A little over eight weeks ago I brought my second baby home from the hospital. I had cleaned my house and set up everything we would need to use when we got home. I sterilized bottles, cleaned my breast pump, organized toys and clothes and stacked diapers and wipes neatly below the bassinet. I was so excited to bring my baby home and introduce him to my daughter.
My excitement came to a screeching halt as I entered the door to my apartment. While I was in the hospital soaking up those first wonderful days with my new baby boy, my toddler had destroyed the perfectly neat and organized home I was expecting to walk into. Newborn diapers attached to each and every one of her stuffed animals and dolls. Toys carpeting the kitchen, hallway, and bedroom floor causing me to cautiously step as if I was five years old playing the “don’t step in the lava” game.
I quickly realized that life with a toddler and a newborn was going to be far from what I had envisioned.
At first, I obsessively cleaned everything. I spent countless hours folding clothes, washing dishes and picking up toys from the floor over and over and over again. I found myself losing my patience as I told my toddler hundreds of times a day to leave the clothes in the dresser and put her toys away after she finished playing with them.
I began to think this was too much. I couldn’t possibly keep up with all of this housework and enjoy time with my babies. Something had to give.
About two weeks ago I hit the peak of exhaustion. I was drinking nearly six large iced coffees each day just to survive. On the brink of a mental breakdown, brought on by lack of sleep and over stimulation from caffeine, I caved.
I called my nana and explained to her that I just couldn’t do this anymore, I needed advice. She asked me what was wrong and in tears, I told her that I was failing at parenting because I couldn’t even manage to keep the house clean.
My nana very calmly responded with a series of questions.
“Are the kids clothed”
“Did the kids eat?”
“Do the kids have a roof over their heads?”
“Do the kids know they are loved?”
Then she said, “Jessica, your kids are taken care of. They have food, clothes, a place to live and love. Housework can wait, your kids will not.”
So, I tried it. I stopped cleaning up after every mess. I stopped caring what my house looked like during the day. I made it a routine to save the dishes, the toys, and the laundry for the end of the day.
I am so much happier and so are my babies.
I just wished someone had told me sooner because now I feel like I missed on the first two years of my daughter’s life trying to keep a picture-perfect house. Children are messy. Toddlers are like tornadoes that takedown everything around them. But in the center of that disastrous storm, they are an imagination powerhouse. They remind us of our own childhood and the magic that still exists somewhere deep down inside of us.
To all the mamas to be, new mamas, veteran mamas, and struggling mamas: The housework can wait. Trust me, your babies will not. Embrace the magic, make messes, and bond with them regardless of the housework, exhaustion and stress.