Babies Don’t Keep

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,


Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.


Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo


But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

Regetis Photography

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.


So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Kendall is 2 years 9 months, Leyna is 5.5 weeks, and I’ve got some floors to ignore and dishes to push aside. It’s a snow day and we’re on our way out to play!

52 thoughts on “Babies Don’t Keep”

  1. Absolutely beautiful. Now that my daughter is 1, I look back and wish I could have embraced and lived by this poem. I spent far too much time worrying about the state of my house and not enough time drinking each second with her in. Thank you for the reminder for my next babe!

    1. If it is any consolation, I swear we can never spend enough time drinking in every second… no matter how much time we do take for that important task. It is just never enough.

      … and babies don’t keep.

  2. I absolutely adore this, because it is so, so true. Today I am home alone and so NOW the cleaning will get done. But not when my baby is home and we are having fun 🙂

  3. My mom had this poem framed and hung in our kitchen. I still remember reading it everyday while I was eating lunch and asking her what “babies don’t keep” meant. Love it.

  4. So true. When I was home on maternity leave with my son, I barely did any cleaning, LOL. I didn’t care what my house looked like. I just held and loved my little guy.
    Now that #2 is due in May, Colin is 2.5 and I work full time, we have a cleaning service. 🙂
    They grow up way too fast.

    1. Ha! We’re interviewing a cleaning lady this weekend. After the last few weeks, I’ve just given up trying. I’ll sacrifice whatever I have to to get help with the kitchen and bathrooms. I blame it on having a 2nd baby.

      1. I just hired someone to clean our house, for the first time ever, because between my bad back, 35+ wk pregnant belly, and nearly-3 yr old, I can’t do it. She did an AMAZING job and we’re having her come back weekly for a while. We can’t afford it, but I deserve to live in a clean space and can’t be expected to provide one for a while. 🙂 Asking for help is a big part of being a mom!

  5. This is so neat! My mom had an embroidery piece up in our house with the last 4-5 lines of this poem on it, I had no idea it was actually from a much longer poem!

  6. My mom had the second part of that on a plaque in our house. I’ve always said that if I can raise my kids half as well as she did, I’ll have done a damn fine job.
    And now, I’m crying. Hormones.

  7. Beautiful. I need to read this on days where I start getting stressed and frustrated because the house is such a mess. Printing this and hanging it up in the house is such a good idea, it would be a great daily reminder to put things in perspective.

  8. I Just fed the baby and I’m squeezed in bed between both of my boys right now (2 month old in his co-sleeper and nearly-3-year-old in the middle of our bed) and I’m bawling! This is so ridiculously true! I’ve never heard this before…thank you! It’s beautiful!

  9. LOVE this post. I essentially just sent the same sentiment to a friend whose 6 month old isn’t “independant enough”.

    Also, side note, love your headboard!

  10. A friend of mine’s mother sent this poem to me just after I had my son, and I remember reading it and crying – really crying.

    It brings back such sweet memories of holding my little baby and letting the chaos of life continue to swirl around me.

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ll be holding him extra tight tonight. Lucky for me he isn’t grown yet!

  11. This poem was so beautiful. Thanks for posting it with the pictures. It made me miss the days when Bun was a new born and I never thought I would miss them because I did not have a happy 4th trimester.

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