We Waldorf families talk a lot about rhythm and routine. We may not stick to a strict schedule, but our days and weeks tend to be fairly predictable, and they are punctuated by the change in seasons, celebrations, and holidays. These rhythms and routines bring peace to the home, and I felt like I was doing a pretty darn good job after I became a mom in 2013. I did certain chores on certain days. I meal planned. We had story time and crafts. I had checklists and calendars and budget trackers.
And then I got pregnant with our second baby.
My pregnancies are characterized by two ailments. First, the bone-crushing fatigue of the first trimester. I was too tired caring for my toddler; I could barely care for the house, too. Don’t think that we lived in filth or anything, but I had previously vacuumed every day and made beds and cleaned baseboards. That came to a screeching halt once I started incubating baby #2. The second annoyance of pregnancy is SPD. Symphysis Pubis Disorder meant that nothing in my body lined up correctly any more, so let me take that back. It was definitely more than an annoyance. It was excruciatingly painful, and putting on pants or rolling over in bed frequently resulted in tears. I was not going to be scrubbing down my baseboards when putting on shoes or getting up from the couch had me swearing like a sailor. I also struggled to play with my toddler; Ben is great at independent play, and I don’t think kids should need to be constantly entertained, but I do like to get down on the floor and goof off with him a couple times a day.
Oddly enough, though, these two barriers were a bit of a blessing. You see, now that the new baby is here, I’m not as tired and I don’t hurt any more. I know it sounds weird to say that I have more energy now, even when I’m up every night with the baby, but it’s true. This is a normal tired, not the all-consuming exhaustion that characterized my first few months of pregnancy. And now that I’m not in constant pain, I can get back to my checklists and chore charts.
Of course, I know that creating a rhythm at home isn’t just about cleaning, but a clean house calms me and allows me to focus on more important aspects of our home life. I also realize I have nothing on the families with more kids or single parents or families where both parents work out of the house. Still, I’m proud to say that even with a newborn, our house is tidier than it’s been in months. Here are some of my methods to contain the chaos:
1. My planner. I have a master cleaning list that gives me daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, and semi-annual tasks. I also have a daily checklist, a meal planner, and a weekly docket that keep me on schedule. Additionally, they prevent me from feeling overwhelmed. There are only a couple tasks a day. I think most people try to clean the whole house at once, and when the job seems too big, they give up. The planner method makes housekeeping much more manageable (However, notice that the meal plan section is still blank. I’m not there yet!).
2. The baby basket. I am usually against the use of baskets, at least when it comes to kids. Yes, it’s an easy way to clean up quickly, but I think shoving stuff away doesn’t encourage taking care of toys or facilitate thoughtful play. However, when it comes to having a newborn, the baby basket is a lifesaver. Months ago, I washed all the newborn clothes and put away all the teeny cloth diapers. And then the baby came, and I realized that I was kind of dumb. All of the little guy’s stuff was in big brother’s room. That meant that once Ben took a nap or went to bed, I was out of luck if I needed a burp cloth or a wet bag. And the reverse was true, too! I couldn’t put anything away. So I bought a basket. If it is in any way related to the baby, it goes in there. It’s certainly not organized, but no one needs to know that! My living room is tidy!
3. Simplifying toys. I have always been a fan of keeping toys in rotation, but the number of toys available to my toddler was still too much. I went through his room, the living room, and the play room, and I packed most of it away. Now he plays longer with each toy and I have less to clean at the end of the day. This also means he has a clear path for his ride-on toys, which is great on those days when he has energy to burn and Mommy is still in her pajamas at dinner time.
4. Sleepervising. This one isn’t going to win me the Mother of the Year, but I’ll own up to it! The living room is super baby proof, so if I doze on the couch while Ben tosses cloth balls at my head, I don’t worry. This gives me energy to face the rest of the day, and it means that I can use the kids’ nap time to get some cleaning done.
5. Lentils in a cake pan. Yup. They keep kiddo busy for hours. Sure, I have to vacuum when he is finished, but five minutes of vacuuming buys me at least an hour to get work done.
6. “Consistently clean versus typically clean.” This is a phrase I have had running through my head in the month since the baby arrived. It keeps me from being too hard on myself. Is my house consistently clean? Nope. Right now, for example, the living room looks great but the kitchen looks like I let the toddler make dinner. And I have no plans to do anything about this tonight. Is the house typically clean, however? Pretty much. I don’t let it get out of hand, and so putting everything in order is never an insurmountable goal. Repeating this mantra helps me to not stress about the mess and focus on nursing my always-hungry baby. It allows me to play with my big kid without being distracted. When you have two kids under two, good enough is truly good enough.
Now, if I could just find the time to shave my legs…