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3 Reasons to Not Give a Damn About Your Messy House

Photograph by Twenty20

Like a lot of moms, I struggle with keeping the house clean. My living room may currently look spotless, as it's freshly vacuumed and the coffee table's cleaned off. But, honestly, it's only clean because we had a play date yesterday and I wanted to look good for the other mom.

The bedrooms, on the other hand? Much like a teenager shoving their mess under the bed and hoping their parents don’t notice, I just shut the bedroom doors.

I’ve reached the point where I’ve learned to embrace my messy house and let it go. Here are three reasons why I think you should, too.

1. You’re probably measuring yourself by an impossible standard.

If the mom friend who came over that day had gone home and compared her messy house to mine, she might have felt bad about herself. But she wasn’t seeing the real me. How many times do we present an image of cleanliness that is decidedly temporary? The reality is that we’re kinder and less judgmental of other moms than we are of ourselves. Extend the same understanding to yourself as you give to other moms.

The unequal division of household labor is also a factor in our messy lives. About 70 percent of moms in the U.S. with kids 18 or younger work, yet we’re still shouldering most of the burden when it comes to household chores and parenting. That's not even including all the invisible, emotional labor moms take on. If men aren't being frowned upon for messy houses, why should we have to live up to ridiculous standards?

Children value time spent with parents and experiences more than clean houses. Period.

2. What will your children really remember?

If I think back to my favorite childhood memories, I couldn't tell you if the house was clean. Instead, I remember baking cookies in the kitchen with my mom and dancing around the backyard to show tunes. Children value time spent with parents and experiences more than clean houses. Period. Glitter and feathers on the dining room table? Game pieces hiding under the couch? They’re the side effects of time spent playing and bonding with your kid. Show them off with pride!

Plus, being stressed out and sleep-deprived can negatively impact your kids. So, don't stress over the mismatched sock drawer and ignore the laundry. As important as it is to teach kids to clean up after themselves, especially if we want to someday correct that gender imbalance in housework, it's also annoying to spend all your time with your children reminding them about chores. Find the balance that works for you and your mental health.

3. A messy house inspires creativity!

In a messy room, items are in unconventional places. This has been shown to spark creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Give your child some freedom to have fun and be creative. At first, I wasn’t thrilled when my son ran a race track from the bookshelf to the coffee table and experimented with different launching heights to see how far his toy cars would go, but I readjusted my mindset and recognized how he was learning about force, height and speed.

While there are boundaries (I’m talking about mess, not filth), constantly hovering over your children and telling them to stop making a mess stifles their creativity. Wait until they’re done using building a fort before asking them to clean up, maybe even let the creation stay up for a few days. If a mom friend comes over and looks at your living room critically, just tell her, "I'm encouraging creativity and working on smashing gender roles."

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