When you visit some people, and they say “excuse the mess”, they’re generally saying “I cleaned for 2 hours before you arrived, and I’ve left 2 empty coffee cups in the sink”…
When I say “excuse the mess” I mean, “Here’s your isolation suit, you’ll be exiting out of that decontamination chamber over there…”
This saddens me, because really, between the hours of about 11PM and 4.30AM, my house looks quite lovely. But I have 5 small children, and so for the most part, peanut butter and tuna is my primary home-décor palette.
I have attempted to trawl the Internet for sage advice, because like most moms, I’m convinced that I don’t have my shizzle together.
Somebody, somewhere has all the answers, and if I can just develop a “system” of some kind, and incorporate these great hacks, my home will be perfect forever, and my children will always be disciplined. Yes? No. Ho no!
Let me be the first to tell you that there are no “hacks”. Only lies. Lies upon lies.
1. "Never leave a room empty handed."
When you first start to think about this, it makes perfect sense. Just pick up something every time you leave the lounge/bedroom/dining room and in no time, your home will look like a Pinterest photo.
Unless you're spending the entire day doing circuits of your home, it will not work. You're basically setting yourself up for ultimate disappointment.
Because children never enter a room empty handed, and they're doing this at a rate of knots. So I've adjusted this to "never leave a room without taking something gross, edible, or biological with you".
In this way at least, you can console yourself that you're maintaining a shred of hygiene.
2. "A good bed-time routine, a story and some warm milk will send your kids to sleep."
This is one of those "tips" that are thinly veiled "guilts". Basically it's saying that you obviously haven't tried the most common and time-honoured bedtime method. You've just been letting them bounce off the walls until 10PM and then thrown some chocolates at them, or something...
You will decide that “this is the night.” You will brush teeth, swaddle them in their bedding, and enthusiastically read them a “Winnie the Pooh”.
The milk or tea will be waiting, and you’ll walk out of those bedrooms blowing kisses.
And then one will emerge for some water. You will patiently explain that they just had tea, but agree to “two sips”. More tucking in… right!
Another will need the toilet. Fair enough, you can’t deny them that. It will be quiet for a while, and you’ll be lulled into a false sense of security.
Then the 3-year-old will re-emerge with a single glove, deeply concerned that he can’t find its partner. You manage the situation, and start to make yourself tea.
You turn around and there is your 7-year-old, standing wordlessly, like the little dark-haired ghost from The Ring: “I didn’t finish my maths homework…”
Another child appears beside her: “I need tin foil for school tomorrow.” The 3-year-old comes out from behind the fridge door (it turns out he never left).
He wants to know how the missing glove investigation is going. Baby wakes up from the commotion, because, bless her little heart, she’s decided to void her bowels at this second…
Repeat, repeat, rinse, repeat until some unholy hour.
It’s why you never get to catch up with Game of Thrones or finish that magazine article you were reading.
It’s why you can’t have nice things.
3. "Pack some fun activities in the car for your children to ensure a pleasant drive."
Driving can be stressful with small children. By packing some colouring books and crayons and a few toys, your children will be quietly entertained so you can concentrate on the road.
“He took my purple!”, “Aaarrrrggggg!” “Mommy, Bridge has my book…”, “Stop that, you’re hurting me!”, “Mommmmmmyyyyyy! He’s licking my crayooonnnnsss!!!”, “Can I please have a biscuit? I saw you have baby biscuits in your bag”, “Who farted?!!!”, “Gaaahhhhh!”, “Mommy, I can’t breathe, we’re gonna die over here. I think Ursh needs a change!”, “He’s STILL licking my crayons”, “*maniacal screaming*”, “That was MY mermaid picture! Now I can’t colour it because you’ve started already!”, “Moooommmmyyyy!”…
You drive, with a determined grimace on your face, as your fists clench ever harder on the steering wheel…
Despite these crappy “hacks” I am an optimist, and believe that someday I will know all the parenting answers (like I did before I had kids).
Until then, visitors will just have to sit on my sticky couches in horrified awe and deal with it.
And if they have magical solutions that don’t require a mermaid’s teardrop on the night of a full moon, wrapped in the hair of a centaur, I’m totally open to those too.