My personal parenting experiences are probably quite different than most. My wife and I decided early on that we wanted to have eight (8) children (that was her number, and I agreed)! We had both observed that large families seemed to be “happier” than small family units. That is not always the case; but at the time, it seemed that way to us. So, we began our family with eight children in mind. Sadly, shortly after the birth of our seventh child, my dear wife (Jenny) became seriously ill and passed away suddenly (8 Apr 1984). At that moment, parenting for me took on a new dimension. Our seven (7) children (ages five months through 13 years) became my sole responsibility. This was for me a near overwhelming responsibility.
Jenny was (and is still) a great woman, a loving companion, and a wonderful mother. In our family, she was the rock. Adored by each of us (…and, loved by everyone who knew her), we all relied on “Mom!” It was a shock to us all when she died. Regrettably, at the time of her death, I was ill-prepared for the sheer volume of responsibilities that came with being a single parent and homemaker. In addition to my professional career, I became fully responsible for the care and well-being of the children. Add to that; there was housework: cleaning, laundry, shopping, meal preparation, washing dishes, care for an infant, helping with school assignments, yard work, and general home management. And, on top of that, there were expectations I had as the spiritual leader in the home: regular Daddy duties, church attendance, Family Home Evenings (FHE), Family Prayers, scripture reading/study, bedtime stories, and counseling. Poor me!
Anyway, I struggled for many months; and there were good people with good intentions, who said I “…shouldn’t be expected to manage.” They wanted to find homes for all my children. However, I would not allow that. I was their Dad, and I was not going to allow anyone to take them away (or separate them from each other), nor would I have someone else raise and teach them.
Fortunately, during the first month or so, the Ward Relief Society women were there to provide needed “compassionate service.” They were wonderful, but at times their enthusiasm was a bit overwhelming. Regardless, they were a great help! Also, my two oldest children (Heather and Melissa) were daughters – ages 13 and 11 years. Both were determined to fill in for their mother. They were extremely helpful, and we all grew together. These girls were perfect examples of the saying “the Lord makes compensations.” But at the time of the crisis, and as the only adult in the home, I still had to somehow get my arms around the enormity of my new responsibilities. I knew I lacked many of the skills of a homemaker, and I needed to learn those skills.
I was an active-duty military man (US Air Force, 1968-1994) and for me the solution was obvious. I had to “organize my unit.” I am not recommending the following actions as the perfect solution, but for me, they worked. We got organized. I began by writing Our Family Vision and Mission Statement. I also established Edgar Family Rules (what to do, what not to do, and in rare cases: consequences for misbehavior)! Then, we identified all the routine tasks that needed to be done in the home. This included everything from house cleaning, to laundry, to food shopping and preparation, to kitchen setup and clean-up, and trash management. We also created individual work/duty assignments and outlined a chore schedule. I looked at each task and familiarized myself with how to accomplish them. At that point, I created “operating procedures, instructions, and checklists” for completing each household task. I wrote the initial draft; we met as a family council to discuss them; we modified them as necessary; and then, we voted as a family to accept and follow the final draft. Of course, we also maintained a detailed family calendar of activities and kept it up to date, as necessary.
(Please Note: If you are interested, you can read our Family Mission Statement by clicking on the link and scrolling to the bottom of the page. Also, if you promise to be kind, and not overly critical, you are welcome to click on this link “Edgar Family Rules” and read the general rules we came up with.)
I acknowledge “operating procedures, instructions, and checklists” are probably a bit over the top (or unnecessary) for the genuine homemaker, but I was on a learning curve and needed to be specific about each household task and what exactly would constitute “task completion.” I will not include them here for fear of being ridiculed by real homemakers and possibly frightening others. Suffice it to say, the Operating Procedures, Instructions, and Checklists were thorough; and for clarity, I tried to write them at about a 5th Grade level.
Also, I know that clean-up does not come naturally to children and can be very overwhelming and/or inconvenient for them. But they can usually be motivated or inspired with the right type of encouragement. Helping them to take ownership and pride in their work is an important starting point.
