Follow-Up to My ‘Good Moms’ Post

posted by Andrea | 06/25/2013

nora sweeping

Last week, I hopped up on my soapbox and shared some of my thoughts and frustrations about all those silly Facebook and Pinterest photos that say things like:

The point of that post (read the full post here) was NOT that a we should have either a clean or messy home… but simply that the state of our home has NOTHING to do with how happy our children are. 

Did you read that?

I’m not advocating for spotlessly clean homes (believe me, our home is not spotless), I’m not putting pressure on busy parents to clean instead of spend time with their children, and I’m not even saying you should clean your home (if messy is your thing, then go for it!)

The only thing I’m saying is:

If our children are happy, it’s almost never a DIRECT RESULT of our homes being clean or messy — so we really need to stop judging and shaming other moms and parents who keep their homes cleaner or messier than we do.

As I was writing last week’s post, I knew there was potential for controversial feedback — but after the post went live, I was thrilled with the mainly affirming responses I received in the comments and via email. I felt confident that I clearly and accurately shared my thoughts in a way that was not super offensive to others (something that’s pretty hard to do, by the way!)

However, as expected, I still got a decent number of objecting comments and emails that often tried to explain how their mom (or their friend, or their sister, or coworker) spent so much time cleaning their house that they neglected their children and ended up with unhappy, needy children — all at the expense of a clean home.

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Now, I totally understand where these emails and comments are coming from — and I agree that taking time away from your family just to keep your house spotlessly clean is a little silly.

HOWEVER…

The actual house cleaning is not what caused their children’s unhappiness – it’s the TIME the mother spent away from her children that caused the unhappiness.

TIME is all our children want.

Our children want to know we see them, we listen to them, we value them, we love them, we appreciate them, we trust them, we are proud of them.

Our children want to know that they are super important to us and a vital part of our family.

Our children want to know that, if necessary, we will literally drop everything and change our plans to help them in a time of crisis.

Our children want to know that we want to spend time with them — doing things they love to do and sharing their life experiences.

These are simple things that all play a large factor in how happy or unhappy our children are — and they can all be accomplished with either a clean or messy home!

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As I mentioned above, I don’t think a clean or messy home is better. I personally prefer a cleaner home, but that’s because I enjoy cleaning and I have a really helpful husband who is good about keeping things clean.

While it’s easier for me to do the cleaning when Nora is sleeping or when Dave is playing with her — I actually make an effort to do some of the cleaning when Nora is around so she can see what I do.

Nora is so perceptive and already says “clean clean” as she rubs a rag over the walls or over her doll. She often holds the cord (and laughs hysterically) when I vacuum, she watches in amazement as I clean the toilets, and she knows exactly what to do when I ask her to pick up her toys (whether she does it or not is another story :) )

So no, I definitely don’t think the few minutes I spend cleaning each day cause any unhappiness on Nora’s part! 

And let’s be honest, I think we all know that even if cleaning doesn’t take time away from our children, there’s a pretty good chance that a “quick” phone call, a favorite TV program, Facebook, online shopping, and email might.

Something like this might resonate with a few too many of us (gulp… myself included)

good moms

Yes, that’s supposed to be a joke — but it might also be eye-opening for some of us.

And again, it’s not the act of checking our emails or updating Facebook that could make our children unhappy (don’t worry, I’ll still be updating Facebook) — it’s the time these activities take away from our children that could cause unhappiness. 

It all comes back to time — our children want our time.

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In case you’re still a bit confused, let me make a few things VERY clear…

I do NOT think there is one right definition of a “good” mother or parent.

I do NOT think we should strive to have a perfectly clean and organized home.

I do NOT think a clean home is better than a messy home (or that a messy home is better than a clean home).

I do NOT think we should take time away from our children to meticulously and obsessively clean our homes every day.

I do NOT think we should sacrifice our children’s happiness by forcing them to “stay clean” or “not make a mess” — kids should be allowed to play, get dirty, make a mess, etc.

