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Just do the dishes. Please. The kids will be fine

This article originally appeared on Rachel Martin’s blog, Finding Joy. It has been reposted here with permission.


Listen.

Before you get all panicked that this is another one of those articles that tells you to ignore the dishes until tomorrow because babies grow up to our sorrow let me reassure you: it’s not. It’s, instead, a breath for those who feel just a bit of guilt.

Do the dishes. Please.

Because even though babies grow up it’s best if they grow up when the dishes are done.

And don’t feel guilt about doing those dishes.

You’re teaching kids that dishes are a fact of life. You eat, you make a mess, you clean up.

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Sometimes I think those articles that tell us to savor the moment miss that sometimes savoring the moment is WAY more enjoyable and easy to do when there isn’t a big pile of dishes staring us down as the food dries on it.

I know.

I’ve fought that part of me for a long time thinking that there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be the mom that ignored the dishes or the laundry or the to-do list, but truthfully, I wasn’t. And then, then because of all the poems and Pinterest pins and blog posts about how motherhood is short and we need to savor it filled my stream then I’d end up feeling guilt because there I was, scrubbing off dried macaroni and cheese that had turned to glue on the plate versus reading a book.

But friends, again, I really really struggle with reading that book when that pile of dishes is looming in the background. Like struggle. Like I’m the mom that will play with the kids but end up sorting the toys and making playing cleaning instead of playing. It’s about finding YOUR balance.

So I’m writing to you moms a word of permission.

Do the dishes.

You are not a bad mom if you’re not sitting there savoring every. single. moment.

Work must be done. We can’t live in disarray. Or, at least, my personality struggles there. And it, again, is teaching our kids the value of order, chores, responsibility and stewardship when we take care of things around us. And you know what? Doing the dishes might be important for you but not for someone else. But I feel like I just want there to be that permission, in a world screaming at us to savor every second, that doing the dishes or the laundry or all of that stuff is still good. It’s mothering. It’s life.

Do the babies grow up?

ABSOLUTELY.

My oldest is in college on the other side of the country. So I’m not a writer giving mom advice whose oldest is five. It’s really, really easy to think that one has the answers then. But, I’m telling you, until you parent a teen you cannot advise on a teen. And let me tell you, I cannot advise on motherhood beyond the age 20 years 9 months. Because that’s my time.

But, listen. In those almost twenty-one years of motherhood, I fought myself and my need for order because I allowed the guilt of missing the moment sneak in.

Do you know what happened?

I became crabby. I became frustrated. I became overwhelmed.

So I decided—forget the guilt. And I started creating order and peace. And in that space, the real me began to emerge—the me who could laugh and enjoy the moments because I didn’t have a million things staring me down.

I am a better mom when the dishes are done.

Listen, real life is just this way. We don’t get the luxury of wrapping up life in two hours like a movie or 38 episodes of a sitcom where the staff and set crew clean up the mess. You and I do it.

No more guilt. Do the dishes. Be proud. Love your kids. Savor the moment when you can. Find the balance that works for YOU and your family.

But seriously, if you need order, no guilt. That happiness matters.

Because you know what? I want my kids to see me happy.

And my happiness?

It likes a clean counter.

PS: My daughter survived. And she, haha, likes a clean counter as well.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As a mom of three, I frequently get a question from moms and dads of two children: “Ok, so the jump to three...how bad is it?"

Personally, I found the transition to having even one kid to be the most jarring. Who is this little person who cries nonstop (mine had colic) and has no regard for when I feel like sitting/eating/resting/sleeping?

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