I really wanted to post a blog today, but my house… Well, we’ll get to that.
Decades ago, I wouldn’t have been called a stay-at-home mom. I would have been called a housewife, and I would have been judged by the cleanliness of my home and how stylish a dinner party I could host for my husband’s boss. Or at least that’s how I imagine it.
When I asked my mother what she was called when she was home with kids, she said she didn’t remember being called a stay-at-home mom, but she added, “No one would have dared to call me a housewife.” So, when I was a little kid, in the 1980s, that term was already an insult to a certain kind of woman.
Recent time studies have shown that we spend a lot less time on housework than we used to and I think that’s something to celebrate.
When we agreed that I would stay-at-home with our first kid, my husband and I also agreed (or rather, I declared) that we would still be sharing the housework. Just because I was home didn’t mean dinner on the table with slippers and whisky at the door. We’re nowhere near Mad Men level wifely expectations, but it’s also not exactly how I thought it would be.
I hate the laundry. I hate the dishes. I hate making dinner every day. I hate cleaning. But most of it does fall to me. And I spend most of my time on strike. Or conscientiously objecting. Or just not doing.
And yet… I know what my husband feels like when he comes through the door and the evidence of a play date with ten kids is all over the house. And I know how I feel when there is a “to-do” every direction I look. It escalates the silent voice in my head from something like stress, to anxiety, to complete overwhelm.
But I try not to be seduced by the shallow joy of living a life that looks like a Pottery Barn catalog. I don’t (not really) clean up before playdates or even grown-up guests. We do clean up superficially for our parents, but that’s a whole something else.
I think it is a gift to other mothers not to clean your house before they come for a visit. I remember feeling so grateful when I first went to a friend’s house and there were piles of clean, unfolded laundry—and probably even some dirty laundry. There was a lot of laundry. It was everywhere. It felt like home.
And the real gift she gave me was not apologizing. Not even skipping a beat. (She also told me never to apologize for being late.)
It just was what it was. She had three kids and a dog. Her kitchen was, well, being used. Her kids’ room wasn’t messy, it was a playroom.
I vowed that day to make sure that my house was never too clean when another mom visited. I like having friends over whenever my kids or I decide we want company, and I wouldn’t be able to do it if I had high standards—or cared how high anyone else’s standards are. I want people to see my messes. At least enough of my messes to know that it’s more than okay not to be on top of… Everything. All. The. Time.
So, before I dive into this mess today, I took some photos to share with you. Hopefully, it will help you feel like you have something more important to do today than clean.