Too tidy to be a good mum?

Posted Saturday 22nd September 2012   By Ericka Waller

The baby has started to roll over, to laugh, to coo. She wants me to watch her do all these things. And I want to, honestly. It's lovely and magical and incredible... but I really need to quickly unload the dishwasher and get the washing out of the tumble-drier, and change the sheets. Then I will sit and watch and coo back. Promise.

Four wants me to make paper aeroplanes with her. She wants pens and glitter and glue and "Mumma, help me cut, stick, colour, fold, fly, fly, - let's go fly a kite, up to the highest heights...." but I am more like the dad from Mary Poppins. I don't want to fly the kite. I've been flying round all day.

19 months wants to watch Gruffalo with me. She brings me the remote control, her Charlie Cloth, love and adoration in her eyes. She wants cuddles and foot rubs and mummytime. I want cuddles too, but I need to make the packed lunches and take the recycling down and phone the doctor and prepare dinner.

Later, over coffee with a friend-whose-kids-are-older. I vent a bit. She tells me, smug in her been-there-done-that voice "Cherish these days, they soon pass". Really? How come seconds at home with the brood feel like hours?
"I'd give anything to have mine as babies again." She trills. I feel like giving her mine for a few days (after slapping her) to see if she still spouts this stuff after. She won't. She can't.

Baby days, terrible twos... Surely they only get good when you look back on them years later? When you have forgotten that you did not get more than three hours sleep at a time, or that your hair got washed once a month, or that you never got a chance to go to the loo alone, that all your clothes were covered in snotty weetabix.

With two non-talking babies, my life is like one long game of Catchphrase and they are Mr. Chips. I am watching, with my finger on the buzzer - but lord knows what they are trying to tell me.

Life with three under-fives is hard to cherish right now. I do more sinking than swimming. I am the snappy mum at playgroup, the late-library-book-keeper. I am late for everything. If you look at me too closely, you will see I sport odd shoes. Don't look too closely, or ask how I am doing too nicely. Have tears, will cry.

It's so hard, when you confide in someone that you are finding it all a bit hard/boring/arduous, only for them to respond with comments like the above. It's not what you need to hear. It only makes you feel worse.

I want to think "To hell with the housework" and finger-paint, bake, sing, and stargaze my way through these baby days. I do, but I can't stop caring about the state of my house. I love my house too. I can't stop wanting to see the bottom of my washing basket. It's just who I am. It's who I will always be. One hand holding a baby and the other holding a hoover. I am always armed.

My mother-in-law tells me the housework is not going anywhere. My husband does not care about the balls of dust fluff, that gather and roll like tumbleweed across our floors. Neither do my children, in fact one of them eats it as part of her five-a-day. It's just me who cares really.

But to me, my tidy house means and shows that I am coping. It says look at me everyone! I have three tiny children AND a spotless house. Aren't I doing well? Aren't I a perfect mother? No help needed here thank you very much.

Maybe to others, my tidy house actually shows the opposite. Maybe it shows I am not coping at all. Am I a bad mum because I waste time cleaning and tidying rather than spending every second playing with my kids?

And even more worrying, am I the only one?!