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In Defense of the Clean Mom

In Defense of the Clean Mom

When this article about What Normal Looks Like went viral, I was torn. On the one hand, I celebrate with moms who feel free from the perfection monster. The need to do it all and be it all and have a sparkling house and a sweet smile while doing it can be crushing. At the same time, however, I felt a little perturbed.

See here’s the thing, I’m a clean mom.

When I read that for most moms normal is “Your sink is full of dishes, your dishwasher is full of dishes, your table and counter are full of dishes, and you can’t find a clean spoon.” I kind of cringed. That does not sound normal to me.

I mean, what is normal anyway? We’ve been raised different ways, in different cultures, by different families. Is there really a “normal” when it comes to home life?

I will say that my sink has been full of dishes with no spoons to be found. That was in throes of Duct Tape Parenting and from time to time, you will most certainly find dishes stacked everywhere. This is me teaching my children to care for our home and clean up after themselves. It’s also teaching them that I am not the maid. But in the days of little ones who could not do dishes, I did them. My husband did them. They did not stack up for days. That was not normal to me.

I remember very well sitting on the couch nursing a newborn with a 15 month old toddling around, and a 5 year old climbing the walls while surveying my home and thinking it would be easier to just burn it all down. We’ve all been there. It’s not easy to be mom and maid and chef and taxi and attentive spouse. I’ve been a stay at home mom for the most part of the last 14 years and in those early days I have no idea how I got it all done. How a working mom does it all? Well that just blows my mind. This mothering thing makes it really hard to keep things clean, but it is possible – not to have things perfect all the time, not to be able to lick the floors with no worries – it is possible to have a clean home, to put the laundry away, and to be a good mom.

I saw this sign at the store and I just about bought it just so I could throw it in the trash.

clean, mom

I’m pretty sure the definition of “good mom” in the dictionary does not say “see also, dirty oven.” My floors are not sticky, and for your information, my kids are still pretty dang happy.

I am the mom that the writer of the Normal post hates. You come to my house and you hate me because it’s always clean. I don’t apologize for it though. What we need are moms who support each other in their normal. I will tell you this, no one person has ever supported me in my normal. Except for my mom, who made me the clean freak I am today.

I have been told that “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life.” And I’ll be honest, it hurt my feelings. A clean house is a priority to me. This does not mean that my kids are being ignored. It does not mean I spend all day cleaning toilets for my own amusement. If I am expecting a play date, I will make sure my house is clean. Not because I worry about what you think but because a clean house is my way of showing respect and being hospitable to my guests. It’s how I was raised. I hear quite often, “Your home always feels so welcoming and warm.” It’s not the candles folks, it’s work.

If I don’t have time to clean my house, then I don’t have time for a play date.

I realize that sentence (and this whole post for that matter) may upset some people. I know, sometimes you just need adult interaction, screw the clean house. I GET IT. I’ve been there! But don’t judge me for having different priorities than you.

I will close with this, I don’t judge moms who relate to the “normal” post. I don’t come to your house and think “good lord woman what have you been doing all day, clean this pig sty!” I know what you have been doing all day. It’s ok. I don’t hold you to the expectations that I hold myself to. I don’t notice your dust and I don’t care if we are eating chicken nuggets off of a paper plate. If I come to your house it’s because I want to see you, not your house. All I ask is that you not judge me and my normal in return. We are all in this together.

I won’t look in your dining room, but please feel free to look in mine. It’s clean!

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24 Responses to In Defense of the Clean Mom

  1. Kristin May 5, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    THANK YOU!!! I read the article you are referring to, and like you I was upset. I felt sad that maybe I was being a bad mother by caring too much about my home and laundry and not just letting it all go for my kids. I do a lot with my children (2,4 and 11) but between swim classes, softball games and trips to the zoo and beach I like to make sure we work together and try to keep our home as neat as possible. I believe I am teaching them that we can have fun but after the work is done.
    I know its hard for working moms to get it all done. But, I don’t think it is fare for them or anyone to judge others who do want to take a little time away from all the fun to straighten up. So thank you writer!!

    • Em December 11, 2015 at 12:05 am #

      Amen. Thank you! Just today, I got the evil eye for saying I clean up when people are coming over, it is how I was raised and frankly, I function so much better in a clean house. I always feel judged for being someone who likes a clean, organized and decorated house. It’s annoying. I don’t care about their space like you said, I am there to see them, but I hate when people make me feel like I am somehow less of a Mom for wanting a clean space.

