This was the time to race around the house having a manic tidy before my wife got home. I needed to make it look like the whole house hadn’t fallen apart in the last few hours.
I started with the things that would make the biggest impact for the least effort. Being able to see the floor was always a good start so I shoved all the toys back into whatever boxes and cupboards they came from, just retaining enough to keep Small occupied for a few minutes. If they were widely dispersed I swept them into a heap first. I even purchased one of those wide, industrial mop/brooms they use in large public buildings to make things quicker.
Next, I plucked all the discarded clothes from wherever they had been strewn and either put them away or at the minimum created one heap. The same went for anything else littered over the furniture. The mental impact of a clear room, apart from one large pile of junk, was much more pleasing than seeing the room with the same junk spread all over it. To the eye, clear surfaces meant neat and tidy, even if the junk was still there.
Final touches before moving onto the kitchen were to switch the television off, so that it didn’t look like I had just plonked Small in front of it all day, and to spray a little polish in the air near the front door, to tease my wife’s senses into thinking cleaning had taken place.
The second area of major impact was the kitchen. I cleared the worktops by scooping all the dirty cups and plates and bowls and bottles and pots and pans into the sink and/or dishwasher. If I had time, I would fill the sink with hot water and washing up liquid so that when I came back all the dirty things would be 90% clean. Starting the dishwasher up then created a background atmosphere of industry.
The reason I attacked the kitchen after the living room was because my wife would enter the living room first and then the kitchen, which meant I would get an extra minute or two to tidy as she moved through the house, saying hello to Small and the doidens on the way.
Those extra two minutes enabled me to grab some ingredients from the cupboards/fridge/freezer and place them neatly on the kitchen worktop to give the impression that I was just about to start cooking dinner. To add authenticity, I would turn on the oven and the extractor fan.
It was unrealistic to expect to do more than this in 15 minutes but if Small had gone ballistic due to lack of attention I sometimes had to squeeze in some rapid calming: I knew from experience that the impact of all of my efforts would have been lost if the first thing my wife heard on entering the house was her precious Small screaming.
Fifteen minutes of frantic panic later I could relax. I sometimes had to be rather inventive with the baked beans, tuna, rice, maple syrup, shoe polish and potato waffles I had stacked up to make dinner with though.
Not so much a parenting guide full of advice, more the reality of parenting kids and being a house husband and father, written by a stay at home dad to three children.
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