5 Better Things To Say Instead of “The Dishes Can Wait”

If you’re a mother and you’ve never heard or read the phrase “the dishes can wait”…well, I don’t believe you. The concept behind the phrase is that you need to set aside the things that can wait in order to take time to soak up precious moments with your children. And I get it. I do. BUT, it isn’t that simple, and here’s why:

No One Else Will Do Them

I understand the ‘why’ behind the phrase and all its well-meaning, but let me be frank. Yes, the dishes can wait…for a while, but then (like the rest of the household chores) they start to build up and build up until there isn’t a single plate left to eat off. And you know what? I still have to do them, except the job is ten times the size that it started out being. When people share well-meaning advice to ‘let the house go’ and ‘take a break’, they forget to factor in that you probably have no cover. Imagine leaving your working position to go on leave and having no one to cover you. Your boss wouldn’t be happy and you’d return to a stressful pile-up of work to catch up on.

I Can’t Focus

Now, with parenthood comes compromise. I’m not disputing that…trust me. I used to religiously dust at least once a week, but now my toddler uses the feather duster as a pretend horse to gallop around the house with.

However, there are some things that just need to be sorted before I can mentally focus. I know not everyone is like this, but there are sometimes that I can not relax until I’ve finished a job. I DO want to spend time with my children, but that time needs to be quality time, and if I’m not mentally focused on being with them, then it isn’t quality at all.

It Affects Mental Health

Thankfully it is becoming increasingly known and understood that:

If mama aint happy, aint nobody happy.

Your mental health matters, as a mama, as a wife, as a woman…as a person. It affects those around you and has a profound impact on those you hold dear. The reality is, that for some, having a messy home negatively affects their mental health. I’ll be the first to attest to the truth of that!


So, we’ve established that while the phrase is well-meaning, it isn’t particularly helpful. Here are five things you can say instead:

1. Can I Bring You A Meal?

Whether you’re recovering from the birth of your child, or a seasoned mama with little ones of all ages, getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. Having a meal plan helps a bunch but I know that for me personally, having someone drop off a home-cooked meal is like heaven on earth on those crazy days when you can barely keep your head above the water.

2. Can I Do Some Chores?

Laundry, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, etc, etc, etc. Just ask. Even if they don’t take you up on it, they’ll appreciate it. I have this wonderful cleaning list which made it so much easier to delegate jobs after the birth of my second child. You can get a free copy here. 🙂

3. Can I Watch Your Kids?

If she has a couple children or more, she might need a nap or some time to herself. The one exception to this is if she’s just had a new baby. Aside from watching the baby so she can take a shower or a nap, she’ll probably want to be curled up on the couch soaking in all that new baby goodness. So, instead of advising her to ‘leave the dishes’, say ‘Here, sit. I’ll take care of the dishes’. 🙂

5 Better Things To Say Instead of "The Dishes Can Wait" | What every mother REALLY wants to hear! Learn how to help out your fellow mamas by asking these KEY questions.

4. Can I Get You Anything?

Sometimes getting out of the house is so much of a mission with kids that it just doesn’t seem worth it. Other times you’re just not in the right state of mind to actually make yourself presentable enough to head out into public. Do a mama a favour and offer to pick up what she needs. 🙂

5. How Can I Help?

This is the last point because unless you know the person well, this is so general that they may very well turn you down. However, if you’re close then ask this open-ended question. Make sure you’re willing to follow through though because if you’re not, she’ll remember that too and when she REALLY needs help she will mentally take you off of the list of people to turn to. That’s not to sound harsh, only honest.


So, what do you think? What is some unhelpful advice that someone has offered and what do you WISH they had said instead? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time!

Hi! I'm Christine...a stay-at-home mum to two tiny humans. My constant focus is having my home run as smoothly as possible. Keeping two kids alive, and maintaining my sanity is also a priority. Most Saturday nights, you can find me hunkered down watching Grey's Anatomy, and hopefully nibbling on some chocolate. :)

  • Jacki Quinones

    These are all great suggestions! I love receiving and giving meals! They’re so helpful.

    • Christine Keys

      Yes, they’re my favourite!

  • Chanel van Reenen

    I absolutely love number 1! Meal trains are the best and I can’t stand cooking. A warm cooked meal would be amazing! Also, someone PLEASE come watch my kids, lol!

    • Christine Keys

      Right?!

  • Shannon Marie

    Yes yes yes and more yes! I cannot function with a full sink and messes all around me. I love all your suggestions!

    • Christine Keys

      I’m glad you can relate! 🙂

  • Love your twist on the subject. There is soooo much truth to all of this.

    • Christine Keys

      Thank you!

  • Magen Daniella Golden

    I didn’t expect this article to take the turn it did. This is some really helpful advice though. Everyone could probably learn something from this article.

    • Christine Keys

      Thanks. 🙂

  • Jolene Sng-Ong

    I am exactly like this too! I also share quick and easy recipes on my food blog, especially on busy week nights topped with after school activities. Hope you’ll check it out and find it useful. http://www.miss-crumbs-a-lot.com

    • Christine Keys

      Quick and easy are my favourite!

  • vriley85

    LOVE these 5 things to stay instead. Totally something I didn’t ‘get’ until I became a mom. I never visit without a meal in hand now!

    • Christine Keys

      I know, right?!

  • Kaitlynn Charalambopoulos

    I am not a mother yet, but I can tell from your post that it is definitely going to be a hectic atmosphere once it I am one. That’s okay too.

    • Christine Keys

      It is definitely busy! 🙂

  • Erica Nicole Eubanks

    I love this! These alternatives can definitely = some peace!

    • Christine Keys

      For sure! 🙂