I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I love interacting with friends and family from all points in my life and find social media to be an excellent way to network and promote my business. My newsfeed is often scattered with memes that make it sound impossible to be a loving, conscientious parent while also living in a house that does not resemble a pigsty. You know the ones…
I find these to be slightly offensive as I consider myself to be a pretty decent mom, but I also come from a long line of women who are phenomenal cleaners. My mom loved to quote her mother, my grandmother, as saying “you don’t need to be rich to have a clean house.” And following her lead, my mom kept my childhood home in tip-top condition – even at the most stressful of times.
Now, I’m not saying that my house is perfect all the time. It definitely could use a lot more work and there are days that I want to pull my hair out because of the mess. But since I have such a strong reaction to mess, I don’t feel comfortable and can’t be my best self (or mom) when the house isn’t in order. So I’m going to share with you a few secrets I have for cleaning while not taking too much time away from parenting.
Is there one room in general that really needs to be focused on? Just worry about that! I typically spend 95% of my energy on the downstairs because that’s where we are most of the time and that’s what guests see. Occasionally I’ll bring a broom into our bedrooms and scrub the upstairs bathrooms, but I really only need to do that once every month or so.
Most of my time is spent cleaning the kitchen and living room. And since I’m in those rooms a lot, I like to have them looking nice.
2.) Touch it Once
Got a package delivered? Open it up, admire your new treasure, then collapse the box and put it in the recycling. Don’t leave the box on the table or collapse it and move it near the door – do it all at once and get it over with. This is something I personally need to work on but can make a huge difference.
Finish eating a snack? Bring your plate into the kitchen and put it into the sink or dishwasher. Better yet? Clean it and put it away.
This works for kids too. If they want to move on to a new toy/game, have them put the previous one all the way away before moving on. It can take a while to establish but will keep your house from looking like it was taken over by a toy store.
3.) Everything has a Place
You can’t put something away if you don’t know where it should go. Decide where the bills go before they’re paid and always put them there. Water bottles, coasters, Tupperware, coffee filters, and cutting boards should all have specific homes. The fewer things that are left out, the tidier your space will look and feel. If you’re not going to be using it in the next hour – put it away.
4.) Clean While You Wait
Cooking dinner and need to wait for the water to boil before doing the next step? Instead of taking out your phone to browse Facebook – clean! Move the empty glasses scattering the kitchen into the sink or scrub the pan you just used. You’re already in the kitchen, so you might as well take advantage of that time. I get a large majority of my kitchen cleaning done while I’m cooking.
5.) Make a System
When you do set out to clean, always do it in the same order. Take the kitchen, for example: wash and put away dishes, clean appliances, spray and wipe counter, sweep, then mop. Do the cleaning in an order that makes sense (like counters and dusting before sweeping) and always do it in the same order. This takes thinking out of the equation and you can get everything done faster while focusing on more interesting topics.
6.) Choose One Cleaning Day
You don’t have to be constantly cleaning. Little things like putting away dishes and tidying up toys can be done on a day-to-day schedule, but save the sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, and scrubbing for one day. For me, that day is Friday. If it doesn’t get done then, it becomes Saturday. I can scrub my kitchen, sweep the stairs and hardwood floors, water the plants, and vacuum the rugs in less than two hours. And that’s with a dog and a toddler under my feet.
It can be done that quickly because I do it every week. I have a system that works and there isn’t too much to clean because I just did it a week ago. If you choose a specific day, it’s easier to remember and you’ll feel guilty if you forget.
7.) Get the Kid(s) to Help
Instead of feeling like you need to work around your children, have them join in! There are tasks that kids can do at almost any age. My son is three and has his own broom. I tell him to sweep in a different room than me and he thinks it’s awesome. He doesn’t really sweep but that keeps him from disrupting my dust pile and he feels like he’s contributing. He also helps by pushing the button to empty the vacuum cleaner compartment, watering the plants, and tidying up his and the dog’s toys.
8.) Bring in Reinforcements
So cleaning isn’t your thing – that’s perfectly fine! You can still have a clean house. Solicit neighborhood kids to clean for a few dollars, hire a postpartum doula who includes cleaning in her services (I do!), buy a robot vacuum cleaner, bribe your kids to clean with stickers and trips to the playground, or go all out and hire a house cleaner.
I hope my tips have given you some feeling of control over your home. You don’t need to be constantly cleaning to have a tidy home. And with the cleaning out of the way, you can focus on more important things, like being a wonderful parent!
