This is Not My Beautiful House

How clean is your house? Could it pass the test that we all dread: unexpected guests?

I pose the question because a friend of mine relayed an irritating scenario to me that I just had to write about.

A friend of hers had been surprised by the friend’s mother-in-law (MIL) at her home. Apparently the MIL was horrified by the state of the house because the kids had (surprise, surprise) made a mess. The mother-in-law expected the house to be perfectly clean and in good shape at all times. Now here’s the kicker: the MIL insists that other people with kids have perfect houses that don’t look like a bomb went off in every room.

For the record, I think this MIL is insane.

On any given day, my house looks like both a tornado and tsunami have simultaneously crossed the threshold with a force that only Mother Nature could create. Toys abound, laundry baskets (full, of course) are plentiful and there may even be some scribbles and various “art” pieces that adorn my walls, courtesy of my twin boys. So??

I HAVE KIDS! Small kids at that! And like the mom who was berated by her oh-so-perfect mother-in-law, my house is not perfect. It is, however, in perfect disarray. As it should be. Kids, by definition, mean chaos. We love them, sure, but let’s face it: raising them on any given day, is chaotic, to say the least. There are soccer games to shepherd them to, and of course there’s the requisite soiled laundry pile that never seems to get done. There are playdates and birthday parties, homework assignments yet to be completed and class projects that require the full use of the dining room table. There are dishes in the sink, the dishwasher and, sometimes, in the kids rooms. Yes, the kids’ rooms (I may or may not have agreed to this, but it’s irrelevant). Regardless of where these dishes are found, they all need to be cleaned. My point is that some level of “mess” is part and parcel of having children. It’s a package deal, folks.

Perhaps this MIL is “old school,” and perhaps she ran her house like an army barracks when her kids were young. Everything had it’s place, I’m sure, and she may very well have raised her kids (and spouse, no doubt) with an iron fist. I know the type. Nothing less than perfection in housekeeping is acceptable. While this may work on the surface of things (the house is always clean when folks come over, unannounced or not), the reality that belies this type of scenario is less-than-perfect. Because, let’s face it: keeping a house in order at all times takes work, even if you don’t have kids. Add even one little rug rat to the equation and you will gain more than a few grey hairs and your blood pressure will likely skyrocket. It’s just the way things go. Add two or more to the mix and…well, I don’t have to go on. As far as I’m concerned, we parents need a break and a pass from the prying eyes and subsequent criticism of those who feel holier-than-thou. Mother-in-law or not, unless you’re also dealing with the perpetual laundry hell borne of a family of active children, you have no right to comment.

Judge lest not ye be judged. Remember?

So back to this friend of a friend and her prying mother-in-law. Here’s what I would suggest to her:

1) Tell the mother-in-law to back off and mind her own business. Difficult to do, I know, but oh, so cathartic when done.

2) Refuse to answer the door when MIL (or anyone else) drops in unannounced. It’s your house, after all, and you should be the one who dictates when someone crosses the threshold to your comfortably messy house.

3) Enlist the support of her spouse (MIL’s son) in getting the message across that insults and criticisms are not welcome. It is his mother so he should take the lead in speaking to her and supporting his wife. He’s wise to remember that old butΒ  very truthful expression: “When mom’s not happy, NO ONE is happy!

So let me pose this question to you: Is your home ready for unexpected guests? How would you deal with this mother-in-law in this situation?


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  1. Sylvia S says

    My 2 cents, don’t open your door to unexpected visitors. The truth of the matter is visitors should not stop in unannounced. It is rude. And, it is even ruder to criticize someone for having a messy house when you show up unannounced and expect them to drop what they are doing to host you..

    1. Samantha says

      I completely agree with you, Sylvia. I think it’s rude to just show up or drop in on someone then complain if the house is not up to par. I don’t answer the door unless I want to or am expecting someone.

  2. Brandy Y. says

    WHOA! It would be hard not to say something like, “Well I’d love to but I was busy with…list…list…list….list…until her brain exploded with the concept of how busy I was to make the house look as good as it did. Thank God I have the best MIL ever.

    1. Samantha says

      You’ve got that right, Brandy! Letting the MIL know WHY your house isn’t “up to par” might be a way to get her to stop criticizing. Like you, I had the best MIL ever. She would never have said such a thing. She’s gone now, but I still am thankful that I had the experience of knowing her and not having to put up with the type of nonsense like being criticized by family members for not having a perfect home!

