How Can I Improve the Management of My Household?

Updated on September 07, 2017
M.D. asks from DHS, MD
17 answers

Dear moms:
I need some advice from other full -time-working moms out there. I have 3 kids, 9, 6 and two years old. I have a nanny who watches the 2 year old, and picks up the other two from school and takes them to activities in the afternoon. I pay her a lot of money, however, I am still left with all the cleaning, cooking, laundry, picking up toys etc..
I wonder whether I would be better off with half day nanny and half day housekeeper, and putting the toddler in daycare in the mornings, although in that case I would have no back up on school closings or onsick days of the kids. So, want to ask, what setup works for other full time working moms? Unfortunately I cannot rely on hubby who is also very overworked, and I have no family close by.

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D..

answers from Miami on

I don't reallly understand this. You have a 2 year old who she takes care of all day until school is out. Why can't the nanny, whom you pay well, cook, throw laundry in the washer and pick up toys?

She should do light cleaning, and you could have a service come in weekly or twice a month.

You should have expected this of her when you hired her. She could do food prep for you before the kids come home from school. You and she would decide menus together.

Look, that's what other nannies do. If she isn't willing to, find another one.

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N.B.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I would just use formal child care and be done with people coming in my home. That way what you do stays that way.

When I worked full time my house stayed a LOT cleaner and more organized. If you want a part time housekeeper then hire one person to come in and clean on a specific day of the week to do wash/dry/linens/remake the beds and deep clean the kitchen and bathrooms.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

"Paying a lot of money" has NOTHING to do with what a nanny does. You know what DOES control what a nanny does? A CONTRACT. A detailed written document that I certainly hope you and your husband created before you hired that nanny.

If you do not have a contract, fix that, create one. If you DO have a contract, it sounds like you might need to re-work/re-negotiate the terms when it next is up for renewal. Contractually negotiate for the terms of the job that you want to be done!

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

You pay her a "lot" of money. A "lot" of money has varied values to others. $2000 to one person is a lot and to another is nothing.

Do you have a contract which clearly spells out what you expect? Is this the same nanny you had that you asked us about on another post who you loved but asked for advance payments often?

I think it should be no biggie to clean up after the 2 year old... keep toys picked up, kitchen clean, etc.

Your 6 & 9 year olds are big enough to have chores, clean up toys, help you in the kitchen a bit. They should be pretty self sufficient by now.

I have a teacher friend who cooks all of her weekly meals on Sunday afternoons. You children and hubby could help with that.

Your hubby shouldn't be SO busy that he does nothing around the house and spend time with his children. If so... he's missing out on special bonding time with children which is sad.

It's also ok to not have the perfect house. Your children won't remember a perfect house but they will remember bring with mommy.

I've been in the classroom subbing 17 years. In K one year for Mothers Day, children decorated pictures for mom and her favorite things to do. These pictures were posted for family night and one mom got a hard lesson when her child said her favorite thing to do was vacuum and clean. Other children talked about telling stories, bubble bath, etc.

Relax and let your older 2 help you. Children usually take pride in helping mom and dad!

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B.A.

answers from Columbus on

How long has she been your nanny? Did she also care for your other kids prior to the time that they started school? If so, then she's really doing less work now than when she was first hired, and I think that it would be reasonable to ask her to do some light household work.

I understand that your husband is busy, but I think that your kids are old enough to help you with some of the work. You shouldn't be picking up their toys-- even your two year old should be expected to put her toys away. Your 9 year old and 6 year old can help with some of the cleaning and laundry. (My son started folding towels when he was 4-- not with the same amount of precision that I would have had, but, who cares. They were folded!)

What works well for me is an annual household task calendar. (My mother-in-law gave it to me when we married. I was insulted by it at the time, but now think she was brilliant!). It breaks all of the household tasks out into daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly tasks. For instance, wiping off the bathroom counters is a daily task. My husband does it in the master bath after he shaves. My son is now learning to do this in his bathroom. It takes about a minute to do it, but makes a huge difference. We have Sparkle and Shine Saturday-- before we do anything on Saturday, we clean, and everyone participates unless they're not home. My son's job is cleaning the windows.

I usually prep several meals on Sunday, so all I have to do is put them in the oven that day.

Without that structure, we'd be living in a filthy home. And usually they're willing to pitch in because they want our house to be a place where others can visit at any time.

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

A lot of people will have a housekeeper come clean bathrooms/kitchen once a week or once every 2 weeks.
It doesn't sound like much but it often provides just enough help to make things feel a lot better.

