Clean Houses and Spending Time with Kids

Updated on November 04, 2013
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
24 answers

I'm sure you know someone whose "mom" or "aunt" likes to say that you can always tell someone's priorities by the state of their house: the messier it is, the more well loved their kids are, etc.

Do people say these things out of politeness or do they really believe it?

i ask because I keep a well-ordered, clean house. My floors are cleaned almost every day, and the kids do have to put away their toys. By de-cluttering, using flylady and a roomba vacuum, I feel like I have a great system down that only takes a few 15-30 blocks a day. My kids clean their bedroom floor every night, and the toy room is picked up twice a day. The kids pick up the crumbs after meals....and I have granite or natural stone everywhere, so things are usually freshly wiped down. It takes 1-2 minutes, and I just do it after going pee first and last thing every day.

Soon I will have baby pulling everything down, but moving puzzles and things out of her reach is on this weeks "to-do" list.

in any case, I'm just curious if people believe that saying or if it's a politeness thing, because when I hear it, I hear the reverse judgement: since my home is clean, I obviously don't play enough with my kids.

For me, an orderly environment is essential to having an orderly, happy brain. Whenever my house gets messy and dirty, it's a sure sign that I'm depressed.

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So What Happened?

We have two crafting spaces where long-term projects can sit out, btw. I'm all for creative chaos! My dream home has a giant crafting room that is all windows!

Gamma g. I am not OCD. By clean the toy room, the kids have to pick up the floor. Toys go in bins, on their kitchen counter top and in the closet. There is nothing OCD about any of our closets. The kids put their clothes in bins, but they don't fold them. With me it's about everything having a home. Shoes can be throw onto the closet floor, I don't care, as long as I'm not tripping on shoes!

I also just wanted to say that I have no interest in how other people keep their homes. I have friends that horde, and friends that have immaculate homes. Whatever people want, I just heard someone invoke their aunt the other day and I was just wondering.

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answers from Houston on

If that is true, then after the busy week I just had, my son is the most beloved child ever on the face of the earth in the entire history of mankind!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

As a F/T working mom, I just don't have that much time to devote to cleaning. Other than straightening up at night after the kids go do bed, general cleaning has to wait until the weekends. I also have a husband that helps, so that's a big plus.
If it's a priority for you, then who cares what everyone else thinks! Go with what works for you.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I've had both clean and messy houses over the years and I know that I have more time with my kids when I keep my house neat and clean. It's also so much more peaceful! When everything is in it's place you feel like you can take a break and play. I'm learning to put my house and my life first, but it's a daily struggle to not let work and everyone else go to the top of the list again. I have to force myself to do my flylady routines each day and love myself. It pays off.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Miami on

People espouse their personal view based on how they keep their own house. You have the folks who say stuff like your aunts say, and you have people say stuff like "cleanliness is next to Godliness."

You run your household the way you want, and don't worry about what anyone else says.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

Fact of the matter is that a neat/orderly house is not the priority of everyone. Some people do not mind a bit of chaos. Some people are not good at organizing. Some people take 2 hours to clean one room of the house. For those people, I think they do believe that keeping their house neat and organized would take time away from their children. I don't think they are passing judgment on someone who keeps a neat home.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Well I think there's a difference between neat and tidy and neurotically, OCD, nothing-can-be-out-of-place-ever clean. I can't imagine the latter being a comfortable environment for kids so yeah, when I see a ridiculously spotless home I do wonder if the adults prize appearances over their children's comfort and freedom, or if the kids are relegated to some hidden place where they're allowed to be messy but are really not welcome in certain areas of the house.

One of my older kids has a couple of friends whose mothers are type-A women who have a ton of energy but for whatever reason are SAHMs (of one teenager each) so they channel their energy into having SPOTLESS homes at all time. My child reports that being at these homes is weird - the kids are only allowed in their own bedrooms - which their mothers clean - and one common room. There are formal living rooms, dining rooms and guest bedrooms in each house that no one is allowed in. Everything is "just so" ALL the time, which is just weird. When I see a home like that, my first thought is that someone could use a job or a hobby or some other way to fill his or her time. There's only so clean and tidy a home needs to be.

