I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom, Not a Cleaning Person

After working full-time for 30+ years, I’ve been a SAHM for four months now and OMG, all the effin’ laundry, cooking, and dishes. It’s relentless.

And it’s surprising.

When I quit my job, I thought I’d be able to declutter and organize our apartment or spend time with our 7-year-old, doing arts and crafts, cooking, and playing ping pong after school. But I’m drowning in housework and checklists — flu shots, insurance forms, homework, piano practice (his), school volunteering, non-school volunteering, gift-buying, and self-maintenance/sanity savers such as going to the gym or having coffee with a friend once or so a week. I can’t believe I had time to do all these every day things when I had a full-time job (by the way, I totally resent having to fill out insurance forms and do other tedious paperwork or errands on my own time… these tasks were much more palatable when I did them during work lulls).

School pick up comes fast — at 2:40 in the afternoon. That barely gives me time between school drop-off and school pick-up to do much more than take a 20-minute swim at gym (which I manage to do only once a week), run a couple of errands, and have lunch. Who has time to scrub kitchen floors or vacuum? My husband has to be at work super early, and he does as much as he can, so I feel like a nag if I ask him to help any more (honestly, he also feels like I’m a nag sometimes). How people manage this, I have no idea. My San Francisco friend, who has a full-time job and two teenage boys, gets up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week to clean her house (Tuesday is the big three-hour cleaning day. Thursday is dusting), and she pretty much does her kitchen top to bottom every night (“Just part of the routine,” she says). That is not for me.

She keeps telling me, once I get into a routine it will get easier. I tried shopping on Mondays, but it took me until noon to shop (with boxes of groceries delivered), then the rest of my day to jigsaw-puzzle them onto limited shelves space in our small kitchen. I haven’t gotten to the point where I felt like I was ahead of the game (and I still work several hours a week, as well, so that doesn’t help in the time-suck situation).

I didn’t want to have anymore “discussions” with my hubby about cleaning the bathroom, so we decided to hire a cleaning person. I talked to my neighbor about it, who succinctly said, I’m a full-time mom, not a cleaning lady. Some people might argue full-time mom includes cleaning, like a 1950s housewife, but I don’t. My neighbor recommended someone to help every other week (we are lucky to be able to afford it), and I’m hoping the extra help will prevent me from drowning in clutter — and might help me enjoy cooking again. I already started cleaning up certain piles in preparation for the big clean. (Remember ladies who clean for the cleaning lady? I totally get it).

Now I’m back in fantasy land imagining a future where I have downtime to make A a photo album, write cards, and play in his neat and decorated room. That’s much more appealing than my constantly playing catch-up — or more realistically, instead of my just ignoring everything and doing the bare minimum of grocery shopping, dishes, cooking, and laundry.

One thing I have to say, again, is our former nanny was amazing. I appreciate her even more in hindsight. Besides caring for and loving A, she washed and folded his clothes, changed our sheets, cooked, cleaned-up, and helped with homework  — on top of taking him to the park or on playdates. She only had a small window of time to do all this this. She was a lifesaver, and until I started having to do this all myself, I didn’t realize how hard she worked. Stupid, I know.

The new person came for the first time today. She started with just two rooms, to deep clean them, and spent six hours here, just doing the bathroom and the kitchen! Places we have never even considering cleaning (i.e. the shelves in the bathroom cabinet and beneath the burners of the stove) got a thorough washing. I told my husband she spent nearly two hours sterilizing the bathroom. Geez, he replied. I usually do it in 20 minutes!

Enough said.

Photo: Getty