I have to get this off my chest: those “enjoy your time with your kids, the housework can wait” posts make me feel really awful about myself. I just can’t do it. I can’t wait, and it makes me feel like I am failing at motherhood.
People who have clean houses are frequently portrayed as trying to prove that they are better at parenting than others, missing out on memory-making opportunities, and having their priorities out of alignment. I vehemently disagree.
I don’t clean because I’m trying to impress anyone. The people we let into our house have seen us through the worst and best parts of our lives and know us for who we truly are. I keep a relatively clean house because it settles my Type A brain so that I can be present in the place that matters most to me.
My home is my sanctuary from all the disarray in the world that I cannot control. This sanctuary needs to come with a mostly clutter-free kitchen counter, dust-free surfaces, and an empty sink. Cleanliness and order bring calm to my psyche and with that comes balance, happiness, and fun. To be the best mom for my children, I must create an environment that supports the important work that my husband and I do: raising our two beautiful children in a loving family.
So every week the house is cleaned piece by piece over a series of nights and a couple of weekend hours. My family helps me clean our house because it’s just that: our house. It’s not my house or my husband’s house, it’s our family’s house and the burden should not fall on one person.
By taking this time together we teach our children how to support and love each other through words and actions. Since they are only two and four, they support my need for order by helping out in simple ways and providing entertainment while my husband and I work. We sing and talk and laugh while we do household chores. My kids love to wash walls in the bathroom and a feather duster keeps them busy long enough for me to rush around and dust an entire floor of my house. We put away laundry as a family every Saturday morning before we head to the market to shop. We wear laundry baskets on our head and pretend the broom is a microphone. A quick vacuum and a tidying of the kitchen and we are good to go play with other less utilitarian toys.
My kids have fun and I am balanced enough to relax and be the best mother I can be. There have been many dinners when my daughter says the best part of the day was spent dusting with Mommy. Memories are made whenever you are interacting with your kids.
Most important, and the thing that prevents me from hiring a house cleaner, is the belief that there is a great life lesson in teaching your children how to clean a house. It teaches cause and effect – chaos causes Mommy to be on edge and order relaxes her. Is my house as clean and organized as it was before a husband and children? No. Could we afford to hire a house cleaner who could return my abode to its pre-marriage organizational Mecca? Yes. But how would my children learn to take care of our house, extend the life of their toys, and respect the needs of the people they live with?
As a veteran elementary school teacher, I know it’s much easier to instill this lesson now than when they are older. Their mother needs order to be whole and, just like any other aspect of life, it’s our obligation to work together to make our house a loving one for all of us.
That’s why I clean and also why I feel awful when I read “embrace every moment” posts. So please, don’t worry if you like to clean or if you don’t. There is no wrong way to parent, as long as your family’s best interests are at heart. If you’re a cleaner, good for you! If you’re not, embrace that as well! We shouldn’t be made to feel bad either way. We’re all doing the best we can for reasons that are extremely personal and unique.