Get Rid of Messy House Guilt

Clean House surveyBring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and clean up the kitchen. The list of household to-dos for working moms is endless, and seemingly, so is our guilt over not doing it all. Why do so many of us still beat ourselves up about a messy house? And how can we put housework in its proper place?

Last year, Allison Light raised some $2 million for the large private school in St. Louis where she works, clocking full-time hours while raising two young children. So you'd think the impressive divorced mom would cut herself some slack when it comes to housekeeping. No way. "It makes me feel guilty when I see a dust bunny or a new marker blotch on the couch," says Allison, 41. "I try to tell myself, 'You're doing the best you can, you're just one person, be more forgiving.' But when the house is messy, it makes me feel like I'm failing at something-and a little like a bad mother."

A dirty house is neither a sin nor a crime, but you wouldn't know it from a recent Working Mother study. When the Working Mother Research Institute examined why moms do or don't work outside the home, we were surprised to find that working moms nationwide still feel judged about the neatness of their homes-more than they feel guilty about not spending enough time with their kids. (And nearly as many stay-at-home moms told us they feel messy-house guilt, too!) In our new follow-up Clean House Survey, the numbers are even bigger, with 68 percent of Working Mother readers feeling significantly or strongly guilty about their not-clean-enough homes.

In an era when women run house subcommittees on energy, homeland security and financial services, we still care a lot about the state of our own houses. Despite all our progress, dust, dirty dishes and kid clutter still shame us. Why? And what can smart moms do to give ourselves a break?

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