And When You Come Home to a Messy House, What Will You See?

Isaac is watching me as I clean.
I have just put the bedtime snack on the table.

And rounded up my giggling children. 

“Mommy, come eat with us!” He says. I am swishing water on plates with one hand while holding a cooing Wren on my hip with the other hand. She is attempting to hang upside down to grab the water as it runs. 

“I can’t right now, sweetie.” I say. “I have to clean up.”

A moment later I shut off the water.  I go over to the table. I sit down. 

“Isaac?” I say. “Can I ask you a question?”

He looks up. 

“Do you think you will want to have kids someday? A family?” 

He says he does. 

“If you are working and your partner is at home with the kids… when you come home, if the house is messy what will you think?”

“That she was taking care of the kids all day and playing with them.”

“There is something I want you to try and remember, okay?” I am looking at him in the eyes. “It is very very important.”

He is listening. 

“Do you see the dishes still in the sink?” He looks. 

“Do you see the bits of coffee grounds that spilled earlier and that I missed when I cleaned them up?” He looks. 

“And the unfolded laundry in the library?” He nods. 

“You can see all the things I haven’t done, right?” I ask. “Can you see what I *have* done?”

He says he can. 


He saw me do three other loads of laundry. Feed the animals. Cook three meals. Wash the pans for two of those meals. He saw me clean up after them all day. Put things away. He saw me focus their new microscope on the smear of blood I coaxed from my pricked fingertip onto a slide. He saw me round up the library books. Breastfeed and bounce the baby, change countless diapers. Help them all settle disagreements.  Work on Alexander’s reading and on everyone’s math. He asked me for help getting things, and I said “of course” over and over again. 

“But if you did not see what I did, and you just came home to see everything I haven’t managed to do.. would you think I did nothing all day?”

He shakes his head.

“Some people do think that way.” I tell him. “They see what still needs to be done, and they get upset.”


“I don’t know, sweetie.” I say. “But it is VERY VERY IMPORTANT that if you ever have a partner you don’t think that way.”

“I won’t.” He promises. “I will do what daddy does.”

“What does daddy do?” I smile. 

“He comes home and he helps you clean and brings you food so you can sit down”

My heart swells fit to burst.

“Yes. Daddy does that.” I smile. “He loves me very much, and knows how hard I work every day.”

I pause. 

“And that is why, every night before he comes home I try to clean up as much as I can. Because I love him very much and I know how hard he works every day even though I am not there to see it.”

That is what family is.

A bunch of imperfect people trying to find their balance on this crazy spinning sphere of a planet. 

This is love. 

And love is good. 

3 thoughts on “And When You Come Home to a Messy House, What Will You See?

  1. Sarah, this is the third time I have come back to read this and I must comment this time.

    Many thanks for writing with incredible understanding and from a place of love and sincere mutual respect. May I link to your post(s) in my blog when I write about our life in Lyndaland, please?

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