  2. Meredith May 8, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    Amen sistah! I’m a full time (40+ hours per week) working mom and trying (and often succeeding) to keep the house clean is something that I do. It honestly just gives me anxiety not to be organized and tidy. I find life is easier when I know where things are. The stereotype/image of a dirty home seems to always be associated with a finite amount of time, as if you MUST be trading this off with the time you spend with your children. It is not. I find time, but not at the sacrifice of enjoying time with my baby. And agreed… I don’t judge others, this is just for myself!

    • Camille May 12, 2015 at 12:08 am #

      Yes! Me too! My babies are asleep by 7, and I get to work cleaning. It makes me happy. I don’t have a tv and cleaning is my favorite ‘show’! 😉

  3. Renee May 8, 2015 at 10:14 pm #

    I keep my house clean because that’s how I was raised. Everything has a place and everything in its place. I honestly think that women aren’t taught how to keep a clean house and cook anymore by their own mothers. I’m 36 years old and over half of my girlfriends have come over for cooking lessons. I am a mom to a 6 year old and 18 month old. Keeping my house clean and cooking good nutritious meals are a priority because my daughters have to learn. I also find the time to spend with my husband, make a good majority of the cleaning supplies that I use, am an active member in my church and walk 3 miles a day. I would rather my daughters learn first hand how to be a good productive giving member of society than play barbies with the neighbor’s kid.

  4. Nickie May 10, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    Thank you for writing! My house isn’t spotless, but it’s a priority- oddly, growing up in a house with 4 kids, 4 sports teams (at least) per season, and moving every 3 years, our house was rarely neat (my mom was super hygenic, but our stuff was always everywhere.) And now I make an effort- I still struggle with ‘stuff’, but I’ve thought the same thing about wanting my kids to learn to take care of their space.

    T

  5. Zee May 10, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    I love this!! I feel like I wrote this article!!

  6. Green May 11, 2015 at 2:33 am #

    If you all feel hurt just by reading a random article on the internet, then God help you.

  7. LizzieB May 12, 2015 at 12:29 am #

    I LOVE this! I too am a clean mom. I don’t do it for other people, I do it for me. It’s something I need to do. I don’t judge those that are not as picky as I am, I know there are not many of us around, but I have always had a clean home, and I have 4 kids (1 set of twins). It’s not easy, and some days I wonder why I have to be the way I am, but it is what it is. I enjoy my clean home and from the comments I often receive, others enjoy it too. My kids are not ignored, they play, they get messy, crumbs fall, sticky hands prevail, but in the end the messes are sorted, kids are washed and put to bed, and it feels great to be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy my home.

  8. Sabrina J. May 12, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks for the article! I grew up in house that was always neat and tidy, but I never felt neglected by my mom. Honestly, cleaning was something that we did together–and I’m THANKFUL for that. Am I the neatest–no way. But, I’m thankful for a mom that taught me that cleaning up my home is important too! We still have to keep living even though we have children!

  9. Zada May 12, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    Both my husband and I work full time but still find time to do laundry, clean dishes, mop and vacuum. I can always find a clean spoon. We include the kids in on the cleaning because it’s important for us to have a clean, presentable house as we have people that just drop in on the weekends. I have some friends that belittle me for it and some that are embarrassed to have me over. To me I don’t care if you have a random stuff gathered on your countertops, heck I do about once a week too, but instead of judging each other why not help? I’ve asked for pointers from stay at home friends on how to incorporate the kids in cleaning and I’ve offered some suggestions on toy organization to others. We should be a support system.

    • Tasha Lehman May 12, 2015 at 11:49 am #

      Yes! Agree 100%!

  10. Meg May 12, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    The sign is not judging you, nor are the people who buy it. They are using humor to deflect shame and blame from themselves. Be happy that you are so capable. I think that most people who buy those dirty house signs are joking for when they occasionally have their hands full. If your house is clean, good for you, and why are you worried about being “normal”? You are obviously above the curve, so don’t sweat it.

  11. Amanda May 13, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

    I have never been accused of having a perfect home, but I’ve learned the habit of keeping it relatively tidy. My mother taught me many things, but housekeeping was not one. I learned from good friends who showed me their daily routine. When parenting eight boys in a foster group home, we had the added accountability of the stating popping in for unscheduled visits. The results of these visits could remove kids from our home, result in us losing our job, and even cause the entire home to be shut down. We learned the habit of cleaning all day every day. When a mess is cleaned immediately and rooms are continually cleaned, it hardly seems like much work at all. When things pile up and get overwhelming, it’s time to call a friend, not just call a mess “normal” and ignore it.

