My Word for 2013 (The Post I Almost Couldn’t Write)

The Short Version:

I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a Word of the Year this year.

But then this word came to me: Teamwork.

It was perfect.

Blogging/writing has become my job, and in accepting that I’m now a Work at Home Mom, I also need to accept that I can’t do it all. I need to do better in involving my children in our overall, day-to-day home management.

The Intro to the Long Version:

I came up with this word on January 1st.  It’s now January 14th.  The in-my-head version of this post was clear, succinct, and easy-to-write.

However . . . every time I sat down and started typing it up, I got stuck.  At least one of those times, I couldn’t even see the screen through my tears.


I know.  I was confused too.  I could not figure out what was wrong.  This wasn’t supposed to be a heart-wrenching post.  It was simply about accepting the phase of life I was in, and going from there.   It was about how I wasn’t sure exactly what “Teamwork” was going to look like, but how I was going to figure it out by doing it.  (Kind of like everything I do around here.)

I talked to Hubby.  He was on board, and we held a family meeting.  We had FIVE successful Family Kitchen Cleaning Sessions last week . . . but I still couldn’t write the post. 

The Long Version:

Sometimes my brain takes a while to process things.  I walk away, and eventually have a Lightbulb Moment.

Saturday, I finally figured out what was bothering me about this post. 

The problem wasn’t that I had to admit I was in a new phase of life and needed help.  I did admit that, and I was okay with it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to focus on Teamwork.  I was excited about that.

I mean, it’s one of those things I’ve always known I needed to do better at . . . .

And then I realized where the tears were coming from.

Accepting a new phase meant the last phase was over.



(Bear with me as I work through this and attempt to explain.)

It’s really not about wishing for the old days of little kids who fit neatly in my lap.  It isn’t even about missing the softness of a newborn’s fuzzy head.

By admitting that I’m in a phase of life where I have no choice but to make home management a family affair, I’m admitting that I didn’t succeed at this in my last phase of life.

I failed.

And that phase of life is over.

I always wanted to be the mom who taught her toddlers to pick up their toys every single night so they would grow up not even realizing there’s another option.  (The other option? Clearing a path from the bed to the door.)

I wished I was the mom whose kids automatically took their dishes to the sink because they’d been trained to do that from the time they could walk.

I dreamed of having kids who wiped toothpaste out of the sink, neatly hung towels up after a bath, and didn’t use the shower curtain to dry their hands.  Y’know, because their mom was ON IT and teaching them to do these things.

While we go through fits and spurts of using our Kids’ Chore Charts and I have spent the summers teaching them cleaning skills, I never did get the Consistency Thing down.

So my tears came from grief.  Grief because I didn’t get all this figured out while I was just doing it because it was the right thing to do.

While it was simply because I was an awesome mom.

Now, it’s necessity.  Somehow, that doesn’t feel as noble. 


Yes.  I wish I had done a better job during the last phase, but knowing how quickly that phase flew by inspires me to make the most of this one.

I’ll share tomorrow how it’s been going so far.





  1. 1

    It’s hard to be consistent with this. If our kids naturally had a desire for the house to be clean, it would be simple. However, I have not birthed nor met that child yet (I’m due in 6 weeks or so, I guess there’s always hope!). The fact at my house is that they would much rather read, play, hide, or do most anything else. Even though at age 2, they faithfully cleared their dishes and would put toys in their box, I now have to remind them again (and again) at 6 and 9. We have new cleaning checklists in every room (thanks to my new laminator, yay!), but it still takes a lot of management effort from mom to keep these chores getting done. Even if you did a really, really great job, I think our natural pattern is to fall towards the easiest path (which seems to be not doing the chores). Now, we do what we always do, which is start where we’re at and keep going 🙂 Thanks for being real. Now, I should go down and finish cleaning the kitchen, so we’re caught up enough to work together on table chores tonight.

