Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

The Day I Sniffed My Kids’ Underwear

sniffIt happened innocently enough. I was crouched down on my laundry room floor sorting whites from darks, tossing delicates in a pile, and isolating jeans from towels. It’s become routine. Yank the clothes out of the dryer, pull the wet clothes out of the washing machine, and snake them around to the dryer. Stuff dirties into the wash. Add detergent, push start, and repeat.

[Enter that fateful day.]

I was hustling about trying to get my boys’ baseball uniforms cleaned and ready for another busy weekend of games. Three sets of uniforms including three sets of “cunders” (cup + underwear = cunders). As a family we own multiple sets of cunders which often stack up in the pile of whites ready to be bleached and washed on the sanitize setting. For some reason, on this particular day, my laundry system crumbled beneath me, and I was left unsure as to whether the cunders were clean or dirty.

Now some of you may think, Why wouldn’t she simply re-wash them to avoid any guessing games? A good point, assuming I had the time to re-wash them. I was out of time but unwilling to let them wear stinky cunders to practice. Every mother knows her child must be in clean underwear at all times. What happens if they have to go to the hospital?! Heaven forbid they have dirty underwear at the hospital!! Clean underwear = good mom. Period.

So, I timidly brought them towards my nose, avoiding the crotch area, and took a deep whiff…. Dirty! WHAT?!? How did this happen? Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty sweet laundry “system” that is supposed to prevent incidents like this. How did I fall victim to dirty cunders on game day?

[Welcome to a free viewing of the voices in my head….]

“You are a failure.”

“If you were a good mom, you’d have had these washed DAYS ago, AND you’d have had them laid out on their beds the night before the game.”

“Mom ABC from church would NEVER have this problem.”

“If you were more on top of things, this wouldn’t happen.”

“You’re too selfish. Less time reading your book = better care of your family.”

“Your family deserves better than you.”

“If you would have trained your kids to take care of this for themselves….”


I tell myself to breathe deeply (sans cunders), laugh, and pray my kids don’t walk in to witness my nose stuffed into the stinky crevices of their underwear.

Now, let’s talk for a minute about reality.

First and foremost, systems, however wonderful and helpful they may be, will at some point fall apart. As in crumble into ashes, akin to the fall of Rome. Systems are meant to make things easier and more simple. They aren’t perfect. A broken system does not equal a broken woman.

Have you ever looked around your house and thought, How did this happen? My home was virtually spotless yesterday and today it looks as though we live in a barn! I have, and unfortunately, the temptation to self loathe quickly follows. However, after running a home for the past 14 years, I’ve started to separate how I feel about myself from the circumstances in front of me.

Let’s face it – a good percentage of the time, we’re fighting an uphill battle. A few kids, pets, messy weather, schedules, crazy weekends, an unexpected illness, and our systems go out the window. Poof! The critical point becomes when we start to form our self image based on how well our systems, or lack thereof, are working.

Momma, it’s time to start looking at these instances through a lens of reality. Even when we hit rock bottom, perhaps sniffing our kids’ underwear to determine cleanliness, we are still good mamas. When our kitchens pile up with dishes despite the fact that we most certainly implemented the latest Pinterest cleaning schedule, we are still worthy of our calling.

I offer a challenge. The next time you face a seemingly glaring failure in your “mommy-ing,” call a friend. Tell her how you absolutely, positively, and entirely failed, and ask her to share her most recent failure with you. Laugh, chuckle, and potentially gag (if cunders are involved), and talk about your plans to resurrect your system. Ask her to share some tips she’s figured out along the road. In other words, reboot. Love yourself enough to offer yourself the same grace you’d extend to your bestie.

Let’s support one another in our successes and our failures. Let’s stop pretending we’re failure-proof. Let’s spur one another on to better days but be quick to lend an ear when someone needs to share her dirty laundry… pun intended.

What has been one of your most recent mommy failures? How did you respond – love or loathe?

, , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to The Day I Sniffed My Kids’ Underwear

  1. Jody September 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    So… I’m even more thankful that I have no boys. 🙂
    I love your brutal honesty tempered with humor.
    I look around my house on most days and feel like a failure. Heck, I look at our self-teaching/unschooling and wonder why I can’t be the mom who plans curriculum and sits with her children all day, instructing them.
    But it’s just not in me to do that.
    I’ve found that if I avoid FB and IG during the morning hours I feel better about what I do. Or don’t do, as the case usually is.

  2. Jen P September 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    Just recently started following the blog and this article has hooked me. SOOO funny and we’ve all felt the mom failures and heard those voices in our head. Nice to know we’re all in it together (and i’m not just crazy!).


    • Marti Skow September 17, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      Thanks Jen! I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 We all have our “glory” days as well as our days in the dumps. Glad I could make you smile 🙂

  3. Julie Johnson September 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    You simply just made my day! I had a moment last night that included some tears talking with Austin about how I am such a funk that I can’t keep caught up on the everyday things in life! All because I couldn’t get the things done I want/need to get done day to day!!! I feel like my house has to be in perfect order and heaven for bid if their are dirty socks on the floor versus the laundry bin! This is exactly what I needed today! Thank you!

    • Marti Skow September 17, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Julie…isn’t it funny how we seem to think we’re the ONLY ones who don’t have it “all together all the time.” What a farce! We live in a brutally fast paced world faced with completely unrealistic expectations. I try to think back on my childhood regularly and focus on what I remember most about living at home. I guarantee you it has nothing to do with dirty socks laying around on the floor. Quite the opposite. I remember wrestling around with my dad, my mom washing my hair in the sink and the ever so tight french braid. I remember jumping in leaf piles in the fall and my mom scratching my back every single night for “just one more minute.”

      I find that if I stay focused on the things that really do matter, the day to day grind doesn’t seem to bother me as much when it gets overwhelming. I also have discovered, for myself, that buying into the Pinterest Perfect lie is a sure death of happiness and contentment. If I talk with real people who have real laundry, vs. checking out what “Blogger ABC” says is the perfect way to get laundry done, I realize how much more normal my life truly is. Chances are “Blogger ABC’s” laundry room was a mess the second the photo shoot was over (just ask her bestie)!! In short, real friendships and real relationships have yielded more joy in my life than any website ever could…

  4. erica September 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Oh how hilariously true! I remember watching my mother-in-law fold our laundry after one of our babies was born. All of a sudden she sniffed MY underwear. WTH?! I guess as a mother of 4 boys herself, she always had to use the sniff test to be sure it was clean!

  5. Angela Squires
    Angela Squires September 19, 2014 at 3:07 am #

    My most recent mommy failure? Probably that we’ve eaten about as many meals out lately as I’ve cooked. And that my kitchen counter is almost always piled with mail–and the girls’ bedroom with toys and clothes… which leads to sniff testing….

Leave a Reply