“My house isn’t messy. It’s custom designed by a three-year old.” There it was again, posted to social media. As a society, we expect homes with young children to be a mess. Toys should be strewn across the floor, dishes stacked in the sink and crumbs hibernating under kitchen chairs. Laundry piles extending towards the ceiling are necessary for induction into parenthood.
Households with children are expected to be a chaotic, disastrous mess because there are more important things to tend to than cleaning; you know, feeding your children, bathing them and paying the bills. It’s true that parents can’t do it all and the cleanliness and organization of the home often takes a backseat to the more important necessities. In fact, it’s generally accepted that the messier the home is, the more loved the children are. And while I agree this is certainly the case for many households, it’s never been the case for mine.
I’m an organized mom. I have a type A personality. I thrive on organization and cleanliness. Dishes don’t sit in my sink beyond the end of a meal and items not currently being used are put away. Dirt in the mudroom is cleaned up fairly quickly because the thought of little feet depositing it around my house gives me the chills (and, yes, my husband frequently reminds me why it’s called a mudroom!).
Beds are made, crumbs are vacuumed and laundry is done before my kids can ask for their favorite shirt. My children’s messes are confined to the playroom in our basement. That is their area to spread out and leave a mess—for a little while, at least. This is how my house runs, because this is what I need in order to maintain my inner peace. And by doing so, I’m a happier, calmer and more mentally available mother to my children.
In this crazy world where we’re so quick to judge one another, the most important thing to remember is that we’re each unique.
My children are now eleven and seven, but I remember the judgement when having playdates during their toddler years. Mom friends would enter my home and disbelief was written across their faces as if there were something abnormal about me. My swept floors and freshly cleaned toilets made me seem like some kind of monster. What they didn’t realize is I didn’t clean up for them—I did it for myself. Even before my children were capable of cleaning the playroom themselves, I would put toys away when friends went home. It maintained my sanity, enabled me to think clearly and left my mind free to deal with the everyday stressors of parenting and life.
I don’t expect my children to keep their bedrooms spick and span because I want them to find their own level of peace. Books get left on their bureaus, toys from the playroom become misplaced in their drawers, and papers get taped to the wall (shocking, I know). But, in some ways, my type A cleanliness has taught my children helpful skills. Becoming accustomed to how we clean up in the shared areas of our home has taught my children that we do the same when we’re at a friend’s house. They understand the importance of leaving someone else’s space just as we found it. For that, I am proud.
Most importantly, I never expect other households to look like mine. In fact, I’m jealous of those who can let crumbs remain on the floor for a few days, ignore items sitting out on the counter and accept that toys will make their way into every room of the house. There is zero judgement on my part. But I’ve also embraced who I am, what I need to be my best and how my surroundings impact my wellbeing. I’ve accepted that my home must be clean for my brain to be clear.
So don’t put a thing away when we’re coming to your house. My needs in my own home don’t reflect my judgment of how you care for your home. You do you and I’ll do me. Because in this crazy world where we’re so quick to judge one another, the most important thing to remember is that we’re each unique. You may not be fazed by a messy counter or crumbs on the floor, and I respect you for that. But I am a better mother when my house is organized and clean—and being a good mom is my top priority.