I consider cleaning a drag and, as a result, have been a slob the majority of my life. Motherhood changed that, though, and made cleaning a necessity. It's also made it more harrowing, since I was cleaning up after more than one human being while sleep deprived, overwhelmed, and healing from childbirth. As a new mom, I always heard "sleep when the baby sleeps," but if I did my house would've looked like the inside of a garbage can. So, should a new mom be cleaning or sleeping when she finally has some down time?
Technically, there’s no right or wrong answer. Personally, I chose to at least try my best to clean when I could. And, luckily, in the early months of postpartum life I was fortunate enough to have my mom around to help, too. But I won't lie: being horrifically sleep deprived made it difficult to muster up enough willpower to even want to clean, let alone get up and actually accomplish anything. Still, there were moments when I knew a bit of tidying up was 100 percent necessary. In fact, sometimes cleaning was the only way I could feel sane and in control of this new, overwhelming life of being someone's mom.
In my opinion, during the first few months to at least the first year of parenthood, it’s absolutely OK to cut yourself some slack and let a few responsibilities sit on the back burner. You're adjusting to life as a new mom, trying to feed a demanding infant, healing from childbirth, and surviving on little-to-no-sleep. So seriously, that pile of laundry or whatever is growing in the corner of your bedroom can wait. But if you’re wondering whether you’re being a bit too lax on your housekeeping, consult the follow guidelines. They will help you figure out if you should be sleeping, or cleaning.
Can You See The Bottom Of Your Sink?
If the answer is yes: You're totally fine to take a long nap. You still have some time to pile on a few more dishes before you need to wash them. My advice? Just rinse off any lingering gunk whenever you drop dishes in there, so they'll be easier to clean when the time comes. Definitely rinse out baby bottles too (some of us have learned the hard way).
If the answer is no: Take a nap, and buy some paper plates, cups, and utensils.
Can You See Your Bedroom Floor?
If the answer is yes: Laundry is a vicious villain once you become a parent. Babies, with all their fun bodily fluids, increase the demand for clean clothing 100 fold. Plus, they often spit up on you as well (and worse if you’re breastfeeding and leaking through your nursing tops). You’ll often end up doing laundry and not putting it away, which means you end up with clean clothes in the hampers, and dirty clothes all over the floor. But you can more or less navigate around the piles for some time.
If the answer is no: Once it becomes a walking hazard (or simply gets to be too unpleasant smelling), it’s time to skip a nap and spend some time with the washer and dryer.
Are You Wearing Clean Underwear?
If the answer is yes: Great! Take a nice long nap while wearing them.
If the answer is no: Eh, what's one day of dirty underwear, right? I say take a nap and just promise you'll change your underthings sometime soon.
If you can't remember: Check your underwear drawer. If there's not a single pair of clean skivvies, it might be time to head to the laundromat.
Do You Have The Flu Or Cold?
If the answer is yes: Do yourself a favor and rest up. No matter how messy the house is, you need your rest in order to fight whatever is attacking your immune system. Don’t push yourself, mama.
If the answer is no: Lie and say you don't feel well anyway. Hey, you deserve the rest. You just pushed and/or had a human being cut out of your body.
Did You Spend Your Entire Night Cleaning Up Someone Else’s Vomit Or Poop?
If the answer is yes: Maybe you’re not the one who’s sick. Perhaps it’s your perfectly adorable (but also completely nasty) little baby. If that’s the case, clean up what you need to (like whatever surface they defiled), but stick by them. Your rugrat needs you, and that means they also need you to be rested.
If the answer is no: Ha. Please, even if your kid isn't sick, the answer is going to be yes. Kids are gross, and newborns love to poop and spit-up and poop again. So, seriously, take your nap.
Are You Entirely Too Stressed Out?
If the answer is yes: You are not alone, my friend. Parenthood is stressful. One great way to reduce stress is to simply make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, close your eyes for a little cat nap.
If the answer is no: Teach me your ways.
Has Your Partner Cleaned Anything Today?
If the answer is yes: Awesome! It’s so nice to have a partner who actually pulls their weight. Get some rest and, when you're feeling better, maybe you can offer to let them take on a nap the next day while you do your part.
If the answer is no: It's time to send your partner a nice, but firm, reminder that you are not their maid. Then go take your nap and let them do some cleaning while you take a break.
Is Everyone Else In Your Home Sleeping?
If the answer is yes: This is a rare occurrence, so enjoy a quick rest while you can. However, if you want to spend some quiet time for yourself (which may or may not involve cleaning), you do you.
If the answer is no: Take this as a sign that everyone is awake and capable of entertaining themselves. It's time for a nap, dear reader.
Is Your Home Such A Mess Your Child Might Accidentally Get Hurt Because Of It?
If the answer is yes: Once your home becomes a safety hazard, it’s time to clean up. Yes, I know the baby is finally resting after a long week of colic. And, sure, you do deserve a break. But not at the risk of your baby potentially picking up some beads off the floor and swallowing them, or getting cut up by some broken glass, or finding some rogue miniature battery, or, well, you get the idea.
If the answer is no: Nap! Nap for the love of all things holy! As always, you deserve it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.