Erin Spatz photo (copy)

Erin M. Spatz

Summer is in full swing at the Spatz mansion. There are wet towels everywhere, and sand falling onto the floor when I open the dryer. Good times! It’s hard to find structure and rhythm to our days without the routine of school.

During the school year, I feel like I have a good handle on keeping up with the household chores. It’s not perfect, but it never gets too out of hand. There is a routine for my days and my cleaning. Summer rolls in, and my house goes from fairly tidy to looking like the farm field at the end of Woodstock! Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel too far from the truth. During the school year, our house looks fairly good for having eight people living in it. Summer is a new game.

I love summer with its warm days outside with my kids, but ignoring the house can only go on for so long. Ignoring the house can often lead to a grown-up tantrum, which is not cute at age two, and it’s really not as cute as a grown up. My brain doesn’t do it’s best work in a messy house or cluttered space. I want a totally clean and perfect house. Let’s all laugh now because with kids that’s not always possible.

In fact, there was once what we can loosely call a “movement” that suggested the messier your house, the better parent you were. The idea was that if your house was messy it was because you were making memories with your kids. Thus making you a great mom! What this movement failed to take into account was that while the mom was in fact cleaning, the kids were in another room making that room more of a mess. Messy houses don’t automatically mean an engaged mom.

The push back from this was fairly swift. The other camp saying just because my house is clean doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom. Taking time to clean, keeping things orderly doesn’t mean I’m ignoring my kids. Clean houses don’t mean the kids are neglected.

I am over the state of my house being a reflection of my parenting.

How about if we just all go ahead and agree that our houses are not a reflection of our parenting. It’s our kids who are the greatest example of the kind of parents we are. And here’s the big news: you don’t need a clean house to justify staying home with your kids. A big ole messy house doesn’t mean happy, adjusted kids.

I know for certain that I don’t want my skills as a mother, good or bad, to be judged on how my house looks. Some days I have it all together. The house is clean, and the kids are well behaved and happy. Literally the next day, I have control over nothing and I am thinking about running away.

What I can promise is that it will always be easier to clean up a messy house than to clean up an emotional mess of a child. So if some days you forgo a clean home for some time with your kids, that’s okay. Just like it’s okay to let your child entertain themselves while you give your home the attention it needs.

Clean house or messy house doesn’t matter; just like all things in parenting, it’s about balance. Sometimes kids push us off balance and that’s okay, we’ll get even later!

Erin Spatz lives in Pawleys Island and is the author of the book, “Who Left Me In Charge.”