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Cleaning and Scrubbing

When I was little my Mum had a quiche dish on the wall, I always loved it and when I had my last baby she gave it to me to hang on my kitchen wall. It’s a bit of 1970s (or possibly ‘80s) kitsch. It is in the twee corner of kitchen with my homemade ‘Doris Day’ curtains, trio sets and old fashioned clock.

The dish has the following verse on it:

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ‘til tomorrow
For babies grow up we’ve learnt to our sorrow
So quiet down cobwebs
Dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

I have always loved this, partly because I am a shoddy housewife and I like the idea of being ‘allowed’ to neglect the housework and instead enjoy time with my children. When it came to writing today’s blog post I thought I would do some research about the verse and found that it’s from a longer poem.

Babies Don’t Keep
By Ruth Hulbert 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,
Lullabye, rockaby, lullabye loo.
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,
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
For 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.

In my last post I talked about coping strategies with a newborn and toddler, I love that in this poem things aren’t getting done. It’s not until you have older children that you truly realise how quickly the precious baby stage flies by. I am fortunate to have had a large gap between my first and second child, as I did realise how quickly my children would stop being babies and would suddenly be 12 year olds, who rarely want cuddles and start to say “mum” because “mummy” would be embarrassing if their friends heard.

I think my favourite lines of this poem are “Where is the mother whose house is so shocking? She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking”.

My house is actually not that shocking but I think that’s down to my fabulous partner rather than my organisational and cleaning skills. We have quite a good routine, he gets up early with our toddler, they have breakfast together and empty the dishwasher and tidy the kitchen. Amazingly this job makes a huge difference to how tidy the house appears. I keep the sitting room tidy during the day, except for toys which are liberally spread about until bed time when they go back in the toy box. This always used to be so that we had a tidy room for the evenings, but any pretence of staying up past when the children have gone to bed has gone out of the window for now. However, it’s a good routine and it’s nice for our toddler to be able to start afresh with mess making each morning!

The house isn’t terribly clean. My partner doesn’t see dirt which is fine, I see it and deal with it when it can be seen, I’m not one for cleaning an already clean house. I prefer to see the difference my cleaning is making! I sometimes feel guilty if my days are spent out in the park or taking long walks while my partner is at work, however, I then remember that is what he would want me to be doing with our children. We want them to have a childhood of play and exploration rather than sitting at home watching TV and doing the cleaning.

So if you do decide to pop round for a cuppa (I love visitors) I’m sorry if it’s a bit dusty, the bath might need a scrub and the cooker top may have last night’s dinner across it, but I promise the teacups will be clean and you will be very welcome to join in with the chaos.

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