I do NOT think our children need to be happy all the time — real life is not always happy and they will eventually need to learn that.

I do NOT think our children should be absent from the cleaning process. They need to see us clean in order to learn how to do it themselves. They need to learn that there is a time for playing and a time for picking up (age appropriately).

I do NOT think our kids need 100% of our daily energy and attention — yes, our children are the most important thing, but that still doesn’t mean we can’t live our own lives or do something enjoyable every now and then. Children need to grow up and learn to be happy without constant attention. Dave will be the first to tell you that I am a MUCH better and happier person/mother/wife if I get a little time to myself. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for anyone — and I think it’s one of the reasons I have so much respect for single parents!

I DO think we are all trying hard (parenting is so hard, isn’t it) to be the best mothers and parents for our own children.

I DO think we know our children’s needs better than anyone else.

I DO think we need to stop judging and shaming others just because they choose to spend their time differently than we do.

I DO think we need to stop comparing ourselves and our homes to other parents and other homes.

So what do you think… are you with me?

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33 comments

  1. Laurel

    06/25/2013

    I’m just thankful that there was no Facebook, blog posts, smart phones, etc when my kids (ages 22, 19, 17 and 13) were young because I would have been majorly distracted. I am now, and while they certainly still need my attention, it probably would have been harder when they were little. I love your posts, by the way.

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  2. Ann Marie

    06/25/2013

    Hi there,
    I totally get what you’re saying, Time spent with your children is so important. That doesn’t mean you have to be in their face 24/7 but making sure you stop what you’re doing when they need you (not always right that second, but letting them know you will be there asap)
    How many of us look back on our childhoods and remember with a smile just how clean and tidy the house was? I remember picnics on the lawn or in the middle of the living room floor when the weather was bad. Bedtime stories and trips to the park. I honestly can’t remember if the dusting had been done or the ironing had been put away by certain times. I learned when I became a Mum that lots of these chores were done while my children were in bed or settled down with some activity or other.
    I’ve just realised how hard it is to put your thoughts into words without offending anyone or sticking a kick me note to your back…… :D

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  3. stephanie

    06/25/2013

    I’m with ya! Great post!

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  4. Lisa the Farm Lady

    06/25/2013

    A beautifully written follow-up to your original post, Andrea! I agree with all your points here 100%!!!!!
    Sometimes when people gripe or nitpick about posts such as the two you’ve written about this topic, “methinks they doth protest too much!”

    A guilty conscience is a dangerous thing, in my opinion. So I think these gripers and grumblers feel awfully guilty about whatever they think they’re not doing with their kids in their own lives and they need to take that out on somebody like yourself who speaks the truth about this entire topic and is not afraid to say it like it is.

    Thank you once again for a beautiful and well-written post!

    Cheers,
    Lisa :)

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  5. Jen

    06/25/2013

    I LOVE this too! And I am also glad I didn’t have so many distractions when my kiddos were young. I will be honest and say that I enjoy a clean, organized home. I have probably spent too much time over the years making sure my house stays clean and organized. I have also taken A LOT of criticism for that and been made to feel like I am less of a mom because I care about keeping my home neat and clean. I have learned, over the years, that often those criticizing me are just feeling jealous or somehow “less” because their home (in their perception) is not as clean or organized as they perceive mine to be. I have also learned that I am NOT responsible for how they feel about how I keep my home-that has been freeing in a big way. I do what works for us and how they feel about that is up to them.

    I will also say that just in the last few years, now that my children 20, 17, 15, and 13, several of them, on more than one occasion, have come to me and THANKED me for keeping our home neat and clean. They enjoy the structure and knowing where things are and being able to find things quickly and easily. So——I have happy kids AND a clean home. Contrary to popular opinion, they are NOT mutually exclusive.

    It amuses me that this topic is often “black and white” for many. Why does what works for you have to work for me and vice versa? And why do we have to argue or be critical about it? We all have our issues-most are much more important than judging others about the state of cleanliness in THEIR homes! Just sayin’!

