This is a post from my husband, Jesse. I asked him to write this because of all the letters I get from women who feel they can’t meet the standards their husbands have for them when it comes to cleaning their homes. I get it. Jesse used to be like this. We talked about it and I asked him what changed. This post is his answer.
“What have you been doing all day?! The house is a disaster!”
We had 3 young kids. Two were toddlers and one was still a baby. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how dishes were overflowing, last weeks dirty clothes were still on the floor, crumbs from last nights dinner still lingering and the house looked worse than when I had left the same morning at 6:30am.
How is it possible that a house is in worse shape than when I left it? At the very least it would be slightly cleaner. I was irritated and some days quite angry. I worked all day and was exhausted, and here my wife is a stay at home mom and the house looks like a disaster. So naturally I walk in stepping on some things and harshly and sarcastically ask what she had been doing all day. On days when I had a hard day that seemed chaotic it felt like I was switching one form of chaos for another. The wanting to come home to a place of order where I felt like I could relax was very important to me.
This went on for a long time…as in, years. It became a contentious part of our relationship. I would leave for work come home, say sarcastic back handed comments about the house (I was and am very good at sarcasm) hoping it would motivate Sarah to clean more, not caring what the fallout was from the comments were as long as the house was getting clean(er).
There was one weekend in particular she had gone away for a few days and I was home with the kids by myself. I had made it a mission to passive aggressively prove that it CAN be done. To manage a house well having it cleaned top to bottom every single day that she was gone. Let me tell you I had the house spotless for 3 days straight. And I let her know it. She came home happy to see us all after she had been away and she was surprised to see the house so clean. I through my snide sarcastic comment that in a nut shell expressed how easy it was and that it can be done. Well….that killed a sweet homecoming and thus continued our feud. I didn’t really care, I thought the end justified the means.
This contentious part of our relationship started spilling into other parts as well. I’m not sure what caused the change but I do know this: I asked myself, “Self, why are you putting so much pressure on your wife to have a spotless, clean house 24/7? Is it not enough that she loves our children well and manages to keep the home chugging along? Is it worth having a contentious marriage in exchange for a spotless house? If she puts more energy into having a solid clean and tidy house will she be stealing some of that energy that is being put into raising our children?”
I started coming home and not badgering her about the home. And strangely, our relationship got better. (Shocking…I know – insert sarcasm here). The reality was on the weekend that she had left when I had the house spotless, the house was not as pleasant. I was hard on the kids to help me clean and maintain it being clean. That was probably one of the more miserable times I had with the kids by myself. You see, when Sarah is away a few times a year, I absolutely look forward to it because it means I get to hang out with my kids and have fun. And we have a blast. Except for that one weekend, because I was too busy trying to keep the house clean and proving a point to Sarah that it can be done.
The reality is, it can be done, keeping a perfectly clean house, but there is a cost. (tweet that)
The cost for Sarah and I is a relationship that has tension. And lets say that tension is a mood killer…if you know what I’m saying ;). I also realize that Sarah has a very tender heart and when I come into the house and start criticizing her it’s like running a bull dozer back and forth over her till she wilts. When I made the change it affected our whole home and also my marriage. With all this said, she does strive to have a clean home and she does care. We ended up coming to an agreement. I had expressed to her that the most important thing to me when I come home to decompress is to be able to have one clean area to come home to. For me that is the living room. I have a great comfy chair I love sitting in and talking to Sarah about my day. This way if her day has gone crazy, it doesn’t take long to tidy up just the one area before I walk in the door. We have been doing this for years and it has help us out incredibly.
For the husbands out there, I know it can be frustrating coming home and asking how come the house is a disaster. But if your wife loves you, loves your children and is raising them well, then know it is just a season. Because one day the laundry, the dishes, the messy table, the muddy shoes and the toys will all be gone. It will be just the two of you. If you have spent your years muddling in the contention of how clean the house needs to be then the only thing you will be left with when its just the two of you is a messy relationship. The irony of trading one mess for the other I hope will not be lost. Compromise and be thankful for the richness of a loving wife and home. The mess will pass.