children, parenthood

Babies Don’t Keep

People will say, “rock your babies because babies don’t keep,” but they don’t mean it.

Not really.

Most people don’t really think the baby is more important than the house.

They say they do, but only if you can both rock your babies and keep a house immaculate.  

Let’s look at the rest of the poem that this quote is taken from.

Babies Don’t Keep

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.

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.


The author is applauding a woman whose house isn’t perfectly clean (the house is, in fact,  “shocking”!) because she’s more concerned about the baby than appearances. She is playing with and taking care of her child.

This is far more extreme than most people would endorse!

Most people will not support this view, but I do.


Babies are eternal. They have souls.

 Houses are not and do not.

Of course, some things must be done for the house to function (people still need to eat, a place to sit, and to wear clean clothes for example), but truly much less is necessary than what most people deem necessary.

Most people get their pride and their sense of superiority involved, judging others for less than perfection.

Some people even try to make the condition of your home an issue of sin or salvation.

And we moms often live in fear of that unreasonable and unrealistic judgement.  

Rest assured that if you put emphasis on the souls entrusted to you over the possessions you have, you’ll have no regrets.

But those around you –even other Christians– will not approve or agree.

Unfortunately, biblical priorities are not understood or endorsed even by most believers who are far too wrapped up in the vanity and external things of this world.

If your house isn’t perfectly clean because you’re focused on little souls, you’re doing it right.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not.  

And I will never judge you for the condition of your house.


Sarah Forbes


2 thoughts on “Babies Don’t Keep”

  1. Well said Sarah! I’ve never liked the term “housewife” for similar reasons–I’m not married to my house! I gladly use the term “homemaker ” instead.

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