My house is going to be messy sometimes – and I have to be OK with that

Apr 2, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Image: Peter Muller/Getty

Let's talk about one parenting paradox I can't wrap my head around. There's a dialogue going on about clean homes versus messy homes when you're living with little kids. All parents with small children know it's a challenge to keep a home clean with toddlers. Having two at home taught me a (literally) valuable lesson: We can't own nice things. OK, so nice things aside, am I supposed to have a clean home or not?

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Clean houses don't stand a chance against toddler messes

We've all been a guest in a spotless house even though the mom has small children at home. In most cases I imagine the parent quickly cleaned right before we arrived to mess it up again with the tornado of a toddler play date. There's something to be said about respecting your guest and having your home nice for them. I get it.

The paradox is the mantra of moms out there saying they are better mothers because they have a dirty floor or sticky counters. There's even a cute little rhyme older women like to quote about how dust can wait but babies don’t keep. That's all fine and good, but then why do we feel the pressure to have a clean home for company and our husband. Which is it?

I sure can't decide. I understand both options, and honestly it has turned me into a contradictory housekeeper. One day I'm all games, and who cares about the dishes because these special times don't last, and the next I can't play because I need to mop this nasty floor. Please tell me other people experience this internal struggle. At my house, the home is either messy and the kids are happy or it's pretty darned clean and I am at my wits' end with all my small "helpers." You try cleaning the bathroom with two toddlers all over everything.

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Balancing a clean house and happy kids

I don't want my home to be disgusting, and of course I want to be a good mom. I seriously think I need help from moms of the past, as I feel like this is a generational thing. We are so torn between having to present a clean home and presenting the attitude that the house is a mess because we live here and are always having so much fun and enjoying these precious times.

I don't want to hear the platitudes anymore about how the dishes can wait, because, honestly, I am not about to do all the housework after the kids go to bed. I want to relax with my man. So, what's a mom to do? I don't think previous generations had this problem. I think homes were kept reasonably clean and kids played well with or without the mom — and that was OK. What happened to that? Can we please just have our home at the cleanliness level we prefer and be done with it?

Finding my personal cleaning comfort zone

Yes, chores are no fun, but for me there is peace of mind when I have a clean home. Some women hire housekeepers to solve this issue. For those of us doing it all on our own, I just figure I'd better find a way to enjoy my own home. We are a middle-ground home: I have to accept that my whole house won't be clean all the time and also accept that my kids will know I still love them if sometimes I can't play because I have to get some cleaning done!

I'm pretty sure I have enough moments with these toddlers to take 15 minutes and wash my dishes. If a friend wants to come over during the day, I will probably pick up a bit for her but not scrub down the walls. And that's OK, because it's our house.

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