When my husband saw Tidying Up With Marie Kondo in the “Everybody’s Watching” category of Netflix, we decided that we needed to watch it, too. Obviously. We once owned her book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, but admittedly neither of us ever so much as cracked the spine, and I eventually got rid of it (ironically) during an effort to declutter. The first episode of Tidying Up features a young couple, Rachel and Kevin Friend, and their two toddlers. The Friends explain that the busyness of raising two kids (Rachel) and spending 50-60 hours at work (Kevin) have resulted in a cluttered house and inability to keep up with household tasks; symptoms which in turn are affecting their relationship. They discuss this with Marie Kondo and her assistant/translator as children cry out for "boobie" and Rachel trips over a pile of clothing, and, watching it all go down sitting next to my husband, I immediately felt that they were us.
As this family struggled through the mundane aspects of their home life, I should have felt inspired by Marie's belief that her folding methodology would bring more joy to their lives, but instead I felt triggered. The show hit home a little too hard on the issues my husband and I struggle with, some of which we talk about often and some of which we purposefully bury. Instead of being a fun show for us to watch together, it held up a mirror for us to look at our own chaotic, Etsy-accessorized lives and it was uncomfortable.
From the start, I identified with the mom, Rachel. She was loud and fun and admitted that her husband was far more neat than she was, that she hated laundry and had no problem letting her clothes (including a top that reads SQUAD GOALS and another than says "put a smile on your face") pile up. She wasn’t living an episode of Hoarders, she didn’t have 300 cats, she was just a mom with two young kids doing the best she could to keep her shit together.
In between moments with Marie going through their home, we get scenes of the children clinging to Rachel's legs while she attempts to clean their snack dishes and I couldn’t help but feel her pain. Being home with a 2-year-old all day, my house is constantly in a state of disarray. There are always dishes in the sink, there may be stuck-on food left in the cast iron skillet from the night before (I at least put the lid on), and my “desk” is covered in a pile of Christmas cards and discarded arts and crafts projects. I live in an almost constant state of anxiety about the clutter and disorganization of my home, but I can never find the time or energy to do much about it. I go through cycles of my motto being “Its OK! The dishes can wait — your son is only young once, embrace the chaos!” to times when my internal monologue is “plop that bub onto the couch with some Paw Patrol and mop the floors, you slob.”
As I watched this young mom tearfully sharing that she wants to do better, but doesn’t know how, I felt as though Marie and her team had stolen the script for the episode from my innermost thoughts and cast this peppy mom to play me.
As I watched this couple argue about laundry, I felt my stomach sink as I thought about the number of conversations my husband and I have had about how to manage our household chores.
I have never been a super-organized person, but having a child has definitely made me more aware of my deficits. Prior to having our son, my husband and I both worked. He worked in retail and had strange hours and I was a teacher, working 8-4. My husband did most of the cooking and thus a lot of the grocery shopping and honestly, a fair amount of cleaning too. Once we had our son, he switched to a more stable job with typical 9-5 hours and I chose to leave my teaching career to stay home with our son, taking a job doing data entry from home. When my husband's hours changed and his job became more demanding, we started to fall into a traditional gender-role dynamic that, quite frankly, I was not prepared for. Being home all day with our son, the day-to-day aspects of managing our home fell on my shoulders. As my son has gotten older and whittled his way down to one, somewhat unpredictable afternoon nap, my ability to juggle the demands of my work, keep our house clean, and squeeze in a shower has fast been overcome.
As I watched this couple argue about laundry, I felt my stomach sink as I thought about the number of conversations my husband and I have had about how to manage our household chores. We’ve tried a chore schedule/chore chart, we’ve tried to assign tasks between the two of us and any plan we come up with sticks for about a week before we’re right back to where we started. I’m not sure how we got here, but somehow I became the one responsible for the cooking and cleaning when, quite frankly, I suck at both.
Line after line coming out of this couples mouths were things my husband and I have said to each other at some point.
The scene that made me feel angriest was one where the couple explained that they outsource their laundry. The episode cuts to the Friends sitting at the table talking about their laundry service. Rachel explains her constant state of overwhelm: “So I think to myself, what’s an easy resolution? If we don’t have time then maybe we can pay somebody to do these things and that way we have more time.” To which Kevin replies, “We are perfectly capable of doing these things.” (Who is "we," Kevin?!!)
In my mind I thought, “Well sir, if you were capable of doing them, then why weren’t they getting done? Obviously your wife was having trouble getting them done, if you feel so strongly about not paying someone to do your laundry, then why aren’t you doing it?" Could it be that he expects his wife to be the one doing these things? Could it be that I am just projecting my own anger about the gender stereotypes at play currently in my own home? It’s anyone’s guess.
But line after line coming out of this couples mouths were things my husband and I have said to each other at some point or, worse, things I know we have at least thought, but did not have the courage to say out loud. As I lay there next to my husband, watching this couple live out a story so similar to our own, I got through half the episode and asked if we could switch to The Office. It was too heavy of a subject to be getting into before bed.
We probably should have finished the episode then, because I am sure Marie helps them organize their house and there is a happy ending (Spoiler: he discovers their wedding photos in the garage and realizes how lucky he is to have her. YES YOU ARE, KEVIN.). But leaving this couple’s story unfinished for us, allowed us to sit with the discomfort it caused, and forced us to face our issues instead of continuing to pretend they don’t exist.
Even though I felt all the feels watching this couple’s struggle, it also made me feel less alone in the chaos. Raising tiny humans in an isolated nuclear family the way we do is incredibly difficult — that is the true issue, not the way this couple folds their kids' tiny jeans, and whether or not they use a laundry service. It was refreshing to see this couple and know that we are not the only ones stumbling through this season of life. We all struggle, and luckily, Marie is here to show us how to organize our komono and spark some joy... CHING!
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.