Picking up toys is easier if you keep small amounts of them that can be pulled out and then rotate them - so they never have heaps of things all over the place.

Laundry is tough - but - you can have each child start doing their own when they turn 12 - which means there is less in 3 years and they are doing all their own in 10.

Cooking - start having the older kids help with this - a 9 and 6 yr old can help with sandwiches and salads and putting dirty dishes in the dish washer and putting clean dishes away after they are washed.

The kids need to learn life lessons - so along the way - teach them and have them help you.
Everyone helps because many hands make light work and then you ALL can have fun when the work is all done.

Hubby should pitch in with something - taking out the trash maybe?
When I got home from work - if I couldn't sit down - then NO ONE sits down.
If I'm busy cooking, my son better be doing some chore that needs doing or working on homework.
As our son got older - sometimes it would be his turn to make the family meals.
It certainly gives them an idea of what goes into it and an appreciation that they otherwise wouldn't have if they were always served like food just magically appears.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

A housekeeper should only be needed once a week, or every other week (depending on how big your house is.) They come in and mop, dust, deep clean bathrooms/kitchen, etc. This is not something you need every day.
What is your current nanny arrangement? I would expect she would function like a housewife, getting homework and dinner started, maybe starting a load or two of laundry before you and your husband get home from work. Then you guys take over with finishing dinner and homework, catching up on laundry and getting kids to bed.
That's how it works with most of the working parents I know.

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M.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you need to renegotiate the terms with your nanny. I wouldn't expect the nanny to do the laundry. But I would expect her to clean up any mess created while she was there. For example, she should do the lunch dishes and supervise the kids while they pick up toys every day.

I do have a friend who does the 1/2 housekeeper 1/2 nanny route, although her kids are all in school. Her employee gets to her house 2 hours before school lets out. During this time, she puts in a load of laundry, folds any clothes that are in the dryer, preps dinner (including a grocery store run if needed), and does light cleaning. Once the kids are home, she does the standard nanny stuff. It works well for my friend.

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K.G.

answers from Fort Myers on

If you are paying her a lot of money - theres no reason why she can't do laundry while your daughter watches tv or plays. Your boys are old enough, even your daughter - they can pick up their toys. Make a chore chart. The boys can unload the dishwasher, empty waste baskets, etc

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Why not just hire a nanny who can do childcare and household tasks? With caring for one child while the others are at school, surely you can find someone who can unload the dishwasher, put in some laundry and pick up after your toddler (and have your older children pick up after themselves). What on earth does your nanny do for 6+ hours alone with a 2-year-old? If she started working for you when you kids were younger and she was juggling an infant and pre-schooler at one point I can see why chores weren't part of the deal but with a single 2 year old and the others in school, I can't fathom paying a nanny who can't pick up the house while she's there.

I would start with pricing out nannies who also do housework - I honestly would think that that's part of the job but in case it's not in your area, check to see if it would cost a ton more to have someone who can clean up and watch a child. Assuming you can afford to switch and there are people out there, I would let your nanny know that your expectations have changed and that you are looking for someone who can help around the house more. If you like her, give her the opportunity to say that she can do this stuff. If she can do it, great! If she refuses to, then start interviewing.

When I had a FT nanny during the summer, I didn't pay full market rate so I wasn't going to be too demanding but I did expect her to have the kids clean up after themselves (they were 9 & 11 when she started) and she regularly vacuumed, cleaned up my kitchen, helped me pack and unpack when I moved, etc. She did a lot more than just supervise, transport and entertain my kids. I think you should just hire one person and expect more than what you're getting. Then perhaps add in a twice-a-month cleaning lady for deep cleaning of bathrooms, floors, etc.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I don't see why a nanny can't throw in one load of clothes per day (even if it's just the kids' clothes), and then involve the 6 and 9 year olds in the folding. Great skills for kids.

I don't see why she can't take something out of the freezer to defrost if you forget, or put on a big pot of water to get it started for the pasta.

She and the kids can pick up toys. Everyone can have one bin in the family room or playroom, and they can put their own stuff in there. Put a photo of each child on the outside of each bin. We also put a photo that helped with sorting - cars/trucks in one, Legos in another, general blocks and building toys in another, animals/dolls in another. If your kids share toys, that works fine, and it bypasses reading skills. Get some vertical dividers from the office store that help kids shelve books without them falling over.

