My Soapbox: Clean Homes, Happy Kids, and “Good Mothers”

posted by Andrea | 06/18/2013

Good Mothers

Before Nora was born, I was frequently informed that my days of a clean and organized home were limited, because after my new baby arrived, I would have no more time for cleaning, organizing, or caring for our home.

I even heard (on numerous occasions) phrases like:

“I can’t wait to see your house after your baby is born — I bet it will be a disaster.”

“Just wait. After your baby is born, you’ll understand why our house is so messy and disorganized.”

So, after Nora was born, I gave myself permission to have a messier home if necessary… but I found that it was actually quite easy to keep up with housework — even though Nora rarely ever took naps and was an extremely fussy, high-needs baby.

Although having a baby IS completely life-changing, within a month or two, I had developed a very basic cleaning method that allowed me to quickly clean all the areas of our home, just a few minutes at a time.

No, our house wasn’t spotless (that’s never my goal), and I didn’t spend every waking moment worrying about cleaning and organizing (you all know how busy I am with other things). However, our house was always clean ENOUGH for us to feel comfortable. 

So I figured the rude comments and sarcastic remarks would stop — however, THEN I started getting comments like:

“My house is messy but at least my children are happy.”

“I have my priorities straight — and my children come before housework.”


Are you kidding me!

Now they’re implying that Nora is somehow less happy or less loved simply because my home is relatively clean and organized?

Give me a break!

Nora is always loved, but she is not always happy. However, I can guarantee that if she’s not happy, it’s certainly NOT a result of me taking 15 minutes out of my day to run the vacuum, make the bed, and fold a load of laundry.

It’s usually because she can’t have another cookie, or it’s raining and she can’t go outside, or I took a rock out of her mouth, or she got in trouble after climbing up on the kitchen table… again.

Nora’s happiness has nothing to do with how clean or messy our home is.


I’m assuming you’ve all seen photos like this floating around Facebook and Pinterest. 

good moms

PLEASE don’t buy into this nonsense.

Yes, I understand the idea behind these photos and phrases — that good moms make time for their kids and don’t stress out about smaller, less important things like household chores.


Being a “good mom” (as if there’s even a way to actually define what makes a good mom) has NOTHING to do with how clean or messy her house is. Nothing! 

In my opinion, being a “good mom” means loving your children, doing hard things when you really don’t feel like doing them, doing the best you can, learning from your mistakes, and then waking up the next day to do it all over again.

If I’m not mistaken, we can do all of these things with either a clean or messy home — they are NOT connected in any way.

A messy home in no way determines the “goodness” of your mothering abilities or the happiness of your children.


You all know how busy I am — I work more than full-time hours (Dave does too during the school year), we have a huge list of home/yard projects, we’re both involved in school, church, and community, we spend lots of time with friends and family… and we’re still able to maintain a relatively clean and organized home each day. But that’s because cleanliness and organization are important to both of us.

However, if cleanliness and organization are not at the top of your to-do list, that’s fine… honestly!

While I personally prefer clean over messy, this preference in no way determines the quality of my mothering abilities — and it doesn’t determine yours either!

You can be a good mother with happy children AND a clean home.

I promise!

However, you can also be a fabulous mother with happy children and a messy house 🙂


So do me a favor — the next time you see those silly quotes and photos pop up on Facebook and Pinterest, don’t “like” them, don’t “share” them, don’t “re-pin” them, and don’t say anything like this to another mom.

These phrases are sending negative messages to women and moms, especially new moms — none of us need any more negativity.

And honestly, if we’re going to say that being messy and neglecting our house work somehow makes us better mothers, then why don’t we “like” and “share” and “pin” this message…

good dads

Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous — as if the state of a garage or a car or a lawn could determine how good of a father some guy is!


If you want to like, share, or pin something – how about this: 

Good Parents and Happy Kids

OK, I’m climbing down off my soapbox and will be back to regular programming tomorrow!

UPDATE: I did a follow up to this post… here 🙂

top image credit 

Filed under: FamilyParentingMisc.

Leave a comment


  1. Nicola Cataldo



    The idea that messy moms are better moms or that there is something wrong with the priorities of a parent who can manage to stay organized is getting pretty tired. And I’ve noticed that the moms who claim moral superiority for their mess happen to be people who were also messy teenagers, young adults and adults without children.