As I said, I will not include copies of the Operating Procedures, Instructions, and Checklists. But I would like to share several “Mister Mom” lessons/tips I learned along the way. My children are all on their own now (I hope I haven’t damaged them), but I personally still follow some of these lessons to this day. These are homemaker tips that made a difference for me when I really needed help! Some were obvious, but others had to be learned the hard way. For me, I have learned them all the hard way.
“Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” (D&C 132:8)
General Housekeeping Philosophy and Preparation
- Think about and try to understand the truth of the old saying: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
- Accept ownership of your life and your situation. Discipline yourself! Be deliberate, diligent, and dependable.
- Include all family members in the effort. Be a team. Work together for the common good. (Even small children can learn skills.)
- Learn basic “Housekeeping Skills” and teach them to your children.
- Understand your tools and equipment: i.e., Washing Machine, Clothes Dryer, Dishwasher, Kitchen Sink, In-sink Garbage Disposal, Vacuum Cleaner, mops, brooms, brushes, toilet/sink plunger, rags, cleaning chemicals, and lawnmower, etc.
- Plan regular and thorough house cleaning days.
- And, always be alert! Pickup and/or straighten little things as you go.
Basic Housekeeping Skills, Tools, and Policies
- Have a trash can in every room: Bedrooms, Bathrooms, Kitchen, Office, and Garage. Put all trash in these cans! Do not overfill the cans to overflowing. Gather the trash before they are full: bag and place trash in the dumpster.
- Have a “dirty clothes” laundry basket in every bedroom. Only put “soiled clothing” in them. Return clean clothes to the closet/drawers.
- Have a spray bottle of Windex or disinfection under each sink in the house.
- Have Paper Towels available under each sink in the house.
- Policy: When you take something out, return it when you are finished!
- Policy: Routinely pick up things that are out of place and return them to “their place.” Remove clutter when you see it!
(Share the above and the following principles with family members old enough to help.)
Food Shopping and Storage
Grocery shopping, food management, storage, and meal preparation were some of my greatest challenges. Knowing what to buy, shopping for groceries, storing food in the home, and preparing meals, were not simple tasks as I had imagined. (It is much more than just grabbing a Pizza on the way home from work.) My methods for handling these challenges were probably unlike most, but they worked for me. Explaining my methods requires a completely separate post. If you dare, click the following link to see how I managed “Food Shopping, Management, and Storage.” (I openly acknowledge my methods lay somewhere between excessive and the extreme on the Obsessive, Compulsive, Disorder scale, but these methods worked for me.)
Kitchen Management and Food Preparation
- Keep your kitchen “neat and tidy.” Keep dishes and utensils clean and put away. Also, keep food stuffs put away. Be ready to start any food preparation with a clean and organized kitchen.
- Wash your hands (with warm water and soap), rinse and dry.
- Keep the food preparation area as clear and organized as possible.
- As you are preparing a meal, immediately put away the ingredients you no longer need. (For example, when you are finished with the flour, or the bread, or the milk, etc., put them back where they belong.) Do not wait to do this later!
- As you create waste (empty packaging or other trash), put them directly into the trash can. Do not leave trash on the counter.
- As you finish with utensils, cups, bowls, pans, or plates (used for preparation), rinse them off and put them in the sink or dishwasher. (Do not stack these things on the counters or in the preparation area.)
This is often the most challenging chore. After a meal, most children (and adults) just want to push away from the table and expect someone else to clean the kitchen. It does NOT have to be that way! If you managed food preparation successfully, and if others help after the meal, kitchen cleanup should go smoothly. (Remember: Do not wait or put this off. Never just walk away from the table!)
Immediately after a meal:
- Expect each capable individual to always bring their dishes and utensils to the sink area. Train them to do this. (The person doing the washing should receive and organize the materials to be washed.)
- Then, first gather all paper or plastic trash from the table and put them into the trash can. (Remember, when the trash can is full, empty it in the dumpster.)