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  6. Jen

    06/25/2013

    And one more thing I have told my chidren MANY times over the years: I was not put on this earth to entertain you! I am ALL for quality time with my children but I am also a homemaker, wife, cook, laundress, church member, etc. And it’s important for my children to see me doing those jobs well also. It’s all about balance-and not judging those whose “scales” might balance a bit differently than yours!

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  7. Erin

    06/25/2013

    Andrea, I think you are spot-on with these two posts! Don’t let the nay-sayers get you down. Btw, your blog is one of my favorites that I must read anytime you have a good point to make! :-)

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  8. Pamela

    06/25/2013

    I am SOOOOOOO with ya, Andrea!!!!

    Love your blog.

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  9. Melissa

    06/25/2013

    I agree completely. I also like to clean sometimes while my kids are around/aware, so they can form some of their own cleaning and organizational habits. My 5yo still loves to use the Clorox wands and clean the toilets for me, and I’ll let her do it for as long as she doesn’t realize its a yucky job :) They also have chores this summer, they’re done before 10am and its very basic stuff, and though they won’t admit it, they like being able to see the floor in their rooms :) Lovely posts, thank you.

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  10. Julie Clarke

    06/25/2013

    Andrea, you are a great wife, mom, blogger and friend to so many! Thank you for your honesty. My childhood home was a mess because my mom was disabled but she did a great job of loving us. I grew up, became a professional organizer and raised my 3 sons in a very clean and organized home. I believe it gave them a true advantage as they entered adulthood because they already had many of the life skills necessary for success. Cooking, cleaning, money management and organizing are all vital life skills that are no longer a priority in so many homes. Thank you for the work you do in educating all of us!

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  11. Trisha

    06/25/2013

    Hi Andrea,
    I agree with your first post, that you don’t have to have a messy house to have happy children. I also find this post to be well informed about what helps make a home a happy one for yourself as well as your children. it’s not about the mess or even the children it’s about the time and love you put into what you do.
    it’s kind of like having a pet, you need to show love and attention to that pet to keep them happy and feeling loved or they act up. same for your home, your children, your car, your marriage and most importantly yourself. if you don’t take the time to spend some quality time on things they begin to break down, act up, need extra care an attention to get them back to being healthy and happy again.
    thank you again for a great post!

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  12. Darla

    06/25/2013

    When I see things on Pinterest or Facebook like you mention in these posts I am left wondering why moms are doing all the cleaning?! What are their kids doing? I have four kids ages 13, 11, 9 and 6 and they clean the house from top to bottom every Saturday with my supervision and they have done this since their were very little. During the week they are responsible for picking up after themselves and keeping their rooms clean. They also do daily cleaning like dishes, helping with dinner and taking out the trash. I like my house to be clean and orderly and believe that I function much better as a mom when that happens, but I don’t do it all myself. They don’t sit and watch me do it. My kids are learning the value of work and life skills and we are still spending time together doing it. I loved your post. I am glad you got on your soapbox.

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    Luba Reply:

    I agree, Darla! From a young age, I helped my mom with the cleaning.

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  13. Verity

    06/25/2013

    Great article!

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  14. Theresa

    06/25/2013

    Again Andrea, thank you! I wish there were more parenting advocates like you. TIME slips away so fast. I find I am constantly asking myself, “will this matter to my children in the future?” Or, “how will this activity impact our family?”
    Thanks so much. Keep em coming!

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  15. Jessica

    06/25/2013

    Growing up my mother was obsessed with a spotless home and preserving her material possessions. Frequently we were given presents from friends and relatives that we were forbidden to play with or handle because they were for “looks”- and I’m not talking about valuables and processors heirlooms- I was never allowed to read a set of books that was purchased for me because they were deemed “for show”. I can say from experience I never resented having a clean home and I never longed for a messy one. I do look back with great sadness that I have no memories of my mother actually being mothering to me. I think that’s what this post is about. I love reading your posts and this one really stood out for me!

