On Being “Okay” with Unkempt


Messy kids, unkempt husband= happy heart.

As another school year is upon us, and as the annual “ice cream social” at our local elementary school looms, I reflect upon the last couple weeks of academia past. Maybe summer vacation wasn’t that bad afterall…

“Please God, let the kids at least be *almost* ready for bed when I get home. Please just let them be in their PJs Lord? And Lord, give me grace if they aren’t…”

Inhale. Exhale. Deep breathsEven the fields aren't in order..

((Mom enters))

As I survey the situation, the yard, the house, the kitchen, the kids, the dog, the husband. One uncomfortable word comes to mind: unkempt.

“…not neat or orderly : messy or untidy, not combed <unkempt hair>, deficient in order or neatness <unkempt individuals> <unkempt hotel rooms>; also : rough, unpolished <unkempt prose>” 

It’s a quarter past eight when I arrive home with my teenager from her high-school choir concert.

My four younger children are not remotely ready for bed, still in the clothes of the day, now sullied by the obligatory late day playing outside. No showers have been taken or baths given. Dinner leftovers are on the table, sitting out, uncovered.

“I just got home not too long ago. We have to get the planter up and running.” – says my husband. My pissed-offedness abates when I go to my room and shut the door. I am married to a farmer. He has to get the corn in the ground (or hay off the field, or the cows milked, or the calf fed, or the barn cleaned, etc.,) These are integral steps in our dairy operation and feed program.

Unkempt Boy in Tractor
Tractor Nap

Mother Nature does not care if I want my husband home by 6.

In the spring, when the ground temperature is right, the seed must get in the ground, all 200 acres of corn ground, and as fast as damn possible. In summer, we make hay when the sun shines, literally. In the fall, we harvest and plow.

My wifely-wishes take second tier, or third. It’s taken me 13 years as a farmer’s wife to get to this place, but I’m settling into this new-ish perspective I’ve found and it feels pretty good. I think every family has sacrifices that have to be made, whatever the profession of the parent or parents.

We all have walls that cannot be moved. I simply decided to stop pushing against the 2 foot thick, re-bar reinforced wall of truth that farming and Mother Nature do not move, or wait for me to get my panties un-bunched.

My efforts to thwart Mother Nature are fruitless.

What immovable walls are you trying to dislodge? Mandatory overtime? The graveyard shift? A daycare schedule? A visitation schedule? Being on call? Business trips? Tours of duty? A diagnosis?

More breathing.

My unkempt kids, house, yard and husband don’t care that I’m channeling everything I have to stave off a panic attack and rage at the unkempt.

Inhale. Exhale.

Tomorrow when I deal with attitude from five, (four non-bathed), too-tired kids and usher them to eat cereal, brush hair and catch buses, I will let it go. The teachers will understand. CPS will not be called. It’s ok. It’s going to be ok. I’m okay with unkempt. 

Dirty dog, dirty tractor.And not just today. I’m okay with unkempt on the reg.

I’ve been seasoned with the salt of motherhood, (17 years worth), and a reality and sense of self that no longer cares what the “others” might think.

So what if they come upon one of my dirty-kneed, rabble-roused, messy-haired children? So what. My child’s un-brushed teeth or un-coifféd hair does not a bad parent make. Oh, I’m sorry, do they look like they just rolled out of bed? They did.

After five kids, 13 years of marriage and (mostly), for my own sanity’s sake, I refuse to scrub the “reality” off my kids before a jaunt in public, for the comfort of others.

Though my expectations have be brought in check on occasion, as the years roll on, perhaps slightly less frequently. Perspective (and red wine) have helped me. So here we are, world. Unkempt. And ok.


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