Housework and Parenting: The Conundrum


Once I became a mother, I suddenly found that I had to devote 12 to 14 hours per day solely to nursing, burping, soothing, changing and bathing my newborn. Suddenly washing clothes (the baby’s as well as mine which were often blasted with spit up and other nasty surprises), cleaning floors almost daily (babies and toddlers LIVED on the floor) sanitizing my kitchen and bathrooms added to the work load. Slap dash meals and quick showers at odd hours left little time for sleep.

At first I tried to do everything around the house that I had done before I became a mother. Even though I was an acrobatic multi tasked woman, becoming a mother forced me to evolve and adapt. I finally capitulated and grudgingly accepted the fact that what was essential was clean clothes, clean little bodies, clean kitchen and bathrooms–period. Most anything else I liked to keep up was to give visitors a good impression. Sometimes I had to give myself a good shake and let go of an impossible standards. I continually reminded myself that a peaceful, centred mum has peaceful and happy kids

When I was the mother of small children, I constantly struggled to keep my house clean while allowing my children to play.

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Then I stumbled upon a quote which helped me put everything into perspective:

  •  If I cleaned my house everyday for two weeks at the end of that time period, my house would be clean.
  • If I cleaned my house once a week for two weeks, at the end of the experiment, my house would be clean.
  • And what if I cleaned my house only once, at the end of the two weeks? My house would be just as clean as if I had done it everyday. It might take a bit longer is all.

This new way of viewing housework lifted an enormous burden of guilt off my shoulders. Mothering was my top priority, not a dazzling, home that could grace the pages of a magazine.

The second, acrobatic trick I discovered was a new skill that took a few years to master. This was the talent to run in two diametrically opposed gears,fast and furious and slow but steady.

Fast and furious was for the moments when the kids were sleeping, or occupied.

Slow and steady was for anything to do with my little kids.

I As soon as I tried to rush them, they dug in their heels, became antagonistic and angry. Trust me; slow and patient got better results because everyone was calm. I let my little ones fumble and try to do things on their own. In the end, even if they looked a little odd, they felt proud as they became more independent each day. Sometimes checked pants were worn with a polka dot top but I learned to let go of my embarrassment.

My children’s happiness and self growth were more important to me than what outsiders thought about the state of my housekeeping or my kid’s appearance. As a mother, I did not want to die and find out my priorities were all wrong, that I chose public approval over loving my little ones.

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8 thoughts on “Housework and Parenting: The Conundrum

  1. There is so much truth in your post and so much angst in being a Type A mother who loves a clean house, but also a mother who wants her kids to be happy and have the freedom to be with mommy. My favorite quote that gets me through those times is from Phyliss Diller, “Cleaning the house while there are still children living in it is like shoveling the walk while it is still snowing” 🙂 My house is far from the pristine castle I always promised myself that it would be, but I’ve got some pretty happy kids, so that’s a toss-up I’ll take any day 🙂

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  2. When I first heard this thought many years ago, it was profound. I am glad you are bringing this to the table … As a dad and a husband, I have to live in this tension, or “conundrum”, with my wife. Our kids are held accountable, and they are loved… even though the house might not be as “ordered” as we would like.

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  3. Ha!!! I know this feeling, My mum always nag of not doing my job perfectly but now that i don’t live with her anymore she wish just wish I should come over even if i don’t do half of the house-chores i normally do she’s OK with it.

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