How to Keep a Clean House When Your Kids Are Little

Throw it in the trash.

 

But seriously. How does one keep a clean house when there are little ones running around trying to undo everything that you try to do? I feel anxious when my space is messy, but I feel guilty when I spend all day cleaning and neglecting my children. There has to be a way to have kids and a clean house, right? RIGHT?

My house isn’t perfectly clean, but I am able to keep it at “breathable levels” much of the time. It isn’t easy, and it took awhile to come up with some sort of system. But I think I’ve finally discovered a few ideas on how I can keep my house clean-ish even though there are small children living in my home.

1. Ask for help

Sometimes my anxiety about the mess reaches “Code Level Red Mama Is About to Lose Her Mind.” Quite literally, I will jump up out of my seat, and exclaim, “I am about to lose my ever loving mind. We need to clean this house, and clean it NOW.” And my family jumps into action. Sometimes things get so out of control that I just can’t do it on my own. I want to be superwoman and do everything by myself, but I really need my family to help me keep my sanity. I am still trying to learn how to ask for help BEFORE I get to “Losing my mind” levels, but I am a work in progress.

2. House Blessings

I discovered FlyLady when my first child was little. When it comes to advice, I like to follow my own best advice about advice: Take what you like and leave the rest. FlyLady can be super overwhelming, but I do love a variation of her house blessing days. On Mondays I like to catch up from the weekend, and on Fridays I like to prepare for the weekend. This is where I tidy up all of the rooms, and I run the vacuum in high traffic areas. It doesn’t have to be perfect vacuuming. Just where people see and walk.

3. A Load a Day Keeps Chaos Away

This is another FlyLady principle. Chaos stand for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I try to do at least one load a day on most days, but just like everyone else, I don’t always accomplish this. Sometimes I have to do the old Louisiana tradition of having Mondays be wash day. There was a time I even cooked red beans & rice those days. I’m trying to eliminate white rice these days, but sometimes devoting a day to laundry is still part of my repertoire. I’ve forgotten about laundry in the washer and have had to re-wash loads more times than I care to admit. I think I’ve finally come up with a system that works for me. You’ll find one too.

4. Pick one thing

Sometimes all I can do is accomplish one housekeeping thing a day. Sometimes that is all the floors. Or laundry. Or dishes. Or the kids’ rooms. But some days I just don’t feel like cleaning. I give myself grace and allow myself to just accomplish one thing that day. And sometimes that might be many days in a row. And sometimes, I tell myself I only have to do one thing, but that inspires me to do more. But really. What is your one thing today?

5. Try a cleaning schedule

This one kind of goes together with #4. I used to have a cleaning schedule, and I am not quite sure why I stopped. I’ve been mulling over doing it again. It went something like this:

Monday- Front Bathroom/Kids’ Rooms

Tuesday- Back Bathroom/Master Bedroom

Wednesday- Living Room

Thursday- Kitchen/Dining Room

Friday- Floors

I was pretty lenient with myself on the schedule thing. If I had to miss a day because of a birth or having to be away from home for awhile, I’d just pick it up the next week. No biggie.

6. Set a timer

Cleaning is boring. I play games with myself to try to make it more interesting. My timer usually gets set to 10 minutes, and I try to clean as much as I can in that amount of time. Once the timer goes off, I’m done. I usually hate leaving a job undone, so that motivates me to get it done as quickly as possible. Plus it is a mental game. It’s only 10 minutes of my life, so then I get to do something I like to do. Like read. Or something. Maybe. The only downside is that I can fill up an entire day of “Just 10 minuteses” until an entire day gets away from me.

7. Purge frequently

This is a life-saver. I hate clutter with a fiery passion. Hate. It. I purge the kids’ toys more frequently than anything else, but if it doesn’t get used in my house, it probably won’t be living in my house for very long. FlyLady taught me it is okay to throw things away, and I totally do. The only big tip I have for this is to not let your kids see you doing it. If you KNOW they really don’t give a crap about the thing you are about to throw away, suddenly it will become their most prized possession EVER if they see you throwing it away. If they do give a crap about something, keep it. If throwing things away on the sly like that isn’t your cup of tea, I have also told my kids that it was purge time. I told them to pick 20 toys that they wanted to give away to other kids who didn’t have toys. They did fine that way too.

8. While You’re At It

If you are in your bedroom and need to go to the kitchen, go ahead and grab those few cups on your nightstand…while you’re at it. If you are in the kitchen, and you need to go to your bedroom, grab those books that belong on your nightstand that somehow made their way to the kitchen counter…while you’re at it. While you’re waiting for some water to boil and you have nothing else to do, go ahead and unload the dishwasher…while you’re at it. Multitasking at its finest.

