What to Say and Do
Home Clean Home
A lack of sleep, coupled with your newfound responsibilities, makes it a challenge to keep your house from looking like a combat zone. Stop stressing about it. "Consider using just one room to entertain," says Maureen Wild, a certified hostess from The Protocol School of Washington, in Washington, D.C., which provides hospitality training for the diplomatic community. "It may be your living room, or family room, or if you live in a warm climate, the patio. Be a little more scrupulous about making this space enticing to guests." However, there's no need to go overboard: "The disorder is part of the charm," she adds.
- Skip making the beds, putting away the laundry, or taking out the trash. Just close the doors to these rooms. Focus on things that guests will notice, like dog fur on the carpet, dishes piled to the ceiling, and a dirty bathroom. Let other less noticeable things, like dust on your knickknacks or water stains in the shower, go.
- Put your feet up and let your partner vacuum a few times a week, and use bathroom wipes to clean the bathroom. For the usual things that get left around a house, Amy Crane, a mom from Erie, Pennsylvania, suggests "keeping a laundry basket handy so the new mom or her helper can quickly dump all the stuff into the basket and then hide it."
- Learn not to apologize for the state of your home. "Apologizing calls attention to the house and invites scrutiny," says Susan Isaacs Kohl, author of The Best Things Parents Do (Conari Press). "Not saying anything sends the message, 'I'm coping with a baby, please respect that.'"
Doling Out Duties to Dad
While your partner may be pitching in like a champ, he won't know what you're stressing about if you don't tell him. It helps to have a plan in place for visits so you each know your roles. You should remain focused on staying comfortable. Before guests arrive, point out things he may have missed in his pre-visit cleanup. If you don't, it's going to irk you, and you may be tempted to clean it yourself. When guests arrive, let him handle food and drinks -- you can deal with presents and small talk. Decide that Dad will be the doorkeeper, responsible for getting people in, keeping them comfortable, and moving them out. If you want time to relax and chat with visitors, he'll be more than happy to step in for diaper duty or soothing your baby.
So Nice to See You ? and Goodbye!
While you might be happy to introduce your new family member to guests, a long visit will only make you tired. Make it clear how long the social call will be by saying something like, "It would be great if you could stop by at 2. Just so you know, we're usually ready for a nap by 2:30."
Take charge of the visits. Michelle Palter, of Sea Cliff, New York, says, "I screened my calls. I'd call back in batches when I got the time and try to schedule visits in batches, too." Having three visits in one day simplifies the cleaning and straightening process too -- it's the same amount of work for three times as many guests.
Getting oblivious guests to leave can be a challenge, but there are discreet ways to make the point. "My trick was to simply say it was time to nurse and take the baby and leave the room," says Manton, Michigan, mom Ami Weaver. Her husband, Anthony, would put the baby down for a nap, "then mention how I usually took a nap when he did. People took the hint," she adds.
It's okay to be blunt and say, "Sorry for such a short visit, but it's time to feed the baby." Remember, visits are supposed to be fun. And with a little crowd control, you can revel in your newest family member.
Brette McWhorter Sember, a mother of two, is the author of Your Plus-Size Pregnancy (Barricade Books).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2006.