How to Keep Motivated During Down Time
When the third grader is at school full-time and the toddler is napping it can be hard to be motivated to do another load of laundry when your favorite soap opera is on the flat screen and some leftover birthday cake is waiting to be tasted in the fridge.
Most nannies and au pairs have some down time to take a break each day. It is completely acceptable for caregivers to take a much needed rest while the baby is resting too. Caregivers ought to sit down and have a healthy lunch when kids are napping or at school.
Even if the tasks below are not included as a job responsibility in the nanny's work agreement, random acts of kindness are well noticed and appreciated. To keep motivated, we suggest in-home caregivers try some of the projects listed below while kids are in school, at activities, or napping.
Have a Healthy Snack:
Nannies spend most of their time preparing healthy snacks and meals for the children but forget to take care of themselves. Some lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a tall glass of cold water can make the hardest working nanny or au pair feel better.
Write down the funny things the children did that day. Even on the most stressful days children are funny. Not only does finding the humor in the children's actions and words help you keep a positive attitude for your job, you can create a book of funny moments later to give as a homemade gift for the parents at holiday time.
Read a Childcare Book:
Although parents would love you to iron clothes or mop the kitchen floor while the baby naps, sometimes just allowing yourself to read for 15- to 30-minutes can be refreshing. Pick out books at the library or bookstore that discuss a topic you are dealing with at work. For example, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is a quick and easy read, plus a very useful guide, for those caring for newborns. There are great resources for every stage of development. So, if you are dealing with discipline problems, finicky eaters, or potty training there are plenty of resources to motivate you.
Organize a Bookshelf:
Some chores are more noticeable than others. Some tasks can be done while listening to your favorite television courtroom drama too. Nothing looks better than a tidy bookshelf and it can be organized while listening to the television or radio. First, pull out books the children no longer read and put them in a pile for the parents to determine if they can be tossed or donated. Alphabetize extensive collections and sort by genre. Wipe off dust with a slightly damp rag. Reserve the most easily reached shelves for books, movies, and music the children enjoy frequently.
Cook a New Recipe:
Boys might love a recipe from the Star Wars Cookbook, girls might love the Strawberry Shortcake Cookbook, and parents will love if you try a recipe from Rachael Ray's Top 30 30-Minute Meals for Kids. Better yet, make a turtle-shaped bread for the children's snack later in the day. Take photos of your creations to add to a scrapbook.
Discard Expired Medications:
Most medicine cabinets are filled with outdated medications. First, ask the parents if you can throw out expired medications. Then, make a list of what items you will need to purchase to refill the supply. Finally, wipe down the cabinet and reorganize the remedies neatly. Nannies and au pairs should feel free to discard of the children's medicines but should ask the parents before discarding their adult medications.
Tackle a Closet:
Parents love it when caregivers take the extra time to reorganize a closet. Never enter a parent's private closet without permission, but feel free to organize the children's bedroom closets, playroom closets, coat closets, and cubbies. Clothes the children rarely wear or toys that are broken should be the first things to go. Clothing that is too small should be donated. Damaged toys that are broken or no longer used should be discarded. Group "likes" together such as all long pants hang together and all long-sleeve shirts together. Then, arrange by color. Some caregivers prefer matching outfits be folded or hung together so that children can choose their own clothing to wear, but they are already paired in matching outfits. The items used most often by the children should be easy for them to access, so hang or store them no higher than eye level for the child.
Wash Stuffed Animals:
Not many caregivers think to wash toys or launder the children's stuffed animals (while daycare centers are required to sanitize toys). But, is anything dirtier than the stuffed animals that sleep alongside the children? Most stuffed animals are chewed on, sneezed on, and full of germs. As long as there are no electronics inside the toys they can be washed in the washing machine, then dried lightly on a low setting in the dryer.
Clean Out a Junk Drawer:
Every household has at least one junk drawer. Ironically, professional organizer, Lea Schneider calls junk drawers "Necessary Drawers" because they tend to hold everything but junk. Dump out the contents of the drawer. Every junk drawer has some trash to throw out. Sort out the items that have "homes" somewhere else in the house and put them away (for example, a compact disc should be in the compact disc drawer next to the compact disc player). But the necessary items that you need often and quickly should remain in the junk drawer such as: a glue stick, scissors, a pencil, an ink pen, quarters, a Phillips head screwdriver, and so on. Cleaning out the junk drawer doesn't take long and you can still listen to your favorite soap opera or listen to music while completing the task.
Clean Out the Fridge:
Expired food is unhealthy, stinky, and gross. Throw out gross or expired foods. Then, remove all the food from the fridge and wipe down the shelves with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda to one quart warm water or a solution of one cup of vinegar and one gallon warm water to wash the inside of the refrigerator. Dump crumbs out of drawers, then rinse in sink or wipe down with solution listed above. Placing a box of baking soda placed in the refrigerator will also cut down on odors. The task shouldn't take half an hour but will be appreciated. No one needs permission to dump moldy left-overs -- just get rid of them!
What do you during the baby's nap time? What unexpected tasks do you do around the house that the parents appreciate?