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  16. christine

    06/25/2013

    You are 1000% right.

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  17. Tara

    06/25/2013

    Yes, this is a great follow up. This post right here pretty much sums up why I closed all my social networking accounts and don’t open emails on my phone. Those things were sucking up my time way more than a little house cleaning ever did. I feel it’s a much more conscious decision to skip scrubbing my toilets for 5 minutes to spend time with my kids, but Facebook was a horribly sneaky black hole of time sucking for me. I had no idea how long I was on at a sitting and I was never really “done” catching up with everyone so it was out of hand. I had to call it quits. I

    ‘ll tell you this much, I don’t see those silly catchphrase posts, neither do I see the posts of all the moms I was friends with as they shared what they had cooked, or created, or done each day which made them seem unrealistically perfect without all the background of how the rest of their day really went. LOL I don’t miss it.

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  18. Beth

    06/25/2013

    Love it!
    Hands free is a good site that follows along these lines.

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  19. Mary Jo

    06/25/2013

    Somehow the tone of this post resonated so much more with me than the original post! Really great follow up.

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  20. Candis

    06/25/2013

    I am totally with you, even though my only dependant has four legs :-)
    Great post, I learn so much from you, even though what you’re teaching
    isn’t exactly “rocket science” *wink* :-)

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  21. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    06/26/2013

    Absolutely with you. Those sayings you mentioned in your previous post always bothered me. I felt like it was important to teach my kids how to clean and how to keep a nice house. Having a messy house wasn’t some badge of honor. And when they got old enough, they helped me! We did chores together so I wasn’t taking time away from them – we were all working together. And they were learning how to do chores.

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    Lisa Reply:

    I for one agree with you! I personally do not like a lot of clutter but when my family and I had to move to a smaller house and I was still at the time working full time and going to school full-time – a messy house was something I had to deal with.

    Now that I am out of school – I just graduated – we are working on getting our home a little bit more organized. But I know that what my 2 girls need most from me is my time. That is what they missed during the last 4 years (2 years for my little one) while I was in school as I went to school full-time at night while working full-time.

    Time is definitely all our children really want. Our little one loves to help throw stuff in the trash. Our 10 year old – well she will help – sometimes. But neither one of them can stand the vacuum cleaner – they don’t like the loud noise. So I find other chores for them to help us with.

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  22. Sarah

    06/27/2013

    LOVE the Good Mom photo you made at the end! I think that I need to save it as a reminder for myself when I get distracted!

    (Also – TOTALLY love this post! It truly is about the time that you spend doing other things, and not being with your kids, that causes problems. It doesn’t matter what it is!)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Sarah :)

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  23. Lauri E.

    06/28/2013

    Love the Good Mom post… SO TRUE all kids want is your time… period.. and you can never ever go back and give them more time if you missed out when they were young.. they will never be young again… I know my kids are now 27, 25 and 17…..

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  24. Olga

    07/08/2013

    There are so many blogs out there, it’s hard to find time to read them all, even the blogs that I really enjoy. I always read your blog, though, and posts like this are the reason why. I love the way you think. I read every single post that you write and even when I was on vacation, (just came back) I come back and catch up on all the posts I missed while I was away.
    I absolutely agree with you and have often thought the very same things that you mentioned in this post and in the first one when those other quotes pop up all over Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
    You expressed my very same thoughts in such a wonderful way. Of course, I can’t say anything since I don’t have any children yet, and believe me, I’ve heard many, MANY comments from folks who tell me my house will be a disaster and I won’t even have time to take a shower when children are on the scene. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.
    However, I grew up in a family of six and my Mom still kept our home really clean and had time to take daily showers:). She was SUPER MOM though, and actually had a full time job while going to college full time and became a Registered Nurse. She is my inspiration. Even with a clean house, we always felt loved and cared for and had a phenomenal childhood.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow your mom sounds amazing Olga! Thanks for your kind words, and rest assured — I shower every day and have enough time left over to keep our home relatively clean :) You’ll do just fine whenever you have kids!

