I recently took my two children to a friend’s house before going to work. As my friend opened the door, she welcomed us in and said, “Excuse the mess.” I could see toys, books and blocks strewn about the living room in the haphazard pattern that only comes from children on the loose. It was a pattern I knew only too well from the living room I had just vacated.
I won’t speak for my friend, but “excuse the mess” is exactly what I say to my guests when I feel embarrassed or self-conscious. It’s exactly what I say when I feel slightly nauseated that people see how far behind I am on my housework. It’s exactly what I say when I picture other people’s houses in pristine condition—even behind the toilets (seriously, cleaning behind toilets is just the worst).
My friend is confident, level-headed, and probably felt none of those things when she “excused” her mess. But if she did (and if you do when someone comes to visit), I want her to know what I thought upon arrival.
Before even stepping foot into my friend’s home, I was brimming with gratitude that she was about to care for my children while I pursued my writing career. I was grateful to have another human being who stood above 3-feet tall to talk to. I was grateful that her sweet boys would make my children’s day by including them in their games. No mess of any shape or size could have changed how I already felt about my friend.
Once inside, I felt like I was being included in her inner circle. She was sharing her mess with me. The people I am closest to are the people who see every side of me, from grungy hair and sweatpants to dirty dishes and unmade beds. I can totally let my guard down and share my mess around them.
I aspire to do that with more people, but if I’m being completely honest, my pride gets in the way. It forms a barrier of so-called “protection,” keeping away anyone who might form a judgmental thought about my dirty house or ill-fitting, post-pregnancy clothes. It’s stupid, but it’s the truth.
When another mom lets her guard down around me, when she lets me see her messy house, it is one of the sincerest forms of flattery. I’m deeply honored and wish only for her to know how much I respect and admire her. I won’t speak for every mom out there, but just know that if I come to visit, and your house is messy, you’re in good company.
Feel no shame, mama. Excuse no mess. We’ve all been there.
This post originally appeared on Mamalode.