Embrace the Chaos. Your House Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Home.
We all want our homes to be our sanctuary. But single parent life means redefining what that looks like for our space.
For generations we’ve been living with this sort of ingrained cultural belief that a tidy home is the foundation for a successful life. Our grandmothers and mothers read endless articles in Women’s Home Journal tying their value as a wife and mother to the sparkle on their kitchen floors. In our time the story has evolved to one of minimalism - keeping only the things that we absolutely need or ‘spark joy’ in our space and rejecting all other material possessions.
For a single parent, these concepts feels like well-intentioned but irrelevant advice from someone who’s never across moved across a city or a country with kids in tow. Or traded spotless floors for actual sleep at the end of an exhausting day of work and kid care.
Kids come with a lot of stuff. There’s one million legos, and only one of us. So let’s cut ourselves some slack.
One of the biggest surprises about my pregnancy (other than the actual pregnancy itself) was how much stuff a tiny human supposedly needs on a daily basis. Before my child arrived I watched the peaceful order of my tiny rental buried in diaper bags stuffed with ointments and changing cloths, various seats that bounced or swung, strollers for urban living and off-roading, all the onesies. I told myself this madness would only last for the baby stage, when they apparently need all that plastic and padding to keep them safe.
But, no. There is no break in the avalanche of toys, dress up costumes, or crafts that comes crashing into your space when you’re raising a kid. And, as a single parent, there’s only one set of very tired arms to try and push it back, or one weary voice singing the clean up song in a futile attempt to get a toddler to help.
It can be incredibly frustrating (and painful) to start your day by embedding Barbie shoes or tiny building blocks in the sole of your foot. It can be demoralizing to watch dishes stack up and feel like Laundry Mountain is an elusive summit. It’s actually really gross what a tiny human can do to a bathroom.
But it’s also totally okay. We get to decide what’s right for our spaces and our situation, period. And we’re far better off being present for our kids when they want our attention than obsessed with a standard of order that’s probably not realistic for our lives.
And then there’s moving with a kid…
Moving is almost always part of the single parenting package. Deciding to have a child on your own often means having to upsize your housing situation. Divorce means one or both parents leaving the family home for a new space. Either way, it’s a major transition and there’s a whole art to creating a new sense of home wherever life takes you - even if it took you there unexpectedly.
Kids are going to want the things (all. the. things) that feel familiar around them. They will rifle through moving boxes and procrastination piles in search of the things that bring them comfort and security. They will overturn your half-managed madness in search of that one stuffy that has them in a frenzy.
This is a time in your life when you have to surrender your desire for tidy to their need for security. It may feel insane to embrace the chaos, but recreating a nest is more important than establishing order right now.
Because most importantly:
Your job as a parent is to make your kid feel comfortable, welcome, and loved wherever or whatever home is at the moment. Doing that is more than enough.
Look, here’s a list of 10 ways to keep your house clean with kids. That’s great. But I’m not here for that. I have zero intention of telling you how to ‘do better’, because you are already doing more than enough. As your kids get older, enlist them to help with household chores. Establish spaces like your bedroom or bathroom that are kept clean enough to maintain your sanity. Do what you can where you can. And then let the rest of that sh*t go.
Your time with your kids is precious. Embrace the chaos and find humor in the madness.