My house is covered in a fine layer of baby socks and matchbox cars. The baseboards are trimmed with dust and graham cracker crumbs. Well used pacifiers have crawled away behind dressers and under beds to rest in their retirement. Books lounge on the floor in front of bookshelves. Stacks of magazines that will never be read and bills that will eventually be paid are climbing towards the ceiling. Last week’s menu plan has dripped in the fridge – pasta sauce, split pea soup, beef au jus.
My house is not clean.
I don’t know how the housewives of the fifties did it, keeping houses clean, children fed, and husbands cocktailed, all while sporting heels, pearls, and manicured nails. I barely have time to cut my nails and the last time I wore heels was my wedding day.
According to people who study this kind of thing, women today spend more time with their children and less time on housework than women of previous generations. I want to know how. The boys and I do get lots of quality time together – going for walks, playing at the children’s museum, everybody staring at me while I sit on the toilet. But other than these special moments, I feel like a good chunk of my day is spent begging them to please, please, please go play in another room for five minutes so I can wipe applesauce off of the kitchen floor.
I really want to know how they did it. Maybe they did it after the kids went to sleep. Netflix streaming had not been invented, so it seems plausible. But worse. So much worse.
People love to tell parents of newborns not to worry about housework, to enjoy the snuggles and let the dust bunnies multiply like rabbits. We loosely followed this advice after my second was born, until we ended up with an infestation of fruit flies. It’s not practical guidance anyway, invading armies of tiny creatures or not. It won’t take long for a newborn to spit up on every article of clothing that you both own, and snuggles just aren’t effective at getting the spoiled milk smell out.
By the time people stop telling you things like, “Don’t worry about vacuuming! Babies grow up so fast,” they have turned into children who are actually capable of making their own messes, transporting toys from the toy box to the floor, and eating food that produces crumbs. I’m now supposed to have an immaculate, or even just tidy, well at least sanitary, house at the same time a tornado descends upon it.
I’m revising the advice we give to parents of young children. If you have a dishwasher, unload it once a day. Do a load of laundry most (or some) days of the week, and immediately put away the pieces you don’t want your toddler to drag around the house in case your in-laws stop by. Keep the walkway relatively clear of toys lest the FedEx man sue you. And don’t worry about the rest. Toddlers grow up fast too. Well, I’m assuming that’s true. But I do know they move fast, faster than me, so there is really no point in trying anything more.
1 thought on “My House”
They did it by never romanticizing and glorifying motherhood and basking in its delicious self-indulgence (even in its messiest times) and simply getting on with their tasks of the day. On the one hand, those mothers missed all that glorious poetic idolatry of motherhood. On the other hand, they got a lot more done. Pick your poison, I guess.