I'm sorry your husband is overworked, but it sounds like you both are. Why do cooking, cleaning, and straightening up all fall to you?

Set aside one day on the weekend for family cooking/chopping/prepping, and let everyone help. Pack up some packets for the crockpot (if you don't have one, get one) and throw things in before you go to work or have the nanny do it. It's pretty easy to say, "Take out ziploc bag #2 and add 2 cups of water, set on low for 8 hours." Take 1 hour on the weekend for cleaning - you and Kid 1 take the top floor, hubby and Kid 2 take the bottom floor. Switch it up every week so each kid works with each parent, so everyone works on each floor. Do major cleaning once a month, but bathrooms and sheets and towels get done once a week. Put a laundry basket in each kid's closet. Put individual color-coded laundry baskets in the laundry room and let them all fold/sort and put away their own things. By age 12, they start doing their own washing, maybe sooner. The younger one does the trash and recycling so all the work doesn't fall to the older one. On grocery day, it's All Hands On Deck - everyone brings stuff in from the car, unloads the bags, and starts the sorting according to the way your kitchen and pantry is organized. For us, pasta and soups go in one area, canned goods go somewhere else, fruit goes on the counter for washing, and of course refrigerated stuff gets unloaded first.

And relax your standards. It's okay to close a door to a bedroom, it's okay not to make beds every day.

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G.♣.

answers from Springfield on

Our kids are school age and go to a daycare center after school. The bus drops them off there. A big advantage for us is that they can go to the daycare center all day on school holidays. They are even open on snow days!

Another option at our school is the YMCA. They work out of the school. My nieces are in that program, and they just go to the school gym after school. They also have childcare options for school holidays. Not sure about snow days, but my SIL works for an elementary school and is usually off as well on snow days.

When the kids are sick, one of us has to take a sick day. It's not easy, as I teach at a university and really don't want to miss a day. My husband is a manager and doesn't like taking sick days. But that's what you have to do when you are a parent. Sometimes you have to take a sick day.

As far as the housekeeping goes, I stink at it! I really do find it to be a huge burden. I do know a woman who cleans our house occasionally, and that has been a huge help! Once she cleans I can usually keep up for a couple of weeks.

There probably is a way that you can arrange differently to suit your needs better. I think you just have to keep exploring your options. You'll find something that works for you.

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I've never heard of half day housekeepers - or even what that would be in this day and age. Years ago, two of my friends had housekeepers come a couple of days a week, or just after school until their parents got home - usually ladies whose kids were grown, as opposed to younger women like nannies. I don't know anyone with this kind of arrangement now. Cleaners typically come once every two weeks or so (some of my friends have them). So I've not heard of the arrangement you suggest.

My brother had nannies for his kids. They would always start the evening meal and I think they tidied. They had more than one child at home though so they were more concerned she focussed on the kids.

When I worked (I had a very demanding position), and I also traveled, my husband (also has a demanding position) always helped out 50/50 so I have never related to relationships where that's not the case. Not judging - I just can't imagine functioning in a household and raising kids where it's all left to the woman. I would have a talk and ask him to pick the things he dislikes the least (washing up, etc.) and ask him to take those on.

We left heavy duty cleaning and fancy meals for weekends. We had simplified things as much as we could and spent the evenings with the kiddos. Cleaning in our house gets done as needed, and everyone pitches in. I suggest, if it's getting too much and you have the funds for it - if it's easier to hire cleaners, do that. A lot of my friends do. They just have to tidy in between. Your kids (older ones) can help out.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

Well, your nanny should be cleaning up what messes are made during the day. Such as...clean up breakfast dishes, clean up after lunch, load dishwasher, pick up toddler toys (making it a fun game where the 2 year old helps) before you are home. You should come home to a relatively picked up house. When your 2 year old is in school no one will be there each day so no messes will be made. Your 9 and 6 year old are now both old enough to help around the house some. Most everyone I know works and you throw in some laundry a couple evenings a week. The kids help fold and put things away in the drawers. The kids take out the trash. The kids vacuum the rug and feed the pets. We all get ready for dinner and the kids clear the table and load the dishwasher. The kids sweep after dinner. Your 6 and 9 year old are more than old enough to help. 2 year olds love being given little "jobs" where they feel like they are helping. Then on weekends we all pitch in to clean the bathrooms and floors. We each strip our own beds. It doesn't take up very much of the weekend. Why are you doing everything? If you don't want to delegate out cleaning chores then yes hire a housekeeper to come once a week to clean. PS - Next year your 2 year old will be 3. Maybe put her into a day program while you are at work. Hire a housekeeper to come once a week to clean. But start now in training your kids and husband to start helping around the house more. It is a part of being a family...the mom is not the one to do all the house work. Another idea is instead of a nanny hire an Au Pair. She lives with you and becomes one of the family. Our friends who have Au Pairs say it is very affordable. Most of them have an Au Pair and a weekly cleaning service for deep cleaning.