  2. 2

    Your children are learning that perfection is hard to attain, that if something is a struggle you keep trying if it’s important to you, and that success at something takes real work. Doing it together as a family is actually better than everyone just looking after themselves. You are a real-life example to your kids, NOT of how-not-to-do something, but of how to recognize a problem, attempt a solution, and try again if it doesn’t work. Keep it up!

  3. 3

    I really can’t tell you how many times you’ve written the very thoughts that I wouldn’t even let myself think. Somehow, past failures aren’t so hard to accept and move past when you know somebody else gets it.

  4. 4

    Oh, I’m right there with you! There is a scene from the movie “The Break Up” that my husband and I quote all the time, about this very subject. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston are fighting about splitting up the chores and housework. She says she wants him to want to do the dishes. His reply: “WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THE DISHES?!?” It’s the same for kids as it is for adults…no one WANTS to do the dirty work (well, there are some women who really love it, but I don’t get them!) I share this in hopes to be an encouragement…adults don’t want to do it, neither do kids. Pick up where you are right now and move on in grace! If today is a “path to the bed” day (which it is in my house), maybe tomorrow will be better. 🙂

  5. 5

    You’re being too hard on yourself, Nony (isn’t that what we mom’s do?!). You’ve been working on those things – teaching your kids. You didn’t fail. Yes, consistency is good. Yes, it would have been nice if they picked up their toys and cleaned the toothpaste out of the sink. But you’re teaching them and they’re learning. It’s a process. It takes time. We’re only human and sometimes we do well and sometimes we don’t. But you said a while back that the difference this time is that you haven’t quit. And you’re not quitting now. Just keep plugging away. That’s all any of us can do.

    And you said you didn’t get it while it was the right thing to do – sometimes it’s harder then. Now it’s a necessity and you might find it’s easier. That’s how it worked for me anyway.

    Good luck. You’re doing great!

  6. 6

    I feel like I’ve failed in that, too. My kids are 2, 5, and 9. I did a good job with my 9 year old until #2 came along (at teaching, not at modeling – my stuff has always been a mess). Now that my baby is 2 years old, I feel like I have a little breathing room with her sleeping through the night and napping most days, and the big kids at school full time. I’ve made a bit of progress in the last two years (thanks in part to your blog), but decided recently that this is my year to get my junk in order (or out of the house). I plan to get through the whole house this year and find homes for everything, including the dozens of full moving boxes in the basement. It will be quite a chore. Then, next year should be simpler repeating that work to maintain it and deal with the new stuff. I’m also working on involving the kids in regular chores, etc, since I know they are capable of more than they do (which will help me, too). I feel like I’m running out of time for my 9 year old, so I am really motivated this year.

  7. 7

    Your words are inspiring me and helping me to change so that I *may* be able to teach my kids those good habits! My kids are 2 1/2 and 9 months now, and I have a LONG way to go to establish good habits myself – and in being consistent with expectations for them. Even if you see this last season as a failure, God is using it for good. You are so helpful with your blog and e-books because you’ve been there and you can describe the struggle in words that most people, those “normal” people, could never conceive. Thanks, and best wishes for a wonderful 2013! Go TEAM!

  8. 8

    I don’t know if this will help you, but experience has given me this wisdom: While I was regretting not getting “a grip” in time with certain things while raising my kids, I figured out that I was judging my past self against the standard of my current abilities. While I was in the midst of raising lots of little ones, I did the best I could with the knowledge and other resources I had AT THAT TIME. I knew that “other people” were doing better at some things than I was, but I finally realized I was judging my weaknesses against their strengths, which really wasn’t fair to me or to them. That helped me let go of a lot of the guilt.
    Life is about learning and growing and it’s not over until it’s over. You will be teaching and raising your children long after they are “grown”. I have three young adult kids who’ve grown up and moved out on their own, with one teen left here at home, and I’ve found that I did non, in fact, manage to teach my kids everything they needed to know. So when a gap in their learning/education becomes apparent, we talk about it and I give them ideas about what’s worked for me, and they have the ability to listen and apply what they’ve learned on their own and combine it with what I’ve said and then make their own choices in a way that makes them happy.
    I do understand the sorrow, but want you to know that you will still be parenting and loving your children when they are adults. Not in the same way you do now, but you’ll still be the mama. If the family relationship is strong, you don’t “run out of time”. It’s very satisfying and wonderful and, in my case anyway, kind of unexpected.

