PARENTS here are a grubby lot, according to mums and dads in other countries.
There are Mumsnet threads about our low levels of cleanliness. And last week an Israeli mother of four who now lives in Yorkshire told The Sun: “British hygiene standards made me cringe.”
Well, I beg to differ. Busy parents like me are not dirty.
We are time-savvy and prefer to spend quality time with our kids rather than keeping the home, and them, immaculate.
If some parents choose to spend hours disinfecting every nook and cranny, they are missing out.
Why spend hours scrubbing the loo when you could be soaking up special time with your little ones? The more you have, in fact, the more corners you should cut.
Being a 40-year-old mum to Bluebell, nine, Maximilian, six, Marigold, four, and one-year-old Violet, myself and my husband Rob, 43, a journalist, have happily let cleanliness standards slip in our home in Hove, East Sussex.
It has been said that trying to clean your house when you have kids is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. That is spot on.
'Bathtime is not a battle I am prepared to fight'
Life is noisy, chaotic and exhausting.
Most of the time I feel like I am doing too many things — and none of them well. As a result, I never iron. I use superglue to “sew” on Brownie badges. And we skip baths . . . a lot.
In fact, when it comes to bath time, I bathe Marigold as infrequently as possible. I would rather spend time with her doing nice things, while bathtime is a nightmare.
It is sometimes just once a week, which is adequate. She is a pre-schooler. She has not been working in a sewage works, for goodness sake.
I have learnt the hard way that you must pick your battles. Bathtime is not a battle I am prepared to fight.
These are all things that would leave some people pale. But it is not laziness that leads to these swerves. It is about being a mother who spends all the time with her kids that she possibly can.
And the more kids I’ve had, the more corners I’ve cut.
At the top of my list of supposed “mum fails” is that for baby Violet — unlike her brother and sisters — I have never peeled or pureed a thing. She has never eaten a home-cooked meal.
Do these things make me a bad mum? No. Violet has never felt ignored as I turned my back to mush carrots. I am spending that time with her instead. And the more kids I’ve had, the more corners I’ve cut. Maybe some would turn up their noses at my seemingly slapdash approach to parenting. But I love it.
As a parent, you have so many plates to spin. Four kids is a lot of crockery.
At some point, something has to give . . . or fall off completely and smash on the floor. For me and other mums like me, that thing to give is the ironing, bathing and swapping baby food blended from scratch for shop-bought pouches.
Some might call it lazy. But I call it making life no more difficult and complicated than it needs to be.
I don’t mean skipping things that matter, like washing hands properly. We always do that. I never iron. There is no point. Children will crease whatever they are wearing within five seconds and life is simply too short.
Impeccable parents might roll their eyes at the slovenliness of this but I don’t wash clothes unless absolutely necessary. As a family of six, we never see the bottom of the dirty laundry basket as it is. I can’t remember the last time we emptied it . . . I have no idea what might be lurking down there. It is probably best not to think about it.
When the washing mountain grows taller than me, I scoop the lot into a giant holdall and call the launderette to collect it for a service wash that costs way more than I can afford.
In the article by the Israeli mum, she described her disdain for the way we do dishes — specifically, leaving the washing-up liquid bubbles still on them.
Come on! Why would I start polishing my dishes when there are 2,000 other tasks that need to be done — and much more urgently — including cuddling my offspring?
I know from comments on my blog posts we all THINK the same way about this domestic laziness.
I have learnt the hard way that you must pick your battles.
But only a few of us dare put our heads above the parenting parapet to say it.
Because when we do, we are shot down by people who think they know better.
I would like to think that in the wake of this pandemic, we might all be a little kinder and less judgmental of other people, including how they choose to go about parenting.
All we can do is our best. And if that means skipping baths, supergluing Brownie badges and dodging the tea towel, so be it.
Cutting corners might not make me a “good” mum in some people’s eyes. But it doesn’t make me — or anyone else — a bad one.
- As told to Nikki Watkins
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