Perhaps you’ve seen or read this poem:
Or perhaps something like these floating around the internet:
Poems like that and memes such as these make me scoff and then get under my skin. I am not the kind of person who can tolerate dirt and disarray easily. But, sometimes it feels like being a “good mom” means having sticky floors and dirty ovens or being a mother doesn’t include cooking and cleaning and scrubbing.
Hi, I’m Meredith and having a clean and tidy house is a priority for me. I’m still a good mom!
I am happiest and most relaxed when I have a clean house. More than that, I am more apt to sit and read and play with my kids when my house is straightened up. If there is stuff all over the place, and I choose to “be a mother first,” I can’t give my children my full and utmost attention. I just can’t. Not to mention that when it looks as if a tornado has ripped through the house – stuff everywhere, overflowing trashcan, dishwasher needing to be emptied and refilled three more times, mountains of laundry that still need to be washed and folded, toys on every level of the house, 20 pairs of shoes strewn up and down the stairs, and no dinner in the oven – I literally cannot think straight. My brain starts to short circuit – I can’t hear my kids asking for things, I can’t figure out where to start. I am overstimulated and overwhelmed.
Therefore, having a tidy, picked-up home makes me a better mom. A better mom to my kids. Not a better mom than you. It doesn’t mean that I’m judging the mom who doesn’t sweep three times a day. Or the mom who doesn’t love to vacuum. I’m not saying that you have to scrub the bathroom daily or that every bed has to be made every day. It means that I’m the best mom I can be when my house is in order, when things are put away and clean, so that I feel like I can give my whole self to my kids.
My kids know this. They know that if they want to do something for me to make me happy or to help me feel better, they go and pick up their toys or straighten up their rooms without being told. My oldest, especially, can often see when I’m starting to get overwhelmed, and will recruit his siblings to help tidy up the house. My kids know that work comes first, then comes play. And this goes for them and for me – the older kids have learned to understand that I’ll come out and push them on the swings or play a game after I finish this chore or I finish cooking dinner. They also know that when we play, we also have a responsibility to clean up after ourselves. (Do they do this all of the time? Of course not.)
I just asked my boys, as they were emptying the dishwasher prior to going to school, “Why is straightening up and cleaning important?” My 7-year-old answered: “so the house can stay clean and so mold doesn’t grow on stuff and make us sick.” My 10-year-old answered with “well, yes, to keep things clean, but also because we learn from doing it. Helping to clean and put stuff away helps us to learn how to take care of ourselves and our house when we are grown up.” That right there made me feel like the best mom in the world! The example I am setting for my children – of having a tidy home – is one that is creating a functional, independent adult! AND they’re still happy kids! I’d say that puts me at least a “decent mom” status.
Of course my children are a huge priority and my house is not clean and perfect 100% of the time. We have seven busy people living in this house and I don’t hide the fact that children shelter here. There are instances where there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done, picked up and put away. This is especially true when my husband is traveling, and I’m having to pick up all of the slack. Sometimes dishes sit in the sink overnight. Sometimes I push the same pile of clean laundry to be folded off of my bed at night for a full week. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like doing anything but the bare minimum. I have learned to let go and pick my battles. I can and DO ignore the piles on the countertops sometimes. We have smears on our windows and smudges on our doors. The scenario of my brain short circuiting, with all of those things in disarray, does happen from time to time.
However, as human as I may be, I believe that I can have happy kids, my sanity, a clean house and be a good mom… all at the same time. It’s all about eliminating excuses, making time, setting standards and – most importantly – maintaining balance between work and play.