  9. 9

    It took me a couple of reads, but I do understand what you are saying. I think a few of the other posts said something like this but I want to throw my thoughts in too. My mom was a Natural Organizer. She seemed to just “know” how to clean., and that’s great. But, I, growing up with that, didn’t learn how to clean. What I grew up thinking was that something must be wrong with me because both my mom and my sister just seemed to know how to do this and I just didn’t. My kids have traveled with me through my journey of trying to figure out what “works” for us. They haven’t always been the most happy travelers but they’ve come along and haven’t planned a mutiny yet – I don’t think. My point is, if we go along in life making like everything is perfect, we end up telling others that failure isn’t ok. This, of course, is absurd. It is by failing that we learn to do things. If we never fail, we never learn because we haven’t had to fight through the discouragement, problem solve, pick ourselves up off the floor, or just grit our teeth and be determined to succeed. We’ve all known the kids from school who had everything come easy. Eventually, something doesn’t come easy and they just give up because they never learned how to work for anything. I think, Nony, you will see, as your kids get older, they will be FAR better than you could ever imagine because you have taught them to never give up and to just keep on keeping on despite setbacks. It might be hard to see now and it is always hard to accept that you need help but, really, teamwork is what family is and it’s good for all of us. Even if we could do it all by ourselves, that doesn’t mean we should. God bless!!!

    Deo Juvante, Jen

  10. 10

    AmyWW nailed it in her first paragraph! We just do what we can to get through each day when there are toddlers and newborns screeching and pooping and dumping things out. Now they are older and eats easy to say “garsh I was a real slobs back then!”

    Also… those kids you describe? They have mean moms and/or acquiescent natures. I spoke with a gal who was raised in a house like that and she was miserable as a child and so did not ask anything of her kids.

    The trick is to figure out your kids’ natures and what makes them respond to your desire to get them to cooperate in ANYTHING including helping with housework. Manipulation, baby! And they are all different and it takes a lot of studying their habits, etc. I have 7 kids ranging from 2 to 18 years old and I work on this every single day.

    Everyone should read “the child whisperer” by carol tuttle. It came out this fall and I’ve learned more about my kids since studying it then I did the first 18 years of motherhood.

    Keep at ‘er! You have a wonderful, vibrant, upward, random nature that will never love extreme discipline in your life and THAT IS OKAY! Embrace it and have fun! (That’s what carol would say ;-))

  11. 11

    When my kids were small,they helped pick up and put stuff away.Now that they are teenagers,getting them to do anything is a major pain in the rear.I live in a house of males and they have discovered that if they postpone it long enough then Mom will eventually give up and do it herself.Between homeschooling,taking care of my mom and taking care of my family,I just don’t seem to have the energy to fight to make them help anymore. I wish you lot’s of luck in this new phase of your life and want you to know you have given me a lot of help dealing with my clutter.I made myself a sign that say’s slow and steady wins the race and I try to spend at least 30 minutes every day disposing of my junk. Maybe this year will be the year I get my house completely cleaned.

  12. 12

    Ditto What Amy WW said!

  13. 13

    Maybe this will help you feel better… my kids are now 10 & 14 and I am still wishing I taught them how to do all those wonderful things you mention. Life has passed by and it’s always easier to do it myself, so guess who does it. But here’s the kicker… there are a few things we’ve been quite consistent about… putting your stuff where it belongs when you get home, clearing dishes and putting them in the DW, etc. Just a few, but it’s always been that way. Well, guess what. I STILL have to tell my kids to clear their dishes, and THEN I have to tell them to come back and actually put them in the DW. They’re 10 & 14! And I am still a broken record. There is no finish line. Maybe someday they will be at somebody else’s house and will do it w/o being told. A mama can dream!

