Good parents have messy houses 3


When my four children were school age – and two of them home schooled – certain people made comments behind my back about the state of my housekeeping. Some even said it to my face.

I often get asked how I manage to do it all and the answer is that I don’t

My three grandchildren are with us for the week and, once again, my house looks like I really should spend the entire day cleaning it – but I’m not going to do that. It wasn’t until I was looking at some photos that I noticed how trashed my house is at the moment.

Emilia decided she wanted to be an artist and sell her art. She found some Youtube videos that teach art and here she is hard at work before school. There are art supplies all over the table, her breakfast is half-eaten and the wall behind her has needed re-painting for years.

Last night, I read my grandson (Emilia’s younger brother) two bedtime stories. I also changed the chinchillas cage, which Eva (Emilia’s older sister) and Emilia helped me do. I found all the supplies for putting this house together and decorating it but Cal and Emilia did the rest. Notice the details like that there is a piece of tape “locking” the door because the proprietors are now at school.

You might also notice that all of the snacks Cal didn’t eat in his lunch yesterday are piled on top of the house because I found them in his lunchbox as I was packing it for school this morning.

Throughout my children’s childhood, I made the decision that many things were more important than a clean house – bedtime stories, getting my children to their practices or lessons for their various sports and musical instruments. I’m still making that decision today with my grandchildren.

Don’t feel guilty if you spend your limited time on your children and, yes, yourself, instead of cleaning the house

I just got home from the SAS Global Forum in Dallas, Texas – an international software conference – where I gave a talk on biostatistics and was also on a panel on career decisions. My husband was picking the children up from school when my plane was landing. After this blog, I am going to finish a a new game, attend a marketing meeting and a developers meeting and then work on a presentation for African-American Family Day, hosted by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

If I hadn’t spent time writing, attending conferences and coding I could probably have time to get the walls painted and the carpets cleaned. If having a clean kitchen and knitting are what make you happy, go for it. I’m not being dismissive here, my daughter, Ronda, knits and you’d be amazed at the people in her knitting group.

My point is that your children, wonderful as they are, will not be home forever. It is perfectly fine to prioritize both their learning and your own. If your house looks like you just missed out on being the featured homeowner on an episode of Hoarders, that’s all right. When the kids are grown, you’ll be able to have people – and the Health Department – over, unless your grandkids are visiting.

If you ARE that person who prioritizes cleaning your house over writing software, blogging or speaking at conferences (although, PLEASE, not over your children’s education), then that is fine, too. Just know that if you are going to be judgmental and run me down to Janey, about what a mess my house is, that I don’t care.


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3 thoughts on “Good parents have messy houses

  • Shelley Sessoms

    Great post, AnnMaria. My mom used to keep a pristine house, until my dad’s first heart attack when I was 5. She loosened up a bit then. We had fun as a family. My dad passed away when I was 11. The house, like our lives, became cluttered. But we didn’t care. Mom and I spent time together having fun, and that is what I remember most about my childhood. As an empty-nester, her house is now pristine again.

  • Christine Starkweather

    Thank you for writing this! I homeschool my son and everyday I stress over the state of my house! My son’s “inventions” cars, army men, legos, schoolwork, papers, pets are always a source of me feeling inadequate and even more exhausted!
    I always feel that I am being judged for my lack of housekeeping skills. After all I’m home all day right? Why shouldn’t my house be spotless? Well it isn’t.
    We are constantly experimenting with all things that cause messes, cement, clay, digging a koi pond, rescuing and rehabilitating all kinds of criiters, paint, water balloons, you name it!
    My son is in and out of the house all day, metal detecting and “gold mining” in our brook, inventing “things” that always make house and yard a minefield of crisscross ropes and string. He is a happy kid.
    I’m saving this article and I’m sure I will be rereading it many times. Thank you for your words of encouragement. We need more of this…women validating and uplifting other women in things as “mundane” as a messy house!