- Next, gather all reusable foods (leftovers, beverages, seasonings, sauces, etc.) and put them away.
- Now, scrape all solid organic trash into the trash can or down into the garbage disposal.
- Place all the silverware into a container (e.g., a plastic pitcher) of hot soapy water (sharp ends down) and let them soak.
- Rinse all remaining food scraps off dishes and utensils and down into the disposal.
- When the above are completed, fill the sink with warm/hot soapy water, and wash the dishes in the following order:
Second: Plates and serving dishes,
Third: The Silverware (that was soaking in a container), and
Last: Pots and Pans.
(Even if you have a dishwashing machine, it is still a good idea to wash the dishes, in the sink, in this order, and stack them into the dishwasher to be sterilized and dried.)
- While dishes are washing and drying in the machine, wipe down and sanitize all kitchen surfaces, and take out the trash.
- After the washing machine finishes all cycles, open the door a little to allow cooling. When cooled, empty the dishwasher, and put everything away …in their place!
- Finally, step back and look at your kitchen. If you have missed anything, fix it. Otherwise, smile and enjoy your clean kitchen.
(To see more detailed instructions, click here Kitchen Clean-up …if you dare!)
- Have a Laundry Basket and a Trash Can in every bedroom.
- Organize the bedrooms. Especially, take time to organize the clothing in drawers and closets. Label shelves/drawers and spaces, if necessary. (“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”)
- Never throw clothes (clean or soiled) on the floor or on a bed! (Clean clothes put up; soiled clothes in the laundry basket).
- Make the beds every morning when you get up!
- Have a Family Rule: “Clothes are to be in one of three places ONLY.” That is:
- On your body,
- In the dirty clothes basket to be washed, or
- Hung up or Folded clean and put away.
- Have a Family Rule: “Clothes are to be in one of three places ONLY.” That is:
(Remember: Never throw clothing (clean or soiled) on the floor or the bed. Put them where they belong!)
- Plan regular wash days. (With seven children plus me, we did at least one load of laundry every day and eight (8) loads on Saturday. That worked for us.)
- After washing and drying a load of laundry, pull out and separated the items:
First: Remove bulky items like bath towels and denim trousers (fold and put aside).
Second: Shirts, tops, dresses, and permanent press trousers (neatly lay them aside so they do not wrinkle).
Third: Underwear items and garments. (Lay them aside to be sorted and folded.)
Fourth: Socks. (Done last because it is easier to match socks when nothing else is left.)
Last: Separate, fold, match, and stack clothing by the owner/user. (I had a small basket for each child. The children put their own clothes away.)
- And finally, return all empty laundry baskets to their rooms.
(Please Note: I tried to explain to my little children that a towel used to dry off “their freshly cleaned, skinny little bodies” could be hung neatly on the towel rack to dry …and used again! I also tried to explain to my teenaged daughters that “they didn’t need to wrap their bodies with three or four towels to dry themselves.” That is, one towel for their hair, one for their mid-section, one for their waistline and below, and one to stand on. Frankly, with their soiled clothing and all those many towels, laundry piled up each day. But what do I know? I am just a Dad! I think they were incensed that I said anything.)
- Hang and straighten bathroom towels.
- Empty the bathroom trash can.
- Wipe and disinfect all surfaces.
- Put any soiled clothing or towels into the laundry basket.
- Clean and disinfect the toilet seat and bowl. And, if you use the toilet, flush the toilet!
Final Note: The children and I were on our own for 6 years. During that period, the Air Force moved us three times (to three separate assignments). Regardless, I think we were happy and doing fine. Then, about a year after our third transfer, I met my Kathy. She was beautiful, talented, kind, and smart …and, she liked me! I do not know for sure what she saw in me (why would any woman want to get involved with a widowed, active-duty military man with seven children?). Anyway, she came into our lives, we fell in love, and on 24 Feb 1990, we were married. Since then, everything changed for the better. Hurrah, Hurrah for Motherhood!
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