  14. 15

    When I read your post I cried too! For only having one soft fuzzy newborn head (and I wanted a pair or three). And for joy that God doesn’t make mistakes! You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing and exactly when you are supposed to be doing it. You are helping so many people, me included (I’ve washed dishes almost daily for the last five months and that is a huge change for me, used to be a weekly thing with much beating myself up for not doing it “right”). AND you did the really important things with your kids, laughed, played, went to their games etc. You are an AWESOME mom just the way your are!

  15. 16

    Dear Nony, let your tears flow, accept your feelings. It’s good that you don’t ignore them, because they are fertile ground for new inspiration. You’ll soon see, that it isn’t that all important after all. Your children are happy and healthy, you are mama and wife in a lovely family, and many more blessings! Maybe you need just a little rest… to be honest, when I saw the title of your post I thought that you would write about how difficult it was for you to bring the message that you wanted to look for a paid help in the house! And having said that, why not, Nony? You are so so busy all the time! And your website is totally unique, let’s say that too, so please give yourself some breathing pauses in life, so you can continue the inspirational writings!

  16. 17

    Oh, Nony! I get it! I soooo get it. You are not alone in those feelings, believe me! There are so many things that I had every intention of doing; so many habits and experiences I believed I was going to instill in and provide for my children, but stuff – life and stuff and ourselves – didn’t conform and now I can’t go back and fix or tweak or re-do them. I guess the only thing I can do is look at my kids and realize that they are fine and we are doing fine and it’s never too late to become what we want to become and do what we’d like to do and it’s okay to go about it in a very unique evolutionary way (if that makes any sense).

  17. 18

    I feel like we’ve missed a window of opportunity to instill good habits from the very beginning, and I’m so mad at myself for wasting time being upset about our dirty house when I could have spent it enjoying the early years that go by way too quickly. Thank you for writing honestly about this.

  18. 19

    But you know what? I am raising toddlers that do those things and it is thanks to you. 🙂

  19. 20

    Holy Wow. What an unbelievably strong post. You are such an inspiration! The fact that you worry about these kind of things means you are an amazing mother! I bet you a million dollars that your kids have gotten more love and affection and are learning thing much more important than picking up a plate after dinner.

  20. 21

    Loved your post ~ but I am with you. So many things I WISH I did better, but honestly I do NOT miss the baby or toddler stage. Thankful I got to have it, but I also am loving the older, fun to shop with, fun to go to movies with, etc., kids!!
    I have always been a work at home mom. always….so I do think in a why I have raised them to be a little more independent than if I had not worked at home. Now I work out of the home and it was time to make the break for my sanity and theirs too. It was overtaking our home! Now I have clear lines between working and being home and I think my home is more enjoyable since work is not all over it anymore! I am so loving reading your blog ~ and how honest, fun and awesome your writing is! Hang in there momma and know you have 3 beautiful kids, healthy and I think they do know how to put their toys and dishes away…they just choose to do a lot more fun things than that!! HA!

  21. 22

    We’re always our own harshest critics…but even if you don’t think you succeeded 100% with your own kids while they were young, and being “that” mom….you are inspiring other mom’s out there with the smaller children… I have a 3.5 year old and a 7 month old…and without being asked my 3.5 year old cleared his plate from the table tonight…after just a few times I’ve asked him lately from getting the suggestion from YOU! Thanks Nony!

  22. 24

    Thank you for writing this post. I needed it. I am in almost the exact same place as you…grieving the ‘loss’ of my boys’ “toddlerhood” and my failed attempts to be an “organized, clean, up-to-playdates, and family outings” mom. I am now dealing with the “can’t believe my kids are almost in high school” trauma and trying to make the best of it. Thanks for your blog and your honesty and allowing us permission to be who we are and yet try to be better. The inspiration here is giving me hope…and I need it! Thank you.