9. Let the kids help

Now this is going to take some practice. Many years of practice. Kids have this magical way of making things take way longer than they need to in the name of “helping.” My kids love to help me clean. So I fight the urge to bite my own arm off and say yes. I take advantage of their natural desire to help Mommy while it is there. It also teaches them exactly how to help. In my family, everyone helps. If we had a motto, it would be “Everyone helps.” Even my two year old grabs a towel to clean up his own spills. He can’t talk or wipe his own butt, but he can take his dishes to the sink when he is done eating. Even without asking sometimes. He knows how to throw his garbage away. He knows the way our family operates. Everyone helps.

10. Embrace the season

Yeah, I had to go there. I’ve had to learn how to accept that my home is a living entity. It grows messes and gets cleaned. There are ebbs and flows to the rhythm of our messy life. Our home reflects the goings-on of our family’s life. Sometimes we are super busy and stressed, and our home reflects that. Sometimes we are super chill and relatively stress-free (summers), and our home reflects that, too. I’ve had to learn to tolerate some constant messiness and embrace the idea of “breathable levels.” That’s the minimum amount of clean that my home needs to be in order to feel comfortable being in it, and we live somewhere right around there.

5 Ways Doulas Have Changed in the Last Six Years

It has been over six years since I began my journey as a doula. Much has changed in such a short amount of time. Six years ago in Houston, there was no Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. Now it is one of the hospitals where I attend most births. Six years ago, I began a list of VBAC Friendly providers. Very few are still on that list. Some don’t even attend VBAC patients anymore. Six years ago, I had one child. Now I have three.

1. Doulas were “pit bulls.”

Six years ago, doulas were hired to be advocates. Doulas were hired to be protectors of the birth space. Planning a VBAC? Hire a doula! Don’t trust your provider? Hire a doula! Want a natural birth? Hire a doula! I read an article by a well-known midwife that said that we needed more “pit bull doulas.”

I am not, nor have I ever been, anything resembling a “pit bull doula.” I admit that I was intimidated by the prospect of speaking for clients, advocating for clients, protecting clients from bad care providers, and being a “pit bull doula.” I thought I was a bad doula, maybe not cut out for this work, when I just couldn’t be that kind of doula.

2. Doulas were advocates.

I learned how to be an advocate at my very first doula training. It was not really about standing up to care providers as much as it was about teaching our clients how to stand up for themselves. It was about helping them to understand that they are allowed to say no, and they are allowed to ask questions. They are allowed to collaborate with their care provider, even switch care providers if necessary, in order to receive the very best care. After my training, I shared with one of my friends that doulas are not actually supposed to speak to the care provider on behalf of our clients. She asked, “Well, how do you advocate for your clients, then?”

It was a fair and valid question. And it was one for which I didn’t have a good answer. Yet.

I learned that instead of trying to change a care provider’s mind about the way birth should be done, a person should find a care provider with which they already share the same birth philosophies. I learned how important a good care provider is for achieving the birth that you want. I learned that if a person is afraid of asking their care provider questions, it is a better idea to find a care provider with which they feel comfortable asking questions. I learned how to help clients communicate with their care providers without inserting my own agenda or biases. I learned that I didn’t have to stand up to care providers, and in fact, that doing so was a bad idea!

3. Doulas focused on improving birth outcomes. 

I saw the conversation change from “doulas improve birth outcomes” to “doulas are not responsible for birth outcomes.” Overall, very few people hire doulas, so we are affecting very little change in the birth world. Our change comes one family and one birth at a time. Yes, we are changing lives. Yes, we do a valuable work. But we are not putting a dent in our broken maternity system. It is going to take those who are giving birth to stand up for a better system.

4. Doulas fought for change.

I’ve seen the conversation change from “doulas are birth advocates. Doulas fight for better birth practices” to “the birth room is not the place.” Some have even suggested that doulas shouldn’t be seen at events like birth rallies or peaceful protests because that implies an agenda. Doulas are supposed to be without an agenda. Doulas support ALL births.

5. Doulas burned out a lot. 

I’ve been hearing more and more about sustainability in doula work. Doulas have discussed ways to make this work something we can sustain for many years. I’ve seen practices change from charging one flat fee no matter how long a doula is needed to incorporating “12 Hour Language” and charging an hourly rate for anything over 12 hours of support.

I’ve seen new doulas being expected to provide free births until they are certified to new doulas starting out charging a living wage.