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M.6.

answers from New York on

You can't ask your current nanny to change the terms of her employment just because it isn't working out for you. What you signed up for is what you are getting (otherwise I'm guessing you would have fired her a long time ago). How much you do or don't pay her is irrelevant since you are paying her what you contracted for. It sounds like you have a couple of solutions:

1. Hire a different nanny that includes light housekeeping.

2. Keep the nanny you have and have a cleaning service that comes once or twice a week to do everything else (except the cooking)

I don't think that renegotiating your current nanny's contract would necessarily work unless you were willing to pay her even more. Think of your job - imagine if your boss basically doubled your work load with no extra pay or incentive. How long before it either seriously affected the quality of the work you did or you simply quit?

L.U.

answers from Seattle on

Full time working mom of 3. My kids are 15, 12, and 6.
Learn how to crock-pot. It will help with some of your dinners!
Your kids are old enough that they can do the clean up of their toys and can put away laundry. You can teach the two year old to put his toys in a toy box.
Your husband is overworked and so are you. So he GETS to help out just as much as you do. You are a team...he needs to pull his weight. Your kids are not babies (at least the older two aren't) and they can step in and help.
When I was a nanny my job was to take care of the kids and make sure that what was used was picked up and put away. So dishes, toys, homework was not out when the parents got home. She should be doing that too.
We have family meetings when i need to talk with everyone about issues. Call together your family and be honest!
"Family! Mom is exhausted and I need you all to start doing more around the house. Bob and Susie, you are in charge of picking up your toys and clothes from around the house.Little stevie...you are going to pick up your toys. Husband Joe, I need you to step it up! If ALL of us put effort towards the house then it will run more efficiently!"

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N.K.

answers from Miami on

I also work full-time and had a live-in nanny at one point, when my daughter was an infant and I was separating from her father. My live-in nanny did the cleaning, and took care of my daughter. That was pretty much it. I drove her back home Friday nights so she could be with her family, and would pick her up on Sunday nights to spend the week. We both ate salads for dinner so sometimes she'd have extra lettuce chopped up for me when I was home, back from work and tending to my daughter. As for protein, we'd eat tuna cans or sometimes, I'd throw a couple of chicken breasts in the pan. You can consider some light meals like these, or cook on the weekend and refrigerate/freeze the leftovers. You can also throw something on the crockpot in the morning, go to work, and come home to find dinner ready.

My nanny never did laundry nor folded it. Honestly, I don't know how comfortable I'd feel having a stranger handle my lingerie and dirty clothes. I guess I'd feel embarrassed. Laundry these days is a snap anyway. Think of how bad your parents or grandparents had it when they had to manually scrub each garment with soap and then rinse and line dry everything. You can easily throw a load 5 minutes after walking through that door and spend some time with the kids. Putting stuff into the dryer also takes 5 minutes. Folding and putting away laundry should not take more than 15 minutes. Again, you can enlist the kids to assist with this (the older ones, anyway). You can use it as an opportunity to talk to them about their day, too.

As for picking up toys, my daughter was taught from a young age that after she was done playing with toys, she was to put them away. She still follows that rule and realizes that any toys left on the floor may end up cracked from being stepped on, or in the trash, if sweeping. Your kids are all old enough to learn how to put their toys away. There is no reason why you or a nanny should be doing this, honestly. If you can't depend on them for putting everything in its place or perhaps they cannot reach the shelves, at least have a bin, treasure chest or cubby where they can place the toys so it's not all a messy scatter all over the floor.

As to the last part of your question, I would ask the nanny if she would be okay with being a nanny for half a day rather than a full day. She may need the money badly and this may not work for her. In that case, you can explain to her the issue with not having the laundry or place cleaned, and see if she'd be willing to do that in order to keep working full-time. Be prepared for her to ask for a mild increase in pay though. I don't see why you'd need a housekeeper on a daily basis, honestly. Maybe you can have the nanny on her regular full-time schedule, and on Fridays, have her do half a day so you can have a housekeeper come in for the other half of the day to do the weekly cleaning.

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