I have five young children. My house gets messy daily.
Despite my best efforts, random stuffed animals, shoes, socks, jackets, pillows, puzzles, crayons, and toys end up strewn across my house on a sometimes hourly basis. And that’s to be expected! I have children.
Children make messes. And I let them make messes.
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I let them (and encourage them to) play in the dirt and explore outside (I am a free-range type parent) and come inside and paint, and draw and imagine away with their toys, blankets and pillows.
I give my children the vast majority of the day to use their creative imagination to play.
I believe in play.
I believe in playtime more than “learning time” for my young children, so I fully expect messes and memories to be made.
It’s why I can get behind phrases like:
“Please excuse the mess. The children are making memories.”
I don’t buy into this idea that I need to wait until my children are sleeping to clean up my house.
Not for a second. In fact, I believe in cleaning the house with kids who are awake!
I often feel like I’m in the minority on this one, especially when sentiments like this are commonly shared online:
“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”Phyllis Diller
“Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.”Unkown
So while I totally get that as you clean one spot your kids will just mess another, and that the cleaning never ends, does that mean we should never clean? Or only clean when the kids are safely away?
But, not to me.
Look, I’m not a clean freak (although I enjoy cleaning). I don’t obsess over messes. I can go days without cleaning anything. I can easily step over toys and doodads all day long without having it drive me insane as I am not OCD.
But, I assure you, I don’t like to clean while my kids are sleeping. I want my kids awake while I clean the house.
So, yes, I clean the house while my children are awake. And there are very good reasons for it.
Why I Like Cleaning the House with Children Around
1. I don’t believe my daily life at home with my kids should be all about them.
I don’t believe it is my duty to ensure that every single minute of every day is scheduled with a “meaningful” activity unlike most 21st century stay at home moms.
I don’t do crafts.
I don’t enroll my children in sports, clubs, or other activities until they are at least 5 or 6 years old.
I don’t believe I need to ensure my child’s happiness constantly while they are awake.
As I said before, I believe in play and not entitlement. My kids get to play, and they do a great job of it. My kids rarely complain about being bored. I don’t know if they really knew what that word was until about 4 or 5 years old.
Sure, I redirect them to a new activity from time to time, but I let my kids play independently and without me (as well as with me) throughout each day.
This essentially means I have time to do other things while they are awake: like clean, cook, shower, blog, read a book, make phone calls, etc.
2. I don’t want my children to think that a magical elf comes and cleans their house for them each and every night.
I want them to know that I clean, their father cleans, and that they, too, are expected to clean.
Cleaning is an essential part of life and of taking care of a home.
Of course things will get messed up again, but it doesn’t mean we should be slobs or live in filth.
We need to clean, and I absolutely believe my children need to see me cleaning up the house, washing and folding laundry, vacuuming, cleaning dishes, and mopping the floor. Seeing me (or their father) clean helps them learn gratitude.
My children also like having a clean home (which seems crazy considering they make 85% of the mess around here).
I have been so humbled and touched by my children thanking me for cleaning their room, for vacuuming, for making our home “beautiful,” as they say. They love having a clean home just as much as I do.
3. If I clean during the day, my children can help me.
Even though I want my children to see me cleaning, I also expect them to help according to their abilities and age.
My kids generally like helping, and they have certain activities that they prefer to others.
One likes to scrub down the table and help me sweep the floors, while her twin sister loves to vacuum. The oldest will help fold clothes and both enjoy making their beds.
My young son can occasionally be counted on putting a few toys back in a container.
I love seeing them take pride in cleaning.
About once a week they’ll ask us to come up to their bedroom so they can show off how clean it is, how the beds are made, and how their laundry is actually in the hamper, beaming with pride and satisfaction.
As a parent, I love instilling the value of hard work in my children, and they know that “you don’t give up” when things are tricky or hard.
I don’t expect my kids to clean perfectly or to my level of cleanliness, but I help them learn how to do it better if need be.
4. I don’t want to spend my precious me time, quiet time, cleaning.
Sure, if I spend the quiet, kid-free hours of my day cleaning, it’ll stay spotless longer, but at what cost?
The cost of me developing other skills?
Socializing with friends in person or online, like at my monthly book club?
Quality time with my husband?
Time spent writing or promoting this blog?
Or at the cost of my already limited hours of sleep?
I do not want to clean during nap time or at the end of my very long days chasing around little kids.
