Life Narrated

Cleaning house


Once upon a time in a land not so far away, I lived a life of order and neatness. I had a pretty decent schedule that I kept to. I watched whatever I wanted on television, whenever I wanted to and I went to bed at about the same time every night. My house was pretty simply kept, my treasures all had a place on a shelf and the furniture was easy to keep clean and free of dust. Dirty dishes were promptly washed and returned to their cabinet. Dirty laundry was washed and dried daily. Clothes were hung in closets minutes after coming out of the dryer. When coffee table books or decorations were moved, they were returned to their appropriate home quickly and lined up to comfort my tendency to need them perfectly aligned and symmetrical. Floors were swept, mopped or vacuumed regularly and everything typically smelled of bleach or pine cleaner.

Then I had children.

After baby number one, things still stayed somewhat orderly for a while. But once she became mobile, everything went haywire. She didn’t sleep through the night until she was fifteen months old and she was a very trying baby. The older she got, the more erratic my sleeping habits became and the worse my house looked. Of course then we added babies number two and three in quick succession.

My schedule went right out the window in favor of keeping to whatever hours the babies slept and ate. I rarely ever sat down to watch television and showers were a longed-for gift that sometimes happened days apart, whenever someone else was available to watch my littles. All my treasures previously kept on a shelf were moved several feet higher or put away altogether. Between several moves to new homes and children who believed they were cliff climbing superstars, nothing was safe. The furniture was still pretty clean, but that’s generally because it stayed covered in a thick layer of laundry that was either waiting to be folded or had been folded and stayed there to keep the couch warm. Dishes piled up in the sink until we ran out of plates and cups and I was forced to wash something. Clothing was hung in the closets still, but only because I could no longer fit into most of my wardrobe after having three babies close together. Fortunately sweat pants and big comfy T-shirts don’t have to be hung up. Long gone were the days of lining decorations up for symmetry and order. I was just happy to see how many hours in a day I could keep them on the coffee table before little fingers began to smear peanut butter on them. My floors were still swept, mopped and vacuumed regularly, but that was primarily to prevent my toddlers from eating the chicken nuggets off the floor that had been dropped at lunch time. I’m not sure I’ve smelled bleach or pine-sol since 1999.

As my kids have grown up, a bit of order has returned to our home, but there are still areas of housekeeping I struggle with. I have given up on much of it until after the kids are all grown and out of the house. I decided a long time ago that spending time with my family and sharing interests with my children is far more important than how quickly I can wash the dishes or fold a load of clothes. And after becoming a working mother in 2005, it became clear to me that those moms who can do it all – work full time and keep a clean house – are superheroes in disguise. I don’t know how they do it. But if I could go back in time, I would do it all over again in exactly the same way. My house may never be neat and tidy, so friends rarely see behind the closed doors, but my family is happy and healthy, so that’s all that matters. Which household chores do you struggle with since having children? If yours are grown and out of the house, did your home return to some sense of order and cleanliness after they left home? Give me some hope, moms!


(Contact Liz by email at


Special Sections