So my Monday morning started with a knock on the door.

I still had my hair up in a messy bun and no makeup on. I had felt sick the night before, so breakfast and the whole previous day’s dishes were all over the kitchen and table. I hadn’t picked up the living room either, so every surface, floor, chair, and table, were strewn with after-church effluvia and normal life mess. (Question: why does each kid’s Sunday School class feel the need to send home multiple papers per week?)

I opened the door to find…a federal agent.

He was a background check investigator in search of my husband. Nobody was in trouble, and it had nothing to do with homeschooling, and this kind of visit isn’t uncommon living in the greater DC area, because we constantly have friends and acquaintances who are changing jobs and upgrading their security clearances. But I felt super awkward. I would have preferred to open the door looking put-together, or better yet gorgeous, and showcasing a household obviously under control.

We had a nice chat, and he was perfectly professional. I closed the door, passed on the appropriate messages, and indulged in a little perspective.

First of all: we live here. It’s messy because we usually choose to do other things with our Sundays than clean obsessively. For religious and practical reasons, I think even Mom needs a day off once a week.

Second: We have dishes and food all over because we use the kitchen. I didn’t design this floor plan, and I can’t help that the kitchen opens to the front door. The counters weren’t full of pizza boxes and beer cans; we’ve been making and feeding our people real-ish food. If you cook, you make a mess. That’s actually a good sign. The kitchen was clean Saturday morning when nobody was around, and it will be clean again.

Third: The living room is full of shoes because our kids have been wearing good, seasonally-appropriate shoes. I don’t know why nobody picks up her shoes unless I make her, but that holds true for every kid ever, and apparently most of them learn eventually. Ditto for jackets. Nobody is going to be surprised. The bags and backpacks demonstrate that we’ve been going places and doing things.

Fourth: The piles on the tables are mostly piles of papers, books, and craft supplies, which are out because we’ve been reading and making stuff. Those dice are all over the corner because my four-year old, on her own initiative, sorted them by type and color and then counted their sides. That’s about as hands-on and real-life math as it gets.

Fifth: The agent appeared in the morning. We were halfway through our morning to-do list. We hadn’t gotten started on school yet, but we did get there. Everybody had appropriate clothes on for the visit and we were in the process of making beds. That’s one of my major goals for this year, actually—to teach the girls to make their beds properly. Half-made beds don’t show from the front door, but they’re a long-term investment. You’ve got to start somewhere.

All things considered, the agent got to see our family culture as it really is. Apparently, we value wearing clothes, eating food, doing chores in a daily and weekly rhythm, having books and craft supplies available, and learning to make beds. I got caught in the act…of doing pretty much what I should have been doing. It was fine.

That being said, my next major purchase is going to be a robot vacuum.


Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Following images courtesy of author.