Today, after picking Little Miss E and Little Man O up from school and pre-school, I attempted to sweep and mop the kitchen floor. Pre-kids, this could have been done in about 20 minutes. This afternoon, it took me the best part of an hour – and it’s still not clean.
I got out the sweeping brush and Little Man O wanted to have a go at sweeping up. I certainly don’t want to discourage him from doing the housework. I want my little ones to know that we have to clean up after ourselves, rather than thinking the magic dust fairies do it at night time when they are asleep, so I handed it to him.
Whereas I would have all that dirt, dust and food that Baby Boy I has dropped on the floor swiftly out from under the table and away from the corners in a minute or two, it took Little Man about five minutes to work out how best to hold the brush. It’s bigger than him for a start and it kept toppling backwards. He thought it made a good horsey so then spent another couple of minutes galloping around the room.
Little Miss E then wanted a go so they argued over it for a while. Baby I was getting bored of his Jumperoo by this point, so I picked him up and he made a beeline for the brush. Now, a dirty sweeping brush is definitely not what you want your 11-month-old to be playing with so I put on some music and got Little Miss E and Little Man O to make their brother laugh with some dancing, while I just about managed to sweep everything up into a pile.
My big two kids then wanted to help with sweeping the dirt into the dustpan. You can imagine how successful that was – I’m a big believer that you learn by doing and that practice makes perfect, so I let them have a go. I bit my tongue as dirt flew around the room and started to boil the kettle with water to mop the floor with.
At this point, I needed to do a nappy change for Baby Boy I, get Little Miss E a drink and help Little Man O on the loo. Ten minutes later and I’m ready to pour the mop water into the bucket. Now, I don’t really want my three kids aged five and under in the vicinity of boiling water, so I put Baby back in his Jumperoo and promised the other two 10 minutes of TV so that I could get on with mopping the floor. There were arguments over who was to sit where and what they were going to watch. Then they wanted a snack and Baby Boy I needed his nose wiping.
Finally, back to the mop water. Mid way through mopping the floor and Little Miss E needs the loo, which is just off the kitchen on the other side of the mopped floor. I ask her to use the upstairs one, but she just walks across the kitchen floor in her socks anyway. Then she cries because her socks are wet so I go upstairs to get her clean, dry socks. Baby Boy I need a cuddle, so I pick him up for a few minutes. Peter Rabbit comes on to the TV and this, for some reason, petrifies them, so I change the channel.
I finally finish mopping the floor and it’s spotless. All this while, tea has been cooking in the oven and is just about done, so I give them a five minute warning only to discover that every item from their toy shop, plus 20 or so toy cars and a pile of books are all over the floor in the living room. Great. We hurriedly tidy it all up and sit down to have tea.
All our children have followed baby led weaning, and Baby Boy I hasn’t quite got to grips with putting food he doesn’t want back on the table. There is roasted vegetable lasagne everywhere. My clean floor lasted all of about 10 minutes. Little Man O accidentally drops the yoghurt he has for dessert all over the floor, and some of the toys from the other room have miraculously made their way into the kitchen. I give up and get them through the bath and into bed and come back down to the kitchen, take one look and walk straight back out again…. into the basket of wet washing that I didn’t have time to hang out before I had to leave for the school run a few hours earlier. I couldn’t hang the washing up until I’d taken down yesterday’s load from the airer. Now, I adore ironing. I seriously do. But as I added it to the pile, I wanted to cry.
And this is why my house continually looks a mess. I try my best to keep on top of it all, I really do. But it is really flipping difficult when you have three small children. I genuinely don’t know how people with young kids manage to have clean houses too. What is your secret, I want to yell at them. How do you manage to do it all when I am failing so spectacularly?
It wasn’t so bad when Little Miss E was a baby. She slept for an hour in the morning and two at lunch time so the house was in good shape and I even got time to watch a bit of telly for myself too. When Little Man O came along 21 months later, things went to pot for a while as we adjusted to life as a family of four, but we were soon in a routine where they both slept at lunch time for a good two hours, sometimes three, and the house was ship-shape again.
And then naps were dropped, we had pre-school runs to contend with and Baby Boy I came along and now I wonder if my house will ever be clean again. Baby’s naptimes always coincide with school and pre-school runs, and that takes up two hours of my day. I don’t get any child-free time during the week, I do most of my work during the evenings, and I’ve just told you why attempting to tidy with little ones about is so disastrous. I do my best to let go of it; to remember that while I’m busy parenting my little ones, the housework can wait. Regular readers will remember this poem I wrote about Mummy’s Messy House.
I still stand by what I said then – looking after my children is way more important than a clean house. But living in a tip really gets me down sometimes. I’m embarrassed if someone calls round unannounced before I’ve had time to panic clean. I hate that I can barely keep up with the superficial cleaning, never mind the deep-cleaning stuff, like the grouting in the bathroom tiles that needs a good scrub, or the insides of the cupboards that need emptying out and wiping down. Don’t even get me started on the dust gathering behind the radiators.
I want people to know that I know my house is a mess but I’m not happy about it. It isn’t me! I want clean and order and everything in its place. Cardiff Daddy does his fair share, but he works long hours, so most of it falls to me.
I would love to know what other people do. Some of my friends have cleaners. That’s not really an option for us after having three babies in four years, three lots of maternity pay and working part-time in between.
I’m constantly wondering how people manage to balance housework and family life. Is there a solution or is just a case of living like this until all my children are in school full-time? I’d love to know what the secret is.