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The Parenting Trick I Wish Didn't Work So Well

Photograph by Twenty20

The kids are running around like crazy people, equal parts bored and hyper. None of the toys that are strewn all over the house are getting played with and no one is listening to a word I’m saying. Almost seven years into this parenting thing, I know exactly what will vastly improve this situation, and it's not exactly rocket science: A clean house.

Before becoming a mom I thought that kids wouldn’t care about something so trivial as a tidy house and that messy homes were a hallmark of happy kids. Well, turns out I'm wrong.

I know, it's pretty much the least exciting/sexy/unbelievable trick there is, but it's quite remarkable—when our small home is tidy, with everything in its place, my children behave so much better. They are calmer, happier, and more engaged. The solution may sound simple, but it’s not easy.

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I'm not a naturally tidy person. I'm one of those creative types that leaves craft supplies, half-finished projects, and dirty pots and pans in her wake. My husband isn’t instinctively neat either, although to his credit, he always cleans up after me in the kitchen. And so it follows, that try as we might with rules and systems, we have yet to raise children who clean up after themselves. Not to brag, but our two little boys can destroy a room in 30 seconds flat.

This parenting hack of a clean and organized home is a blessing and a curse. I can’t ignore its power, but I’m tired of all the work it requires.

Armed with the knowledge that my kids will almost always behave much better if the house is not cluttered, I have no choice but to try to keep it that way. As a work-from-home mom this burden falls squarely on my shoulders and quite frankly it gets old. I either have to be hyper vigilant with my children, nagging them to clean up and only get out one thing at a time—a concept that's very hard for a two-year-old to grasp—or I have to be in a near constant state of tidying.

Any way you slice it, it’s a ton of work on my end. And yes, I’ve considered simply donating everything we own to charity, but it seems like my children deserve the reasonable amount of toys, books, and art supplies that we have around the house. Plus, without the toys, I'd be working to entertain them around the clock. This parenting hack of a clean and organized home is a blessing and a curse. I can’t ignore its power, but I’m tired of all the work it requires.

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I love that saying, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids” but it simply isn’t true in my house. My kids would never notice my dirty oven in particular, but they would jump on laundry piles as if they were fall leaves and then proceed to go nuts.

So I continue to straighten and make them help, I rotate toys and make sure laundry makes it into the basket, not because I’m a neat freak, but because I want my home, and the people who live in it to be comfortable, calm, and happy. Plus, it’s almost impossible to host a living room dance party with Legos all over the floor.

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