Naomi Wood's room

I Will Not Never Tidy Up Any More by Naomi Wood

We live in a small house in Norwich. Since having a baby five months ago, and my Maternity Leave meaning I’m at home a lot, I’ve been thinking lots about mess.


That I live in a messy house bothers people. I can see that when they come to visit. I watch them react to the mess, then I watch them put their feelings away. They are telling themselves to forgive me. They say to themselves: ‘She has a newborn and a toddler.’ She; not they. I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking these things about my partner. I do the same to other women and their houses.


When I clean up it makes me feel better. I like being in the house when it looks shipshape. Some sort of happy hormone is released when I see that all my daughter’s stuff is put away. When all the baby’s things are in the right place at the changing table. When the dishes from two nights ago are cleaned and back in the cupboards.


But I’m pretty sure if I tidied the house every day I wouldn’t do any reading or writing. Not that I’m getting very much of these things done. After all, the nights have only just stopped being battlegrounds, when it felt as if I was going to war with an enemy of unknown power.


But when the baby does nap I am faced with the question of how I want to use that time. I am well aware that if I tidied up I might feel less embarrassed about the state of the house. Sometimes this embarrassment tips into shame.


My reaction is gendered: I’m pretty sure Ed does not feel or think about this mess as much as I do. Anyway, Ed goes to work every day. He doesn’t have this domesticated life like I do right now, dwelling amongst stuffed dragons, food crusted on the floor, jackets strewn; my living-room a shipwreck.


This may seem like a small issue. But many of my friends – especially when they go on Maternity Leave, or when they become fulltime mums – start becoming chambermaids in their own homes. They put aside their own desires and hobbies and work and pleasures so that they will not feel embarrassed. I even felt embarrassed writing this blog. Would people think I had a disgusting home?  (It’s not. I clean enough that my hands are chapped from two loads of laundry every day.)


But that question. What to do with my free time. Read or clean. I don’t want to answer it every day with housework. I did not finish my third novel in between two kids by being house-proud. As my pal Lily from Peter Rabbit says: I know that for a fact. If women want to do other things instead of keeping a tidy home, then let them build their palaces elsewhere. And if we do put one thing away, let it be our judgement.


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