Don't Worry, Parents. Your Messy Bathroom Is Normal

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Elizabeth Broadbent

You freak out when guests are due. Oh, not over the dishes in the sink. The guests can gaze upon your vast expanse of black-marked baseboards, the wobbly art sharpied upon your walls. They can glance upward to the dust dating back to the Obama Administration — the first, not the second, because who has time and ladders and energy to dust high bookshelves? There’s that mystery stain on the carpet. The toy explosion everywhere: rubber swords in the dining room, wooden soldiers in the living room. Plus Legos, a constant hazard for all bare feet. The guests can see that. The guests can live with that.

You’re losing your shit because you have to clean the bathroom.

There’s this taboo around the bathroom. Because we do our business in there, society tells us the bathroom must sparkle like the horn of a magic bleach unicorn. And look, y’all: You can have small children or a sparkling clean bathroom. You can’t have both. As long as the toilet is scrubbed and nothing is growing, you’re golden. Guests will open it. They will look around. They will feel more at home than they do in any part of your house. Because…

Normal: There are toys on the floor of your tub.

Elizabeth Broadbent

If you didn’t learn this as a parent, your kid is still in the drooling and scooting stage: Kids cannot be relied upon to clean up anything ever. So when you dunk your darlings in a pool of lukewarm water because they are filthy, they will demand toys to play with. Things to pour. Things to pour into. Dinosaurs. Fish and whales and prehistoric junk you can’t identify but which seems vaguely aquatic. Inexplicable army men.

Then when it comes time to get out, it’ll happen all in a rush because child No. 2 is willfully pouring water out of the tub while child No. 3 tries to drown child No. 1, not out of a sense of malice but just because it’s fun.

You will hustle them out of the tub and into towels and then comes the underwear scramble and you’ve forgotten all about the tub toys, which when you notice them later, you are too exhausted to remove, because damn, parenthood, man. So they lie, whales beached, fish washed up, where you kick them when you shower in the morning. Everyone does this. Everyone who says they don’t is either hyper-organized or lying.

Normal: Your vanity looks like a Sephora exploded.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Or a Target makeup counter, or a mixture of the two, or whatever you use to make your face look not-old or not-red or not-freshly-woken-zombie. These cosmetics are not particularly organized, except by a system designed by you and understood only by you, and hence appear like some teenager just dumped out her makeup bin, glitter shadow and all. You still have makeup from your college years stacked in the corner (it’s gold shimmer, you can’t get it anymore, so just STFU). Your husband has crammed his deodorant in there somewhere. This is his only man space, and it is sacrosanct.

Normal: Your kids have too many toothbrushes which are, well, scattered.

You have a toothbrush. Your husband has a toothbrush. Your kids have, like, two toothbrushes each. These toothbrushes feature major kiddie pop culture (Paw Patrol! Star Wars!) and they speak in unnerving voices and strobe lighting. They also have special toothpaste, distinct from your toothpaste, which is distinct from your husband’s. Your kids leave their toothbrushes on the sink instead of in the toothbrush holder. You reprimand them for this because it’s kind of gross. They do it anyway, every day.

Normal: Your floor is littered with…things.

There are clothes on the floor. This is because it is a bathroom, and bathrooms are where you take off your clothes. Kick the underwear and bras underneath the jeans and call it a day. There are towels on the floor, despite the towel hooks, because somewhere, a written decree went out to the realm that towel hooks are only for moms, and everyone else should use the floor as an efficient means of drying their wet items.

Except it is not efficient; that decree lied, and everyone else in the house needs to get with the freaking towel hook program.

Oh, and there will also be toys, books for long pooping sessions, and hand towels scattered underfoot. Because we all know children cannot use hand towels without ripping them off their designated bar and then wandering aimlessly out of the room.

Normal: You do not have cute decorations, and your decor does not match.

Elizabeth Broadbent

My bathroom is slightly color-coordinated, but some small person always pees on my rug and ruins everything. So I just look like I have an ugly-ass shower curtain. You likely have a shower curtain from college or some bargain bin, whatever rugs were on sale at Walmart/Target/Crate and Barrel (if you’re richy-rich, in which case you have a housekeeper, in which case we are not having this conversation, so bye), and some random hand towels that have traveled with you through the bathrooms of your life. The bath towels do not match, or their colors are slightly off from constant washing.

Normal: Dust and Rust

There is dust on your mirror, and it’s probably kind of smeary, too, because it gets mucked up 30 seconds after you wipe it down. The window sills are dusty. The damn walls are dusty because no one dusts their damn walls. The vent is dusty. Why are bathrooms so damn dusty?

And those shower caddies you hung to put your shampoo in? Yeah, they left a rime of rust against the tiles and on the hanging bars. You need to get to that. You swear you will get to that. You will google hints from Heloise or Pinterest that shit and find out how to remove rust and be a good hausfrau and scrub it off. Except during the scant time you have free, you’d rather run far, far away from the children and the scrubbing and pay some anonymous person to paint your toenails for you. Or you could read a book. You haven’t read a book in the last decade, and it’s getting embarrassing.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Look, people: Your bathroom is fine. Scrub the poop and pee off the toilet. Make sure there is toilet paper readily available and throw in one clean hand towel. Your bathroom is acceptable to receive guests, especially your mom, especially guests with small children, especially guests with any sense whatsoever. Because this is real life, and our bathrooms are chaotic just like everything else.

This article was originally published on