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The Parent Ren, Part I: Clean As You Go

When I was a teenager, there was a lot of pressure for me to finish high school and get a job. The pressure didn’t come from either of my parents, actually. It came from my uncles and cousins. In our culture, education was one of those things that you did because you had to and not because you wanted to. You just finished the government-required education and then get a job, especially if you’re a man. If you’re a man, you have to provide for your family, then get your own family, and then somehow provide for both.

Since I went to college at an early age (16), my male relatives were stunned that I didn’t choose to get a job and start making money right away. Compared to some of my cousins, I had two years lead time to make more money. So, under that pressure and the pressure from just needing the cash for things other than college (as it was covered by that most liberal of policies: Stafford loans), I went and got a job at the mall.

At one of your staff meetings, the manager told us a story about when he worked at a fast food restaurant. “Clean as you go,” he said. He told us that it was the best advice he heard since it made things tidy and took care of problems that might accumulate during a shift. If there was something out of place, we should just pick it up and put it in its place, even if it was not our job to do so. He ran a tight ship, and it was great working with such a good leader.

Full disclosure: He’s also my cousin. But I digress…

Since we came home with the baby, my wife and I have been working hard on keeping the place tidy. We actually started cleaning up well and keeping the house tidy a couple of weeks before the due date. It got to the point where we were maniacal about it, doing it with a lot of glee.


It was this all the time.

Now that the baby is home, we pick up little pieces of trash (usually tissues), throw clothes in the hamper, and keep things in their place… Or near their place.

It’s going to be hard enough to look after the little one once things like fevers and earaches come along, so we might as well clean up as we go now so things are in place when things get crazy. Because, although she’s the most wonderful little thing right now, we know that sleepless nights will come. Best to be ready.

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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2 replies

  1. “We actually started cleaning up well and keeping the house tidy a couple of weeks before the due date.”

    That is often called “nesting.”

    “If there was something out of place, we should just pick it up and put it in its place,…”

    The other thing that comes with kids is so much stuff that does not have a “place.” One thing that gets out of control is clothing. Kids grow out of clothes, and before you know it you have piles of clothing that need to be somewhere else. The choice is do you save for some future child, or do you give it away. The same goes for toys and books.

    There is a reason why there are yard sales and used kid stuff stores around. Which is a good way to get things for kids. And to get rid of it. When the youngest were around 7 and 10 they held their own yard sale to get rid of toys, clothing and kid furniture.

    Congratulations on the wee one. You’ll be busy for a long while.


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