  3. Cathy says

    Part of the problem is that as you get older (I’m a MIL) and your kids leave home, you get the house into the kind of order you want it and you buy the nice furniture and all those breakable ornaments you could never have when the kids were little, you forget that your own house once looked like this. I’ve still got a 31-year-old disabled girl at home, so I’ve never actually reached this stage, but unlike most, I love unnanounced visitors (unless they’re selling something) and I don’t worry about what they think.

    1. Samantha says

      You’ve got the right idea about not worrying what others think, Cathy. It’s easier said than done, though πŸ™‚ I think we all are looking for the day when we can have the nice furniture and ornaments at home without the threat of them being broken or soiled by the kids. Either way, anyone who drops in should do so at their own risk and not criticize the state of the house, especially if they were not invited. Just my two cents πŸ™‚

  4. Anne Rodrigues says

    Why doesn’t she get the mother-in-law to help her clean the house since it is so important to the MIL, otherwise, she does not have to explain to anyone, including her mother-in-law, why her house is messy. Life is way too short. Things will get cleaned when they can be cleaned. And where is the husband in this? Why doesn’t he help clean up.

    1. Samantha says

      Good points, Anne. I agree that the husband should definitely step in because, after all – it is his mother. As well, in an ideal situation, the MIL would help but somehow I get the feeling that she probably likes criticizing and feeling superior, because if she didn’t she wouldn’t have said what she did and would have helped by now πŸ˜›

  5. Scott Wild says

    When we DO clean the house for the Holidays (or gatherings), it usually has to be surgically clean (it seems). When I answer the door, I tell people “come on in…see how we NEVER live!” I say do your best to tidy what you can, clear off some seating room, pick up the food scraps, spray the deodorizer…then let it be. Focus on company. If they can’t focus back on you, don’t offer to host any more. Simple. We spend way to much time on preparation and clean up of parties and gatherings than we actually do on focusing on the conversations that are held and the memories that are made. I’m willing to come over to your house and eat PB&J if it means we can have some serious eye-contact and meaningful conversation! You can even make it paper-plates and cups so we can start the bonfire with the dishes! πŸ˜‰

    I do understand why having a clean appearance is important to some, but there are limits. Ask yourself WHY it’s important. You may find yourself breaking out the Skippy!

    Anyone for a bonfire?

    1. Samantha says

      What a great response, Scott! You’ve made some valid points – it’s not about what the house looks like but about the company and experience of spending time together. We shouldn’t worry about impressing our guests and focus more on the quality of the visit. I’ll try to remember this next time I’m freaking out about the house being a disaster!

  6. Bernadette Noll says

    My home is always ready for unexpected guests! As long as said guests don’t have certain expectations!

    1. Samantha says

      It’s the expectations that get you every time, huh? πŸ˜‰

  7. Rae says

    My MILk does not offer her help anytime she is in my home, but she sure offers her griping for me to listen to. My hubby does not lift a finger to help clean the house. I am a mother of 5 children ages tabbing from 4 months to 10 years. I am the only one that cleans the house and even what I do is not good enough for her.

    1. Samantha says

      Hi Rae,
      What a shame. People shouldn’t come to other people’s homes and complain, regardless of whether it’s your Mother-In-Law or not. It must be a challenge keeping your home in order with 5 kids because we all know how much they make a mess. Don’t worry about her comments and as for your husband, perhaps make a schedule about who does what and when, and have him sign on. Even if it’s just a few chores at first, any help will take the load off of you. Good luck!

  8. Tara says

    My MIL is so rude. She always used TV as a baby sitter or had her mom come over so she could clean her home when she had her kids and now they both have a lot of issues, thankful my husband is working through his stuff.
    My home is not super clean and my son just turned one. For me it will always be more important to have him be happy, learning and loved then to have a spotless home. Wheb she comes over if there is a dish in the sink she feels the need to do them (not well may I add) because I always have to redo them. And if she offers to watch my son maybe once a month or less so my husband and I can have dinner she never comes alone always with her grown daughter who watches Landon.
    She has the nerve to ask my husband what I do all day. And how lazy I am. When I just stopped working after I had my son. Before that I was a project manager building turbines, while she still hasn’t even got her high school diploma or worked a day in her life, luckily for her her husband has been successful and are very wealthy. Uh Sorry needed to vent.