I haven't even begun writing this post and I already know it's going to be the first installment of a series. There is just so much to write about hospitals and the fear that can be associated with them. We live in a society that loves to dramatize everything and hospital birth is no exception. Although it's really no surprise with the staggering number of interventions that hospital births can involve and the fact that cesarean births currently make up 32% of all births in the United States. People also often associate hospitals with sickness and death, since their main purpose is to treat people who are in poor health. We may have visited ailing grandparents there or even held someone's hand during his or her last minutes. It can be difficult to put those negative experiences aside to prepare for an event that requires us to be calm and at one with our bodies.
So hospitals can seem scary. But giving birth at one does not mean you cannot have a wonderful birth experience. I was GBS positive, had my water break before labor began, and had a mostly peaceful water birth at FAHC in Burlington. I went into my labor with a lot of information and knew what I wanted from the hospital. And I wasn't afraid to speak up when I didn't like the sound of something they were suggesting. I also chose my birth team carefully and had full confidence in the people I chose to be in the room with me.
What can you do to help make sure you have a birth you're comfortable with in a hospital? The first step is to think about your ideal birth. Does it involve music or silence? Are there a lot of people with you or just you, your partner, and the medical staff? Do you want to feel your body's contractions or have the pain eased with medication? Write down what you want and envision that scenario.
Next, take a few moments to think about what you fear most. Don't dwell on this but think about your fears and name them. When we confront our fears, they no longer have control of us and we can take steps to prevent them. Is there anything you can do to prevent that fear from coming true? Letting your birthing team know your thoughts around birth - even the scary ones - is a great start.
Speaking of your team - make sure you have one! Take time to consider who would make you feel the most safe and cared for during this amazing experience. You want people who can anticipate your needs and add a sense of calm to the room. No extra drama is needed! You do not have to let your mom come if she makes you stressed - no matter how much she wants to see grandbaby born. This is YOUR time. The people present at your birth can make a big difference on how everything plays out and you have the ultimate say in who is there.
With those things in mind, you are well on your way to a fantastic hospital birth!
There is a lot of talk about gender norms and identity lately. I love seeing women scientists fighting demons on the big screen and running for POTUS in real life. I am thrilled that we are openly talking about rights for transgendered individuals. And maybe someday we’ll fix the pay gap so that men and women will be compensated equally in the workplace. As a society, we are slowly but surely working on tearing down the gender divides that have become so deeply ingrained in who we are.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a lot easier to see women doing “guy stuff” than to see men doing “girl stuff.” Part of the problem is that to be female is often equated with being weak or soft. So we still have some work to do and that starts at the individual level.
Keeping judgment to a minimum.
Getting to know people before making assumptions.
Not telling kids that they can’t wear something because they’re a girl or a boy.
You know, just seeing everyone as an individual instead of a type.
Reserving judgment is a fundamental part of being a doula. Women and families hire us to support them through birth and postpartum no matter how they want those periods to go. It doesn’t matter how I personally feel about epidurals, circumcision, or breastfeeding. I greet the family as they are and help them achieve whatever goals they personally have.
My almost three year old son, W, is doing a fantastic job of testing my neutrality and challenging my notions of gender. Like many toddlers, he loves books, trucks, and blocks. His mind is an amazing machine that remembers details from over a year ago and makes new connections every day. He repeats my words back to me often, sometimes surprising me in his accuracy.
He also loves my pink toenails. The day I treated myself to a pedicure and came home with a beautiful coral polish on my toes, W insisted that he have his painted pink as well.
I panicked. What would people think if they see my toddler’s toes are pink? He’s a BOY! Will people tease him? What would I do? Would they wonder if I’m too lax in my parenting – giving in to every little whim and fancy? Would the pink toes be too stark a contrast to his polo shirts and cargo pants?
Then I took a deep breath. It wasn’t about me at all, but about him. He saw my pretty toes and wanted his like them. And that was all there was to it.
One of W’s favorite songs to hear at bedtime right now is Dar Williams' “When I Was a Boy.” The song is about a woman grappling with femininity when she spent her childhood doing all the things boys typically like. At the end, she has a conversation with a man who felt the same struggle with gender but from the other side.
And I tell the man I'm with about the other life I lived
And I say now you're top gun, I have lost and you have won.
And he says, "Oh no, no, can't you see?
When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I'm alone I seldom do.
And I have lost some kindness.
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.
I couldn’t tell W that he can’t have pink toenails because that wouldn’t just be telling him that boys don’t wear pink or that boys shouldn’t have their toes painted. It would be ME, his biggest supporter and champion, telling him that there are things that he can’t be just because of his reproductive anatomy. I would be the one telling him to lose his kindness and be something else. There will be plenty of other people who will do that for him. But it won’t be me.
It is my job to let my clients make their own choices. And that objectivity starts at home.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.