I saw a plaque recently that said: ” Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens, and happy kids.” And it is one of the dumbest things I ever read.
Here’s a few problems with it.
First, the message assumes (all) kids are happy living in squalor. And it doesn’t even consider how their father may feel about that. I wrote about the dangers of forgetting fathers in a previous post.
Second, it presents cleanliness and happiness as variables in opposition to one another. A mom can have one or the other, but not both.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it sets an extremely low standard and objective for child-raising: keep them happy. That’s the one I want to focus on.
Good Moms Parent With The End In Mind
If a good mom’s goal is to raise happy children, then a good mom gives her children everything they ask for, expects nothing from them, and hands over her parental authority to them. Anything less tends to make children unhappy. But it’s a foolish and short-sighted strategy.
Truly good moms have a much broader vision for their children than simply to keep them happy. A good mom parents with the end (desired result) in mind. She raises her children to be disciplined, responsible, considerate adults. Self-discipline, responsibility, and understanding oneself as part of a family unit instead of the whole of it, these are not acquired spontaneously between treats and play dates.Good parenting is plain hard work. If someone told you otherwise, they lied to you. Click To TweetGood parenting is plain hard work. If someone told you otherwise, they lied to you. And if you marry yourself to the idea it’s more important for kids to be happy than responsible, expect them to hold onto that priority long past when it’s cute. That’s how you raise a young adult afraid of “adulting.”
The Good That Comes From Chores
One of the most simple, direct, and time-tested methods of instilling the virtues needed to be a capable adult is to give a child responsibilities for household chores as soon as possible. (I recommend this article by Christine Tetrault at Trading Desks For Dirt for specific ideas.)
Giving kids chores doesn’t mean you stand over them and crack a whip. But neither does it mean obligation to make a game out of chores to convince them it’s fun. You can if you want; but at some point, a kid has to learn not to expect everything to be fun. Because that doesn’t prepare them for life – which, remember, is a good mom’s goal.
Through the responsibility of chores, you teach your child:
- Practical life skills
- Their contribution to the family matters
- The importance of doing a job well (don’t consider half-hearted attempts complete)
- The discipline of completing responsibilities
- Thoughtfulness and consideration for members of the household
- There’s a time for play and a time for work
The evidence good moms do not neglect teaching their children these important lessons is that the floors are not sticky, the kitchen’s not messy, there aren’t piles of laundry, the oven is clean, and her kids are happy AND responsible. Furthermore, her husband isn’t frustrated by house overrun with dirt and disorganization.
No Justification To Lower The Bar
This isn’t a matter of deciding between the extremes of having a “Polly Perfect” house and scraping by so Child Protective Services doesn’t remove your kids for neglect. Those are charicatures of moms some use to justify extreme reactions in the opposite direction. “I’ll never have a perfect house with 3 kids, so I’ll just give up and go play with them.” That’s the implied message of the plaque.
Still others find justification to nay-say principles of good parenting because they have an extreme personal situation. If you’re an exception because, for example, you have infant quadruplets at the moment or a life-threatening heart condition, then you’re an exception. This isn’t meant for you.
No one is advocating household perfection. There’s no such thing with kids in the house. Therefore, it’s needless to argue against a position no one’s taking. And neither is it legitimate to throw our hands in the air, leave our house in shambles to run off and play with our kids, and call it being a good mom. That’s only possible if you set very low standards for yourself and your kids.
Let’s not lower the bar of what it means to be a good mom because our kids and our marriages pay the price if we do.
Good moms have a parental backbone, responsible kids, a grateful husband, and a presentable house where everyone’s happy. Someone needs to make that plaque.