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This Mother's Day, I'm grateful for my mom's failure as a housekeeper

Our house might have been messy, but we had loving relationships and meaningful work. My mom was busy 'having it all': raising two kids and pursuing a career. She was modeling a liberated womanhood that has shaped me more than my shame about our unkempt dining room.

By Liz Logan / May 10, 2013

First lady Michelle Obama gestures during a surprise visit from Prince Harry at an event in honor of military mothers at the White House May 9. Op-ed contributor Liz Logan writes: 'Turns out, a messy house just might be the new feminist manifesto....If you have time to lean, you don’t have time to clean, my mom might say.'

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Brooklyn, N.Y.

I grew up in a messy house. It’s hard to write those words. But the fact is, I come from a “creative” family, and creativity comes with a lot of stuff.

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But lately, as I read various essays debating whether women can really “have it all,” I feel grateful that my mom was a failed housekeeper. I remember her explaining to me that while our family might not have a perfect house, we had the important things – loving relationships and meaningful work. My mom was busy “having it all”: raising two kids and pursuing a successful second career as an artist. She knew what “it all” meant to her.

So this Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mom, Gloria Blasz Logan, for her messy house and the lessons she taught me about being a woman.

My dad, like his dad, is an obsessive collector – Hawaiian shirts, watches, books, poetry journals, ugly Christmas sweaters (not kidding), you name it. An introverted writer like me, he read endless piles of newspapers and magazines, turning them into hundreds of tiny clippings that covered the dining room table.

He never met a yard sale or a used bookstore that he didn’t like. And he wasn’t selfish in his shopping proclivities: For us kids, he filled an entire room of the house with toys. We called it “the toy room,” and it remained full long after we outgrew play dates.

My dad wasn’t a hoarder, but he accumulated far more than he ever threw away, and he didn’t like people messing with his stuff. If my mom hired someone to clean the house, it was an invitation to a standoff. A professional painter, gregarious volunteer, and voracious reader, she wasn’t as much of a collector, but she had never been a neatnik. If she disliked cleaning to begin with, my dad’s habits made her truly hate it.

Having a beautiful house just wasn’t important to my parents. And while their cluttered, bourgeois-bohemian lifestyle sounds cool now, it didn’t feel that way when I was living under their roof. My classmates at private school lived in houses that were pristine. I rarely brought friends over, and my parents, who were equally self-conscious, sometimes even discouraged it.

Not being able to bring a friend home from school like a “normal” kid was painful at times. But looking back, I see my mother was modeling liberated womanhood in a way that has shaped me much more than my shame about our unkempt dining room.

Turns out, a messy house just might be the new feminist manifesto.

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