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  25. Sttar

    11/01/2013

    I understand what you are saying, but I don’t agree with it. MESSY HOMES ARE BAD. I feel the same way about spotless homes. There needs to be a balance but it should be on the side of clean.

    My mother was a hoarder. Not as bad as the ones you see on TV, but she never threw out magazines (including JCPenny’s catalogs from 20 years ago), sorted her mail, vacuumed, put away laundry, or decorated. I was ASHAMED to have my friends over. She actually told me I couldn’t because of the condition of the house. I lied for her constantly- “We are cleaning out our closets thats why the place is a mess” Yeah, can only use that so many times before people stopped beliving me. The curtains were all pulled shut so people couldn’t see in. It also kept any sort of daylight out. It was depressing. It was horrible. In elementry school I remember sitting on my bed surrounded by garbage bags full of clean laundry. I was trying to fold the mountains of it. Around my room were boxes full of papers- junk really. My mother said if I cleaned the room I could finally have my own room and not have to sleep with her. I was crying and folding laundry and it was too much for me! There was too much mess! And I was too small to deal with it all! I hated it!

    When I got older I got better at cleaning. Then the fights over cleaning started. I cleaned all day long and my mother would come home, throw her coat on the couch, let an open bag of candy leak into the couch, put half eaten toast on the table without a plate- all within 30 minutes of being home. I would yell at her to pick up after herself and she would yell at me that I wasn’t her mother.

    Messy homes are a sign of things out of order in life. I don’t believe you should have to take off your shoes at the door and a few dishes can’t wait in the sink for the next day. But messy homes that are shameful- they make unhappy children. I think lazy people justify it by saying they are spending time with their children instead. I’m sure my mother said that. Spending time fighting over a messy house does not make a child happy :P

    So balance is important. And I think its great that you care about your home! More people should!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Sttar, yes balance is definitely important — but I think there is a HUMONGOUS difference between a “messy” home and a “hoarder’s” home.

    Messy homes mean a few dishes in the sink, a few toys or clothes on the floor, a little clutter here and there — not chronic junk and clutter everywhere all the time. That is definitely NOT good!

    Even our house is “messy” from time to time — but that’s usually because we are spending lots of time outside, entertaining, in the middle of a day-long laundry marathon or a freezer cooking session — but then I clean it up before we go to bed.

    So while I understand where you are coming from and can’t even imagine how frustrating your mom’s habits must be for you, I’m going to “stand my ground” here and say that messy homes are not necessarily bad — as long as the home is still safe, comfortable, and livable. Hoarder’s homes however, really ARE bad!

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  26. Kami

    12/29/2013

    Dear Andrea, I am working on a project for my church and I am making a list of attributes of a loving mom. After reading some of your posts I really respect you and what you have done for Nora. I was wondering if you could tell me a few attributes that you think a mom should have, or at least try to have?
    Thanks, Kami

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  27. Laurel Cay

    09/29/2014

    I enjoyed reading both ‘Good Mom’ posts and I think you were honest and sensitive to all mothers/children/situations. But, I think there is a fine line between messy and dirty. I’ve been in homes that are cluttered, or even ‘overloaded’ with toys, laundry etc. And then there are homes with dried food stuck to chairs/tables/floors, garbage overflowing, cat waste outside the litter box( because the box is full), and several days worth of un-refrigerated leftovers on the stove. All this in one house. This is not the only one I’ve seen either. Healthy=Happy! Not white glove! But not mouldy. Balance in all things. Thank you for bringing this issue to the light! We need to hear it, again!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Laurel! So glad you enjoyed those posts and yes… I agree about the messy versus dirty. I’m definitely not OK with “dirty” but I do know that some people simply work better (and are actually happier) with “messy”. I can deal with that — although for my own house, I definitely prefer clean :)

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