Before we begin this column, please know that the intended title was one of the following, but they are all too long: “How to Not Feel Like a Maid All Summer” or “How to Not Drown in House-Mess” or “How to Not Drown in Your House or in Your Head All Summer.”
The stickiness of which I speak started as spilled milk (breast or formula), graduating into watermelon, and upgrading into peanut butter and jelly. Oh, and we must not forget the glass of lemonade flung by one brother onto the other brother, or the overflow spill of the orange juice by the newly emboldened toddler who insists on pouring the OJ himself all the way to the rim of the tallest water bottle.
Before you reach for the paper towel to wipe this up, please take a moment to step away. We are going to discuss strategies to have a wonderful summer, one that involves clean surfaces, including your own body, especially if you are in the throes of nursing a baby and clothing becomes such a barrier that you question even going outside because why bother?
We must keep you outside in the sunshine — yet keeping the house clean. Here’s how it is going to work:
For early parents, feeding a baby for the first time
Don’t be bashful about the bottle. Hand over that baby to your partner or anyone in your home while you take a shower or plant in your garden alone. I know there are some wise lactation experts here who don’t believe in the bottle/breast blend. But it can work.
Dress yourself up for the feeding. You need to feel as good as the food you are producing or buying. Buy yourself a nursing tank that unstraps for easy feedings anywhere. You can now find such a tank top at H&M in a non-maternity section! It’s just there. Hanging among the other clothes.
Make an appointment with the Bra Fit Expert (formerly of Beacon, now in Cornwall) and Waddle and Swaddle (formerly of Beacon, now in Poughkeepsie). Both business owners are mothers who can outfit your girls and know your struggles. Worth every penny. Donate to someone in need when you’re done.
For middle parents, the children need to clean
Pay your children to clean. I know there are some hardcore parents who believe they bore children to work the farm. But we are in an age of Fortnite skin (costume) buying, and these children want it. They want that Target toy aisle. And you’re tired of saying “No!” So put the budget on them. They want a new skin? They can wipe down the kitchen counters for $3. Or organize the Tupperware cupboard for $8.
Get your children a phone. I know! This goes against every fiber in your body (no fiberoptic pun intended). But if these kids are going to be visiting friends or staying in dual locations, they need to touch base with you, and you with them. Charge them for the phone bill, however. And while you’re at it, start collecting on that whole life insurance policy you bought for them so that they could lock in a low rate. Don’t forget to collect on these bills, however!
Rates: Get a pretty chart on Etsy or use a dry-erase board to track their jobs and rates. I use a restaurant receipt pad to track their jobs, when I pay out and when their payments back to me went to their bills. Easy jobs include: $9 sweeping and wiping the stairs, including the banisters and two window sills next to the stairs; $4 wiping down all of the door knobs and light switches; 50 cents for wiping down a kitchen cabinet. P.S.: The AT&T store in Fishkill is helpful creating kid phone packages. P.P.S.: Chase and Citizens Bank have easy kid bank accounts that can hook up to yours for transfers and in-person deposits.
For older parents, with children in high school
I don’t know about this phase yet, but from observing my neighbor I can see that he’s watching them drive away to jobs or Beacon Hoops, and he’s a little sad, but proud. The first day his daughter rode her bike away from home by herself down a few blocks, he cried with fear. We all vowed to keep a dutiful watch for when she returned (knowing that she would return), and that we were actually parenting him.
This “feels like” 105-degree heat will keep us balanced. It will keep us pouring water on our heads, jumping in sprinklers, inviting ourselves over to neighbor pools (I have my standard text self-invite at-the-ready).
If you get invited by an elder to their pool, as I did when I first moved to Beacon, take them up on it. They miss the Kid Life if their grandchildren aren’t here. They want to see the action again. The splashing. The fighting. The chaos. Enjoy it, but remember, you do you. Don’t sacrifice so much that you’ve evaporated in this heat. Soak up the sun and recharge.