Sunday 25 March 2012

Babies don't keep - but you do still need to do some housework

Whenever a parent of young children bemoans the fact that their house is a mess, inevitably someone will respond with one of the many versions of this popular poem:

Song for a Fifth Child (also known as Babies Don't Keep) by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

It's a lovely poem, but when someone quotes it I always think that while it's a sweet sentiment, it's not really the best advice to give. Whether you have a new baby or older children, you do still need to do some things around the house!

You need to keep the kitchen and the bathroom clean and hygienic. You need to make sure that the washing is up to date, otherwise you will be rocking a very smelly baby. You need to take out the dirty nappies. You need to buy and prepare food for yourself and the other members of the family. You need to do some tidying, otherwise you'll spend more time looking for things that you've lost. You need to keep the floors fairly clean, especially if you've got little ones crawling about. Maybe you don't need to hoover everyday, and you certainly don't need to do any ironing, but there are things that need to be done.

Here are a few tips for keeping up with the housework when you have small children.

  • You only need a toddler to be occupied safely for a few minutes to wipe around the toilet or sink, or even just squirt some bleach down the toilet.
  • A small baby can be laid down on the changing mat for some nappy off time while you put away the washing or run a duster around the room.
  • My toddler loves to be given a spray bottle and a duster, and will happily clean the doors and walls while I quickly dust the rest of the room.
  • When preparing dinner, wash up as you go so that when you've finished eating you've only got your plates and cutlery to worry about.
  • Clean the bathroom while your older toddlers are playing in the bath.
  • Babies and toddlers can be happily occupied for some time in a high chair with a snack while you clean around them. Choose a snack that takes a little while to eat, raisins are good.
  • And my biggest tip of all - declutter. The fewer things that you have, the less stuff that you have to worry about, and the easier it is to keep the house clean. If you are overrun with toys, get some boxes and pack away half of them. Then in a couple of months time swap them over. As well as having a tidier house the children will play with the 'new' toys for much longer.

If you've visited my house then you'll know that it's not perfect, and it's best not to look too closely at the skirting boards or around the edges of the carpets. But I do think that it is necessary to do some things around the house when you have a baby/small children, and you shouldn't be made to feel guilty for that.

Baby in a highchair with raisins


  1. Your house is much cleaner than mine!

    Hope the little ones don't give you too much trouble

    1. Thank you! They are fine (most of the time!)

  2. My in-laws look after the girls regularly and I try and run round then and clean, but that doesn't always work! I feel like I spend a lot of time saying 'Mummy just needs to...' I think you're right, you need to do little bits here and there, and hope it all comes together!

    1. I do sometimes get time to myself too, but usually find other distractions than cleaning! I also find little and often easier than a big blitz.

  3. Your post brought back all kind of memories of which is the most important, household chores or babies? But like you say, you still have to keep up with some tasks or the house can take over. Probably a good tip is to always accept any help that is offered!

    1. Well, I am very lucky with my wonderful Mum, who is very good about spotting things that need doing and just getting on with them!

      You must have got the balance right because I don't remember being neglected for housework, although I do remember helping out with a duster!

      Personally I get very grumpy if the house is messy and dirty, and I feel a lot better when it's in a reasonable state, so I do try to keep on top of things. Then I can concentrate better on the little ones, without looking past them to see the crumbs on the floor.

  4. Really enjoyed your blog; lots of interesting things about housework!!

  5. Ooh loving the " clean the bathroom while your older kids are in the bath." will definitely be implementing that one.

    Thanks for sharing x

    1. I hope that it works for you! The only problem is that the bath itself doesn't get cleaned, and if you do the floor you might end up with sliding children!

  6. I am soooo rubbish at housework. Just never seem to find the time. However, another little tip you might like which was something I read was 'if something takes five minutes don't put it off'. This can be applied to the house. So now when I think I can't be arsed to put on the washing machine I do it. I put the things away on the draining board and I get the packed lunches ready. I must say it's simple but it works.
    Michelle x

    1. That's a good tip, thank you. Sometimes it's easy to forget how little time some tasks take, something like emptying the dishwasher seems like a major task but can really be done in less than five minutes. Thanks!

  7. Great idea about the raisins! I might try that :)

    1. Raisins are brilliant, they have saved us many times. At one point my older toddler wouldn't get in his pushchair without a little tub of them!


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