Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Doesn't Require A Clean House

Dudes, Stop Acting Like Your Wife Is Your Maid

October 2, 2019 Updated October 4, 2019

Courtesy of Clint Edwards

A while back my mother asked if it bothered me that my wife doesn’t keep a tidy home. My response was: I didn’t get into this marriage for a clean house. I got into it because she seemed like someone I could spend my life with.

Surprisingly, my mother agreed with me.

When I shared this story on Facebook, I started getting messages from men asking this question: is your wife a stay at home mom, or does she work?

I’ve written about messy houses, and equal distribution of domestic labor, partnership, and pitching in a million times. And it never fails, every time I get a message from some dude asking whether my wife is a stay-at-home mom or not. Usually it means that his wife tagged him in my post, and he is looking for ammunition in some argument. He’s looking to throw something in his wife face that will make her say, “Oh, you’re right. I am the problem. I’ll change. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

Well guys, since this is such an important question to some of you, here’s my answer.

At times my wife has worked outside the home. Other times she’s been a student or a stay-at-home mom. At times I’ve worked, been a student, and a stay-at-home dad. Sometimes we are a mix of it all.

But honestly, regardless of our situation, we are both responsible for cleaning our home.

That’s a fact.

I was told that if the house isn’t clean, the mother isn’t doing her job. But I’m sorry, man … that’s just wrong.

And the simple fact that you always ask if she “works” or is a “stay at home mom” tells me that you don’t actually value the incredible amount of time, stress, hours, and dedication it takes to be a stay-at-home parent. When I was a stay-at-home dad, I’d sweep beneath the table, and 10 minutes later, it was dirty again. I’d have the kids put their toys away before bed, and by morning, before I even got up, they were back out. I don’t want to speak for your kids, but my kids are remarkable mess-makers.

Leren Lu/Getty

What I discovered as a stay-at-home parent is that taking care of the home is actually a collection of a million full-time jobs: housekeeper, disciplinarian, teacher, nurse, chauffeur, comforter, cook, school volunteer, neighborhood caregiver, and more. Let me be clear: staying home with children all day is work. It is a significant amount of work, and you need to recognize that.

Back to my own marriage, our partnership is strong. I feel confident in that. And our children are healthy and happy and doing well in school. Our needs are met and our family comes first. Our children understand right and wrong, and how to treat others with respect. They laugh a lot, and they follow our rules, and they care for each other. Mel knows I love her, and I know she loves me, and all three of our children know we love them.

We both accept that our marriage is a partnership in all things.

That’s the important stuff. That’s what’s worth focusing on, wouldn’t you say?

The kid clutter, clean but unfolded laundry, and dishes in the sink … well, that’s pretty low on our priority list. We don’t worry about all that.

This isn’t to say that our home is a toxic dump. We don’t have rats or bugs infesting our home, but it surely isn’t spotless and Instagram worthy, either. There’s clutter on the counters and toys in the living room. But there are also hot and healthy meals on the table and our children are clean, with nice clothing.

They are well cared for.

If you are looking for a spotless, 100% organized home as the only sign that a stay at home parent is doing a good job, you’re looking in the wrong place.

I know that people have been telling you that a stay-at-home mom has one job, and that is to care for the home. I know this because that’s what I was told growing up. I was told that if the house isn’t clean, the mother isn’t doing her job. But I’m sorry, man … that’s just wrong. Being the full-time at-home parent is actually a million and one jobs all piled into one. It’s a demanding gig, but if you are looking for a spotless, 100% organized home as the only sign that a stay at home parent is doing a good job, you’re looking in the wrong place, and you need to reframe your priorities.

Here’s the thing, guys: stop worrying about the house, and start paying attention to the development of your children. Start paying attention to how happy they are, and the kind of relationship they share with their mother. You might just realize that you have a messy house, and really happy, bright kids.

I’m not saying that if you have a clean house, you are doing something wrong. But what I am saying is that you can’t judge a parent for teaching their son how to swim, rather than vacuuming the living room. You can’t judge her for potty training their daughter rather than clearing the table. And you shouldn’t look down on stay-at-home moms with a messy house, because chances are, they are using that time wisely.