Confession time: My house is a mess. There’s a pile of dirty clothes on the living room floor and a pile of clean clothes beside it on the couch. I’ve been dressing myself and the twins out of the clean pile for the last week. There’s dishes in the sink. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned out. I can’t see the floor in my closet. And that’s just what I’m not too embarrassed to admit – I could honestly go on.
I’ve never been a neat person. My mom (who cleans to relax) and I have always had a great relationship, but the only thing she regularly got on me about was how sloppy I was and how her house was always pristine until you got to my bedroom. At school, when we had to share lockers, my locker mate was always over me and ready to switch by winter break. My mom always used to tell me, “Kayla, someday you’ll be grown, and when you’re a woman in your own house, you’ll want it to be clean too.” Bless her, she really tried with me. But it just never took. I’m still messy. One look at my car’s interior is really all the evidence you’d need.
Couple that with the fact that I hate cooking. I really, truly do. It bores me and feels like a colossal chore with little payoff. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who cooks for fun, but I’m not. I figured out how to stay fit eating low-effort meals – protein bars, salads, wraps, frozen vegetables, pre-cooked chicken, anything I can cook in the microwave. Same for my kids – I wrote a whole blog post on how to feed two kids healthy meals while doing as little cooking as possible. And I bring my husband home take out way more than is fiscally responsible.
All of these qualities were compounded tenfold when I gave birth to the twins. Cook? Clean? I’m sorry, I have these two little ones who need me to keep them alive and entertain them at every waking moment. Oh, they’re taking a nap? Cool, I’ll work on my blog, or get a workout in, or work on my grad school coursework or one of the other dozen irons I have in the fire right now. Somebody asked me on my Instagram, “How do you do it all? Fitness, grad school, twins, blog?” I didn’t give my full, honest answer, but I’ll give it now. Something has to give, and the thing that gave is my home. I give my very best in every other area and my least around the house. And I can’t help but feel bad about it.
I take it personally when I see memes or comments about how a woman who doesn’t cook or clean is “trash” and “not wife material.” I follow lots of other moms on Instagram, and I feel guilty and inadequate when I see how clean and organized their houses are. I know a lot of it is smoke and mirrors – let me clean this one space real pretty for this picture and chuck everything out of the frame – but a lot of it is real. I mean, I have real life mom friends whose houses I go to and everything looks great. And I often feel like because I’m failing miserably in the “homemaker” department, I’m somehow less valuable of a wife and mother.
But here’s the truth. James and I had been together 4 years before we tied the knot. He knew I was a mess to live with. He knew – and was so sweet about – the fact that my cooking skills weren’t necessarily my strongest asset. But he also knew I was smart, funny, caring, supportive, and resilient. He knew I was tenacious and wasn’t afraid to get after a goal. And he thought I was pretty cute on top of all that, so he married me anyway.
And you know what else he loves about me now? That I’m a really good mother. And honestly, I feel confident saying that. I pour myself into Alex and Nathan every minute of every day. At any given moment, we are playing together, reading together, talking to each other, eating together, at the park, at the library, at the museum, splashing around in a fountain, at music class, at baby gymnastics, cuddling, clapping, singing, dancing. I give them all of me – I hold nothing back. And they are the happiest kids I know. People tell me all the time, “they’re always smiling” or “they never cry!” And while that’s not exactly true – they definitely do cry – by and large, they are very smiley, happy, sweet and friendly babies. They are loved beyond anything they will ever fathom, and I really think they know that. And I can tell from the way they look at me first thing in the morning, to the looks on their faces when I enter or leave a room, to the way they say my name all day long for no apparent reason, to the way they curl up on me to fall asleep at night – that they love their mother. Alex and Nathan think I’m a great mom too. They may not be able to speak the words, but they don’t have to – I can tell.
Still, the other day, I looked at the mess around us and dropped my head. “I feel like a terrible wife,” I told James. He hugged me close and asked, “Do I ever complain?” “No,” I said. “You’re doing your best,” he told me. “Give yourself a little grace.” So I’m trying to give myself a break for being a crappy domestic and for not having an “Instagram-worthy” home. Because even though there’s plenty of room for improvement, I’m still doing pretty good in other departments. And at the end of the day, I don’t think I’ll ever look back and say, “Man, I remember when the twins were little. My house was so clean. Those were some great times.”