Friday, July 25, 2008


Does anyone else feel like housework, with children underfoot, is a battle that is utterly unable to be won?

I do.

Today I was determined to vacuum the living room. You wouldn't think that this would be such a difficult task, but apparently it is. I think I picked up the floor three or four times today, in an effort to get it cleared and ready to vacuum. Somehow, by the time I got from one end to the other, the front end was a mess again, even when I was trying to involve the kids in the process! Something would come up that needed attention. Or the children who were happily playing outside had to be brought in because the painters arrived. Or it was lunch time. Or a child flipped out and needed discipline. You get the picture. The end result was a mommy in tears, placing both children none-too-gently on couches with books and a few toys, and informing them that they were NOT. TO. MOVE. before the vacuuming was finished. Which tactic actually worked, but made me feel like Tyrant Mom.

Today just hasn't gone very well. The kids have been cranky because, frankly, I haven't been paying as much attention to them as I usually do. I've been trying to do some basic housework that hasn't been done for far too long. Things like vacuuming. And wiping down the bathroom. And sweeping the floors. Things that I used to do on a regular basis without too much trouble. Things that ought to get done in order to maintain a basically sanitary living environment! So what IS it that is going wrong?

Objectively, life is very different now from the last time I really felt like I had housework and children balanced and under control. The last time I thought that was, well, right about a week before I got pregnant with Josiah. (This does seem to be a pattern with me, doesn't it? Get life under control and decide that it would be a great time to add pregnancy into the mix!) Now my children are older, and they need nearly constant "policing" so that they don't try to kill each other (how they can go from happily playing together to whacking each other on the head in .002 seconds is beyond me!) Jonathan is at that happy stage of needing me to tell him what to do (and then do it with him) all. day. long. And my poor pregnant body is, quite frankly, so tired that vacuuming the living room gives me contractions for the next twenty minutes and makes me want to lie down for the next twenty hours.

Come to think of it, maybe it makes sense that I'd be having trouble with housework and raising kids right now!

I just wish I could figure out an answer, a way to make it all come out right at the end of the day, every day. As it is, some days are pretty good (like yesterday, when we went to the water park and I thoroughly enjoyed myself and my kids) but those are also the days when the house gets ignored. More often than not I do just ignore the house, but it doesn't take much of that to make it an unhappy place to live (at least for me).

There just has to be a better way to do this, right?

Now would be a good time for all you lurking readers to come out of the woodwork and say something encouraging.


Stephanie S said...

Oh, dear Em. I wish I could say something profound and encouraging. I don't even know from experience where you are, but I can say that I understand in part...when I play mom when my parents are out of town, I feel like I am going crazy. And that's with my older siblings there to help.
I don't think it's a bad thing to sit the boys on the couch (separated!) and tell them not to move. You're just helping them understand that there is a time to entertain themselves. And it's not like it's forever. It's just until you can get the task done...
Anyway, know that I care and am praying for you...

Ma Torg said...

Maybe you can relate, but my problem is that I try to do all the projects in one day because I MYSELF am feeling industrious and a desperate need to accomplish a way too long to-do list. A couple weeks ago, Jesse sat me down and told me that my primary duty as a mother is my children. Interacting with them. However, the house can't be ignored either. And so he told me that I was not allowed to do more than one 'household' task a day (aside from feeding the family) and these tasks can't last more than an hour throughout the day. It has been both relieving to have these restrictions and has really worked so far.

It has also involved a change of routines. I now don't shop with the children but do it in the evenings or on weekends because I was finding it too draining and stressful and the result would always be cranky children and an angry mom.

I have also lowered my expectations of housekeeping. Frankly, Emily, with 2/3 little kids and without a maid or helper of some sort, we moms can't/shouldn't try to DO IT ALL. It takes a village to raise a child, not because the child is so difficult, but because there are so many tasks besides childrearing that need to be done!

So my advice would be for you and Gabe to make a list of what household duties are most important to you. Spread them out throughout the week and be willing to accept that they may not always get done. It is hard. But, frankly, in the long run, what is a few cheerios on the carpet?

Amber said...

Oh yes, I know just what you mean... I've had days where my big goal was to vacuum and it seemed near impossible to get the floor picked up enough to make it happen. The best solution I've found is to vacuum first thing in the morning, while they are eating breakfast - or if that doesn't work out to do it during snack time in the morning or afternoon. First thing in the morning is best because then I don't have to pick up first, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.

