No Actually...Sometimes the Housework CAN'T Wait

No Actually...Sometimes the Housework CAN'T Wait

When you're a parent people just looooove to give you advice and bestow their most sage words of wisdom upon you. 

"Sleep when the baby sleeps."

And when, pray tell, would I shower or actually eat?

"Enjoy every moment!"

Ummm...NO. That moment when my toddler had a complete breakdown in the cereal aisle at the grocery store and I thought I was going to need to call in an exorcist? Yeah, no. Not gonna enjoy that moment.

And then there’s my personal favorite…

“Soak up your babies...the housework can wait.”

I understand this sentiment and in theory it is lovely and true. I mean, there isn’t a parent out there who would ever disagree with the fact that quality time and simply being present with your children is far more important than having sparkling kitchen floors. That said, I hate when people say that, because in reality, it isn’t really true.

Of course there are all of those deep cleaning things like cleaning the outside windows and vacuuming out vents and wiping out the inside of drawers that can obviously wait. I can’t tell you the last time I truly cleaned out my pantry or refrigerator, and while the toilets and countertops in the bathroom are regularly cleaned, the mirror has a pretty decent layer of toothpaste residue and water spots on it. I am not one of those Monica Gellar types who needs to have everything spotless.


The dishes? Those can’t wait. In a house with five people in it, I run the dishwasher on a daily basis. Between the kid plates, little spoons and sippy cups with 97 pieces, the sink fills up pretty quickly. If I don’t stay on top of the dishes, the kitchen is a disaster by the time dinner rolls around and it’s terribly difficult trying to work around a mess. If the countertop is covered in dishes, where am I supposed to do food prep? Besides that, if I put off dishes for an entire day, I am then relegated to spending my precious alone time once the kids are in bed doing them and it takes far longer since everything is crusted on by that point. Total nightmare.

Laundry? That can’t wait either. Unless I never allow my kids to go outside and play, or do art projects, or eat anything even remotely messy they are going to go through more than one outfit a day. Once you factor in baby diaper disasters, spit-up, snot, and my 5-year-old daughter’s penchant for multiple wardrobe changes every day, you have a recipe for a mountain of laundry that could put Mt. Kilimanjaro to shame. The entire process of washing, drying, folding and putting away is something that can easily get out of control if I don’t stay on top of it.

The floors? Also, not an option for the “wait ‘til later” mantra. Having an 8-month-old crawling around means that all the randomness that accumulates on the daily goes straight into her mouth. In an effort to protect her from contracting weird viruses and eating inedible things, I have to maintain (at least relatively) clean floors.

On top of the necessity of having clean dishes to eat off of, or clean tights when ballet day rolls around, or clean floors for our crawler, there is also just something that is sanity saving for me about maintaining at least some level of tidiness. Life with three kids is loud, messy and often chaotic and sometimes the assault on my senses is more than I can handle. I end up being grumpy and stressed out and that doesn’t make anyone’s life more pleasant - especially the kids’. Keeping things at least semi-picked up is one small way that I can control the feeling of overwhelm that can easily settle in otherwise.

The next time you want to tell a parent that “the housework can wait?”, perhaps you can stop and think of a different way to be encouraging. Maybe just tell that parent that you noticed what a good job they’re doing. And parents, next time someone tells you that the housework can wait...maybe you can invite them over to help fold laundry.


{Photo by Jenni Kupelian}