Have you ever felt overwhelmed by laundry or other household chores?
In 2000, I married my soulmate, a widower with five children between the ages of 8 and 16. My newlywed and I went on a two-week honeymoon.
Family and friends stayed with the kids as they went on about their daily routine of going to school, playing soccer, doing homework, taking baths and showers, and doing all the normal things that kids do to turn clean clothes into laundry.
When we returned, I remember seeing laundry everywhere. Tops and bottoms were garnishing the edges of the bedroom floors. Clothes and shoes were tangled on the floors in closets. Towels, socks and underwear were on the floor in the bathrooms. Jackets were draped over couches and chairs. Socks were stuffed between couch cushions.
A day or two later, I asked the three youngest kids (who were home at the time) to go around the house and collect all the clothes, socks, underwear, and towels and bring them to the family room. I’ll never forget that scene. With all the stuff collected from around the house, plus the laundry my newlywed and I accumulated before and during our trip, I was faced with the biggest pile of laundry I’d ever encountered.
The pile was several feet wide and several feet deep. I had never seen anything like it. I was sure that this equated to many hours of washing, drying, sorting, folding and distributing everything back to the right closets and drawers.
My husband didn’t know how to operate a washer or dryer. At that moment, I had a glimpse of what I had gotten myself into. I didn’t panic. I went into problem-solving mode.
I had several years of teaching experience so my teacher gears were spinning. I also had experience with construction project management, so I felt confident I could handle this lightweight crew.
Step 1: Get everyone excited and engaged. As I expected, they were open to playing along.
Step 2: Get everyone to help divide and conquer: jeans pile, dark pile, white pile, and so on.
They threw clothes at each other, sometimes aiming at the right piles. They made faces and said things like, “eww, stinky” while displaying a pair of underwear or socks. It was totally fun and entertaining. I fell in love with the kids. It was the beginning of the parenting honeymoon. From this moment on, our lives were never the same.
Step 3: Teach everyone how to add detergent and choose the right water temperature based on the colors.
Step 4: Patiently wait for wash load #1 to do its thing.
Step 5: Teach everyone how to use the dryer.
Step 6: Do it again and again and again and again . . .
This, as it turned out, would be just one of the many initiations I faced as I dove into the deep end of the parenting pool.
Some moms prefer to do their kids’ laundry for many years, into their teens and beyond. Others lean more toward empowering kids with know-how.
These opposing styles represent two sides of a broad and colorful parenting spectrum. One end fosters dependence and control while the other cultivates independence and freedom.
A simple chore, like how you handle laundry in your household, reveals a lot about your personality and values.
Although I hadn’t yet read their books, I would soon learn that my parenting style was in line with the principles taught by the Love and Logic Institute. I’m so thankful for Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Their words would later calm my nerves at times when I felt tested.
Years later, I can now look back and smile knowing that all the kids know how to do laundry and much, much more.