Work-Life Balance Hacks

IMG_0394 One of the biggest struggles for working moms is finding a way to “do it all” or to have it all. Motherhood is already fraught with guilt, but when you add a career to the mix, the guilt does not only double. . .it triples.

I found this transition particularly difficult as I had spent so much time out of the career zone. In my sixteen years as a stay at home mom, I had plenty of jobs outside and inside the home, but none were careers. None of those jobs demanded that the lines between home life and work life would be so blurred as a career would.

My career assumes a traditional forty-hour workweek. I also have a monthly evening meeting, various fundraising events that happen within and outside of my “work hours”, occasional travel and various miscellaneous activities. While I may leave my office at 5 PM, my mind is constantly on my job.

Add into the equation the fact that I have six children and a husband who also juggles a busy career with multiple non-traditional commitments. Continue reading “Work-Life Balance Hacks”

Where to Find Interesting People

On our recent camping trip I found myself doing a lot of laundry. I certainly planned on visiting the laundromat at least twice. There are 8 of us, and I did not want to pack two week’s worth of clothing for us. (yes, I know the Duggars do, and they have hanging racks and a trailer just for clothing. . . but we do not have a reality TV show funding our adventures!)

Several days of rain, and the resulting mud necessitated another trip. Little and big boys who failed to supply me with their dirty duds caused me to make two more visits.

Secretly, I enjoy doing vacation laundry. The laundromat is a bit of a getaway (and the Northshore Dairy and Laundromat has a stunning lake view and a front porch perfect for enjoying it.) Essie and I brought the three little girls with us on our first (rain prompted) laundry day. The girls were pretty good, considering that the laundromat can be boring. They pushed around the laundry carts, until other patron’s legs were in danger, and they watched their clothes wash in the front loading machines.

The best part of the laundromat is the people! On that first visit I spoke with a woman who managed a nearby motel. Their commercial washer was on the fritz (during a busy July 4 week!) so she was washing hundreds of sets of sheets and towels at the laundromat. It made my two loads of muddy clothes seem tame.

Then there was the grandma who was washing clothes with her three year-old grandson. She said that he “wanted” to share his M&Ms with the girls. He actually did not look very willing, but the girls were happy to help him share!

I helped a college student who had just returned from the Boundary Waters navigate his first dirty laundry experience.

I had a chance to chat about travel and changes in the airline industry with an ex Pan Am flight attendant.

I learned about  tenure challenges with a retired Washington University Anatomy and Physiology professor.

I heard about backyard barbecues.

I heard about marital troubles.

Some people were very quiet, so I just made up stories about them. I imagined that the young lady wearing cowboy boots with her shorts and folding 20 Western style shirts worked at a dude ranch.

The lady with the swirly skirts? Surely an artist.

I’m hoping that 10 pairs of yoga pants lady was a fitness instructor.

My favorite load of laundry I saw floating through the dryers? A load of fluffy diapers!

Everyone has a story. And a laundromat reminds us of that!

Homemade Laundry Soap

50bf1704a7fde88729f2dec9e9493cbe I’m pretty sure this is not the first blog post you have read on homemade laundry soap. However, I hope it is the simplest.

I’m a bit of a laundry snob.

I do a lot of laundry.

I wash a lot of cloth diapers.

Our clothes need to last long enough to hand down to the next child.

I love name brand laundry detergent. I love it.

While I believe in being a good steward of the world we have been given, I’m not over-the-top “green” either.

So my impetus to make my own laundry detergent was not out of a desire to remove chemicals from my laundry room. (I still use bleach). And, I can afford name brand laundry detergent. As a matter of fact, now that we have a top loading high efficiency washing machine (Maytag Bravos), I use a lot less laundry detergent per load. So a standard sized box of powdered Tide can last our family of eight over a month.

No, my desire to make my own laundry detergent comes down to my silly desire to live a bit more simply. Years ago (10, to be exact) I made up a big batch of some family liquid laundry soap. I hated it. I thought it was smelly, slimy, and turned my clothes grey. We did have very hard water at the time, and the smelly part could be due to my pregnancy nose, but after trying to dispose of five gallons of worthless to me goo, I wrote off homemade laundry soap.

