Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't Judge Me Because I Like a Clean House

Have you noticed it is not very popular to be a mother of young children who likes to keep her house clean?
What I mean is this.
Anytime you confess that sometimes you just want to get the dishes done and put away the laundry, everyone and their brother will say something like this: "but the dishes will always be there.  Your kids won't."
Dun, dun, DUNNNNN.
Translation: if you choose to clean rather than be with your kids, you totally suck as a mom, and your kids will know that you don't value them, and in a short time when they grow up, you will all be in therapy as a result of your choosing to wash the dishes.
At least that is how it feels to me sometimes.
How many of us praise ourselves, or each other, because we ignored the dishes and read to the kids instead?
How many of us have Pintrested this saying, "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life," and have that saying haunting us every time we shoo our kids outside to play so we can scrub the tub?
Is this all there is?
A messy house = a good mom, and a clean house = a bad mom?
Can't we find a happy medium somewhere?

The truth is, I like my house clean.
OK, I love my house clean.
When my house is clean, my whole world feels peaceful, beautiful, and wonderful.
There is a sense of calm that I don't feel when there are toys strewn about, crumbs all over the floor, a dirty stove top, and dirty finger prints around every door way.
I have been this way since I was a very little girl, and loved cleaning my own room and those of my friends.
Does this mean that I have set sail on the course to waste my life and ruin the lives of my children?
I don't think so.

What it does mean, though, is that I strive to find balance in this area of my life nearly every day.
It means it is an area ripe for being challenged, and for those challenges to grow me as a person, a wife, and a mother.
It means some days I go into the laundry room and I kick the washer because I am so sick and tired of never, ever, getting caught up with the house work.
It means that some days I leave the house for a day of adventure with the kids, and I dread coming home to the disaster we left behind.
And I count it a victory that we left, rather than stay home to get caught up on the housework.
It means I don't let the desire for a clean house rule me, but I also don't pretend it's not there.

So I teach my kids the importance of putting things back in their place.
I teach them to wipe out the sink after they brush their teeth.
I teach them to put away their own laundry, and I don't worry so much that their drawers are a mess because #1, I can't see the mess when the drawers are closed, and # 2, they need to learn how to put their laundry away.
I tell them not to put their hands on the walls when they've been outside playing all day beacause their hands are filthy.
And then I point out the dirty handprints they just made, and have them wipe them off.
I can't do this alone.
Even when Aaron folds laundry nearly every night, and does the dishes when I say, "I'm too tired.  Just leave them for the morning."
Even then, I need more help.
They need to help.
Because, I like a clean house, I don't have a house keeper, and there are 6 of us living here.
But most of all, it's not helping them any if I try to do this all by myself.

I forget that sometimes.
Like today.
When I was in the living room doing school with the big boys and Lilly and Davy were in the kitchen having a tea party.
To me that meant a pretend tea party, with Lilly's small tea set.
This is what it meant to Lilly.
It meant she made all kinds of crumb making snacks for her and David to munch on, and step on, and spread throughout the house.
It means they emptied a couple drawers of everything to find other tea set pieces when she couldn't find her own.
It meant they played happily and peacefully while the boys and I read, and did math.
They had a blast.
But when I walked into that kitchen, my initial response was, "Lillian Catherine!  What did you do in here?"
And I was bummed out, and overwhelmed, and I wanted to kick the washer.

But then I looked at David.
And he was so cute and smiley that I had to take a picture.
I took a couple deep breaths.
I went outside to find Lilly, and nicely asked her to come in and clean the kitchen floor up.
She happily complied, and then showed David how to pick everything up and put it away.
He was pleased as punch to help.
And she was pleased as punch to show him how.
When they were done, she turned to me with a big smile, "Mommy!  Can you believe how fast we cleaned that up?  Davy is learning how to be a good helper, isn't he?"

That's when the truth of that annoying saying hit me.
If I had just cleaned the mess up myself, muttering under my breath and slamming cabinets along the way, it would have been a total waste.
Instead, Lilly and Davy experienced the joy of helping and being useful.
They practiced responsibility.
And I felt a real weight lift off my shoulders when I saw the mess in my kitchen get cleaned up, even just a little bit.
It was a pretty sweet moment.

I'm not saying that I always respond this way.
There are plenty of muttering under the breath moments.
Just ask my kids.
I'm sure they'll grow up with plenty of stories about mom and her crazy, house cleaning rampages.
But I also hope they'll remember these other moments.
The moments when I gather them in my arms, and squeeze them, and say, "thank you for being such good helpers.  You make my whole world brighter.  I love you."

All day long I am given the opportunity to choose my attitude, choose my perspective, and choose my response.
Here is what I'm aiming for: this and this.
And to get those dishes done.

From one clean loving mama to all the others I know are out there--you aren't alone.
Love from,


This Life said...

Amen!!! It is such a balance of orderliness and constant chaos. Teaching personal responsibility and "just getting the job done!!" It's also an act of service for me and my children toward my husband that he comes home to an orderly home. With his personality, he can't really relax until things are picked up. I can live with the chaos a bit more than he can, but we want to make a place calm inviting as best we can!! I will say that my mentor gave me such great advice that when my kids were really young, giving them jobs they were capable of doing. Now it's just normal, although they do need reminders at times, there is just an understanding that they will do their part b/c they are a part of this family. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

Betsi* said...

