Does It Get Better?

One thing that makes this whole parenting gig a little bit less of a total shocking upheaval the second time around is that I have a much better perspective on how quickly one passes through the various stages of suck.  I can remember, so clearly, standing in the kitchen in our old house, spoon feeding tiny bites of food from a jar into Eli’s mouth, and thinking, desperately “If all I ever do all day is spoon food into another person’s mouth, when am I ever going to get any time to do anything else?”  Trapped in the middle of that, I had no concept that the spoon feeding stage would give way to the chunks of food all over the floor stage which would give way to the eating dinner the same time as the rest of us but whining through the whole meal stage which would eventually give way to the can get his own sippy cup of water thank jesus stage.  I just say myself standing there spoon feeding a baby for the rest of my life.

But lately I find myself just – maybe dismayed is the right word?  About the sheer amount of manual labor involved in taking care of this family.  Every day I cook and clean and take out the trash and the recycling and wipe down the counters and fold laundry and start laundry and sweep and mop and empty the dishwasher and scrub off the high chair and pick up toys and yet, things are never ever all the way clean at the same time, the bathroom always needs cleaning and the kitchen cabinets are always filthy and the baseboards always need to be wiped down, and all day long I notice things that are filthy again, and I can’t help but wonder – is it always going to be like this?  Because the end of the day, the dining room floor always needs to be mopped but I’m so tired I just don’t care, and then I drag myself out bed the next morning and the whole cycle starts all over again, and here I sit with my dirty baseboards and a dishwasher that needs to be emptied and I am really kind of over it.  I’m working my ass off and my house isn’t even clean! At all! I have very dirty baseboards!

I don’t even know what my question is, really, but I’m just wondering, I guess, if this is something that you’re tired of too.  Because I honestly spend practically every waking minute of my day cleaning and my house isn’t even clean, and I just really want to hear that someday, someday even in the far distant future, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that maybe this is just this time, this really really dirty time, and yep, some day it does get better.  It must, right?

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32 Responses

  1. I feel this way too and then I marvel how people have jobs and what they do with their house? Because if it takes this much with just us and me being here? HOW THE HELL DO OTHER PEOPLE DO THIS? I used to have a job and I still had a house and I just boggle…my house must have been a freaking pigsty or I never did anything or went anywhere but I simply don’t remember.

    I don’t get it. I truly don’t.

  2. I am starting to reach the point where I don’t always mind the mess because I’m seeing that they’ll be leaving soon. Before I know it they will be off to college and the house will stay clean but then what will I do? No soccer games to attend, no lessons to drive them to. No constant grocery shopping and cooking to feed the always hungry teenagers. What the hell? It will be so quiet. And as much as these things drive me insane, I’m thinking I might miss it some day.

  3. Get out of my brain, please. Because SERIOUSLY. YES. ALL OF IT.

    I’ve just started embracing the mess. Case in point: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jayesel/6098979284

  4. I lament this every so often to my husband who always responds, “but think how it would look if you never cleaned anything”, to which I want to start hurling things at him!

    As for your baseboards, that is one of my fav punishments! when my kids do stupid things, not worthy of a time out but not cool either, I give them chores. I make them wash windows, scrub baseboards, bath tubs anything that I don’t want to do. Oh, and at 9 and 6 together they can empty the dishwasher!!!! Hallelujah!

  5. Oh man I HOPE it gets better. I’ve been sick lately and doing literally NOTHING all day long (well, except making sure the kids don’t kill each other) and at the end of a few days I think, “Man, even on those days where I don’t feel like I’m doing anything? I am doing a LOT.” Because when I really don’t do anything, this house quickly spirals from messy into disaster area.

    It got so bad at one point that my mom stopped by for something (she lives in town) and insisted on taking my pile of ironing to her house to do. Yeah, even though I knew she knew I’d been sick and was just feeling sorry for me I was pretty embarrassed that it was that bad.

  6. Sigh. And you don’t have to work outside the house for 40 hours a week, you lucky duck. No, it doesn’t end, because there will be another phase of drudgery as the kids get older. And then they leave. Sigh.

  7. Every day I think: ok, I got all the laundry done and the kitchen clean, so tomorrow I’ll actually do something – like organize a closet I’ve been wanting to get to for weeks. Then tomorrow comes and the kitchen is a disaster and there’s more laundry! Gahhhhh.

  8. If it doesn’t get better, I’m afraid there’ll be a nice warm wing at Betty Ford waiting for me.

    I also get “I have to GO TO WORK.” thrown in my face a lot. Um, WTF do you think I do l day? Apparently doing what we do isn’t always considered work.

    The wheel will keep turning but I’m going to need some dramamine or tequila soon.

  9. I am convinced that it does slow down, at least a little bit, because my 69-year-old mother has very clean baseboards.

    But quite frankly, waiting another 30 years for that to happen kinda makes me want to burn those baseboards where they lie.