Then I began seeing recipes for powdered homemade laundry soap, and I was intrigued, but not willing to mix up the huge batches that I saw recipes for. (There is a misconception that large families like everything in bulk, but we only buy things in bulk that we know we will really use!)

So, about a month ago, my friend Ernestine Edna posted on Facebook that she had a recipe that she loved, and it was a small recipe…so I ran with it…and tweaked it the tiniest bit!

I use this on everything…even cloth diapers! I’ve had no problems, no residue, no stinky clothes…just soft, clean clothes, with no build up!

Homemade Laundry Soap

  • 1 bar Ivory soap
  • 1 1/2 cups Borax
  • 1 1/2 cups Washing soda
  1. Grate the bar of soap. I use the smallest side of my box grater.
  2. In a one quart jar, layer by half cup measurements, each of the ingredients.
  3. Shake and shake and shake.
  4. To use in the laundry, add 2 Tbs. per load. ( I run very large loads in my top loading HE machine, for a smaller load, I’d only use 1 Tbs.
  5. Sometimes I give the jar a shake before using the soap.

This recipe makes enough soap for two weeks of Dakotapam laundry (that is a lot of laundry!). It comes to about $1 per batch! Not bad!

Chime in! Have you made homemade laundry soap? Has it worked well? How does your recipe differ from mine? I’d love to hear from you!

Things I Said I’d Never Do Saturday: Family Housework Day

The older I get the more I realize that I am doing nearly all of the things I vowed I’d never do when I became a mom. Until I get tired of it, I’ll share one of those things a week with you. On Saturday.

Growing up, Saturdays were housework days. I hated it. Turns out my mom grew up with the same Saturday routine. She hated it too. I’m not entirely sure why she continued the tradition then, except that the house needed cleaning and we were all home on Saturday. (I contend that a housekeeper would have been simpler, more efficient, and save many years of preteen and teen angst…

Fast forward to October 29, 2011. The vile words slipped out of my mouth as my youngsters scooped up their last bits of egg. “Nobody is going anywhere near the TV or the video game system. We’re cleaning the house this morning.” Ack! Where did that come from? Since when is it easier to direct uncooperative minions to do mundane household tasks in three hours when I could just lock them all in the basement with snacks and Wii controllers and get it all done in 45 minutes? What possessed me to insist that they help?

Yes, Mom. I know you are reading this. Yes, I know that I should ask for more obedience from the minions. Yes, I know they should help around the house. However, none one of my happiest household memories is of a Saturday morning spent scrubbing floors. And yes, I know how to scrub a floor now. But I still hate it. And I almost never do it the “right” way.

So why do I do this? Is there a better way? (the weekly or biweekly housekeeper looks like a better option daily) I know that all of the family members should contribute since we are a community. But, the boys already do dishes after dinner (my most hated task), and while they may not do a great job… .our kitchen is mostly sanitary. They take out the trash, and they mostly keep their rooms picked up. I’m just not seeing a “Whistle While You Work” mentality going on here on the weekends.

The cleaning has to be done. A visiting child (who will remain nameless) spotted some dust and perhaps a cobweb on a table lamp a week or so ago. He asked if I ever dusted and that my house looked like a haunted house. I resisted temptation and did not chuck a dustcloth at him and tell him to “have at it”, but I did make a mental note to not bother to bake cookies next time he comes over on a playdate.

For the record, I DID dust later that day. We have an old house. Dust happens. Get over it people. AND for the record, I DID tell one of the minions to dust earlier that day. And I DID see him walking around my living room with a dustcloth absentmindedly flicking it about. Should I have followed him around, pointing out the dust he missed? Nah, trust me, that does breed a negative view toward housework.

So, I don’t think I’ll be rounding up the troops next Saturday. I WILL expect them not to trash the house. I WILL expect them to clean up after themselves, but I’m not going to expect some sitcom-worthy team effort.  I’m the mom. I don’t work for money outside the home, and this house IS kind of my job (whether I like that or not), so I will try and get more done during the week (I need to put the stay at home back in stay at home mom!) so that we can enjoy some real memory making time as a family!

Oh, and if anyone really does like to clean and wants to take a gander at my place…feel free, I’ll pay you in coffee!

Chime in! How do you handle household chores? Is it similar or strikingly different to how you grew up? Is it working for you? Want to share? You know I’d love to hear from you!