You know how kids will sometimes say something wrong but it's so cute and funny that you are like "Please don't ever learn the proper way to say that?" Brixton has a book he often asks for at bedtime that involves dogs cleaning up the kitchen until it was "clean as a whistle." But for some reason in his head he decided that what they do is make it "clean as a weasel." So now Chris and I say that all the time, as a kind of short hand for that state of sort-of-clean-as-much-as-can-be-expected-given-small-children-live-here.
Which is to say we have a certain idea of adequate abatement of squalor that we strive towards, fighting the tide of school projects and glitter and half-eaten crackers and tiny sharp Lego pieces and sticker-covered crumpled treasures and jam.
It's funny because even given all that, I think my standards are higher than they were before I had kids. Cause when I was in my 20s, I was a total slob. I was the roommate who left my dishes in the sink for days, and my stuff all over the floor of the common room and barely did my chore. I was the roommate who people secretly simmered at while I lay around reading and not noticing the mess. I really just didn't see it and didn't really see the point of noticing or caring about it.
This is part of why I never lived with a romantic partner until I was five months pregnant. I knew the kinds of fights and discussions I had with my roommates and I wanted to keep that away from the lovey-dovey stuff. Not that I didn't get along with my roommates, some of my greatest friendships grew out of roommate situations, despite our differences.
It all changed when I moved in with Chris, who is the kind of person that values order and routine. And in that way that you do things for your partner that you don't care much about yourself (like watch their movies and listen to their music and go to their events and etc etc etc), I started doing things like making the bed. I still wasn't the cleanest person on the block by any means, but I knew it made a difference to him and it took just a few minutes, so a new habit was formed.
Things stayed in this step-up-from slovenly state until I left my part-time job to be a stay-at home mom. At that point, I figured I had more time than Chris to devote to homekeeping stuff* and that it was part of my new job description, so I started doing my regular cleaning. I found myself feeling satisfied when things looked nice, a sense of accomplishment. Before too long I was the one feeling frustrated if there were toys all over the place or crusty stuff dried on the table, which I'm sure would amaze my former roommates. But change comes to all of us, especially as our circumstances mold us. Even messy defiant punk girls can learn to pick up a little.
Now, if you come over you will still see toys all over the place. There will be crumbs and knitting and books on the tables and dust on the picture frames. But an effort is being made. And I find myself enjoying things like reorganizing my kitchen to make it more user-friends.
*Homekeeping stuff. I am aware of the gendered nature of my current arrangement and how, in some ways, my life is more of a gender stereotype than it used to be. Chris and I have had some good discussions about this, and how it's both so much bigger than us and so personal at the same time. We have discussions about why there aren't more women in engineering fields, and why our society pays some professions so much more than those in the "helping" professions and the cost of childcare and different expectations for parents based on gender and all that. Plus,when he is home he is a rock star with both the kids and the chores so it does feel like we have a good balance going for us, for now. Which is all we can ask for.