You Don’t Have to Choose: Clean House & Happy Kids


Writing is work, and since the old proverb is true that money doesn’t grow on trees, I’ve been dedicating most of my time to my fiction writing of late. Once in a while, though, something comes along that crawls up under your skin, forcing you to write about it so you can rid your mind of the toxins. Such an article made its way into my pores tonight.

I’m not a fan of either/or stories, usually. Life proves with increasing frequency that rarely is “either/or” the way things actually are. There are generally many explanations or solutions. Thus, most of these stories are just some false dichotomy built around (or sometimes for) drama.

When I clicked on this little piece written in a man’s point of view, I thought I’d be happier by the end. The letdown was not dissimilar from a bad date.

Writing for The Washington Post, author Clint Edwards’s article “I Blamed My Wife for a Messy House. I Was Wrong For Many Reasons” seemed to have the potential of being rather insightful.

I wanted to read about a man who not only shared in the work of raising children, but also in keeping the home. To be fair, he does hit on that aspect, at least a little. He says he started washing some of the dishes after realizing the heavy workload carried by his wife, a stay-at-home mother. He even says he began to be more aware of his children’s development.

Kudos, I guess. Call me crazy, but I thought most dads did that sort of thing nowadays.

Sure, most of the time women carry the greatest part of the burden in the household as far as raising children, cooking, and keeping house. Maybe in decades past men weren’t helpful in the home, but I think that climate has changed significantly, even from just a decade ago.

I’m not honestly here to argue the finer points of gender roles in anyone’s home, though. What really bothered me was the point Edwards laments that having a messy, disorganized home is quite acceptable.

I refute that idea completely. Why? Let me tell you.

I raised three sons. Part of that time I worked a full-time job. My home was still never disorganized or dirty. I didn’t have the time of day for disorganization. “Messy” made me late. “Dirty” made me edgy. Our home was clean, neat, and organized so we knew without question where everything was, and there wasn’t a need for last minute cleaning if guests were coming. We were ready.

I say “we,” because we were a family, but I happened to have a husband who wouldn’t have lifted a finger to wash a dish or pay attention to our children any more than he would’ve volunteered for a superfluous rectal exam. Not that he shouldn’t have—don’t get me wrong, I deserved more help that I received. However, I did it. My kids learned to clean up after themselves, and no one suffered.

I had time to attend sporting events, band concerts, and school functions. Believe it or not, even though I took time to wash dishes, I was still able to potty train my 3 sons—a feat the author’s wife, apparently, is unable to perform.

This whole concept of one not being a good parent if they have to take time to clean their home makes no sense at all to me, and this woman didn’t work outside the home, either.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I had time for all my children, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and even time to myself.

It isn’t about life being one or the other. It’s about being organized enough to make things work. Granted, sometimes that means enlisting help—and listen up men, if you’re not already helping, you should be. However, while being a stay-at-home mom is more than being Peggy Bundy circa Married with Children, eating bonbons and watching Oprah Winfrey, it is also not impossible.

Edwards says his wife would rather not be the type of mother who pays no attention to her children or herself, making it sound as if those stay-at-home parents who do find time to keep the household in the kind of order that prevents our neighbors from thinking we should be on an episode of Hoarders, are neglectful parents who also make no time for ourselves.

I call it hogwash.

Sometimes the kids have to come before scouring the tub, but generally speaking, what parents learn to do best is multi-task. Yes, that may mean you will sometimes be tired. That may mean your kids will not have your undivided attention throughout the day. It will probably also mean the kids need to pitch in to clean up their own little messes, but what’s the harm in that?

Keeping house has been part of human life since the advent of homes. Humans build a space to accommodate their family, and someone has to keep it clean. What humans are also champions at doing is complicating very simplistic situations.

Are we to believe that homemakers, no matter their gender, have life harder now than say in the 19th and 20th centuries? With all the new automated machines we have it harder? Now that we put dishes in a dishwasher or clothing in the washing machine and walk away until they’re ready to be removed instead of washing laundry on a washboard or dishes by hand in a sink—both which used to require also carrying water, I am to believe a person who stays home with their children is overburdened? Doubtful.

Here’s the real truth: Our lives have become so much easier we fail to organize properly, and we complain at even small efforts.

Rather than letting work pile up, women (and I say “women” because in the past it was traditionally women who were doing the work in the home) used to keep on top of things because they knew that pile of dishes or laundry would be impossible to tackle if they didn’t. Now, it seems so easy. “I’ll get that later,” but later never comes. By the time someone decides to jump in, the house is a disaster.

It isn’t either the house or the kids. Both can be attended to nicely, but it will take a slight bit of effort. Not the effort our foremothers were forced to put forth, mind you, but a little organization and time dedicated each day to housework can save so much trouble and embarrassment. While you’re at it, enlist the kids. One day they’ll be adults, and unless you want to clean their homes for them, it might be a good idea for them to know what cleaning looks like. Life isn’t all trips to the park, even though we wish it could be. The little ones won’t hate you for spending the time to clean the house. In fact, they’ll probably appreciate it in the long run.

(image source:


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