    It’s just another way of blaming your short-comings on your kids.

    Two other points that refute the value of a messy house: (1) every legitimate educational philosophy stresses the need for order, as a requisite for a child learning anything or managing his/her activities and (2) cleaning up is an activity that children actually enjoy if you have enough imagination and patience to let them do it with you in whatever way they can.


  2. Jade


    I agree that children’s happiness has nothing to do with whether the home is clean or not. But I think that is the point. All of us who struggle with keeping a clean home would love nothing more if they could. I’m a mum of four children from a small baby to an almost teenager and in between feeding the baby and doing the basic neccessities for my children I barely have time to keep the house clean, let alone spend time with them on top of that. The point of these sayings is not to say you need a messy home, anyone can choose that. Not eveyone can choose a spotless home AND happy children. The point is that you don’t have to struggle and become desperately depressed (like I have in the past trying to keep up with people’s judgements and expectations) and that happy children are more important that a clean home. When someone says something like ‘My house is messy but at least my children are happy’ they are defending their messy home, not your clean home.


  3. Maggie


    I like your point of view. I actually did kind of buy into the whole messy house = happy kids but then realized that messy house = unhappy and stressed me! I cannot relax or function in a messy house. It’s a day and night kind of thing for me! Thanks for reminding us that we can have both! 🙂


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Maggie — and I truly believe that if BOTH are important to you, then yes, you can have both. Maybe your house won’t be as clean as it was before children, but still clean enough for you to feel great about where you live!


  4. Weekend Reading: June 29, 2013


    […] My Soapbox: Clean Homes, Happy Kids, and “Good Mothers” | […]

  5. Heather


    Good point! However, I think the point of those signs is taken far too seriously (I’ve seen other people complain about them too) but I love them, because for me (I’m a pretty neat/clean person) it reminds me to let things go sometimes…. so as you mention me missing the point with your article, that’s the way I feel about people’s reaction to those signs, quotes, pillows, coffee cups etc. Missing the point. The sentiment is, let the kids slop their food on their high chair and throw it around… you don’t have to feed them everything neat and cleanly. Let them splash in the bathtub and get water all over, and you don’t need to clean it up NOW or even today. The funny thing is, the way I came across your blog was I was looking for that quote on a pillow, because I love the quote. I think it’s true to the core. That is not to say that in order to have happy kids you have to be a slob! No way. Kids are embarrassed of something like that.


  6. Heather


    I have to actually disagree here. My mother-in-law often laments the fact that having a clean house was so important to her that she missed out on so much. She wrote in her son’s 30th birthday card, if she had it to do over again, she wouldn’t worry so much about the dishes and the laundry. My husband and his siblings often talk about how they loved games and their mom didn’t play very often. They came from what you would call (from the outside of it) a happy, healthy, responsible home. They’re all good adults on the surface, but when you look deep or talk to them, you find that they’re not happy… and I honestly attribute it to housework coming before the kids. I saw an argument about this awhile back where someone said my kids are happy, they played games while I clean the kitchen. Then they went to their playroom while I cleaned the bathroom. Right, I’m sure the kids wouldn’t be happier if you engaged with them. Now for the record, my house is “mostly” clean but I dont’ worry about the little stuff, because I really, really play with my daughter.


    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Heather,
    Unfortunately, I feel like you missed the point of this post. The point is that it doesn’t matter ONE BIT if your house is clean or dirty… the point is, you should NOT continually put other small matters before your kids. The only reason I specifically dialed in on housework is because so often, mothers with clean homes get criticized for taking time away from their kids to clean. When in reality, they could be doing all the house work while their kids are sleeping — or hire it out to a service.

    I know PLETNY of moms with really messy homes that still don’t give undivided attention to their kids because they’re at work all day and then spend the evening hours on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Craigslist, flipping through magazines, etc.

    So while I understand where you are coming from, the reason your mother-in-law feels bad about having a clean house is because she feels that she did it at the expense of her children. She could have very-well kept an equally clean home and just did it while her kids were sleeping. So it’s not the clean house that caused the issues, it’s the time she spent away from her children (which could have been spent any number of ways — not just cleaning).

    That’s the point I was trying to make in this post… you can read some of my follow up thoughts here.


  7. Tara


    Loved listening to your soapbox. Couldn’t agree more!


  8. Jenn


    Well said!