A friend of mine recently suggested that I should delve into the subject of how difficult it is to keep a home clean and tidy when you have young children to look after.
Before you read any further, I should disclaim that this post does not offer any solution to this perennial problem that I think all parents face (sorry Sean!). Unless you have the great fortune to be able to afford a cleaner, or your children happen to be OCD about tidiness…I’m afraid the mess is something that I fear we all have to live with.
In my daughter’s case…she’s currently going through the ‘transporting’ schema, which is a pattern of repeatable behaviour that characterises early years development, and in this case involves moving things from one place to another. She covets bags, of all shapes and sizes. Carrier bags, gift bags, party bags, my handbags – they are all perfect for her favourite activity of transporting things around the house. Nothing stays in its place for long, which makes tidying up pretty pointless. Within seconds of organising the shelves in her playroom for example, she’ll be pulling everything off and putting it into bags, ready to carry into another room. This ‘transporting’ activity is always interwoven with another role play game, such as going shopping or caravanning. Her dolls pram is very often laden with several bags stuffed to the brim with various random items. If she wasn’t so cute you might easily mistake her for a bag lady!
I find I’m torn between wanting a reasonably tidy house and not wanting to interrupt this stage of development, particularly because I find it so fascinating. But of course Little I needs to learn that she has to tidy up after herself…a lesson that we seem to be failing abysmally at, at the moment. Most typically when I have asked her to help me tidy up, she will begin doing as I’ve asked, but five seconds in will discover a bag and the ‘transporting’ will begin, completely distracting her from the task in hand.
Yet I always recall one conversation that I had with a woman on the train when I was about eight months pregnant. She was retired and her children were all grown up, and she shared with me that the one regret that she had from her children’s younger years was her incessant worrying about the mess. She told me that if she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t waste nearly so much time tidying up and that instead she would use that time to just play with her children. I always remind myself of this when I’m feeling particularly downhearted about the mess around me.
If I can attempt to impart one piece of advice though, it would be to try and keep at least one room in your house ‘grown-up’, where no toys are allowed or they are removed before bedtime. Of course the feasibility of this depends on how many rooms you have in your home, but if it’s possible I find it helps to have one room that has not been invaded by your children, and which is easier to keep tidy. We have never allowed any toys in our bedroom, and we are lucky enough to have a playroom into which we ‘throw’ everything back at the end of the day and shut the door on.
I will however keep on wishing for the ironing fairy to pay me a visit one evening. The situation has got so bad that we are all running out of clothes to wear!
If you have any advice to share, I would love to hear!