Tidy Up Time: 5 Cars (One Dipped in Yoghurt)

It’s 7.30pm. The children are at last in bed and, in theory, I can sit down and relax before bed. But no! Instead, I sit down for two minutes and then get up to start tidying the house. It is hard to explain exactly how messy my house is, so I will paint a picture by giving you a list of everything on the living room floor.

Two balls (one from next door), a fire engine, five cars (one dipped in yoghurt) a push-along cowboy with his horse, two beakers, eight books, pink baby, new baby and big baby, a slice of cheese (rejected for being too smelly), a pull-up nappy (dry), some big-girl knickers (wet), the local newspaper (unread).

There are seven socks (none matching), a mini pancake now being used as a hat for Woofy Dog, a page from a comic sellotaped to my flip flop, a sausage hidden behind the door, and enough crumbs to fill the vacuum cleaner in one go.

And that’s just one room. The kitchen is even worse, heaven knows what’s under the sofa (I’m not looking tonight) and I shudder to think what state the bathroom is in. The garden is a tip, there is crayon on the wall, dinosaur stickers on my coat and the cup of tea I made four hours ago (and re-heated two hours ago) is still in the microwave.

Before I had children I was fairly house-proud, I kept the place pretty tidy and mostly clean, and didn’t think too much about it. Now I have three young ones and WOW how my house has changed. They are fantastic typhoons of energy, these tireless investigators and creators. They get things out, play with them, scatter them around and then get more things out. They spill their food, undress without warning and poke, taste, examine and draw on anything they can get their hands on.

Elaborate games develop that take over the whole house ­— they get busy setting up and running their zoo, nursery, pet shop, school or supermarket … I don’t mind this kind of mayhem, because it keeps them happy and busy, and I don’t have to entertain them for a while.

I am trying to introduce ‘tidy-up-time’ at around 5pm, but without much success so far. Then it’s tea, bathtime, stories, cuddles and bed and by 7.32pm I am stuck into the tidying up. This usually takes an hour or so, at which point we adults briefly reclaim the house before falling exhausted into bed. And tomorrow it will start all over again!