First published March 2018. Updated July 2022.
Do you ever have days when you just feel overwhelmed and exhausted with what needs doing in your home?
Do you ever question how on earth you are meant to care for a toddler and a baby (and for some, older children as well), plus keep the house clean, have food on the table and STAY SANE?
Oh my gosh that was my life just a few years ago!
My youngest was born one week before my oldest started part time kindergarten here in Australia. There I was with a newborn, a 18 month old toddler and a 4 1/2 year old. I was exhausted!
UPDATE: In a different season of life, almost 3 teenagers and a surprise baby! Still tiring!
How To Get Housework Done With A Baby And Toddler
Like many of you, I wanted to have a clean and tidy home and yet “doing it all” felt discouragingly impossible at times!
Well here are a few ideas that helped me keep up with the housework (most of the time) AND care for my kids during crazy seasons!
1. Adjust Your Expectations
Yes, life as you know it, changes after having a baby!
Mums of little ones, remember this is one of the most tiring and challenging seasons of parenting, be kind to yourself often!
I know, I had very high expectations of myself and what I wanted to achieve each day. It’s called perfectionism and along with lack of sleep, it messes with our mental health.
I would often feel frustrated by the end of the day, at how little I accomplished in terms of tasks. Getting a teething baby to sleep after a hour or more of crying, just didn’t feel as satisfying.
But one of the healthiest ways for us to respond to changes in our lives is by adjusting our expectations.
It is perfectly ok to decide that certain household tasks will not get done as often as they use to be. Like me, you may even find that you don’t ever want to make cleaning and tidying up as much of a priority as it once was.
Instead focus on the most important tasks to do each day:
Tasks like changing sheets, cleaning bedrooms, dusting etc. can wait! Yes it can!
I highly recommend getting into freezer meals as a way of making life easier!
Shortcut Tip : Get into the habit of writing down your top 3 tasks for the day. Complete those tasks first. Anything else is a bonus!
If you want to know what I do now to plan my week, check out my weekly planning.
2. Make Tasks Simple
When you are caring for a baby and a toddler, one thing you are definitely short on is time. Gone are those long chunks on time when you could actually get housework done.
What you do have though is small pockets of time available. Even 5 or 10 minutes can be used to clean the bathroom or toilet, or give the kitchen a sweep. Remember the first idea above!
Instead of completing housework in one go, break it up into smaller tasks. Have 2 minutes, you can clean the bathroom sink and so on.
Remember, a load a day keeps the mountain of washing away!
Do a load of laundry or two every day rather than leaving it for a big washing day.
Small tasks throughout every day are more practical than finding a hour or so to get housework done.
Another useful strategy is to get into the habit of associating one task with another.
For example, while I am waiting for the kettle to boil in the morning I put the dry dishes away from the night before.
Maybe changing a nappy is associated with emptying a bin or having a shower with re-filling the toilet rolls.
Shortcut Tip: Store your cleaning products and cloths where they are needed.
I make this easier for myself by having cleaning supplies stored where I use them, though out of reach of little ones.
For example, I keep a pile of old cloths under the bathroom sink to give it a quick wipe over when it’s looking grubby. That can be often with two boys who like to play in the sand and mud.
Ask for help!! Share the responsibility of housework with your partner, older kids, extended family members or pay for a cleaner.
I know some of us can feel embarrassed sharing with our friends that we have our Mum come and clean our house once a week. Or even letting people know we have a cleaner.
Let me tell you, if a cleaning service was free, almost every women would have one! Amen, sister!
Ask nicely for help rather than nagging, complaining or criticizing. Feeling frustrated that you are the only doing the work at home or the one doing the majority of it, is normal and ok.
Express your frustration appropriately to your partner and work towards a solution.
It is normal and healthy for all adult family members to contribute to the running of the family and looking after kids!
UPDATE: This time around with baby No 4, I still face some of the same issues. Not enough sleep, too much to do and not much time for myself, and no extended family living close by to help out.
But this time I am loving freezer meals, and more importantly I have a husband who does a lot!
He does the lunch and dinner dishes every day. I do breakfast. He cleans the house once a week (vacuuming and mopping floors). He cleans the toilet, I do the bathroom.
I do food shopping weekly and cook the meals. He will finish dinner for me and get it on the table if I am in the middle of bathing the baby and feeding her.
We share dropping off and picking up the older kids. (Apparently he prefers a drop off/pick up to changing a nappy! It is a team effort!
4. Prioritize Sleep
Ok, I admit I was one of those Mums who used the baby’s nap time to get housework done.
What would have been much healthy for me? Sleep or a nap, for sure!
Taking care of babies and toddlers is TIRING! Often your goals for keeping up with housework can be thwarted by low energy levels. You are simply too tired to plan your day and do things more efficiently.
Shortcut Tip: Prioritize sleep! But don’t stress about how much sleep you get!
Even though it may not feel like it makes a difference, taking a nap during the day and getting to bed earlier at night helps.
UPDATE: This time around with baby no 4, I don’t nap during the day. But I will lie down for 12 minutes and breath. I put a timer on.
5. Keep Your Baby Or Toddler Busy While Doing Chores
Some possible ways are:
- Wear them in a sling and do a few jobs hands free.
- Use the high chair and give them a few things for them to play with.
- Use a playpen.
- Have a bucket of toys that come out during cleaning time.
- Encourage real play. For example, a few clothes for the toddler to try folding or a cupboard in the kitchen for them to pull out kitchen items to play with.
- Put on a short children’s video.
UPDATE: This still works for me with baby No 4. Just cleaned out my 11 year old’s bedroom in short chunks of time with baby on the bed with a few toys.
- How To Organize Toys
- Best Way To Store LEGO
- How To Get Motivated To Clean
- When You Don’t Have Time To Clean
- Create A Weekly Routine That Works For You
- Benefits of Having Less Stuff