What you need to know:
- At first, I always cleaned up immediately, putting back every toy where it belonged.
- With time, I have resorted to doing the same thing my aunt did a decade ago; tidying up in the evening.
I was in my early 20s when I went for my internship at a local media house. I was accommodated by an aunt whose children messed the house time and again. There were dolls, toys, and sticks strewn all over the house, which she would only clean up in the evening before going to bed.
What amazed me, even more, was how she seemed comfortable receiving guests even when the place was upside down. If someone had asked me to describe her then, verbs like ‘reckless, dirty, and lazy’ would have topped the list.
A decade later, I am the father of a six-year-old boy who runs my house down like the fires that keep razing our beloved Gikomba market. To contextualise this; my son is a footballer, loves collecting toy cars, and paints in his free time.
An hour of him in the house is a combination of a ball hitting surfaces and toppling things, strands of paint all over, and toys stationed in different locations of the house. It has been messy, especially these days when Coronavirus forced our children to stay indoors.
My aunt’s house
Every time I start cleaning up after what looks like the aftermath of a point seven hurricane, I remember my aunt’s house.
At first, I always cleaned up immediately, putting back every toy where it belonged, but then I would take my eyes off him for five minutes and come back to a new mess.
Things get messier whenever he brings a friend home, but then I let them free because of the joy of learning for children that age is tucked in playing.
With time, I have resorted to doing the same thing my aunt did a decade ago; tidying up in the evening. That way, we sleep and wake up to a neat house, albeit for a short period, as it goes back to chaos soon as he leaves the breakfast table.
I now fully understand the magnitude of my aunt’s troubles because she had three compared to my one. I judged her harshly as an onlooker, and would probably still have the same view if I had remained a bachelor.
From a man’s perspective, most of us never appreciate our women enough when it comes to taking care of babies. As it always happens, when the man of the house receives impromptu guests who find the house in chaos, he usually gets annoyed at his wife for not controlling the children enough.
It takes one to be left alone with the baby and have to clean up 17 times the same day to appreciate that keeping a sparkling house when the baby is at the prime of playing is not easy.
Messy is normal
And the phenomenon is not just tied to hygiene, it goes further to how patient one is in the wake of a child throwing tantrums. The innate motherly instincts tend to help women tolerate someone’s child who is wailing in public, but few men view it the same way.
Many of us get irritated at the mother for not acting swiftly to settle the child until you are thrown into the thick of things and a new world of patience and understanding is opened to you.
These days, if I go to the house of someone with a baby and find it looking like a crash site, I am never quick to judge that person. Children cause more damage to the house than desert locusts, and until they grow out of that stage, no amount of cleaning is enough to keep it spotless.
Six years of parenting from the front seat have changed a lot of the things I believed in. Fatherhood has made me aware that with children, messy is normal, and that’s just the way it is.
Working from home this year has made more fathers see that side of life they hardly experience, and I bet it has felt like culture shock for some.
They are probably not opening up about it, but a lot has been learnt. Ask for their confessions.