What you describe doesn't sound like that at all - what you describe sound kept up but lived in.

As for me? If my messy house is a sign of love, my kids are the most loved on earth LOL. What really happens in my house is that we get so busy, daily routines fall apart. I work FT and then teach and tutor several evenings a week, so there are weeks where it's a miracle if we have food in the fridge and clean laundry. I'm not going to vacuum when I get home at 10 PM, nor am I going to have my teenage son pick up his room at 10:30 on a school night when he gets home from a hockey game. Up at 4:15 AM for a before school practice? No swish and swipe for me, thanks. Saturday mornings used to be our "all hands on deck" clean up time but lately even those have been dominated by work for me and hockey and soccer for the kids, with the older kids often not home because they slept over someone's house.

I envy your orderliness, but not enough to give up activities or work so I live with the mess. Enjoy your orderliness while it works - you may find that as the kids get older and busier, some of those routines will go out the window and if and when that day comes, you'll adjust to whatever level of tidiness works best for you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Ask someone who works 40 or more hours a week, has multiple kid activities to race to, has to run out the door in the mornings, and STILL has to find the quality time with their kids.

I am a stay at home mom, so yeah...I have time for this stuff. I think it's all about perspective. I don't know how working moms do everything they do, so I would think some people DO have to prioritize kid time over cleaning time.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

It's what we cluttered and unorganized people say to make ourselves (and others) feel better.

At least that's how I view it. :)

I do not think the converse is necessarily true: i.e., organized and clean = not playing with kids.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Well, my mother in law says this to me often. I do believe she means it in a nice way. I made a conscious decision that while my kids were young we would spend our days out and about, and not so much worry about staying home and cleaning house. I do try to minimize the amount of cleaning that needs to be done by restricting food to the dining table and not allowing shoes in the house etc. I clean up the table and the floor underneath daily. Dishes, kitchen counters and laundry are done daily. I aim to put everything in its place. Clutter is still a problem, but the older the kids get, the less toy clutter we have. Stuff like floors, bathrooms and dusting don't get done often enough, and once in a while my MIL will drop by to do these for me. I appreciate it. I know some moms are homebodies and keep very clean tidy houses, but I am not a homebody and need to be out in the world. Even with my kids in school full time I manage to fll my time with other stuff (work, school, church etc) and still don't have the time for housework.

ETA: My MIL knows how much time I spend taking the kids to the zoo, museums, sports, the Y, church, parks etc. IF it were to come from someone who really wasn't familiar with our schedule I might think that it is placating or judging.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Personally I think it comes down to priorities. Does that make your way wrong? No. Does that make my way wrong? No. You do what works for you and your family and let everyone do what works for theirs with no judgments.

Most importantly, quit caring what other people say or think. You'll be much happier in the long run :-)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Peoria on

Everyone is different. Personally, I am the same as you. When my house is cluttered, my brain is cluttered and it makes me very cranky!! I don't want to be cranky when I spend time with my kids. I have always made the time to clean, and as a result, my children have successfully learned the value of self-entertaining AND they know that cleanliness is important. To me, it shows pride and loving care. You care so keep your house clean -clear of clutter so no one trips and gets hurt. And you care about having things (esp toys) put away in their proper places, so that little ones don't get frustrated when they can't find their favorite toys AND you care because it is clean - no worries about the nasty germs brought in from outside (animal feces, dirt, etc) when your kids are playing on the floor! If we don't take pride and have respect for the place we live in, then how can we teach showing pride in everything else we do, like schoolwork, relationships, work? In any case, when it is all done, just be sure you have carved out your special time with your children. Then you can relax and just enjoy them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

J., I think you are awesome and I inspire someday to be able to do the same with my house. But my ADD kicks in and it doesn't get done. lol I have some piles of things here and there downstairs since I'm home all day. But generally, I'm not embarrassed if someone stops by unexpectedly. If you don't like me because I have dirty dishes in the sink or piles of paper on the table then not my loss.

