How Having a Clean House Ruined My Life

The school year is just around the corner. My oldest child will be heading to Kindergarten {boo!} and I’ve been looking back at our Summer. My three littles and I have been busy, busy, busy! It’s been so great, and not so great all at the same time. Since we have been so busy, any sort of schedule has gone flying out the window! We stay up late, we sleep in, and we eat waaaay too much junk food. My kids play all day long, and I don’t. I don’t play at all. I pick up, scrub, wipe, and pick up some more. And I yell. A lot.

I keep asking myself, “why are you yelling so much?” and I can’t seem to come to any conclusion except the fact that I feel like my life is being spent cleaning up after a house full of slobs. And although I am trying to teach my kids to be responsible and helpful, it seems that no amount of chore charts is going to get them to willingly help out around the house. I can ask nicely a thousand times, but nothing gets done until I turn into the Wicked Witch of the Kitchen and threaten their lives if they don’t clean up their rooms!

If you’re a mom like me, your priorities in life are as follows: first, the safety of your family; second keeping a clean house; and if the first two have been accomplished, then comes the happiness of your family. At our house, the happiness of our whole family depends on if the mom {that’s me!} is happy. And I can assure you that I’m not happy when I have a messy house. And my house seems to ALWAYS be messy. Therefore, in my logic, I’m never happy and as a result, neither is my family.

I’ve tried to figure out why I feel this overwhelming need to keep my house neat, tidy, and perfectly decorated. And I can’t figure it out exactly, but I think I have an idea. I am worried that my value as a mother will be less if my house isn’t perfect. You see, I am a stay at home mom. I don’t have a job- or rather, I do have a job, and my job is to be a “homemaker”. To make a home. To make our home a place that we can be proud of. And I can’t be proud of a messy home. But no matter how hard I try, and if I am constantly cleaning (which I seem to be doing), my house is never presentable and clean. At least not with three little wrecking balls running around here, undoing all of the good I do.

I’ve talked to several of my friends, who are also mothers, and they have told me that they feel the same way. That their lives are being spent cleaning and yelling instead of playing and loving. It is a shame, honestly, that these wonderful mothers are spending so much of their children’s early years worrying about vacuuming and dishes instead of playing dolls and building sandcastles. 

So I tried to figure out a solution, and I think I came up with something that will work for my family. I just need to relax. Take a breath, chill out, and let some things go.

I’m not saying that I need to give up and let my house turn into a pigsty.  Or that my children shouldn’t be learning to help out and be responsible for their own messes. But I need to let some things slide. If the dishes go undone for a day, because I’m spending the afternoons playing dress up with my three year old princess, that’s ok. If my designer throw pillows get used to build a pirate ship in the Living Room, then they have fulfilled their purpose. And if the Lucky Charms get spilled all over the carpet, I’m not going to freak out about it. I’m going to let the kids eat it up off the floor like dogs, or pick out just the marshmallows, because after all, they are just kids. This is their time to enjoy life.

And better yet, if the mom {that’s me!} stops being a drill sergeant and turns into her children’s play mate, then our goal of “making a home” will have been a success.  Because it will be a happy home. And maybe that’s what the word homemaker actually means, or should mean. Maybe that’s the real job of a mother- to be there for her family. To be a friend, confidant, and best of all, a buddy to the little children she’s been trusted with. Because I don’t want my children to think they were ever a burden to me. I don’t want them to think that a clean house is more important than a happy family. And when they are all grown and gone, I want them to remember their mom as the best pal they had growing up, and no amount of spilled cereal is going to ruin that for me.




  1. I know what you mean! Being a mom can be very overwhelming, but I can’t even imagine what it would be to have a few small children in the house! You have no reason to feel guilty. It’s always better to have a dirty house and a happy wife than a clean house and an unhappy wife.

  2. I am a divorced mom with a 16 yr old boy and 5 yr old twin girls….plus a full time job and a home business doing alterations.
    **All children have something they love to do that could contribute to the household. One likes to take care of the dog. Both girls love to use the little vacuum dustbuster. My son likes to put things together. One loves to use a spray bottle (windex plus paper towels = super clean patio door. Capitalize on what they like to do.
    **My motto is “I can do 5 of anything”…hang 5 items of clothing out of the huge pile, wash dishes for 5 minutes, put 5 toys away (or tell the twins they also each need to put away 5 toys), sweep the kitchen in 5 minutes. Before I know it I trick myself into getting all of the laundry put away etc. Because once i get started its easier to keep going.
    **Teach the kids early and from the beginning really to put toys away, and that ORGANIZED toys where you can find all the parts are really more fun than jumbled, mixed up, incomplete ones.
    **And no matter what there is ALWAYS time to cuddle and sit with your kids. 5 minutes of playing turns into a lot more. We DO have time to play and read. It makes for happy loving kids that are even more willing to help mommy be happy and have the clean house we want.

  3. I love this! It’s so hard to keep focused on this simple task. I am so embarrassed when someone comes over to my house and things are out of place and I find myself making excuses. When in reality every mom knows what we go through and can relate. I too want my kids to remember all of the fun times we had making messes and memories!

  4. Natalie,
    I’ve sensed your frustration all summer and it makes me sad. As you may know, I am not a stay at home mom, I am the sole provider for our family so our roles are reversed. However, my mother and I both learned a valuable lesson from my grandma who had 11 children. She spent all of her hours and days cleaning and keeping her home presentable and missed out on forming meaningful relationships with many of her children. My mother and I have both chosen to spend more time with family and less time cleaning and although it has presented a different challenge of always working toward being more clean, I am truly grateful. I am also grateful for this post because sometimes I reevaluate my level of cleanliness and try to decide if it is adequate and when I contrast it with the daily joy and satisfaction brought to me by those little moments with my family, I know it is.


  5. This is all so true…I am so tired of the stock answer to “How are you?” being “Busy”. But when I take a moment to look at what makes me “busy” I can’t seem to find very satisfying reasons. Sure some if it revolves around the kids and husband, but so much of it involves other things and much of that took priority over my family. I realized that I took on too much this past year. So, somehow, this year I am hoping to cull it back a bit so I can focus on my family more. Because, really, that is the most important thing.

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