting workout cleaning session! I could divide up my cleaning sessions to 1 hour, 6 days a week just like I used to do with my exercise sessions at the gym. No more long, ruined weekends cleaning house! No more regretting not having the chance to workout. I can have it all!
My goal is to spend one hour cleaning and one hour of meal preparation. I set my timer for one hour and don’t stop cleaning until it dings. Because I’m counting cleaning as exercise, I’m actually looking for opportunities to tidy up to help rack up my activity calories. On both Saturday and Sunday, I logged two hours of cleaning and one hour of cooking per day. My house has seriously never been cleaner! I don’t know if I’ve experienced weight loss since I’m no longer using my scale but I feel terrific. I’m not sure if that’s from all the exercise or the clean surroundings, but who cares?! I’m enjoying my housecleaning for a change because I’ve changed my perspective of what it is. As a result, I’m more mindful and doing a much better and more thorough job.
What I love most about this routine is I no longer feel torn over what I need to give up to keep a sane routine. I can have the family, the career and the clean house. I just needed to redefine what I see as exercise.
Speaking of routines, I’ve devised a housework schedule to make sure I have all my bases covered:
- Monday – bathroom day
- Tuesday – day off (I have choir)
- Wednesday – sweep and wash all linoleum floors (entry way, kitchen, bathrooms) plus wipe down kitchen applicances
- Thursday – Grocery shopping day (power cardio and weight-lifting in one)
- Friday – Hardwood floor day – vacuum and wash living room, dining room, hallways and rec room, dusting in main living areas (including rec room)
- Saturday – Bedroom day – vacuum, wash floors, wash sheets, dust
- Sunday – day off but now that spring is coming, I’ll use this as my outdoor work/gardening day
Today was linoleum floor day. Welcome to my gym where we get clean and lean!