  10. Elizabeth, long time reader, but have never commented. My kids are 15 and 12. I see so much of myself in you. SO many of your posts have me re-living the past. I want to tell you that it DOES get better. It’s hard, but so worth it. My 20s were about work. My 30s were about my kids. My 40s are going to be about ME. HANG IN THERE!!

  11. Oh, MAN. You are so not alone. This is what has made me so crazy about decluttering; if there’s less stuff, there’s less stuff lying around the floor. You want to know something funny? I recently learned that Andrew thinks I clean the kitchen once a day. ONCE A DAY. After some discussion, I realized he meant a sort of “deep” clean wherein I also clear all the stuff off the counters and table, and OK, yes, I don’t necessarily clear all the clutter every time I clean the kitchen, but YES I wash the table and counters and sweep MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY, and he also didn’t think the floor needs sweeping until after dinner. Once a day! Dear lord!

    To whomever commented that she doesn’t know what people do who work, may I propose that their houses probably don’t get as messy/dirty? I’m in no way suggesting that families where both parents work outside the home have it easier, but it does seem like there’d be less toys scattered all over everywhere and less opportunities for crusted-on-food because the kids aren’t THERE.

    My latest thing is that my kids disassemble the couch almost instantly upon getting up for the day so there’s nowhere to sit if you’re me. Not that I ever sit in the living room during the day anyway, as I’ve since discovered. But it can be so disheartening to have to walk over literal piles of toys and cushions all day long.

    So I think it must get better, or, if not better, it must shift from the physical drain of doing everything yourself to the mental drain of nagging people to do their share all the livelong day.

  12. My living room generally looks like Jen’s flickr picture above. And the playroom with all the toys is in the attic.

    I think it gets better…but it gets different. I’m not trapped at the table, spooning food into someone’s mouth, but I am doing 20+ loads of laundry per week. I could make my son start doing his own laundry at the age of 8, like my mother did with me, but the tradeoff will be that the time I used to spend doing laundry is now spent driving him all over town to soccer games.

    I sometimes wonder why I spent $100g on a law degree.

  13. I find the purely domestic life super frustrating for the same reasons you mentioned — it is just an endless redo of all the tasks and it never all really gets DONE and it can be just so demoralizing. At the same time, I never loved working in an office all day, either. So I work part time and though a not-small portion of my earnings pays for a) childcare and b) outsourcing some household tasks so that I can work, I’m just so much HAPPIER this way I feel like it’s a net gain.

    And I THINK it gets somewhat better when the kids are in school full time. My older two are with just the baby home all day, the house has at least a few several-hour periods of cleanliness.

  14. I certainly empathize with the drudgery of it all. And I think it probably does get better, as home turns into a base for your family members’ different lives and activities, rather than the place where everything happens (when they’re young).

    I will say this: I keep the house tidy but I don’t stress over cleaning every single day. I’m personally sort of suspicious of SAHMs that have perfectly clean houses. I figure either they have maid service (oh, the envy) or spend way too much time ignoring their kids while they clean.

  15. Oh, the baseboards are, like, the last thing on my list. I’m too busy being appalled at the state of my bathrooms. And lately it’s been more: it gets dirty in five minutes anyway, so why make it clean NOW? I’m going to blame it all on being pregnant. We’ll have to reassess my commitment to cleanliness in a few months.

  16. Not alone. SOOOO not alone in thinking this. Mine are 2.5 and just one, and I feel like I don’t get anything done besides the tasks you described. And it’s an endless cycle of the tasks you described. I have yet to wash my windows yet this year because minding these two kids and all the other basics tasks eat up all my time.

    Ask Moxie wrote about this a couple weeks ago, how she was at a party with friends of younger kids and how she’d almost forgotten how.much.time.and.effort they required. She (and other readers) swore that it gets easier. Different — more emotional — but easier.

    No way around but through, I guess.

  17. You have perfectly described my current life. Oh, the baseboards! Everyday I notice them and hate them. I can only hope, like you, that the “maid” part of my mothering job gets easier when my kids get old enough to help clean.

    I console myself about my less-than-spotless home by reminding myself that interacting with my little boys is a much more worthwhile way to spend my time. Right? Right. My mom has this saying framed on her wall:
    Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’til tomorrow
    For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
    So quiet down cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

  18. I don’t even have children and I’m just sick of it all. It’s too much work. Cooking every night, grocery shopping, straightening the house, it JUST NEVER ENDS. I’m considering putting my golden retriever out by the curb, because he just makes such a mess of our house…..

  19. Yes, I got sick of it as well. Yes, I still get discouraged. And then I watch my daughter squeal with joy that I served eggplant parm for dinner, and she cleared the table and wiped it off, and then told me a story about how one of her third grade friends had a wardrobe malfunction on the playground monkey bars and “Mommy….her BOOB was showing!” and I realize all that hard work still sucked, but damn, girl, it gets so much better. Hang in there.

  20. One word: CHORES. Not for you, for THEM. When they’re old enough, of course. Put those kids to work!

    I have only me to take care of now, but I still sometimes let the clean dishes sit in the dishwasher for a few days because I hate emptying it so much.

