Why I Clean at 3AM
As a stay at home toddler mom, cleaning anything during the day feels like a mix between hostage negotiations and guerrilla warfare, even if I have someone helping to watch the little one.
Usually my toddler is on to me as soon as I even think about arranging some sort of in house child care to catch up on housework. Even with a box of new toys and an engaging babysitter, once she realizes I’ve left the room whatever toy or activity was at hand for her to do becomes completely dead to her and whatever I’m trying to sneak off to accomplish becomes infinitely more interesting. At that point she’ll usually run up to me and say in the sweetest voice possible “I want to help mommy.” Instantly panic strikes at my heart, as much as I love her, because by now I’ve learned “I want to help mommy” is sometimes toddler talk for “I want to destroy everything you’re even thinking about doing, and then I’ll get to your hopes and dreams too”.
Okay, maybe not the last part, but when you’re looking down the barrel of a messy kitchen before you’ve even thought about making coffee, no further trouble is needed. And this is when I feel like I should’ve just cleaned up after hours and preserved the peace during the day because I know my plan has been foiled and its going to be a struggle to get anything done.
But truth be told, my toddler’s current developmental stage isn’t the only reason I prefer to clean well past midnight.
I simply enjoy cleaning the house so much more when I’m able to do so in solitude. When the house is quiet and I can get lost in my thoughts or an audiobook, things just feel right about that combination. During the day, when the house is naturally busy and a million things have to get done, cleaning on top of that already kind of chaotic environment feels like madness to me.
And honestly, during the day, I don’t want to clean with my toddler - I want to play with my toddler. Or teach my toddler. Or go to new places with her. Or run errands with her. Or nap with her. Or create something new with her. I’m happy to do any activity that can withstand there being a gap between what I want to do and what my toddler wants to do.
What I mean is this - lets say you want to teach your toddler to draw a frog but she only wants to build castles with her magnetic blocks. Not a problem, you might say - we can learn to draw frogs later, let’s build that castle. Now, lets say you want to organize your shoe closet yet she wants to take everything out of your closet and throw it on the floor. Or else. That there is a fundamental incompatibility, one that cannot easily be overcome without childcare or tantrums, at least in my experience but that largely depends on the temperament of your child.
With my child, I’ve learned that 80% of the time it is wiser for me to give up on getting my stuff done while she is up. That’s right, sometimes giving up is the better way forward. I’ll admit, that sounds really odd to say, especially in the hippy dippy culture we live in where everything is about setting super goals and getting everything done and being a boss “bleep” regardless of what’s going on around you. But not every toddler is willing to entertain themselves while mommy cleans or organizes, and when you’re a SAHM your productivity is largely tied into your toddlers temperament and their ability to self entertain and these vary greatly from child to child and cannot be so easily changed despite what old school authoritarian parents might suggest.
Now I know self sufficient toddlers exist, I’ve even seen them on the YouTube - but that is not everyones situation nor should you try to force your toddler to be something they are not. Soon enough they will fly the coop, so I prefer to work synergistically with what I’ve been blessed with rather than against it, which would make everybody miserable. And so on an ideal day I postpone at least 80% of my to-do list until after hours, and I try to pick 20% of it to do with my child if she will cooperate. I think in time that ratio will be flipped on its head and I look forward to that but in the meantime I will choose the peace of night cleaning when I can because no matter how many tantrums I survive, they still cause me tremendous anxiety and stress and I try to prevent them as much as possible.
It’s almost like the frequency of my toddler screaming happens to match the natural resonance of my soul and if resonance can take down bridges and buildings, what can it do to the soul of a tired mom?
Better not find out, but I can attest that not much is accomplished if baby is not happy, except giving mommy migraines which I don’t need anymore of. I am called to peace, and so I will accept less productivity (and even sleep sometimes) if it means more peace and harmony and happiness for my family.
Being able to clean (or do other work, like write or record videos for YouTube) after midnight when the house is peaceful and quiet is precious to me. On most days you can catch me tackling a big mess or working on a project sometime between 1:30 and 3 in the morning. The house is quiet, I know where everyone is and that they are safe, and I can hear the relaxing chirping of crickets outside while I ponder in blissful silence. I can almost palpably feel that “All is well with my soul” even if my physical house happens to be a disaster because the quiet helps get my spiritual house in order so that I’m able to think, pray, and act.
If the concept intrigues you, and you are as dedicated as I am to increasing peace and quiet in your life, consider a change in sleep pattern. I personally practice segmented sleep, a radical outside of the box way of sleeping that has transformed how I schedule myself and what I know my body is capable of. Changing my sleep pattern to radically seek after peace and quiet may seem crazy, but let me tell you - it was worth it.
If your body clock and routine allows it, and you are able to do so once in awhile - I highly recommend cleaning after dark. It’s a great way to get alone with yourself while getting something very useful and valuable done for yourself and your family.
Watch me chat about this very thing as I clean my kitchen at my least favorite time to do so - in the morning: