Modern day Mummas are often pressured into trying to do it all. This includes raising children like they don’t work and working like they aren’t raising children. Then they’re ‘supposed’ to have a sparkling clean home because hey… we don’t want anyone getting ‘sick’ now do we…? If you're overwhelmed with housework, read on...
Just sit for a minute and contemplate this will you…
It’s bloody ridiculous isn’t it.
I’m pretty sure you would have come to the same conclusion. But, if you didn’t, you probably don’t need to read this article any further! Maybe you need to go and clean your house instead? Ok so smarts aside… I want to let you in on a little secret of mine. Cleaning freaks, brace yourself…
I haven’t washed my floors in weeks. My bathroom drains need a good clean. And I’m pretty sure I could write a novel in the dust on my tv cabinet.
If you haven’t judged me as ‘feral’ and bailed yet… well done. Stick with me.
5 years ago my life changed a lot. A LOT.
I went from a married, self-employed, mum of two (with a cleaner) to a single, unemployed mum of two (with no cleaner). Shizz got real… fast. I had just fled an abusive marriage only days after taking possession of the brand new house we had built. The house we had built to “grow into” not “out of”. The house that we were to be running our home based business from… industrial vehicles, gear and all. For those reasons, the house was big. Like… too big. (Isn’t hindsight a fabulous thing?)
On top of managing a relationship breakdown, harassment and separation related legal work I was also busy trying to sort a new career (hello… bills to be paid!) and raising my two babies… one who was only eleven months old.
I was left to unpack the entire house by myself. Like boxes and boxes and boxes of gear. I had a new home to set up and clean (the building contractors did a terrible job on our pre-handover clean) and I was totally spent. But off I went, day in day out, tidying, cleaning, washing, unpacking, sorting, culling, organising, cleaning, cleaning cleaning… you get it huh! Every day, whenever I had to the chance, I would clean. I thought it just had to be done.
Eventually, when my kids started spending alternating weekends with their father I thought I’d hit the jackpot. TWO WHOLE DAYS, every second weekend, TO CLEAN!!!!
And that I pretty much did for about 3 months. My house was so clean you could have eaten a meal off the floor. My cupboards were full of cloths, buckets and mountains of those toxic cleaning products I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole these days. I was completely overwhelmed with housework.
Over Saturday and Sunday I would do about 4 loads of washing (start to finish), dust most rooms, empty all the bins, vacuum the entire house, clean the 3 bathrooms, wash all the floors and then… then… I’d mow the lawn, sort garage mess, tidy up the garden and then…
… IF there was any time left I would try and plan for the following week... meal planning, shopping you know, all those gloriously exciting jobs we can’t wait to do!
I remember thinking along the way… gosh this really sux. Is this all my life has become?
I would be sweating my butt off, barely stopping to eat or drink because I had to ‘make use of my time’ without my kids. I justified my work by telling myself "if I can get this all done now I’ll have more time to be with the kids when they’re home". So on I’d push.
Until one day, after sweating off what felt like kilos of body fat in the 30+ degree weather, I sat down and asked myself brutally What the f%^k is the POINT of this???” I was absolutely exhausted. I’d just spent about 2 hours vacuuming and washing the floors in the entire house. On a 30+ degree day… too tight to put on the air conditioning!
I distinctly remember flashing back to my childhood. The childhood where both my brother and I constantly told my Mum to "Slooooow down!" as she too did the same thing. Weekend in and weekend out. She worked Monday to Friday and spent almost her entire weekend cleaning the house. What a waste. I never could understand her choices. But they were hers to make.
As children we always helped out but looking back now, as a Mum myself, I think it was a case of "oh well, if you can’t beat them, join them". Very sad. All we wanted was a present Mum. A Mum who gave herself permission to rest. (She rarely did). A Mum who MADE time for her kids.
A Mum who said "Ah well, the cleaning can wait"… at least occasionally.
But she never did. She too was completely overwhelmed with housework.
My Mum is the type of woman who says “You only remember the bad things” but that’s just not true. I remember a lot of good times… but they never involved "Ah well, the cleaning can wait". The cleaning always came first. It really was miserable… despite the epic shine to the floors and sparkle in the mirrors.
Now, as an adult… I am a fastidious organiser. I love neat and tidy but I REFUSE to be a slave to my home. I REFUSE to let it take up SO MUCH of my life and so much of my time with my babies. They come first.
The day I crashed that weekend and had my mini (self-inflicted!) cleaning induced breakdown…. my life changed. For the better. In a million ways.
No, I haven’t stopped cleaning completely. I haven’t hired any help. I’ve just gained perspective. I've asked myself the tough questions and written my own answers.
Does it have to be done TODAY? No.
Will it matter in 5 years time? No.
Is anyone going to die if I don’t spend 10 hours cleaning this weekend? No.
Will the children think I’m a lazy Mumma if they don’t see me busting my gut over a 10th load of washing or layer of dust? No.
So here’s what happened when I very CONSCIOUSLY decided to give up my slavery…
- I gained freedom.
- I gained time.
- I gained perspective.
- I gained choice.
- I gained human connection.
But mostly, I regained my PERSONAL POWER. I said NO to unrealistic expectations because I said NO to ‘doing it all’. I changed my thoughts and QUIT feeling overwhelmed with housework. No one died from some random disease. My kids don’t think I’m lazy. And no, we don’t live in a filth pit. (Ask my friends if you don’t believe me! Haha)
What do I do now when it comes to managing household chores?
A few things…
- I focus on the kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen bench and the toilets are always cleaned because… well… hygiene 101.
- I CHOOSE what cleaning I’ll do. What day. How much. All of it. No schedules. No ‘must do’s.
- I let things go. Yep, I keep coming back to those all important questions I mentioned earlier.
- I DITCHED THE GUILT! Bye Felicia!
Ladies… you too can achieve this. You DON’T have to maintain a Pinterest worthy house. You don't have to be overwhelmed with housework.
Am I saying it's ok to live in filth? Absolutely not! This is an exercise in balance. My house is tidy and organised but I will never obsess over the 'clean'. You only live once. You can do less and you WILL survive. Your happiness and the happiness of your family matter more than the number of cans of Mr Sheen you use each week. If you want to compare and compete… go right ahead but let me tell you something…
No one ever climbs into their death bed saying “Gee… I wish I’d washed my floors more”…
Go forth and reclaim your life. You won’t regret it!
If you enjoyed this article don't forget to share it with another Mumma who is overwhelmed with housework! You may just change her life and the life of her babies. Don't forget to check out my other articles The Search For The Elusive 'Perfect Mother' and 5 Life Lessons Mums Need To Teach Their Daughters. And, of course, if you'd like to book a session with me you can do that here! It would be my pleasure to support you. x
Until next week…
Yours in better mental health,
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Erica has a passion for Women’s Health. She works with women who want to be heard, supported and empowered! Erica is a survivor of many life experiences. A Mum. A travel lover. A green thumb in training and an eternal optimist!