  12. Amanda May 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm #

    I meant that the *state would stop by unannounced to check the cleanliness of our home. And by cleanliness, I mean there can’t be a foul smell in a little boy’s closet or an item of laundry hanging out of a clothes basket. My favorite: the laundry room could not be used to hold baskets of dirty laundry. Seriously?! Also, I should proofread before I submit next time.

  13. Monica May 14, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    Thank you! I’m a clean mom too, I can’t imagine getting on with my day or going out to have fun with a dirty home. I was thrilled to read this. You made my day!!
    Having grown up in a tidy home and around tidy, kept women reading this felt like coming home. I’m not a weirdo after all. I love and enjoy my clean and tidy home. I’m not letting it consume me but giving myself a small daily chore list has helped me maintain the environment I grew up in and it makes me a more relaxed and fun mom. I’m so happy you came to our defense. Thanks again!

  14. Emily June 26, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    I’m a bit of a neat freak, but lately with a 10 mo and a 4yo, there are a few things that don’t get done as often as I’d like (like mopping). I’ve had to let go a lot of the anxiety over not having a sparkling clean, yet tidy, house.
    I once told my mom I didn’t want to have company in the weeks following the birth of my son, because my house was, in my mind, a mess. She said “if they’re not going to pick up a mop and help, they have no right to judge!” that made me feel better, coming from someone who also likes things very neat.

  15. Sarah July 27, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    I am right there with you! It’s hard to keep it clean with two little boys, especially because we homeschool, so we’re almost always around making more messes! It’s also important to teach he kids to keep their spaces clean, just like my mom taught me!

  16. Rachel December 10, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    I appreciate this post so much! I’m not a clean freak exactly but I spend much of time keeping my house clean. I play with my children! I just can’t STAND to have clutter! I feel as if I have cluttered thoughts and cluttered projects if the house isn’t organized! Listen, I’m not the person who has everything alphabetized and perfectly set all the time! I’m talking about vacuumed, dusted, tidy! I won’t go to bed if there are dishes in the sink and dinner isn’t cleaned up. I refuse to do a load of laundry more than once! It’s just part of my being! I get tired of people tell me not to expect a clean house while I have children! I teach them to clean! My one year old cleans up her toys before we eat lunch, go take naps, eat lunch, etc! My mom was stunned she does it but I have very strict clean up rules and have taught her to clean up before we move to the next thing! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who does this and gets offended when I’m told differently!

  17. Cathy December 11, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

    Oh, my. I could have written this post. Mess and clutter are noise and a huge anger trigger for me, so my kids are much happier (because I’m calmer) with a clean house.

  18. Katie December 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I had this exact same train of thought just the other day! I was thinking about that sign and the other one that says “excuse the mess my children are making memories.” I was feeling guilty for taking the time to clean my house. I have 3 kids and the youngest is only 2.5 months so if I take time to tidy up someone is usually crying by the end. But I believe that is my way of serving my family, of teaching my kids and even keeping my sanity! And I think that my kids need to learn that I’m not here to entertain them all the time and that our house is a gift that needs to be taken care of

  19. mkayk January 10, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    I had 4 small kids and no help. My husband felt working in an office entitled him to sit un front of the RV every waking moment. I wasn’t the most organized mother and I struggled all day long, every day. My house was a disaster no matter how hard I tried. Some people act like its a trade-off – not always.

  20. Blair January 14, 2016 at 11:47 am #

    Amen sister! I work full time, have two little ones (2 and 6) at two different full time schools and my husband owns a bakery so he is gone by 4:30am every single day of the week.

    I AM AN OBNOXIOUSLY CLEAN MOM TOO!! But I’ve taught my children to help clean the floors and windows with me. They like organizing socks and using the funny vacuum machine that sounds like a dinosaur!

    Thanks for your post.

  21. Lindsay Alvey August 4, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    PREACH! I saw that same sign and wanted to do the same thing. My grandmother is the one who instilled the priority of a clean house in me. Just because I choose to keep a clean house doesn’t mean that I judge people who do not. I couldn’t care less what anyone else does, messy or not. This is just my choice. My husband even gets annoyed with me sometimes when I am doing dishes and tidying the kitchen before bed, specifically so I don’t have to deal with the mess in the morning. Call me a nerd, but I think of our house like my office. Back when I worked full time, I wasn’t able to work efficiently without having things in order. Same applies in my home. When stuff is in disarray, I can’t focus (and honestly my son goes a little crazy too). Can completely relate to this! -A fellow Clean Mom from Scottsdale Moms Blog 🙂

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