I’m not known for a clean house.

The mismatched furniture is covered in sticky fingerprints and crayon marks. The carpet has more spots than all 101 Dalmatians combined. Luckily, you can’t see any of that under the fine layer of baby socks and hot wheels which cover every inch of our living room.

Despite having a high tolerance for a certain level of mess, I’ve spent the last few days scrubbing every inch of our house. If there is a corner or cubby that can hold junk – which in my house is almost certain – I have dumped out, sorted, and scrubbed the contents.

Family and friends keep chuckling when I tell them that I’ve spent the last eight hours organizing my closet and sending my kids under the bed to retrieve items I can no longer reach. “Oh, you must really be nesting now. Baby coming soon?” They laugh and smile knowingly.

I know they are right. This is obviously a hormonal, primal urge that has overtaken me. I haven’t cared for the last 18 months that my kitchen utensil drawer was disorganized (and let’s be honest, slightly sticky). But now every crumb, every mismatched sock, every broken toy is driving me insane.

Nesting during my first pregnancy was fairly straightforward. I bought a bunch of stuff, then washed it and sorted it into some organizational system that fell apart immediately after I brought the baby home.

During my second pregnancy, I spent weeks obsessing about the baseboards. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to clean them after the baby came. But I couldn’t bend down far enough to vacuum and wash them. The scuff marks and spaghetti sauce droppings mocked me every time I got a glimpse.

“You will never be ready in time for baby,” they seemed to say. “How can you expect to handle two when your house is this dirty with one? You know you won’t have time to clean me after baby comes. Much less do anything you want to do.”

Everyone cleans a bit more when someone is coming over to their house for the first time. It’s a mark of hospitality – “I care so much about you that you shouldn’t have to sit on a couch covered in graham cracker crumbs.” (Or perhaps, “I care enough about your opinion of me that I don’t want you to know my couch is typically covered in graham cracker crumbs.”)

I clean because I want my company to think my house looks perfect. And because I want to think everything actually is perfect.

I want some semblance of order to reassure myself that I will actually be able to handle three kids under five. I convince myself that if I can just get every last toy sorted into the correct toy box, that might actually happen. Whenever visitors come over, I try to trick them into thinking I am a competent, organized person. I’m just hoping I can pull the same trick on this new baby.

My second was born a month early, before I ever got around to cleaning those baseboards I had been so worried about. And I was right – after he was here, I never did get around to cleaning them. Free time was too precious, and there was no way I was going to waste it on my hands and knees scrubbing rogue Sharpie marks.

But as soon as I brought him home, I didn’t give them a second thought. They faded back into the backdrop. I didn’t worry so much about the mess, or what it said about me. Because my baby wasn’t company coming over for a visit. Baby is family, and family loves you even when your baseboards are dirty.

Jackie Semmens

Jackie Semmens is a writer by nature and a mother by nature. She has two boys and is willing to chase them all over the hills of Montana in order to get them to nap.