A-to-the-men. I'm sorry but all those "clean house, wasted life" people are going to end up with adult children who don't know how to clean or organize their lives!
I well know the frustration of desiring a clean house and wanting to enjoy my children. You are right, including our kids in cleaning; training them to help us, is the best way. It's hard work but so worth it.

sarah k said...

oh my goodness, this is SO encouraging. I am with you--a (reasonably) clean house makes me calmer, saner, and much more pleasant. I also think it helps my kids, both in the reduction of a bit of the chaos, and in the lessons they can learn by picking up and keeping tidy. And I have often felt like an inferior mom because I do the dishes and make the beds and pick up the toys. I agree that there is a fine line of balance--I do regret some of the time (especially when my firstborn was a baby) that I spent being rigid with the routine and cleaning and tidying more than I needed to. I wish I could go back and enjoy their babyness a little more. So I clean less than I used to--much less. But most people probably wouldn't be able to tell, because I keep things about as tidy as they were before--trying to do it to the degree that it helps me be a better mom, and not to the degree that it becomes more important than the kids.

All that to say--thanks. I feel so much better after reading this!

Glen K P said...

You continue to amaze me - I think you are a treasure, a rarity. I do not know how you do it, but you do it extremely well.
I thought I had it tough, working full time, and then house, the accounts, the laundry, the gym and the running - with so little time to relax.
But you have 4 children and you school them and you do all the other stuff too. It cannot be easy. Longer hours and much harder than my full-time job. And yet you always seem to be smiling!!
I have said it before - I wish I had known someone like you when I was struggling with my 2 children, just 2. Maybe I would have been a better Mum!!
I cannot wait to meet you properly!!
Glen xxx

Naomi said...

Great post, it speaks to my neat freak heart :) I didn't realize that it's so cool to be messy, but then I don't really go on pinterest. You should never feel guilty making time to clean, especially a homeschooling mom that spends nearly every waking minute spending quality time with her children! Besides learning to clean is a great activity to do together at any age! However I think that saying does bear some truth & it's a great reminder for me that houses should be lived in & played in & spilled in. Then cleaned up :)

erin mcdonald said...

Makes me feel even more blessed to have a little help a couple days a week! You mommas there in the US have it hard. I have other things that are harder but I am so blessed here. BUT I am always teaching Zeke to clean up after him self. When you make cleaning fun it is just that FUN! Love you Greta!

koeppen26 said...

Greta thank you for this post! You have no idea how much it helps my house NEEDS to be clean or I may freak out heart! I believe we are teaching our children life long lessons, or at least I hope so!!

Life in the Sweet Spot said...


You are always so encouraging! I am exactly the same way and I always feel like people think I am a bad mom for wanting a clean house. Those pinterst saying always make me SO upset! You are not alone, and you are absolutely right about using those opportunities to teach our children responsibility. Thank you so much for your honesty and know that you encouraged me IMMENSELY today!

Bo Tolbert said...

I really hate that saying. But then again, it can be true for some instances. I really like how you handled that situation, especially not just keeping it to yourself and making it into a good lesson for your kids. These little things will help them be more responsible when they grow up. I mean, if they can clean their mess now, imagine what they can do later. :)

Bo Tolbert

Bong Kingsley said...

Keeping the house clean is not an easy task especially for a family of 6 like yours. Simple ways like teaching your kids to watch for the mess they create is a smart thing to do. You taught them to put their things in proper places and even wipe the sink after brushing their teeth. Not only do you maintain the cleanliness of your house, you are also teaching your children to be responsible. Nice!

Bong Kingsley

Martina said...

Amen Sista! I hate all those "I'm a good mom so I feel justified being a horrible housekeeper (…and not taking care of myself either…but that's another story!) I feel so much more peaceful when I have a clean, organized house. It means a ton to my husband who was always raised to keep a clean house and he and his brothers are all very serious about it. His parents both worked full time and there was never any question about it - all 3 boys learned to cook, clean, do laundry, etc. And I'm learning from my husband how important it is to teach our daughter to pick up after herself - and she likes doing it most of the time! My mom tended to clean up after us a little too much growing up and I feel like I didn't learn as much responsibility and respect for our provisions as much as my husband did.

Jennifer B said...

I so needed to read this post. It feels good to know that there are other moms out there that feel the same way. Honestly, the few rampages I've gone on since having kids have all had to do with having a clean house. My whole life feels out of order if my home is out of order. And I'm not OCD either. I just like to have things in place. It makes living in a tiny home nicer.

I love the end of your post. I struggle so much with wanting to do it all myself because I like the way I do things. However, I never thought about how if affects my children learning how to clean and organize. Makes me more willing to "share" in the chores that are a part of maintaining a home.

It's funny that you write about the Pinterest housecleaning statement. The one thing that I noticed is that my friends who pin those sayings are the friends that have messy homes.

Rachel Reeves said...

You know I'm with ya, sister friend.

All my love.

JDzJane said...

All I gotta say is AMEN SISTA!!!! Oh to have a clean house again. I've got 5 - 3 of which are homeschooled - the other are little. Oh, a clean house - I dream of it!!! I really need to get down that kids helping thing. My kids just sigh and complain - "why do I always have to do it" its just easier to get it done myself! I'd rather be with my kids and the dishes and floors can wait.