Standards have to slip at least somewhat during pregnancy though, and especially during the first and last parts. Either we have to pony up for a housekeeper or just deal with it. :-) I know I've been doing extra scrubbing now that Nathan is born and I and have more energy and flexibility. It does get discouraging to live in a dingy place though, isn't it... and it is amazing how fast small homes with small children get dingy!

And you know, sometimes you just have to be tyrant mommy - unfortunate, but at this point I just don't see a way around it. So long as tyrant mommy only comes out at great need I'm not sure it is that big of a deal - it is just when tyrant mommy comes out at the drop of a hat (or lego, as the case may be!) that there's cause for concern.

Oh, and I love that image you found at the top of your post!!

Becks said...

I think it's probably time to just bite the bullet and spend the $20 dollars every other week to have a Biola student do the vacuuming, (and the dishes, and the laundry, and the bathrooms etc. etc.) for you, pregnant lady!

Dy said...

Lower your standards. Seriously. It'll be okay. Well, and institute a "call first" policy for visitors. Then, it'll be okay. ;-)

When I'm not pregnant, I do most of my "cleaning" (that which they can't help me with, or redoing that which they DID help me with during the day) at night, when all is quiet. When I am pregnant, I do it very slowly, in five minute increments, and beg off the rest on Zorak. He knows it's temporary, and only asks for a heads-up and a detailed request list. Sometimes my only request is that he remove the children for a while so I can do what I can while he's gone.

I vacuum when they aren't moving about - a spontaneous snack time is handy for that (just don't plan to vacuum the snack area until very last). Or when I can corral them all in one room and set the timer. "Do not emerge until either I tell you it's safe, or the timer dings. But if the vacuum is still running, ask first before coming otu."

As they get older, they do help more. I can now give the boys instructions to make their room "vacuum ready" and within ten minutes, IT IS. With any room, actually. It's awesome. But it takes time, training, patience, scads of love and guidance. You're doing it all right now, and you're having to do it at the pace of the slowest participant (which, yes, sometimes is the pregnant mommy and not the clueless toddler - it's all okay). Take the time to slow down and do what needs to be done now, and they will be able and willing to help you do it in the future.


Linds said...

I was going to say what the much more wise Ma Torg said first. Just knowing you, dear friend, I know how much it kills you not to be able to be superwoman all day long - but just like with teaching, parenting is one of those things where sacrifices have to be made, but only in such a way that prioritizes the right things.

Martha Stewart's a myth. Don't let her getcha down. :) And husbands are great helps around the house. Mine's way better at cleaning than I am!

Amie said...

Its already been said, but make the main thing the main thing and let the rest go, since this is humanly impossible pray lots that God will help you realize what is the main thing and be ok with letting the rest go. Your doing great!

mhcowen said...

Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone:)
When I was put on bed rest during my pregnancy with Ana, and hubby was out of town, I wrote down a list of chores that I could do in 5 minutes or less. I then would cycle through them when I found the extra time or felt well enough to do them. I would see the bathroom as 3- 5 minute chores. The vanity was 1, toilet and floor as another, and then the bath/shower. I found I was able to get a lot done, not feel overwhelmed, and not much time on my feet.
By the way, I think this is the answer that I need now with a 2 month old, and feeling very much behind!
Tyrant Mom...I know that too. In those moments, it is always important that you admit your wrongs and seek forgiveness fromt eh little ones as necessary...a lesson we are really trying to practice at home. Mommy and daddy make mistakes too...but we serve a God who covers a multitude of sin! Amen!

Ashley said...

I know it has been said, but I would do the vacuuming at night. My kids are scared of the vacuum so I usually tell them to pick up all of their toys or else I will vacuum them up. After they pick up they run and sit on the couch and try to see who is the bravest by sticking out their feet when the vacuum goes by. After that I read a bedtime story and put them to bed. I know you are probably too tired to think about housework at night right now, but sometime that might work.

The Broken Man said...

Get your husband to do it! :) My wife has always hated the vacuum cleaner, so even when she wasn't pregnant, I did it. She says it's something to do with the pitch it makes!

The Broken Man