  21. Yeah. Mine are 5 and 1 and I so hear you. It was getting better with just the one big one but we added a baby and it got worse again. Seems like it WILL get better.

    Jen, thanks for posting the picture. My house looks like that too. Even some of the same toys (the walker and the Baby Grand Piano). Our bathrooms are gross. But we look at it the same way Jennifer H does — either we spend our time cleaning, or we play with the kids. Kids win. That is an awesome saying your mom has framed. I think I need that in my house.

    And I remember the Moxie post Sarah mentioned. I remember thinking “yay, it DOES get better. And boy, is she right — this stage is so INTENSE.”

  22. The first five years of a child’s life seem to go on forever. They are the high maintenance and hands on years. Once they start school time starts to go in fast forward. Things will get better and evolve as children learn to pick up after themselves and they can pitch in and do the dishes, take out the garbage, etc. That time will come eventually!!

  23. OH MY GAH YES. Just add listening to “Part of Your World” 6,000 times a day and YES! THAT IS ME TOO! I seriously tore my husband’s head off yesterday because he left a huge pile of dirty socks in the floor (for me! to deal with! gee thanks!) and made breakfast and promised to clean up the mess … which translated into he cleared off the table but dumped everything else in the sink and onto the counter for me! To deal with!
    It is tedious and thankless … this whole thing where we set up pins just so they can be set up and knocked down all over again. Yes, I just made motherhood and housewifery akin to working at a bowling alley. There has to be a way to find joy in it. but HOW?
    Anyway. Amen. Yep. YES. ME TOO with the dirty house that I constantly clean.

  24. I sure hope it gets better. I am stuck in the same rut as you. So tired of the day to day chores. I also am tired of meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking to be met with Gross and Yuks from the kids, food in the trash, and start it all again the next week. Wonder what would happen if I just quit with the meals…..

  25. I think we need to start an “It Gets Better: Parent Edition” video campaign.

  26. I think that I could release my housekeeper that comes once every two weeks, now that I am at home and not working, but I don’t WANT to. That is, I could tackle the cleaning and scrubbing but there’s no way in hell I could do it all on the same day like she does. It is the most amazing feeling to walk into this house and know that everything is clean ALL AT THE SAME TIME. This is mostly what I’m paying for — not the work itself but getting all of that work done on the same day. That’s the impossible part.

    It mostly goes to shit about 45 minutes later, but those 45 minutes are what I imagine heaven feels like.

    It has to get easier once they are in school. They can pick up after themselves, do chores and they’ll be GONE for most of the day.

  27. Baseboards? What are baseboards? 🙂

    I’m amazed with how little I’ve come to care about the state of my house. If Five-Years-Ago-Me could see how we live now, I would be horrified. Now? Eh. I only keep certain corners neat (my bed, my favorite corner of our screen porch) and the rest I mentally block out.

    I get so damned resentful when I tidy for hours and then it just gets messed up minutes later. So I don’t really tidy much at all and I try to make the kids clean with me (they do love to clean the bathroom which is good because I HATE IT.) And we spring for cleaners to come 1-2 x a month- the best money we spend all month long. Every time we adjust the budget, the cleaners go in the “KEEP” column right after “mortgage”.

  28. My house is disgusting if compared to my previous standards – constantly in a state of mess and probably always in need of a good cleaning (except for those 20 minutes right after it’s been cleaned and nobody has spilled anything). BUT as my son gets older I realize he has been helping more to clean up toys etc. and the messes he creates are not typically the food-related type (sadly my daughter’s messier than he ever was and still only 2 1/2). So I’m hoping we’re at the start of it getting better. Hoping!

  29. This is why our house is dirty. I know it will never be clean anyway so I just give up before I’ve even started. Sadly, I think this is a function of having two working parents who are also super lax about “cleanliness” so I don’t think I can even hope it will get better with simply the passing of the time. We need a major attitude adjustment here too. 😦

  30. My kids and husband? Expect dinner every, single night. Without exception! It’s so tedious sometimes, nevermind the fact that the very minute I finish all of the breakfast dishes, someone wants a snack. Screw the environment, paper plates and plastic cutlery for everyone!

    BUT, I’m very much looking forward to the chores age. We’ve started giving the four year old chores, and even the little things: making his bed, clearing his place at the table, picking up toys (on occasion) makes a huge difference in my state of mind. It doesn’t make much of a dent in the amount of work I’m doing, unfortunately.

  31. I was washing sippy cups last night for the second time yesterday and
    couldn’t help but wonder the SAME EXACT THING! Some days it seems
    like every place I look, there is something that needs to be cleaned or
    straightened or put away. It almost makes me nuts. However, I can
    remember a time not too long ago when I had to do all the cleaning and
    straightening while holding a small child. Now, my 3 yr old will at least
    play by himself for a few minutes while I clean…so it must get better a
    little bit every day but we are just so busy that we don’t have time to
    realize it!

  32. Oh, this is exactly how I’ve been feeling. My friends with older children tell me it does indeed get better. It’s nice knowing i’m not alone…

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