Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten Children and Housekeeping

Good Housekeeping, May, 1927

I happen to love cleaning and polishing my house. It makes me happy to tidy and make a home. However, this can be hard when there is a large family and babies around. We will have our bad days, when there is a crisis or children are sick, but I want to share with you some ideas to make housekeeping a pleasant experience.

First I will tell you what we did when I had ten children here at home. Then I will explain how we managed with five children ages 9 and under. Last, I will tell you how I did my housework when I had only three children under the age of 5. Hopefully, you will glean some ideas or inspiration for your own situation.

Cleaning the House with Ten Children at Home.

When my oldest  was 16 years old, I had a small daycare in my house. (My own children, at the time, were ages - 16, 15, 12, 10, and 8.) We took care of five children. It was quite a unique situation and I will explain this. At that time, we owned a store.  Three of my oldest children worked there most of the time, along with my husband. Right in the middle of this, I was helping my husband with things like daily operations, inventory, paperwork, and bookkeeping. It took much of my time. However, I was also in the middle of homeschooling 4 of my 5 children. My oldest had just graduated so she was working more in our store. Now here is the question of the day... why did I decide to open a daycare? Easy. I missed having babies around! I wanted to be HOME and I love children. So we opened our doors to five children. We had 3 pre-schoolers, ages 3, 3 and 4. We also had two sweet little babies. One was 4 months old and the other was 6 months old. They were treasures!!

Now I must tell you, it is far easier to clean and cook and enjoy home when you have lots of children!! This is the best part of family life! There are plenty of helpers, friends, entertainers, etc. There will always be someone there to do the dishes, or hold the baby, or make the toddler laugh. There is always someone there to referee an argument, or teach someone to tie a shoe. There is a lot of laughter and happiness. This was a fun time for me to clean house. Here are some specifics:

1. I only had 2 children (ages 10 and 8) to help with chores during this time, since my oldest three were in- and- out all day, helping my husband with our store.

2. Amy (then 10 years old) and I would take turns holding the babies. We would each have a bottle and feed "our" baby. Then we would switch off to get each one to burp. We had so much fun with those little treasures! Amy learned a lot about raising children and caring for babies. It was on- the- job training and it was fun!

3. In the morning, I would clean the kitchen, do dishes and make breakfast. During this time, one of the older children played with the babies or read to the children.

4. Amy made and served the lunch, while I cared for the children. John cleaned up the mess. After everyone ate, it was time for naps, so I would feed and rock one of the babies and put him down to sleep. Once he was settled I would get the other baby from one of the older children and get that one settled for a nap.

5. In the afternoon, when all the children were up and playing, I vacuumed. They all LOVED to see the vacuum cleaner. They would laugh, sitting on the couch or chairs and just watch.

6. The children were taught to do clean-ups throughout the day. If we were getting ready for storytime, we did a "10 minute tidy!" Or if we were going outside, we had to hurry and clean. Having something special planned made it easy for the children to work quickly. They were also very proud of themselves when I inspected their work.

7. We would often have the children busy polishing the chairs, picking up messes or wiping the table. We even invented cleaning jobs just to keep them busy and productive while we did our housework. They felt like they were "helping" us and it was clean up time for everyone.

8. The children only played in specific rooms, so most of the house stayed fairly neat. It is very easy to only have to worry about keeping a couple of rooms clean, rather than the whole house - kitchen, bathroom, playroom.

9. I did laundry throughout the day. These were timed around naps so the noise from the dryer didn't interfere with sleeping children.

10. I packed away most of the toys and brought out a basket of "new" ones each day. This created excitement in the children and also made less of a cluttered mess.

11. Dare I mention this? (smiles) I have to tell you that we did our best to keep the children reasonably quiet throughout the day. I taught them to have indoor voices (smiles). I was very consistent with this. If the children are not running around acting up, yelling, etc. Mom is going to be much more peaceful. But the most important motivator of keeping all those children quiet was because my dear husband slept from 11 am until 6 pm!! He worked an early morning shift at our store, and then the late night shift, so he slept during the day. The children could run in our fenced in play yard and laugh and giggle and yell all they wanted when we were outside, by the time we came back in, they were happy to be quiet for snacks, lunch, stories or naps.

12. Of course, we had more difficult days when a baby was fussy or sick and I couldn't do much housework. I would depend on the older children to take over. Those were special days, sitting and rocking a baby and just being peaceful.

Five Children under Nine

When my oldest was 9 years old, I had cancer and a newborn baby. I made a chore chart so all the children could do the daily tasks. We even made this fun by giving each child a title position in the house. Someone was "The Chore police." Another child was "The Breakfast Hostess." Someone was in charge of monitoring the use of utilities - "The Electricity Inspector." Each day they had to do laundry, make meals, clean the rooms and sweep. I was very ill and caring for a baby. I could not help them much at all! I spent most of my time on the couch or resting in bed. I helped when I could, but mostly I managed with lists, and praise, and giving out directions.

One of the most helpful things during this time was the fact that we kept the toys in the livingroom and out of the bedrooms! It made it easier for me to monitor the cleaning.

Cleaning with Three children 5 and under

This was a boring time.. (smiles)... I had a five year old girl and a four year old girl who were best friends. There really wasn't much to do to keep up with them. We had our daily tasks - meals, snacks, playing, reading, walks, etc. We had a nice routine. I also had a 1 year old baby boy who was such fun for us all. The girls loved to play with him! I did most of the housework alone. I also did all the cooking. I kept the living area nice and neat. Since we didn't have that many children, I had them keep their toys in their bedrooms. That is where they played. So the main part of the house was always clean. Sure, they were allowed to bring in a toy or two, but then had to put it away. They were required to clean up after themselves. We lived a quiet life and stayed home most of the time. This brought us all peace and made it very easy to keep house.


Children who are raised in a home where everyone pitches in to clean are more likely to keep their own homes clean. It becomes a habit. It is not enough for them to just clean their rooms or just do the laundry. It is better if they are part of the cooking crew,the kitchen clean up, the vacuuming, decorating, organizing and all the other tasks that help make a home. If Mom is right there loving this part of her life, and is willing to share it with her children, it makes it all worthwhile.

Whether you have one child or ten, it will take planning to keep things going. Nothing is ever going to be finished. There will always be another mess to clean. The goal is not to have a spotless house at all times, but to enjoy the ongoing process of housekeeping.

Mrs. White

How do you teach girls to keep house? Read my post, Teaching Home Economics through Apprenticeship.

Are you keeping track of your memories of family altar? Read what we are doing in, Recording the Family Bible Study.


Anonymous said...

W.O.W - Inspiring....and organization :)

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

I loved reading this story.

I do believe that some people have a natural gift for keeping the home while others have to truly work at it. I fall in the later category. My sister falls in the first category.

Ironically, I'm the one growing up that did a good bit of helping my mom. My sister did not. (I was the oldest).

On the other hand, I do tons of cooking and baking while my sister does not. lol!

You're quite an inspiration for those of us who are not natural house keepers. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This was a great post!

The Crazy Mom said...

You make it sound so easy! I have such a hard time. We do all the regular chores every day, but the "stuff" is what bogs me down.

Maybe one day you'll come for a visit, and you can help me clean. You'll need to stay a month or two though.

I'll make you a lovely little tea if you come!!! :)

Carol J. Alexander said...

Great ideas. I wish I has been so consistent with the inside, quiet voice...our house is LOUD! But, with all the children (and I only have 4 left at home) it is fun.