There was a time when laundry ran my life.
I know that sounds dramatic, but I’m serious. Daily tasks like washing and folding clothes, scrubbing dishes, sanitizing bathrooms, and picking up toys used to take up the majority of my waking hours with my children.
Even if I wasn’t actively performing all of my endless household chores, they were still on my mind—so were things like signing my kids up for summer camps, paying my taxes, getting the dog groomed, and planning my next vacation. My to-do list was a mile long, and during the times I could have been mentally present with my kids, my mind was usually elsewhere.
That kind of day-in-and-day-out mental load takes a toll, especially when family chores and responsibilities are not the only things weighing you down. In addition to my at-home task list, I also had a full load of pediatric patients at my medical clinic, a busy side-hustle writing for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and an—albeit inadequate—social life to juggle.
For the first four years of my motherhood journey, I did it all, and looked good doing it from the outside. On the inside, I was a ball of stress—perpetually tired, always on the verge of snapping, and, quite frankly, hardly ever mindful.
At some point, though, I cracked. I couldn’t keep up with all the demands I placed on myself, especially because, as my first daughter grew older, it became clear to both me and my husband, that she had some special needs we couldn’t ignore. She’d always been sensitive, but her needs escalated significantly as she entered her toddler years. Her behavioral outbursts, potty training regressions, and sensory sensitivities suddenly required our full attention and time. As we dove into managing her care and caring for ourselves, the minutia of our daily schedules suddenly seemed far less important. We learned to put everything in its place, including the laundry.
Here’s what I did to push all the revolving daily tasks that used to be at the center of my life further out:
Set a Discrete Time During the Week for all of the Drudgery Chores
In my house, never-ending chores (like laundry) only happen once a week: Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. I run the loads through the washing and drying machines the 24 hours before, and then spend those two specific hours folding and putting away all those shirts and socks. If I don’t finish in my allotted laundry “appointment time,” I leave the remaining clothes on a chair and wait until the next week to come back to them.
Assigning a specific time in my schedule to attack one of my least favorite to-dos keeps it off my mind throughout the rest of the week and allows me to focus on being as productive as possible with it when it is time to get to work.
Commit to Less Clutter
More clutter equals more to pick up. Period. If you want to spend less time cleaning and organizing, less stuff is the way to go. Create a habit of sifting through your unwanted items at least quarterly and pick an organization that could benefit from your gently used goods. You’ll be helping someone else and yourself as you simplify and streamline your environment.
Remove the Fluff in Your Daily Agenda
PTA meetings, work committee commitments, trips to Target for household basics—they used to all eat up my time and contribute to my sense of perpetual busyness. Perform a monthly audit, assessing the balance of activities you spent time on that fed your soul and gave you rest versus those that tired you out and ate away at your energy levels.
Share the Load
Your parenting village is essential to your journey toward mindful parenting. Rely on others to help with childcare needs and participate in household duties, especially if you parent with an in-home partner or have kids who are old enough to help with chores. Take advantage of automation and delegation when it comes to grocery shopping, bill pay, and calendar reminders too.
Let it Go
Remember, you aren’t meant to be a perfect parent—a high-efficiency robot without feelings, needs, or missteps. Treat yourself with mindful self-compassion as you create systems to make your life more mindful, and as you mess up along the way. Let your house be messy if that makes you more peaceful. The dust bunnies can always be addressed on another day.
As parents, we only have so much time and energy and, while we want to spend those precious resources on the people and activities that are most important to us, it’s easy to get caught up in all the inconsequential duties of daily life.
If you want to be mindful as you parent instead of stressed and overextended, take it from me: meaningless tasks—like laundry—have to move to the edge of your parenting journey circle, so you can put joy and presence at the center.