The day before my wife’s birthday, after spending several weeks home with our children, I told her I was taking our three kids shopping so they could pick out a gift for her. She stopped me and said, “You know what I really want? I want no more messes.”
She looked at me with the same tired eyes I’d imagine wildlife crews get chasing summer mountain fires. That’s what it feels like being home with three children 12 and under during the summer. I was a stay-at-home dad for a time. I get it. I’d clean the toys out of the living room, pick up the clothing, the random scraps of garbage because my kids can’t seem to use a garbage can, then vacuum. I’d feel satisfied, turn around, and — BAM! — the kitchen had been turned into a nursery of baby dolls swaddled in blankets and bath towels by my daughters, and my son decided to make his own pancakes in a mess worthy of the Netflix’s show Nailed It.
The sad fact is, each one of my children DGAF about messes. And I know, there are some families who manage to run a very organized ship in the summer. Their children are filled with nothing but “pleases” and “thank yous.” They do the laundry, wash the dishes, and organize their rooms with the precision of an engineer. And god bless you, I don’t care.
I don’t care about the way you present your Instagram home, because for the actual living breathing mess-making 99% of us, our houses are a disaster each summer because that little bit of time we had to clean while the children were away at school is gone. And it’s been replaced by children who might as well be shooting hot garbage out of their eyeballs.
Now right here, I think it’s important to remind you all that I am a man. Yes, this article is being written by a husband and father. And so I’d like to make a statement to the other husbands and fathers out there. Listen guys, if you are one of those 1950s-style dudes who thinks that your wife should have the house all spotless when you come home because that’s “her job,” or you’re contributing to the family mess, and then you come home in the summer to find it not to your expectations, do us all a favor, especially your wife, and shut your face.
Because the fact is, children don’t care if you just vacuumed; they are going to eat those crackers like a chipper shredder. They don’t care if you just did the dishes; they are going to ask for a snack. And they don’t care that you are about to lose your mind, they are going to ask you to set up the backyard slip-n-slide. Then they’re going to go in and out of the house, soaking the carpet, and getting every outfit they own wet, only adding to Mount Laundry.
In the summer, kids don’t care about your house. They just don’t. What they want is to do their thing, and it makes it almost impossible to keep a clean house. And this isn’t the ’80s. We can’t just let our children roam the neighborhood like the Goonies, looking for buried treasure and escaped convicts as we clean up around the house. Well, I suppose we could, but we don’t.
And right there, is where the rock and the hard place is. Because during the summer, when the kids our home, I doubt parents want to spend all day cleaning the house either. They don’t want to spend all their time picking up after their children. Chances are, they’d rather spend that time, I don’t know, enjoying the company of their children. Children are only with us for a short time, and frankly, I’d rather spend those few summers we have enjoying family time rather than fighting with them to pick up their crap.
And you know what? There really is no shame in making that decision. No one should ever feel bad about putting off the dishes a little longer because they took their children to the community pool, or taught their daughter to ride a bike or took 30 minutes to themselves to keep from going bonkers.
So yeah, your house is messiest in the summer. Everyone else’s is, too. The main reason it’s a mess is because the kids are home all day. But do we really need to be fighting that uphill battle?
Listen, I’m giving you a free pass this summer. Clean what you can. Fight the battles you can win. But above all, enjoy this time with your children. There is no shame in it. Summer — and childhood — are short. Let the house be messy.