I’d rather forget about those dishes in the sink and save them for tomorrow morning while my children are eating breakfast, and instead pop some popcorn, pull up a TV show, and snuggle up next to my hubby at the end of a long day.
My home is a mess a lot of times.
And some areas of our home (dusting for instance) are ignored for a very, very long time (just take a peak at our Household Chores Printable). But, I don’t mind.
While I still prefer to clean some things while my children are away or sleeping, like showers or other “bigger” projects which are more time or chemical-intensive, most of the cleaning happens with my children awake, and often times with them helping.
That’s why sometimes, I’m bothered by sayings like:
“Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids.”
I don’t believe for a second that a prerequisite to being a good mom is having a messy home.
While I know that such sayings are to help moms not feel overwhelmed, the reality is that kids don’t really like living in a messy home, nor do their parents.
Messy, unclean homes tend to stress everyone out.
I don’t think a home has to be constantly spotless or that you need to clean your oven more than like twice a year, but cleaning regularly, to whatever your level of cleanliness is acceptable for you and your family, is good practice.
Because, honestly, your top priority as a mom should not be an immaculate house; it should be happy children. That’s why I would rewrite the above quote simply:
“Good moms have happy kids.”
My house is far from spotless, and some days I don’t clean a. single. thing. but I am proud to say that I clean the house with children awake, as nonsensical as that may sound to many of you.
So, tell me, do you clean while your children are awake? Why or why not?
Lori Rothermund says
I have six kids and a messy house that gets cleaned while they are awake. Which with six kids after my husband and I clean the house it still resembles the messy house we started with! Our kids do like to help though Lily the 5 year old loves to clean the windows, Margaret the 8 year old loves to mop and Ian the 4 year old loves to vacuum- with Daddy’s help. Our 19 year old is in charge of dishes (loading and unloading the DW) and all the trash and the other two boys ages 7 and 10 just kind of ramble around the house finding a hiding spot at chore time. We don’t enforce and demand cleaning out of them but if they help we toss a few bucks at them. Needless to say the two middle boys are usually very poor. I would never wait until the kids were in bed to clean the house to give them the illusion that some kind of fairy visited and cleaned up their messes for them. I think that would lead to even bigger messes to be made. I do play with them sometimes but I do not spend every free moment with my kids like some moms do. Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves. When I hear that “I’m bored” out of them I just tell them to use their never ending imagination to find something to do. I also explain to them I am not the cruise director on this ship of life and did not plan any activities for the day. My 4 year old usually wants to know where the boat is and then the kids end up playing pirates! Gosh! What a ramble, I hope some of this made sense!
Katelyn Fagan says
Yes it did Lori!! I love it! Thanks for your comment! I don’t believe in being the cruise director either (you should check out my 21st stay at home mom post for more thoughts on that).
I love this! I do this too, and my three little girls totally take note. They love to help, and even at 5, 3 and 1, they know how to help me pick up every night. I will catch them making beds, wiping the table, etc. I had chores to do when I was younger, and although our house is covered in a layer of play-things much of the time, it gives me a lot of piece of mind to shovel it all away several times a day, and as the girls help, it is an added bonus:
Katelyn Fagan says
Thanks Liz! My daughter made our bed all by herself this morning! And she was so proud and made me come see, as she had a surprise for me. 🙂
Sara Reimers says
Great article! Believe me, as a Mom who works outside the home, I think these principles still apply. I agree that a clean’ish home is nice but that a slightly messy home is fine too. 🙂 Your article was a great encouragement to me. Thanks!
Katelyn Fagan says
You are welcome! And yes, this should apply to mothers who work outside the home or only in it. I just know that many mothers who work outside the home feel guilty spending their limited time with their kids cleaning, but I hate to see them spending all their alone time cleaning too!
You’re so right!
Although I do most of my cleaning when they are gone, I do see the value of doing it while they’re there. My 3 and 5 year ols boys love to participate in all the chores: vacuum, spray with the window cleaner, mop (slop), rinse dishes, etc…
Will definitely promote this new approach now 🙂
Maybe it’s because I have somewhat older kids, but I believe my kids should do most of the cleaning. The do, after all, make most of the mess. Also, this is my first time visiting this blog. There are so many ads in the way that it’s difficult to read. I don’t expect to ever come back. I’m on a tablet, and I’m sure it’s worse on a smartphone.
Katelyn Fagan says
I think as they get older they should definitely be expected to do most of the cleaning too. 🙂 And thanks for letting me know about the ads. I don’t want to turn away readers. I will see what my ad provider can do to limit them. Have a blessed day!
