My kitchen is a mess. There’s a “guest room” in my house that is really just a collecting place for random things that I haven’t taken the time to put away. The height of the weeds in my front yard is embarrassing.

I’ll get to these things eventually. I promise, my house won’t be condemned.

For today, I’m not worrying about those things because they don’t pass the rocking chair test.

You may have heard of this test before. If you have, you know I’m not talking about the beautiful rocking chair in the baby’s room.

No, I’m talking about the rocking chair that will be on my front porch 50 years from now. The one that I’ll sit in next to my husband on a crisp fall morning with a steaming cup of coffee, where we’ll reminisce about our lives together.

When we’re sitting on those rocking chairs, what are we going to remember? What will we talk about?

I guarantee you, I’m not going to say “You know, I wish I would have kept the house cleaner. If only I had cleaned more, we would have had better lives.”

Nope. As much as a messy house gets on my last nerve (and trust me, it does), it just doesn’t pass the rocking chair test.

When we’re sitting on those rocking chairs, I imagine our conversation full of remember whens.

“Remember when we got lost in Hawaii on a terrifying one-lane, sea cliff, dirt road?”

“Remember when we told our family that the baby was a girl?”

We’ll probably even remember some bad things . . . you know, those memories that were awful at the time but you laugh about now. Like the time our dog tore off his dewclaw, or when our baby had a blowout during skin-to-skin.

But I’m confident we’re not going to remember the monotony, the white noise, the stuff.

I’m going to remember running through the sprinkler with my kids, not the weeds growing in the background.

I’ll remember the food fights and the baby dumping yogurt all over her head, not painstakingly cleaning to always keep the kitchen spotless.

I’ll remember the road trips and the vacations, not the mess our half-packed luggage left in the guest room for weeks after we returned.

Hopefully, when we’re sitting in those rocking chairs, we’ll talk about a full and happy life that was lived to its greatest potential. So when I’m deciding between spending an hour pulling the weeds or playing with sidewalk chalk, you know I’m choosing the sidewalk chalk.

Someone once told me that you’re not raising a house, you’re raising a family.

The dishes can wait.

The weeds can grow.

You can shove the clutter into the guest room.

You’ll have all the time in the world to keep a spotless house with perfect curb appeal after your kids are grown.

The time with your kids can’t wait. They’re growing faster than those weeds out front.

So the next time you stress about the messy car or the never-ending laundry, stop and think about that rocking chair. Do these things pass your rocking chair test? If not, maybe they can wait just one more day.

You may also like:

A Mother is Made in the Mess

At the End of Your Life, This is What Will Matter to Your Children

There’s Proof of Life in Every Corner of Our Home

Alicia Betz

Alicia is a freelance writer and former teacher. She specializes in parenting, education, and pets. She has a bachelor's and master's in education and also runs a freelance writing business. You can usually find her hiking, working out, going to the movies, or writing with a napping toddler on her lap.