We hear it all the time: A messy house is a happy home. A dirty house equals kids who are loved. If it’s messy, there are memories. Clean equals a dull and boring homemaker. Each time I hear this, I get more frustrated than I was before. I’m a neat freak—maybe a bit over the top. My kids are so used to the noise, they can fall asleep while I’m vacuuming. They know where I’ve cleaned by the smell of the cleaner. They know that the toys are put away before we go out. They live in a neat and clean house. It’s still a home. They are still happy. They still make countless memories every day. They are curious and smart. And I’m a fun person!
I’m not perfect. I’m not always fun either. But I am always a good mom. We all have different approaches to life and parenting. Some people like things around them. Some like the minimalist approach. Our lifestyle doesn’t affect the amount of happiness or love in our home. Happiness is contagious—it starts with one person. My grandpa always said, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Smart guy. This couldn’t be more accurate. For me that’s found in organizing my spice drawer in alphabetical order. A floor free of crumbs. Things in their place. I’m happy when all the toys are put away and the smell of Pine-Sol is in the air. A few weeks ago, I had a few hours to myself. My best friend was so envious and asked me what I was going to do. She wasn’t surprised when I responded with “clean toilets.” Obviously that isn’t fun. But it is fun to have a clean toilet.
Now that my toilets are clean, I’m in the best of moods and excited to play with my kids. We are constantly making a mess. There’s paint, Legos and action figures, and there’s always a traffic jam made of Hot Wheels somewhere. Those are typically found with the bottom of my husband’s foot when he gets home from work. We bake—with sprinkles! (Okay, not those little balls—they get everywhere!) My coffee table is covered with stickers that won’t budge; I just tell people we are going for the mosaic look. Life is good. We play. We clean up. My kids couldn’t be happier.
For the messy moms out there, fear not. Call it karma, or just plain funny. My 2-year-old daughter is by far the messiest kid on the planet. No joke. Once I gave her black beans with dinner. Only once, because I will never do that again. I didn’t know it was possible, but she literally covered every bare inch of her skin with black beans. When she isn’t eating, she’s ripping paper from books and dumping out Lego bins. The girl is the superhero of the messy house. I do my best to embrace this personality that is so drastically different from my own. It’s who she is after all. And the clean freak is who I am. My kids will learn to manage with my way just as I will learn to do the same for them. And while they are young, they are enjoying that having a mom like me—who has often been compared to Monica from Friends—can be a really great example of how cleanliness and endless memories can coexist.
I’ve always been this way. When I was a kid, I would make a game out of cleaning my room to convince my best friend to help. And she did! Now that’s friendship. Motherhood has intensified my need for cleaning. That’s despite the fact that along with those “cute” sayings about messy homes being ideal for childhood, there is endless advice informing new moms that once kids enter the picture it’s time to say goodbye to cleanliness and make way for clutter, chaos and uncontrollable odors. When I heard this, my first thought was “challenge accepted.” I’ll show those messy moms! And I have. I’m always cleaning something. I can’t even enjoy downtime if I see dust on my TV stand. Sure, kids make this quite a feat, especially my daughter. She can make a mess out of anything. Just this morning, she put her hand in my coffee. It went everywhere. Fear not, it was iced. And yes, I drank it—still delicious.
Sorry, messy moms, but we’re happy too. We are also fun and silly. We are making memories all the time, often alongside you. I guess your sticky floor and cluttered counter isn’t the reason your kids are happy. The amount of love isn’t decided by the height of the laundry pile, and the precious memories aren’t oozing out of the overflowing junk drawer. Maybe those “cute” little signs should read: “Messy or clean, our kids are living the dream,” because just like those messy houses, our neat and tidy home is fun, love and memories. And clean toilets.