Oh hi. (Stretches out on sofa and dramatically drapes back of hand against forehead.) I feel a confession coming on.
Last week, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law dropped The Duchess off after having her for the day. This is a regular fixture on a Tuesday and usually I’m not yet home from work by the time they drop her off. That Tuesday was an exception.
We chatted for a bit downstairs, seizing the opportunity to catch up on life a little, until we each moved onto our own evening rituals. But as we chatted, I also dashed from job to job trying to make the house more presentable. And I prayed.
I prayed that they wouldn’t need to use our bathroom.
But with a sister-in-law who is a good 6 months pregnant, the request came. As it surely would.
The problem was, our bathroom was a mess. A lot of the house was, but downstairs it was somewhat contained. Upstairs was a different story.
I fessed up before she discovered the grime herself and begged her not to cast judgement. Since returning to work 4 days a week, it has certainly posed more of a challenge to tackle household chores but in the last few months we had really found our stride. It just turned out that due to recent sickness, significant changes at work, and a serious motivation problem in the week precluding “the drop-off”, it had gotten a bit on top of me.
Thankfully, I have supportive in-laws and they smiled and reassured and said all of the right things. Still – even when people understand the challenges of being working parents, it can be humbling when the message your house is sending is, “Look at how WONDERFUL I am at keeping all of my plates spinning” while you blatantly kick shards of glass under the nearest pile of laundry.
So the moral of the story is: We get it wrong, The Native and I, and we have family who are big enough to see that life is sometimes messy. But there are also things we have learned about trying to stay on top of it all and it has highlighted what helps. Here’s what I’ve found so far:
Find a routine and stick to it EVERY day. I’m sure it’s just in my head but with no dishwasher, a washing machine that can literally handle 3 towels at once, and a tumble dryer we BARELY use – chores can feel harder work in the UK. Household stuff is easiest when we face it. Sometimes, I have to swing my foot backward and give myself a swift kick in the bum – but I know it will be easier each day, each week, if I just get on with it tonight.
If you are married or live with a partner – find how to share the load practically. I have a husband who knew how to cook 2 things when we got married. He now cooks (and I fear has become a better cook than me) most nights since he gets home from work before me. Becaue he cooks, I will wash up. This carries on until The Duchess is soundly asleep. We’ve even established and kept to a weekly shopping day, sharing out who does the list and who does the shopping. And it works. Mostly because he’s awesome. He doesn’t always clean the ways that I would – but he is helping and I am learning just to let him (ahem: not always a strong point for me without professional cleaning commentary).
When you are on top of the small things, the big things start to become more manageable. When I stick to the routine – I work faster and daily jobs are done in minutes. It frees me up and I find that cleaning out the cupboards – a job I’ve put off since the dawn of time – has suddently become much more achievable. The things that have lingered on my to-do list for ages actually start to get done.
And if you’re desperate?
Invite people around regularly. There are those friends you can invite around to have a cup of tea while you both sit perched atop your laundry mountain and they wouldn’t bat any eyelid. Don’t invite them. They are great, but if you really need to light a fire under your bum inviting someone over for a meal often does the trick. It may be more stressful, panic-induced cleaning – but at least it will be clean…..until the next guest comes around.
Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working one – what works for you? Or are you dancing on that damp towel on thefloor next to your unmade bed having taken the “Life is too short” approach?