For several years, I observed all of these changes, and felt alone in my thoughts. I wasn’t sure that I was actually doing the right thing by not standing up to care providers, by not having an agenda, by not being a “pit bull doula.”

Then I discovered Birth Boot Camp. I became an Instructor in 2013 and a DOULA in 2014. I found my tribe and a philosophy I can get behind. Like finding the perfect care provider, I have found an organization that thinks like I do. And I feel like a weight has been lifted. I have seen many changes in my short time as a Birth Boot Camp Instructor & DOULA, but I am excited about these changes. There is more to come, and I can’t wait!

Change is good, but change can be difficult. I am proud to be part of an organization that helps me to stretch and grow, but also supports, encourages, and uplifts me. I am excited to see what the future holds!

 

Natural Childbirth as a Spiritual Experience

I’ve been pondering the reasons people choose to give birth naturally. There are as many different reasons as there are people making the decisions. Some of the most common reasons that people give me are: healthier for the baby, healthier for the birthing person, desire to avoid a Cesarean birth, dislike of epidurals, desire to experience birth as a rite of passage, desire to be an active participant of birth, desire to birth in awareness, and a desire to give birth how God intended. 

I’d like to focus on this last point during this post. Many of my clients are of the Christian faith. I, too, am a Christian. I don’t market myself as a Christian doula, but I do live in Texas. Odds are, I will work with many clients who believe in God in some form or another. Being in one of the most diverse areas of Houston has allowed me to work with people of different backgrounds. I have enjoyed all of the families I have worked with and what they have taught me about themselves, birth, and life. I am happy to support all people, not just Christians.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we are referred to as Mormons. Even though our church is known for its extensive missionary program, I do not advertise my religion during the course of my birth work. I am happy to talk about it if I am asked, but I won’t otherwise.

I am sharing this information because it has been on my mind lately, and I felt it was time. Originally, I decided to pursue a natural birth because I was scared of the epidural. Many people tried to reassure me that the pain would be enough that I wouldn’t care. I asked my friends all the time what giving birth was like and especially about the epidural. I was still under the impression that getting an epidural was required. I didn’t know you were allowed to make your own choices in the hospital. I didn’t know that birth centers or home births existed. I thought one day I would have to have my babies in the hospital and that I was required to have an epidural. I was terrified.

One day my husband mentioned that he didn’t want me to have an epidural because he was afraid I would be the 1 in a million that would be paralyzed from it. By then, I had come to an acceptance of it and said, “When you are the one giving birth to the baby, then you get to decide.” Funny how it still hadn’t occurred to me that I had options! Not even after saying that.

Fast forward a few months, and I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. As luck would have it, I was working with a woman who happened to be a doula. She recommended great midwives. I took her childbirth class. I became enamored with the birth process. Preparing to give birth became a spiritual experience for me. I prayed a lot. I read positive birth stories. I had a great birth.

I left that first birth feeling closer to my Heavenly Father than I ever had before. I felt incredibly thankful that the birth had gone so well. I learned at one of my many trainings that people enter a deeper state of awareness called delta when they are giving birth. This state is also known as “courting the divine.” Entering the depths of Labor Land has been three of the most profoundly spiritual experiences I have ever had. I have called upon Heavenly assistance while preparing for each and every birth.

After my second birth, I was able to review the book The Gift of Giving Life. I wished I’d had the opportunity to read it before the birth, but it made for a special journey during my postpartum period. That book is geared toward LDS women, and I was delighted to finally find a book that combined birth with my faith.

I have also enjoyed reading another book geared toward LDS women entitled The Sacred Gift of Childbirth. Reading this book was part of my journey of becoming a Sacred Gifts Doula.

I had such a quick birth with my third baby that he was born before the midwife arrived. I was terrified and began making my peace with God. I thought my baby and I were going to perish right there in my shower when my baby was between worlds. Heavenly Father sent an angel in the form of my doula at the exact moment I uttered my prayer, “Help me!” She placed her hand on my back and said, “I’m here.” My fear of death immediately disappeared, and I focused on the work of giving birth to my baby.

I was full of gratitude to my doula, my husband, and to my Heavenly Father. I still think of my doula as my angel who saved my life.

I have never experienced giving birth in any other way than without pain medication. After my first natural birth and that incredible birth high, I was hooked. I couldn’t imagine giving birth any other way unless it became medically necessary. I know that the way someone gives birth is a deeply personal choice, and it can be a profoundly spiritual experience no matter how someone decides to have their baby. For me, however, my three natural births have given me the deepest spiritual experiences of my life.