“Some people find comments like that rude,” I said.
The little girl looked at me with a snarky smile and said, “yup!”
The thing that really sucks about what five year olds say is I knew she was being 100% honest. And indeed, our house was a mess. At the time, I could probably have listed a million reasons to explain our clutter piles, random installments of underwear, laundry baskets full of clean laundry sitting, precariously, in the middle of the living room, and so on. There always seems to be a bracelet loom, or a couple dolls, or a play dough kit on the table, along with a few dirty dishes.
It depends on the day, and if we have company coming.
We always have random kids hanging out in our living room, or on the porch, eating our food, and making messes by getting out our kids toys and not putting them back. Somehow we’ve become a neighborhood hotspot for fatherless kids looking for a place to hang out (I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go into too much detail). We also just had a new baby, and that was probably the biggest reason for our messy house.
What really sucks is that there seems to be no justifiable excuse for having a messy house.
In the grand scheme of things, there are people with messier houses. I’ve seen them. And when I was young, I’d go to these houses, and say shit like, “I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty.”
Then I’d run home, and tell my mother about it, and we’d laugh and judge these messy house people. My mother would say things like, “Doesn’t she care about her kids? Or her home?”
It always came down to blaming the mother.
Although we live in an age where a stay at home dad is not that unusual (in fact, I was one for a short time), no matter what’s going on, the dynamics of the family, people still blame my wife for our messy home. I suppose I know this because I, too, used to blame my wife for our messy house.
The second she became a stay at home mom, I started getting really judgmental. I started looking at the house, the state of it, and thinking things like, “You have one job! One job! To take care of the home.”
I never considered the fact that kids just don’t care. When I was home with the kids, I’d sweep beneath the table, and 10 minutes later, it was dirty again. I’d have the kids put their toys away before bed, and by morning, before I even got up, they were back out.
I don’t want to speak for your kids, but my kids are remarkable mess makers!
Taking care of the home is actually a collection of a million full-time jobs. My wife is a housekeeper, disciplinarian, teacher, nurse, chauffeur, comforter, cook, part-time student, school volunteer, neighborhood caregiver, and so on…
A few years ago, Mel and I got into an argument about the house. I told her it was embarrassing. I asked her what she did all day. “It really can’t be that hard to keep the house clean,” I said.
We got into a huge fight over that. Mel told me that I needed to realize what she was up against. And then she told me something that really hit home. She said, “Sometimes it comes down between cleaning the house, and taking Tristan and Norah to the park. Or spending time having fun with them, or teaching them to read or write. Sometimes I can either do the dishes, or teach our son how to ride a bike, or our daughter how to walk. I’d rather do those things, frankly. I’d rather not be that mom who ignores our kids, and myself, because I’m so busy cleaning.”
What she said made a lot of sense. So I backed off. I stopped looking at the dirty dishes, and assuming that they were evidence of Mel sitting on her ass all day. Instead, I got off my ass and started washing the dishes. I realized that this was not HER mess, but OUR mess, and I started pitching in more.
I stopped worrying about the house, and started paying attention to the development of our children. I stated to pay attention to how happy they were, and the kind of relationship they shared with their mother, and I noticed that we have a messy house, and really happy, bright kids.
I’m not saying that if you have a clean house, you are doing something wrong. But what I am saying is that I don’t judge my wife for teaching my son how to swim, rather than vacuuming the living room. I don’t judge her for bettering herself by finishing her math homework, rather than washing the dishes. And I don’t think you should look down on stay-at-home moms with a messy house, because chances are, they are using that time wisely.
You would also enjoy, Crazy Decisions I’ve Made To Save My Carpet And Furniture.
Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley