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.
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.
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!
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)
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.
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.