To answer your question, I believe it's just a saying that makes people feel better who dont have spotless homes and kids. It's just an easy out...I spend a lot of valuable time with my kids so I don't have time to clean. I have never thought the opposite like you said, where if you do keep on top of it and have a clean house, then it's assumed your kids are ignored becasue you are too busy cleaning. I think you are superwoman and are way more organized and disciplined than I am, but I hope to be like that someday! =0)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

It is nice to have a nice shiny home with things in their place and a place for their things. However, you can go overboard to the extent that it is not comfortable or inviting to visit. You feel that you are on eggshells with everything you do just to make sure you don't make a mess or mark on the counter..

Also if you are creative the time you spend being crafty would be put into the extra house cleaning. If you are constantly cleaning your home you will not be a crafter as you will be putting things up and away using up precious creative time.

I have been both and I prefer to be the crafter. A spotless home I had when my children were little and crawling around the floors learning how to walk. You could eat off the floors. My children were responsible for picking up their rooms before going to bed and putting toys away. I learned this from daycare with my son that after a certain hour all toys were put up and any toys that the child took out had to be put away before going home. It made sense and we did it.

I want to keep a clean and tidy home that is inviting to guests to visit. When there is something to be cleaned and I am in that room I do it then and I know it is done. I do not like showroom or hotel room style homes as there is no personality of the owners on view and no books or magazines in use. It is a house and not a home.

Hubby and I are in the process of him getting his health back and my getting ready to retire (FT) so we will be doing a permanent change of station (PCS) cleanout. Anything and everything that we have not used or worn in a set amount of time is going to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Lighthouse and the trash.

Life you gotta love it.

the other S.

PS My home was manageable until hubby got sick and came off the road as a long haul trucker and we had to empty out the tractor (my mini apartment on wheels) and that went into the garage and has now filtered into the regular home.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. It's really more about the parent's personality, their obligations, the level to which they prioritize cleaning, etc.

I can't know the motivations of a person who makes such a statement because I don't make those sorts of statements to people. I have friends who can offer me about 3 square feet of clean table and a cup of tea-- I just enjoy that, I don't look any further into judging if/why/should their house be cleaner, should they play with their kids more. Just doesn't hit my radar.

If someone said that to me, I suppose I could look for reasons to feel offended. Or I could decide if I'm happy with my home/space, happy with the quality of time I spend with my son.... and then, just let it go.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I went to a friends daughters home a few years ago. This friend of mine was a natural homemaker. She did her home similar to how you're describing. She did not allow the kids to have any leeway.

When I went to her daughter's home she gave me the grand tour. She had an extremely organized and showroom type home. Nothing was out of place or dusty.

She opened a door and it was one of her teen kids bedrooms. She started yelling at that child for having a filthy dirty room and to get in there and start cleaning it up. This room was pristine, there was nothing out of place, not even a comb or brush on the dresser. NOTHING was in this room. It looked like a hotel room.

I asked her what was wrong with it and she started in. The closet door was open and their shoes were crooked, their curtains were not drawn back for the day, they needed to straighten their bedspread, and they didn't have their clothes hanging in the right order.

Seriously? I'm just glad to go in the kids room and have their dirty clothes in the hamper. I asked her why her kids had to keep their rooms that organized and she said her mom had taught her that a clean house was the most important thing.

So, are you seriously teaching the kids anything by cleaning the playroom twice per day? What are you teaching them when you even organize when you go pee and when you wipe down the cabinets...

I think it's something you might want to consider. Being so OCD or OCPD is not completely a bad thing BUT there are more important things in life.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

My house is typically very neat and organized too. I don't like clutter and since everything has a place it doesn't take me long either. I clean as I go.

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answers from Chicago on

I think that you being a SAHM , you have the time to do that. Me being full time work & extras for the kids. There is no time to keep things perfect. I do straighten up daily. But the "heavy" cleaning is done on the weekends. Also, the worse the weather, the cleaner my house.

