Does a clean house make you happy?

As a SAHM, Jennifer wonders if her house should be spotless

Photo by Roary2 via Flickr

Last week I snuck out during Gillian’s afternoon nap for a 10K run. Breakfast dishes were still on the table, laundry hadn’t been flipped and the floors were a sandy disaster. By the time I returned, Gillian had woken up and our family’s lunch dishes were added to the mess. While sitting on the floor, stretching and reading a book to our daughter, my husband off-handedly remarked: “I never remember my house being this messy as a kid.”
I could have taken offense to this, but I didn’t — OK, not entirely true. I was ticked off for a few minutes. Once I cooled off, I thought about it this way:
I’m a stay-at-home mom to two young children, just like my mother-in-law was. In theory, my only job is to raise happy children, prepare healthy meals and keep a clean home. In fact, that’s exactly how I pictured my life being when I emailed my resignation to my boss more than two years ago. But it seems like no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to stay on top of my housework. Our house is tidy, but it never seems clean. But a clean house just doesn’t make me happy in the way that a clean house was important to my mother-in-law.
Mr. P told me that he always saw him mom washing windows, doing dishes and the floor was clean enough to eat off of. My children often rescue food off the floor, but I can’t say it’s because the floor is spotless. I can’t remember the last time I washed my windows and, with a gorgeous view of the outdoors like we have, you’d think I’d make a bigger effort. Our children always have clean clothes to wear — I just can’t guarantee that their pants and shirts will be in a drawer. Most likely they will be on the clothesline or in a laundry basket waiting to be put away.
I do try my hardest, I really do. But given the choice between mopping floors and washing windows or reading books or trail running, I’ll choose the latter. Even if it means being horribly embarrassed when friends drop in for a playdate (kind of like what happened late last week, when I scrambled to clean our bathroom before a few girlfriends dropped in). The toilet was clean, but there was a good layer of dirt and dog hair on the floor, because the night before our family opted to go for a walk and pick spring’s first dandelions rather than sweep and mop. We use green cleaning products so that I can get the kids to help out without worrying if chemical cleaners will make them sick. And I’ve used Today’s Parent‘s 10-minute tidy so often that I think if I spent 20 minutes instead of 10, that my house would look that much better.
For me, it’s the housework that takes a backseat when my kids need attention. I’d love to have clean floors and windows, but in my house, that comes at a cost of grouchy children. My kids are happiest when we are jumping in puddles, climbing trees or baking. I find whenever I take too much time away from them to clean, they start to pick fights with each other just to get my attention.
And in the rare moments when they are playing happily or sleeping, I am so desperate for ‘me-time’ that I’d much rather lace up my running shoes. Because even though a clean house is satisfying, I can’t say that a clean house makes me happy.
Now, if my husband cleaned my house …I guess you could say that would make me happy.
Your turn: Does a clean house make you happy?Photo by Roary2 via Flickr

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