When Clint Edwards’ mom made an out-of-the-blue comment about the cleanliness of his house, at first he didn’t know what to say. It was no secret that his house was messy. But the issue wasn’t black and white. After a few moments of struggling to find the right words, he finally figured out what to say. His response not only left his mother speechless — it also shot him into viral fame.
Meet Clint, a dad of three — Tristen, 10, Norah, 7, and baby Aspen — with his wife of 14 years, Mel. He’s also the writer behind “No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog.” He started the blog as a way to figure out fatherhood as he went. He never thought his humble musings would turn him into a role model of sorts for fathers and husbands around the world. And it all began with one question. ADVERTISEMENT
Clint and Mel have been through a lot together in their more than a decade of marriage. They’ve pursued several degrees, moved across the country, and are raising three children he describes as “snarky, needy, wonderful and frustrating.” With kids constantly running around making messes, having meltdowns and needing to be cared for, there’s a lot going on in their house. Things can get a bit messy, and they don’t always have time to keep it all in order.
On top of writing his blog, Clint works as a student services coordinator at Oregon State University. Describing himself as a father and husband learning by trial and error, he does his best to provide for his family, keep them safe, happy, and healthy, and attend to his professional needs. He and his wife certainly have a lot on their plates each and every day. And it hasn’t been an easy journey for Clint.
Clint does the best that he can despite the fact that he doesn’t exactly have a male father figure to look up to. Edwards’ parents divorced when he was nine, and his dad was pretty much absent until he passed away when Clint was 19. He has written about how growing up he had quite a few stepparents, step-siblings, and all kinds of complicated family relations, but never another steady father-like figure. That’s not to say, though, that he didn’t have someone to look up to.
Clint was lucky to have a mom whom he remained close to throughout the years and who provided for her children the best that she could. She balanced having two jobs, working long hours, and staying up late to support her three children. Clint recalled that there was even a time when she taught him how to make pancakes over the phone while she was at work. There is a deep bond between the two of them, which is why a recent comment she made left him completely flabbergasted.
Clint and Mel do the very best that they can with the time and resources that they have, which is something all busy families can relate to. But one Saturday while he was doing some chores, he got into a seemingly average conversation with his mother over the phone. Clint was completely taken aback when his mother asked, “Doesn’t it bother you that Mel won’t keep a cleaner house?” He admitted that he didn’t initially know what to say and took a few minutes to process it all.
A lot was going through his head when asked that question. “I didn’t really know how to respond to my mother, so I floundered,” he wrote on his blog in a post that quickly went viral. “I believe my mother’s perception of our house really reflects the era she grew up in.” As part of the Baby Boomer generation, his mother was instilled with certain expectations about the cleanliness of houses — namely that it was the wife’s duty more than the husband’s. And thinking back on his childhood, Clint further understood why his mother put so much importance on the idea of a clean house.
Clint remembered that even his dad held these beliefs, once advising him that, when looking for a prospective spouse, he should “stop by her house unexpected. See how it looks in there. You can tell a lot about a woman by how she keeps her house.” His father would have been upset to see toys and crayons and clothes strewn all around the house, but for Clint, it was just part of their daily life. But it also reflected a much more important point that this situation was bringing to light for him.
Clint continued to do the dishes while he tried to think of a proper reply to his mother’s question. He knew his mom wasn’t trying to be mean, but that she was genuinely intrigued. “My mother didn’t say it in an antagonist way or anything. It was more out of curiosity,” he continued in the post. “She’d obviously noticed that our home wasn’t all that tidy.” Clint knew that as well, but his mom’s question made him realize his true priorities.
Clint acknowledged there was clutter in his house, but there were also young kids. “I will also admit, our house isn’t as clean as my mother’s home, but that doesn’t bother me,” he wrote. “In fact, I don’t really think about that at all.” Tidiness wasn’t a priority when he decided to spend the rest of his life with Mel. Other things were more important.
“I thought about how I liked what she had to say. I thought about how she made me feel,” he wrote about Mel. “I thought about how she smiled a lot. I liked that. I thought about how she was sweet and thoughtful, and how she seemed like the kind of mother I’d want for my children.” As those thoughts came to his mind, he finally knew what to say to his mom.
“I never really know what to say in moments like this,” Clint admitted in his blog post. “I didn’t get into this marriage for a clean house. I got into it because she seemed like someone I could spend my life with,” he finally told his mother. “I see our marriage as a partnership, so cleaning is as much my responsibility as it is hers,” he wrote later on. So how did his mom respond?
There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. His mom — who had spent her whole life bound by gender roles — was speechless, But eventually, she said, “Well… that probably is more important than a clean house.” And as Clint finished drying the dishes, he added, “Yeah, I think so too.” But what does Mel think?
This isn’t the first time the issue has come up for Clint. He wrote a piece for The Washington Post that, ironically enough, revealed he used to think it was his stay-at-home wife’s duty to make sure the house was in good shape. That is until she shared her side. “I’d rather not be that mom who ignores our kids, and myself, because I’m so busy worrying about what the neighbors might think of our messy house,” he quoted Mel as saying. Which prompted Clint to have a revelation.
“I realized that this was not her mess, but our mess, and I started pitching in more,” he wrote. “I stopped worrying about the house, and started paying attention to the development of our children,” he added. “I started to pay attention to how happy they were, and the kind of relationship they shared with their mother, and I noticed that we have a messy house, and really happy, bright kids.” And he’s not the only one who agrees.
His blog post was shared more than 6,000 times, with hundreds of comments from people who could relate to both sides of the situation. Many commended him for challenging traditional roles in marriage. While one thoughtful post isn’t going to undo years of sexism and closely-held beliefs, it shows that times are changing and that with them come changing roles. Life — much like houses — can be messy. But sometimes it’s totally worth it.