Savanah Fahrney-Day says
I definitely agree! My children are expected to help clean and they have their own cleaning/morning routine as well as chores to do throughout the day to earn special privileges.
Deonna at the Child at Heart blog says
I always clean at the end of the day while my son is awake too. I want him to help me and he’s learning every time. He might actually make it take longer now, but someday I will be glad I did it when he can clean his own room and make his own bed. I also value my “me time” WAY too much to clean until I fall asleep. That’s my corny movie and super long bath time 🙂
I total agree with this, and I too, clean my house while both my children are awake, and I do my deep cleaning (showers, shampooing floors, etc) with them awake and here as well. They are very much involved in all the daily workings of my house, especially my 3 year old son, he gets overwhelmed when his room is overly messy, (such as when he has little friends over or its been a few days since I’ve organized his room to MY standards, haha) He wont even go in there and play because he will step on something or trip over something and then he’s just in a bad mood and doesn’t want to go anywhere near it, so I try to keep him interested in cleaning and picking up, and we work together making beds and doing the dishes and doing and putting away laundry, he loves to dust and clean the tv screens (with my help of course) my 9 year old is in charge of helping make sure all the toys get put back WHERE they belong BEFORE they switch to another activity, or another room to play in, She also takes out the trash, puts away her own laundry and helps me to wash and fold the other laundry. I think it is good parenting to teach your children that they have to work to have nice things and that nice things and nice houses (regardless of the size of your house, or your income) don’t stay nice on their own, it requires you to put forth effort, and i believe that it instills in them a respect and gratitude for the things they have and the responsibility to take care of them. and I PERSONALLY believe that raising your kids to think that it’s okay to live in a cluttered filthy house isn’t good parenting and it’s not doing anything good for them for their future to think that its okay to have mold growing on the dishes and dirty laundry all over the house and broken toys always under foot. I’m so glad to know there are other moms like me out there that take the initiative to teach good values to their children, no matter how small. my house has always been clean, (except for a small few week stint when my son was first born and i had PPD and didn’t even want to get out of bed) and he has grown up understanding that cleaning is part of our everyday routine and that if you keep up with it then it only takes a little while and then off to play in a house you can actually move around in and see the floor in haha. I’m not a perfect parent, and I know everyone has a different way they deal with their house and children, and I do not intend to put anyone down with this comment, it is only my personal feelings on the matter. but thank you for taking time out of your busy day (3 kids, wow!) to talk on this subject, which i think is pretty important. I loved this, and it really spoke to me on a personal level. lol.
Mostly, I clean when my kids go to bed. I feel like I work too much and my daughter being in school takes too much time away to waste any more of it doing things I can do after they go to sleep. My children are 2 and 6 and my daughter cleans before bed, but I still finish up things I need to do alone after the kids go to bed. Doing dishes or sweeping the floor just doesn’t really feel complete when 5 minutes later there are crumbs on the floor or more dishes in the sink.
Aline Cartier says
So inspiring! I definitely agree with you! My children like helping me with the cleaning and it’s very interesting for them each time. I leave them play free and do messes and it’s not a big deal. I’ve never thought about cleaning while they’re sleeping, it don’t make sense to me.We clean together all our messes sooner or later, I have my time alone and they have their time to play, to imagine and create. You and your blog are a great inspiration for me. Greets!
I absolutely agree!
My 2 year old son loves to use his own little broom when I’m sweeping. He also helps to unload the dishwasher and helps me move the laundry into the washer or the dryer. He really likes to wipe down things too, the table, the chairs, the floor, Mommy’s pants 😉
And even though he doesn’t like it much I expect him to help clean up his toys too!
He has gone through different fases when I’m cleaning. Sometimes he’s happy to play by himself, sometimes he is unhappy and sometimes he wants to help.
He is however very scared of the vacuum cleaner, which is a recent thing. Maybe if I get him a toy vacuum he would get less scared.
Katelyn Fagan says
I have a friend who said she skipped the toy vacuum and just got her kids those lightweight push vacuums! ha ha ha. Smart for her! Keep up the good work Momma!
Great post! Kids need to be involved in the daily process of what it takes to keep house clean.
Absolutely clean while they are awake. No fairies come to clean this house and you better come help too
Cleaning with kids is fun to bond with them. The amazing thing is that kids love it too. When else will I discuss with my kids and they, in turn, learn with my busy schedule?
I love your blog, I just stumbled on it now.