It's Okay to Clean ... or Not, The Kids Will Be Alright

It's Okay to Clean ... or Not, The Kids Will Be Alright

As we end or begin our day with some casual social media scrolling, particularly in any of the parent direction sections, there is one particular category of articles that seems to continuously resurface. 

"______" can wait. Whether it be cleaning, cooking, homework, etc. there is a plethora of articles telling us as parents to put the necessary household tasks aside in order to spend more quality time with our kiddos. 

Yes, fostering connections and bonding time is very important, but how much more important are they than managing household duties? 

Additionally, in what order should we prioritize either? A lot of us parents are left feeling shameful and guilty for choosing the tasks over the children or the children over the tasks, and at times scratching our heads as to which option makes us a 'better' or 'worse' parent.

Well, I am here to tell you parenting is not linear

  • Do the dishes. 
  • Don't vacuum. 
  • Put off the homework. 
  • Do the homework every day. 

Whatever you decide as a parent in terms of household task prioritization or quality time, you are still a good parent. 

Let's explore further as to why choice matters and does not make your relationship with your kids better or worse. 


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Let's Clean 

So you have decided to try and sit down to read the family favorite storybook with your littlest child. 

In the corner of your eye, you see crumbs of rice on the kitchen floor, a pile of dishes, and shoes tossed against the wall. 

You remember the article telling you that it all can wait. They are only little for so long. You continue to read and find yourself continuing to stare at the mess. 

Sure, your partner could clean up, but they are busy upstairs giving the other two kids a bath. You continue to ignore it despite finding yourself feeling increased anxiety in the form of a racing heart, sweaty palms, and an urge to chew on your fingernails

If you were to get up from reading the book and go clean, you miss out on quality time, right? 

Wrong! 

There are multiple advantages to putting the book down and cleaning. Let's discuss! 


First, you are increasing your emotional regulation by taking care of it 

The anxiety you felt when you were trying to ignore it caused you to be less present in that moment when you were trying to engage in quality time and bonding. 

Your mind was elsewhere and it was difficult to focus. 

So, we spend some time taking care of what needs to be done in the household, feeling more regulated, THEN, coming back to our kids significantly more relaxed and present. 

Children can pick up on our dysregulation and feel the stress themselves physically and emotionally. I am here to tell you that you are not damaging them by organizing, tidying up, or pre-preparing a schedule. 

You are helping to regulate yourself, which role models a regulated parent to your children. 


Secondly, depending on age and developmental level, have them help!

My daughter is almost 2 years old and absolutely loves pushing her helper tower up to the kitchen sink to help me wash dishes. 

This is great quality time we share and she gets to feel more helpful and independent by taking part in a household chore. 

As they get older, their enjoyment of chores decreases and that is absolutely okay. We can still set what is called an 'undesired boundary' by delegating household chores to our children based on age and ability. 

With increased help, the faster it gets done and then we end up getting more quality time together whether it's watching a movie, playing a board game, or a fun game of night-time tag in the backyard!


Thirdly, just get it done yourself, that is also okay! 

If it is more stressful and time-consuming for you to recruit the help of your children and would rather just get it done yourself or with your partner, that is also entirely okay! 

It is greatly beneficial for your children to see the importance of running a 'smooth ship' as the expression goes. 

Your children will learn that maintaining a tidy household with organization leads to more structured, less stressful days. 

They are more likely to adopt this into their own lives as they grow and become more independent, eventually into young adults who have to maintain their own households.


It Can Wait 

If you choose to let the dishes go, the crumbs on the floor continue to stick, and the coats lay disheveled across the doorway, that is okay too. 

I am here to give permission to do you like I was here to give you permission to clean. 

Some of us are able to maintain regulation and find greater importance in the quality of time we spend with our kids or doing self-care versus a tidy household. 

Does it mean your kids will grow up to be feral heathens with no concept of cleanliness? 

Absolutely not. What it does mean is that your children will understand the value of quality time and self-care in conjunction with getting chores done, at some point. 

So, read that book, watch that movie, take a long hot bath, and ultimately let the mess sit. When you are ready to tackle it with or without help, you can choose that mindful moment whenever it may be.

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Conclusion

As parents in the age of social media blogs, articles, and newsworthy pieces, we will always be faced with multiple do's, don'ts, should's, and should not. 

We will always be told what makes a good parent, when an article comes out a day later, stating the opposite, as to why their reasoning actually makes you a good parent. 

It can all be very confusing, dysregulating, and leave us questioning ourselves as to whether or not we are doing it 'right.' 

The key here though is that by simply being mindful of the choices you make and how they affect you and others around you, especially your family, you are doing it right. 

While some make the choice to clean, others do not. Neither is a better nor worse parent. 

Neither of their children will grow up with better values than the other. What they will grow up with is a sense that their parents made choices based on what is best for themselves and their family, and that is what a good parent does.


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January 18th, 2022

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