  23. 26

    My word is GROWTH!

  24. 27

    I’m reading your blog backwards. Have been for a while. Just a few times I’ve been compelled to comment. This is one.
    First you’ve helped me immensely over the past year. I’ve changed, because I was YOU just less than a year ago…the old you. I’m a recovering slob, too. My kids, now in college, lived with my slobiness their whole lives. I thought learning your lessons this late would be too late for them. But guess what? They see what I’ve accomplished in this past year. And, conversely, I see them trying to keep their dorm rooms neat and, believe it or not, organized. Those kids who would drive to the store to get plastic silverware because ours were all dirty. Or, they would frantically help me shove everything into my bedroom in tubs every time they wanted to have friends over.
    Know that you’re doing the exact right thing. Teaching them how to be neater is great. Showing them that it is not perfection, but the act of just doing it, is more important.
    I look forward to catching up to you in real time in the next couple of months! Great job, Nony mom!

  25. 29

    Oh, Nony..
    I’ve been reading your blog from the beginning for a month now, and now I’m this far. I thought that I would write you when I’m up to present day, but this post made me tear up.. So I’ll just blab away 🙂
    You have worked So hard with this slob-thing, and the progress you have made is Amazing! While you have been teaching yourself new ways to clutter, clean and maintain, you have also been teaching your children and husband.

    My son is 9yo, and he has learned just now during the last month to put his dishes in the washing machine and his dirty clothes in the hamper ( notice that he has learned these things while I’ve been reading your blog? There’s a connection :D). I see this as a small victory! It doesn’t matter if he learns it when he’s 2, or 9 or 15, as long as he learns it before moving on his own 🙂

    Your children won’t remember that ‘Mom did not start to teach me how to pick up my toys until I was 8yo’. They will remember, that when they left to the big world, they new how to clean, do laundry, cook and manage the whole housekeeping thing.

    Because Mom teached them.

    You, ma’m, have not failed. You weren’t happy with your slob-lifestyle. So you worked hard, and changed things, learned new skills that work for you. And now you’re teaching those skills to your children.

    Not sure what I’m rambling anymore, but Nony you’re just Amazing, and with the amount of love you obviously feel for your family it’s just not possible that you would have failed.


  26. 30

    I’ve been reading your posts backwards for a while now, and although I know it might not help you anymore right now, I am still going to tell your old self that, I as someone with ZERO children at home am amazed at your creativity and you resilient attitude when confronted with basically anything in life. Even the most organized moms out there have the hardest time with their little ones, and being the most organized mom doesn’t automatically mean the best/coolest/my best memory comes from my, mom.

    In a few years (yeah I know, another stage of life that can wait 😉 you will hear your grown up kids talk about how fun it was to have you as a mother, and they will still have learned everything important from you, like failure isn’t the end, it’ the beginning of something new, and the importance of understanding your own way to live and applying that understanding to make your goals happen.

  27. 32
    Jeanine says:

    My 3 kids are now in their 20’s. None of them are going to be fantastic housekeepers. BUT, they’re great people. We have a great relationship. They’re all following the Lord. Really, those are the things that matter. I wouldn’t trade those things for anything.

    • 33
      Jeanine says:

      I want to add that I’ve been thinking about this because I’ve been decluttering our homeschool stuff. I’ve found books and charts and curriculums, all about teaching character, and chores, all things I intended to do, some that I even attempted to do. But I failed at doing them. I wasn’t able to use (or use correctly, or for long) all those materials I bought, all those systems and charts that seemed to work for other homeschooling moms. I started to mourn all those lost opportunities that I’ll never have again to use them.

      But then I looked at my kids, my wonderful kids, who aren’t perfect, but who turned out pretty darn good, despite my failures.

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