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answers from Washington DC on

Heck no. My house is normally clean as well (normally) and my kids get plenty of time. We also only take 15-30 minutes per day to keep the house in decent order. I think if you take that time, it takes very little time and everyone plays a part. If you don't take that time, then it completely falls apart and you end up with a flat mess that takes hours to fix.

So no, I do not agree with that statement at all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It totally depends on the schedule of the mom/family. I know plenty of working moms that don't have clean houses and they spend little time with their kids because they're working and have to do other stuff when they get home. One neighbor mom who works full time plays on a volleyball team and her kids play sports too. Judging from the poor behavior of her kids - she should spend more time with them.

I agree, an orderly house reduces the overall chaos and that does help everyone's stress level. Just being able to find things is worth the time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

Of course there are examples of people who are OCD and cleaning to the detriment of their children but that's like lumping people who have a messy house in with hoarders... I'm like you and keep our house neat bc I just feel better and I think it's settign an example for my kids. I take pride in our home and like to look around at a pretty room vs a mess. Just how my brain works. I do believe kids' rooms are their rooms so unless they were out of control, I will let them have them how they want. But so far my kids like them neat too. And we organize together so it's time spent with them. Plus, our house isn't pristine bc there are toys in every room including the LR. They're just neat. I go to some houses with kids and there's not a toy on the ground floor yet the house is so messy with other stuff. I think my balance is pretty good. Plenty of things for the kids to play with so the house is in no way a museum for adults but when the toys aren't being played with, they're not strewn all over the floor. I know what you mean about feeling reverse judged but whatever. I know it's not the case bc it actually doesn't take very long to keep our house clean bc everything has a place and it never gets so bad that cleaning up is a long process. Plus - my mom cooked, cleaned and sewed constantly and never ever played with me and I have a great relationship with her and never felt neglected in the slightest. Not sure how anyone could say you don't spend enough time with your kids btw - you homeschool...

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answers from Huntington on

I do think it is just a saying and is not necessarily true.

For me, the state of my living space and the state of my mind are linked. Cluttered house= cluttered, disorganized mind. I am a kinder, less stressed out mother and wife when the house looks decent. I am more willing to have friends over, go places and just hang with the kids if I can relax a bit and not feel like the mess is looming over me. That is just me, though, and my personality.

I do wonder, (and I am not picking at ya), do you work outside the home? I am mostly wondering how you manage to keep your house so in order. I feel like I do a decent job but there is a lot of room for improvement. There is no way I would be able to mop daily- once a week is the most I can get to it. Any tips you can throw our way would be welcomed. I probably get in an hour-1.5 hours cleaning a day, the kids do chores each day, and I feel like that is a lot of cleaning time.

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answers from Chicago on

Never heard of that. I have two kids and a career, and my house does go in dissay sometimes, but I try to clean it on weekends and it looks good otherwise. Plus, the kids have boy scouts and sports. It depends how well you use your time. I rarely watch tv.


answers from Houston on

I keep a messy home. I feel more at ease when visiting pals who have messy homes.



answers from Chicago on

I always thought that that saying was said by people who felt embarrassed about the messiness of their home. I have one of those very neat homes. For me, it is my personality. When I was a kid my mom always had a very messy desk area and it drove me nuts. I would ask her if I could clean it up. She would say no, that she needed to go through it herself. It never got done. My bedroom as a kid was always very neat - my mom never had to ask me to clean up my room. The neatness helped me feel organized and in control of my life and that is important to me. It's part of my personality. I'm not obsessive but neat. I have had friends who have had more cluttered homes and I don't think less of them; I realize that is who they are - for whatever reason being neat is hard for them or they aren't interested.

To Galwaygirl: I can't speak for the poster, but even when I did work my house was usually spotless, because as a neatnik I am constantly decluttering and putting stuff away. It's a automatic behavior. I couldn't stop if I wanted to.

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