When juggling a new baby (or children in general) with all of life’s other demands, how much time is there really left for having a beautifully clean and tidy house which is ready to welcome visitors at the drop of a hat?
I raise this point in this latest instalment to the Mumpreneur blog as this is an area in which I fail on a regular basis. And I wonder how many others out there will take comfort in that thought knowing they are not alone! For my own part, my time is split between looking after my little boy, paid freelance work, volunteering with the NCT, and, as the title of the blog would suggest, running a small business. In quiet work periods I also have a huge painting and decorating project underway in my house, so by the time I’ve domestically project-managed all of the above, plus made dinner for the family (and done the grocery shopping!), how much time is there really left for cleaning and tidying?!?
I have to admit to being guilty of being spurred into cleaning and tidying action to coincide with people coming to visit the house. This of course always backfires when people arrive at the house unannounced. It isn’t a million miles away from falling into the trap of cleaning the house before the cleaner comes. I am not guilty of this – I don’t have a cleaner!
Anyone with a tiny baby knows what a milestone of achievement it can be to have a day when you get around to shoving a load of washing in the machine (not necessarily meaning of course that said load will end up being emptied!). I do take steps towards domestic goddess status with a bit of baking here and there, and, as regular readers will know, by using washable nappies for my little boy (if only on a part-time basis!).
So what do I actually manage to get round to doing? I’ll start with a discussion on a serious point of chore-related contention for many – ironing. It’s a job that most people hate, and will reserve for only those items of laundry that unavoidably need to look pressed – namely shirts. Some people iron bedclothes and tablecloths for the same reason, but will draw the line at everything else as being completely unnecessary. After all, life is too short (and I couldn’t agree more!). In my family we used to ridicule my grandma for ironing her pants (WHY? Who is going to see them anyway?!?) but don’t we all have those things that our own brand of OCD can’t bear to see left crinkly? For me, this is my husband’s handkerchiefs. But what is the alternative? My husband will happily put his hankies in the tumble dryer (as if HE’s going to iron them!), but then they come out as ratty rags with the edges all rolled. Gross! I can’t bear to let him go to work with such abominations stuffed in his pockets. But don’t get me wrong, sometimes the ironing pile in my house takes on gargantuan proportions due to neglect, resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa at times!
Whilst we’re on the subject of laundry, now is probably a suitable moment for me to say smugly that I have a child who (for now!) is going through a phase of enjoying helping mummy and daddy empty the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer. Of course, this doesn’t always go to plan, as he tries to empty the dishwasher when it’s full of dirty stuff, and doesn’t know which items go straight from the washing machine to the dryer, also sometimes putting the clean stuff back in as well for good measure. It is super cute though, particularly when he’s happy to play on the floor with toys on the rare occasions that mummy is doing utility room-based chores (and even more cute when I reminisce about my own early childhood playing with Duplo whilst my mum did the ironing). This is a welcome far cry from his previous rather more unhelpful phase of being the child rummaging through the bin whilst standing in the cat’s bed. No-one taught him this – I would be thinking “why my child?!?” but I am comforted by the sheer number of other people’s children I’ve seen fascinated by bins on my travels to various baby groups and coffee mornings. My child hasn’t tried to eat any cat food yet – fingers crossed!
I have been known to take other steps towards a state of household utopia that do not directly relate to chores. Shopping in my local discount supermarket the other day, I noticed (and was suckered in by) a product I had not purchased before in my life, but found myself looking at it on the shelf thinking “I need that in my life.” (I blame the presence of small child and weaning.) The product was antibacterial washing up liquid. Whilst I was ready for the product, I wasn’t quite ready for its pungent aloe-vera scent, nor it’s slightly rubbery consistency, which can only be described (for persons of my generation) as exactly resembling the slime from the film Ghostbusters II (particularly in the scene when Dayna is bathing baby Oscar and slime fills the tub as a giant gelatinous sausage that doesn’t mix with the water) (not unlike the performance of the product!). If it was pink instead of green it would literally be that slime! The welcome upside of this is that by association every time I do some washing up I find myself singing Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher by Jackie Wilson (although my house does not have the dancing toaster on a pool table sadly).
So where does this leave me? If I’m busy with work then it’s safe to say that there won’t be any chores happening. If not, I try to do a bit, especially as my little boy is now more mobile and willing to ‘help’. He likes to do hoovering with mummy by hanging on to the hoover or its cable, or copying mummy with the various attachments (this did backfire once when I was hoovering the stairs and he managed to backwards roll down the last four or five steps onto the wooden floor below #badmummy!). In the meantime, I’ll still be that person having a hurried whip round the downstairs toilet with a splash of bleach and the antibac wipes when I know there’s someone visiting the house, and enjoying having house guests because they forced me to have a good clean and tidy up!