Here at Kveller we work hard to provide our readers with relevant and useful information about all different aspects of parenting. From toilet training and knitting to books and toys to friendships and divorce, we’ve got you covered.
I’m sorry to say that we have neglected to explore one aspect of parenting that is universal, pervasive, stressful, and often unmanageable. It impacts our physical space, our relationships, our routines, and our appearance. Like I said, pervasive.
I’m talking about laundry.
You may think I’m kidding. Unless you’re a parent, and then you know I’m not. It’s hard to describe the extent to which laundry takes over your life when you have kids. There just aren’t words to explain how quickly the piles of clean and dirty clothes spiral out of control, covering every surface in your home. It defies logic, really. The children are so small, and their little onesies and overalls and socks-that-look-like-shoes are just so tiny, and yet they multiply and expand and then do it again. I still haven’t figured out how the four of us produce such shocking amounts of laundry, but we do. Week after week after week.
If you’re a new parent, you might not understand what all the fuss is about. You may feel like you’re on top of things. Enjoy it while you can. Your relationship to all of this clothing will quickly change.
At first you’ll take the time to sort the clothes into different piles, separating out the children’s clothes from yours, the colors form the whites, and you might even go so far as to take that fancy little dress the baby wore to her brit bat to the dry cleaners. You’ll put the baby into a new onesie every time she spits up, and you’ll make sure the diaper bag is stocked with a clean burp cloth every time you go out. You’ll do laundry once a week or twice a week, and the clothes will be folded and put away by the next morning.
But time will pass, your maternity leave will end, and soon enough you’ll be hiding the spit-up chunks in that tiny little pocket on the front of baby’s overalls, using the same dirty rag for weeks, and you’ll find yourself making new rules like “if it isn’t visibly dirty and doesn’t smell like crap, it’s wearable” and “if it doesn’t go into the washer, it doesn’t stay in my house.” You’ll tell yourself that you’re going to start a regular routine of folding laundry every other day or so, but by the time you’ve fed and bathed both babies and put them in their cribs and eaten dinner yourself and cleaned up the house and checked your email and talked to your husband and prepped for your meetings the next day, you will stumble into your bedroom with just enough energy left to gather up the pile of clean laundry off the bed and shove it back onto the chair in your room. (Until the next morning, of course, when you will put it all back on the bed with the intention of folding it by that night. Moving the pile back and forth from your bed to your chair will become a central part of your daily routine.)
You will curse yourself each morning as you frantically search through the piles of laundry for the yellow shorts and red dress because your two year old has recently decided that she will only wear those yellow shorts and that red dress. Your husband will become more than mildly annoyed because he can never tell which piles of clothes are clean and which are dirty, even though it’s blatantly obvious to you. And your baby will go off to daycare in the same socks two days in a row because you just can’t find the bra bag full of those tiny little socks (although you will secretly applaud yourself for remembering to put the socks in a bra bag).
You’ll tell yourself you’re going to take control of this demon that has invaded your home, but the reality is, you won’t. I don’t actually think it’s possible. So for me, I just keep telling myself that like baby blow-outs and toddler tantrums, this too shall pass. Eventually, my girls will be doing their own laundry. By that point, I suspect I’ll be more worried about what they’re wearing than whether or not it’s actually clean.