Chris and I have been married for almost a year and a half, and It’s been more than a year since I left my job at KinderCare to stay home with my baby and yet I feel like I am just now getting into a groove with all the traditional “house-wife-y” duties. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.
I’m not trying to say that I think the wife should do all the cooking and cleaning and such. Chris and I have a great partnership and have always divided our duties according to who has the most time/energy/interest. Laundry has always been my job since I was at home more, even when working full time, and I also actually somewhat enjoy taking care of the laundry. Washing the toilets has always been Chris’ thing because he notices sooner if the toilets seem icky and also because I hate all the bleachy chemicals and stuff. Most other things, such as cooking, dishes and vacuuming, are jobs that we both contribute to.
For a long time the division of housework seemed to lean heavily towards Chris doing the majority of it. When we first moved in together I was taking classes full time online on top of working full time. Almost as soon as I was done with school we found out I was pregnant, and I continued working full time through most of the pregnancy. Through all of this Chris was amazing about stepping it up and making sure the dishes were mostly clean and we had dinner on the table (even if that meant stopping for take-out on his way home or cooking up some mac & cheese and frozen veggies when he got home at 7:30). I thought that once Lewis was born and I would be staying home full time surely I would have all kinds of time to cook and bake and keep the apartment sparkling clean.
Then I found myself with a little one who wanted always to be held but hated any kind of wrap or carrier I put him into. The times when he would happily play on the floor it was only if I was close by. His irregular sleep schedule and many nightly wake-ups left me exhausted and also made dinner planning hard since I never knew if I’d have time to cook on any given night. The only thing I really kept up with through his first several months was the laundry. We would go through periods where he napped at just the right time for me to make dinner several nights in a row, but then it would all veer off course again. So, Chris continued jumping in and helping out as much as he could when he got home from work and especially on the weekends, sometimes doing the dishes three times a day on the weekend so that I could start off the week with a clean kitchen.
The past few weeks I have been realizing that we are finally coming out of the chaos and exhaustion. I am finally falling into a rhythm and managing to keep up with the cooking, dishes, vacuuming, sink scrubbing, and even the dusting. I’ve been staying caught up with the dishes for at least 2 or 3 weeks now. Dinner has been cooked and ready to eat when Chris comes in the door most nights for the past month or two.
I think things started to improve at the start of the summer when Lewis learned to walk, and have been slowly getting better since. Before he was mobile he hated being on the floor because he felt bored and stuck. Now he is able to wander all over the apartment, play with what he wants, go looking for just the right toy, come find Mommy if she has walked into the other room, etc. He still likes to keep a close eye on me and be involved with what I am doing, but usually once he checks in with me he is happy to wander over and play with his puzzles or books or Daddy’s Skylanders nearby, or maybe just pull pots and pans out of the cupboard and spread them all around the apartment. He gets excited when I say it’s time to vacuum or sweep, and will go running into the other room to get the broom/vacuum. He follows me around when I clean and wants to have his own turn when I am done.
His naps also finally fell into a regular pattern over the summer, and the past couple of months I have taught myself to plan meals well ahead of time, prep everything I can while he naps, and therefore have the least possible work to do in the evening when it is time to actually cook dinner. I have learned to make some things routine, such as cleaning his high chair tray as soon as he finishes a meal instead of leaving it for “later.”
I have been keeping up with most of the major areas of the apartment for several weeks without even really realizing it. It has just all fallen into place recently. Chris still helps out with extra cleaning on the weekends and a bit of tidying or dishes some evenings, but for the most part he is now able to come home from a busy day of work and just spend some time playing with Lewis. And once Lewis is in bed we can BOTH put our feet up and watch a show or play some games without anyone feeling guilty that they “should” be washing dishes or anything else.
Once I realized last week how good I have been doing with making all the major cleaning items into routine, I decided it was time to start tackling some of the cleaning that is less noticeable/has less of a direct effect on daily living.
I had started the Kitchen Cure a few weeks ago, which walked me through cleaning each area of the kitchen. I got most of the kitchen deep cleaned, although I still need to clean the oven and wipe down the other appliances. I also recently heard of the FlyLady website, which basically gives you a basic daily schedule to follow as well as daily assignments to help you keep on top of keeping your home clean. I found the website quite annoying, but something clicked with the idea of just tackling one or two small tasks each day rather than letting everything pile up and then getting overwhelmed with the looming mountain of cleaning chores that needs to be done. I have seen this concept before, and even bookmarked a similar cleaning schedule from Apartment Therapy, but I guess this time the information has just come at the right time to actually kick me into action.
I tend to be very much a “list” person. I always have a to-do list going, and am always making lists of things like meals, presents, etc. just to help organize the chaos inside my brain. If I don’t list it I either forget about it or think about it so much I forget other things. So, I made myself a list. I started by listing the chores I think should be done daily (laundry, dishes, etc.), then weekly (vacuuming, watering plants, etc.), bi-weekly (mopping, cleaning the bathtub), and monthly (cleaning the microwave, washing mirrors). I then took this list and turned it into a cleaning schedule.
I now have a four-week cleaning rotation complete with a check list for me to mark off each days tasks. Each day I get one or two chores which usually should take no more than half an hour (and as I continue to follow the schedule it will be faster/easier each time since I will just be maintaining cleanness instead of dealing with years of caked on grime. I tried to be very realistic with my schedule, not trying to over schedule myself since I know that if I get too complicated with this I am more likely to abandon the system before it has a chance to work.
I have been sticking with it for about a week so far and am amazed by how easy it all seems. I smile every time I see the bright shining white sink in the bathroom, no longer crusted with dust and old toothpaste residue. There is also a great satisfaction when I get to check off each days tasks as complete. We went to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond this weekend and spent over $100 on cleaning and organization supplies and it felt like Christmas.
It feels awesome to finally be becoming the clean and organized person that I have never managed to be before. The apartment is by no means perfectly clean, and probably never will be, but it is a hundred times better than what it has been in the past. I just hope I can keep up this momentum and stick with it now!