What you say hurts as much as how you say it

At least the outside of my house is inviting

It would probably be safe to eat off her bathroom floor. Actually, her house is so clean that it would probably be safe to eat out of her toilet bowls. I don’t know how she does it all, seriously. There are active children in her house, large animals and a husband. Meals are always prepared, beds are always made and the carpet always seems to have fresh vacuum tracks.


Besides the clean and organized house, she still manages to spend time with her kids and run not one, but three businesses. Three. One of which is cleaning houses.

At my house, it’s a good day if the beds get made before DW gets home from work. It’s a great day if I’m not having to wash a dish out of the piled up sink to serve dinner. And I don’t work, outside the home or otherwise. Not really anyway. Everything feels like a balancing act: parenting, volunteering, writing, music, housekeeping, cooking. If I want to do one thing really well, then something else inevitably falls through the cracks. Something else suffers and has to take a back seat, especially in the summer, and most of the time, it’s the housekeeping. Mostly because I would rather write or watch movies in the afternoon with my children than mop a floor.

One evening, over drinks with girlfriends, I heard that this friend was possibly looking to add another house to clean.

“Hey,” I half-joked, “I know a house you could clean.”

Without hesitation, she responded, “I don’t clean houses for stay-at-home moms”.

They should be able to handle it themselves.


All self-doubts about my housekeeping abilities were confirmed. I was not able to handle it myself. How embarrassing that I was a failure.

For weeks afterward, I tried to get up earlier and stay up later to try and keep on top of the laundry and the cleaning, but burning the candle on both ends wore me out, made me more irritable and less willing to build forts with the kids or bake cookies on a whim. Suddenly I worried about digging through the craft bins to find the perfect pink beads or dumping out the Barbie box to find a favorite pair of high-heeled shoes. I had no desire to litter the floor with hair accessories playing beauty shop. Spontaneity was lost and replaced with calculated clean-ups and reorganization.

Finally, I just had to let it go, and admit to myself that I was not secretly Martha Stewart or June Cleaver. Nor did I want to be.

So here I sit, happily writing this post, breakfast dishes still in my sink. The girls are playing on the slip-n-slide outside, dog toys are strewn all through the house, and remnants of multiple sleep overs speckle the family room and the play room. I will get to the big picture later, but at least one of my bathrooms is clean.

Today’s post was inspired by the following prompt: 5.) Share something mean someone said to you once, why has it stuck with you after all these years?

Every week you’re invited to join Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop by responding to one of the provided writing prompts posted each Tuesday. To view more detailed instructions on how this weekly meme works, check out the Writer’s Workshop FAQs. 

14 thoughts on “What you say hurts as much as how you say it

  1. Whewwww what a relief to know I’m not the only one who does not have housekeeping skills and would rather write than cook and clean. Thanks for making me feel better about my situation. I too feel bad and guilty and do not like drop in company but at least I can know I’m not alone.

  2. I don’t think it matters how your friend meant it, well it does, but sometimes how we take it has greater impact with ourselves. Only ourselves to blame but words do stick with you. It’s frustrating trying to deal with and live up to other people’s supposed perfections and incredibly difficult and painful squaring up to our reality and presumed shortcomings and failures. 🙂

  3. My sisters have BEAUTIFUL homes and are amazing cleaners and mothers. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m just sloppier and less organized than they are. Plain and simple. My house is clean…enough, but definitely not sparkling the way I would love. It’s definitely something I want to improve about myself, but if I had the money I’d love to pay someone to help me. I can see how your friend might not want to clean homes for stay at home moms if her perspective is that they’re just being lazy about it, but I think if she saw cleaning as a skill that some people lack as opposed to a choice they’re making to neglect their household duties, perhaps she’d have a change of heart. Some of us would love just a LITTLE bit of help staying on top of things. I literally learn from my sisters, “so you clean the TOP of your refrigerator!?!” Some things just never crossed my mind! I need a coach!

    1. This one made me laugh! I haven’t seen the top of the refrigerator in years! OMG. You are right…some things just never occur to me. And my tendency when they are pointed out to me are to go on the defensive and feel inadequate. My skill has NEVER been cleaning. I remember one time sitting in a therapy group listening to someone talk about cleaning her baseboards weekly. I thought, “People actually do that?” LOL

  4. STUNNED — I’ll say! Stunned and hurt to find out via your blog that something I said at least 18 months ago upset you and stunned that the number of times I’ve seen since you’ve said nothing at all to me about this, but instead chose to address it in your blog, which you know that I read. You’re recollection of this conversation is different than mine. I recalll saying, “I don’t clean for stay-at-home moms”. That’s it. My response was directed toward stay-at-home moms in general, not Emily Wilson, stay-at-home mom and I certainly wasn’t nor have I ever judged you. I appreciate that you defended me against you readers, it’s crazy that they feel they can offer their opinion about someone they don’t even know, but as my dad says, “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one!” My tombstone will say, “enjoyed every moment with her kids and her friends, the good, the bad and the ugly”. BTW I’m lucky if I am able to vaccuum once a week — lately it’s been an every-other-week event, I strongly advise against eating off my toilets or my floors, unless you like dog hair, I’m about as far away from Martha Stewart and June Cleaver as you can get and prepared meals at my house are hot dogs, tacos and frozen pizza!

  5. I have never been able to be a “Suzy Homemaker” and always thought I was less of a woman because of it. I tend to be a procrastinator. I can find almost anything to do before I would think to clean house. I actually never noticed until small messes became piles. My inability to do more made me more insecure than I was already. I was always afraid to have anyone come to my house because they would judge me and find me at fault. I’ve always liked a clean house but the feeling of inadequacy and being overwhelmed was stronger. Bravo for realizing you have other strengths and talents and don’t have to compete with your ‘friend’. Trying to be something we are not, and increasing our stress levels is not healthy. Thank goodness after 42 years of marriage I have picked up a little more of my husbands neatness and he has learned to ignore some of the messes.

  6. On her tombstone it will say “She had 3 jobs AND a clean house”. On yours it will say,”She was always there for her children and family.” (Plus having kind words for strangers) 😉

    1. If she wasn’t my friend, I would probably say the same – BUT – I know her and know that she is very involved with her kids. She is just one of those rare people that can manage everything really well and seems surprised that not everyone else can too. There will always be days I wish I was even a little bit more like her – I simply just don’t have the discipline.

  7. I confess my attitude is much the same. I’m only really responsible for just my room, but it’s always a tip because I’d rather be reading, on YouTube, or writing. My priority is not having a spotless room. As long as I can have a corner to film in where I won’t look like I live in a pigsty, I’m happy. But many of my friends are horrified by the state of the place.

  8. Wow. That was an amazing POV from that woman. I have a friend who is very organized and has a lovely, straight home. She works part time at a spa and also cleans house for me — i pay her very well. I would like to have her every week (and she would like the $) but that’s just not an option right now. My mother always kept things straight and recently when my parents were visiting, my mother went off (in an appropriately passive aggressive away to my friend about my housekeeping skill. My friend responded, “I have kept my house spotless for all these years, but honestly what was it all for? No one appreciates it but me.” The summer is the worst for trying to keep straight with kids home. I do what I can in the morning and then go crazy an hour before dad gets home. That’s it.

  9. STUNNED! I am telling you! STUNNED! Did you ever address it with her? Judgie-wudgie was a bear (a la Stanford from SATC) and was in need of a drink or a sugary snack or SOMETHING. Sorry, something is falling through the cracks on her end other than her grasp of the filter in your brain that keeps you from putting her foot in her mouth.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s