Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

The pigsty chronicles

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I remember - like it was yesterday - the day I read about J-Lo and Marc Anthony's new twins.

The little bubs are wearing dinner jackets and pearls now, so this must have been a while ago, but I vividly remember J-Lo looking beautiful and impeccably groomed just days after the birth. She had two full time nurses who worked through the night giving the newborns their bottles. More nurses came through the day.

I also remember that the house looked more like a show home than an actual house where actual people and newborn babies live.

Of course I know the superstar couple has housekeepers, gardeners and all sorts of other staff on hand, but strangely, this spotless house had almost nothing baby-related except some very expensive looking baby cribs and antique porcelain tea sets.

By comparison, a new relative of mine who visited me the other week looked around my house and said - diplomatically, I thought - that I lived in a very "child-centred" house.

If by that he meant that there are toys strewn from one end of the house to the other, he'd be right.

I used to be so house proud but now I find myself barely able to make one room habitable at a time.

I usually start from the back of the house, cleaning as I go, but am diverted off my course by the time I reach the middle of the house. Next time I start from the front and work backwards.

It seems to me there is never a time when more than two rooms of the house are looking decent. This would have driven the old me mad. But I have - sadly - become accustomed to stepping over toy trains, sliding on soft toys and piling CDs in a haphazard pile in the corner of the living room, knowing full well they'll be all over the floor again within seconds.

At one point I took pride in keeping the wooden floor in the kitchen spik and span. That was before two children threw three meals a day over it.

Now, it really should be cleaner for hygiene purposes, and yet it is constantly covered in a grimy film of food that I find almost impossible to remove.

Unfortunately for me, my kids seem to like the kinds of toys that have about 45 parts to them. No single trucks, big Raggedy Annes or plastic cars for them.

My son likes card puzzles - the kind that have 20 number cards and 20 picture cards and they need slotting together.

My daughter's favourite thing for a while was rummaging round in a 40-piece Barbie tea set from the toy library. (When it came to be returned my husband and I spent about two hours combing the house - swearing profusely - for the set's missing pink plastic fork. We knew then our transformation to sad-arses was complete!).

The other unfortunate side-effect of multi-part toys is that they are damned painful to step on when one isn't paying attention.

The other night my husband was preoccupied and, in mid-stream, stepped on Thomas the Tank Engine's green plastic railway tunnel and went flying halfway across the room.

I laughed so hard I stepped back onto Thomas the Tank Engine's plastic Wellsworth station house and narrowly avoided landing on my rump with the two bags of rubbish I was carrying landing on top of me.

While all this may sound amusing, it really isn't when it's the 40th time your little toe has caught the corner of the high chair or you've stepped on a very pointy plastic hexagon while stumbling for water in the middle of the night.

And it is not amusing when you realise that the very thing you once despised - a really horrible looking house - is what greets every visitor.

It may seem like a small thing, but for most women, living in a pigsty leads to the blues, especially when you are home all day staring at the mess, feeling helpless to do anything about it.

And yet, whether at home all day with kids or a working mum, it seems to me the housework is almost always the first thing to go by the wayside.

Clever mums hire a house cleaner and consider the $40 a week spent an investment in their sanity. Others, like myself, are convinced we'll get round to it ourselves one day.

Perhaps when our youngest starts primary school??!

- Dita De Boni

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