It's Ok To Have A Clean House
“Don’t mind the mess, my children are making memories.”
“I’m a stay at home mom, not a stay at home housekeeper.”
“Your kids won’t remember the dishes in the sink, but they will remember you playing with them.”
Who hasn’t seen one of these messages? They’re everywhere, or maybe they just appear to be because I’m a mother and I notice them more frequently. I’ve found them on decorative signs on Etsy, shirts in WalMart, and articles on Facebook. It seems that society has finally begun to push back against the idea of perfection in motherhood. We’re questioning whether our expectations are realistic. We’ve realized that assuming moms should keep the house perfectly clean while balancing all their other responsibilities is asking far too much. Instead, we’ve begun to emphasize spending time with our children, and that is a good, good thing.
But I wonder whether we haven’t taken it a little too far. In our attempt to lift the burden of tidiness from mothers’ sagging shoulders, have we created an altogether different problem? I’ve begun to notice a growing sentiment that a good mother spends time playing with her children, and only playing with her children. Washing dishes or folding laundry is time that could’ve been spent playing dress up or building train tracks. We tally up the summers, the weekends, the days remaining until our little birds turn eighteen and take flight, and we resolve to hoard them like the toddler who hates sharing her Cheerios.
And if, by some miracle, your house does happen to be clean, that must mean that you sacrificed something very serious indeed. You made the grievous error of not focusing solely on your kids. What were they doing while you were scrubbing out the toilet? Probably sticking their fingers in outlets and eating Tide Pods. Either that, or they were looking forlornly at their toys, wondering what to do with them.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: your kids will survive if you take the time to clean your house. And, no, I’m not talking about toiling like Cinderella all day, genuinely ignoring them. What I mean is that it’s ok to value order in your home. Taking a few minutes here and there to mop the days’ worth of apple juice and mac and cheese sauce from your kitchen floor is a good thing. Not only will your feet be a whole lot cleaner, your home will feel less chaotic.
And yes, your kids will remember that you took the time to empty the trash bins and scoop the litter box, and they won’t hate you for it. I grew up in a house where my mother rarely, if ever, did any household chores. She was always busy with something more important, and that wasn’t usually playing with her kids either. The rest of my family tried valiantly to pick up the slack, but how could we when there was no example set for us? Growing up, I was profoundly embarrassed by the state of my home, and I usually just avoided letting anyone see it.
Of course, moms aren’t the only people that make up a household, and they shouldn’t be the only ones tasked with its upkeep. Maybe you and your husband both work hard outside the home, or maybe he is the stay at home parent. Maybe you have an altogether different family situation. No matter what that looks like, find a division of labor that works for you.
Now, before you go on thinking that my house always looks like Queen Elizabeth is about to pop by for high tea, let me stop you right there. There are almost always dishes in my sink, because I don’t have a dishwasher and putting them on the floor is apparently frowned upon. My laundry baskets often threaten to overflow, because toddlers. I could go on, but the point is that my house is not always perfectly clean, and I’m not trying to say that it even should be. But a general sense of organization is good for everyone.
Besides, your worth as a parent is not tied to the cleanliness of your house. Sometimes you really do need to leave the dishes in the sink and take the kids to the park, and that’s ok. And sometimes you just have to scrub the splattered coffee from the kitchen backsplash. Instead of glorifying the mess, let’s lift up balance. Because there’s no way to be a perfect parent, but there are lots of ways to be a good one.