Stay-At-Home Mom vs. Working Mom: Whose House Is Cleaner?

Mommy Myth: “If I were a stay-at-home mom, my house would be cleaner.”

Do Stay-At-Home Moms Have Cleaner Houses?

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I totally bought into this myth while I was a mom working outside of the home. When we decided that I would stay at home for a while after our second little one was born, I thought, “Awesome! My house will be spotless!”


My two toddlers pretty much need me every moment I am home with them. They are busy and are still too small to do things like effectively clean up a spill or retrieve a princess that has fallen behind the couch. My job is to take care of them, and that is a very full-time job.

But I should be able to get things done at naptime, right? Well, at naptime, I take a breath, eat the lunch that I missed because I was washing peanut butter out of the dog’s fur, call the pediatrician to reschedule a check-up that would fall on a day we are going out of town, text my hubby to see if he can pick up sour cream on his way home from work, and then just as I get ready to be productive and clean…the little guy is awake and ready to play.

And trying to clean up one room while they’re playing in another is futile too. My daughter can destroy two rooms by the time I can clean up one. She’s impressive like that.

Comparing when I was a work-out-of-the-house mom, when I was a stay-at-home mom, and now when I’m a work-at-home mom (I’m a freelance digital marketing specialist.), I would have to say that my house was cleanest when I was working out of the home. This is because of the simple fact that we weren’t at home to mess it up all day. I mean it wasn’t immaculate by any means. When I got home from work, I just wanted to spend some time with my kids, not scrub floors. But it was the cleanest.

I have, however, come up with some tricks for when I’m home and trying to keep an adequately clean house.

1. Put it into the daily schedule.

Every morning, the whole family knows that it’s vacuuming time. My little guy is crawling now and everything goes in his mouth. So I have a daily mission to rid the house of dust bunnies comprised of dog hair and fluff from whatever well-loved stuffed animal sprung a leak the previous day. If I don’t get it done in the morning, things may get crazy (don’t they always?) and I’ll forget. I know that some people prefer to do this type of thing right after the kids go to bed. Whatever works for you. Consistency is the key.

2. Set a timer.

Looking at a sea of Little People, Legos, and books on the floor could send any mom heading for the hills. If I’m really unmotivated (okay, so that’s most of the time), I set a timer for 10 minutes. I get done what I can and I give myself the option leave the rest. Sometimes I do and sometimes I find my motivation. But either way, I feel like I’ve made progress.

3. Get your kids to help.

Do you know the “Clean Up” song? Apparently anyone who sings it is the Pied Piper of cleaning toddlers. Or so I learned at my daughter’s playschool. It totally works for us. If I keep singing it, she’ll keep helping to pick up. Bribery also works. But you didn’t hear it from me.

4. Accept that your house is as clean as it’s going to get.

Every stay-at-home mom that I know has the same complex: “Since I’m staying at home, my house should be clean, and I should be embarrassed when someone comes over and it isn’t.” It seems like we’re all in the same boat, so can we just agree to ignore the clutter when we go to visit other moms? If you ignore the mail piled on the front table when you come to my home, I’ll ignore the fingerprints on your windows when I visit your home. Deal? I’d rather spend a little less time dusting and a little more time playing dinosaurs with my kids. In fact, I think we all prefer that.

What tips do you have to keep a cleaner home?  Is your house cleaner when you stay at home or when you work?

**Check out Southern Mess Mom‘s hilarious take on keeping the house clean while being a SAHM here!

21 Comments on Stay-At-Home Mom vs. Working Mom: Whose House Is Cleaner?

  1. Becca
    June 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm (3 years ago)

    This is great! I just did a post about the same topic…well sort of! Yours is beautiful and well informed…while mine is the ramblings of a barely sane woman trying to wrap her head around the idea of “what have I done?!?” lol

    Mine is called “Wait…the kids will be here??” feel free to check it out! I would love to link to yours on mine if you would like :)

    Becca recently posted…EVIL Mastermind in the Making!My Profile

  2. Laura
    June 28, 2013 at 11:25 pm (3 years ago)

    As a go to work Mom I can honestly say there is no way my house would be cleaner if I was at home. The mess can be made so quickly on the weekends when we are at home and this would just be a never ending cycle if we were at home all week! And I 100% agree that being at home with two little kids does not leave any time for cleaning. Let alone cooking something to eat. I really like the tip about the timer. Then cleaning up doesn’t seem so daunting. I will remember that one.

    • Amber Schultz
      July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm (3 years ago)

      Glad I could provide a good tip for you, Laura! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Madison
    June 29, 2013 at 11:03 am (3 years ago)

    I’ve definitely accepted the fact that my house will never be spotless, at least not with a 17 month old around who thoroughly enjoys mega bloks. I would say that my house is definitely cleaner when the kids are in school. Why did they invent school vacation? :)
    Madison recently posted…A Toddler’s Guide to the Terrible TwosMy Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      July 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm (3 years ago)

      Mega bloks or anything with many small pieces is the worst! I feel like I’m in a never ending loop of picking up Little People sometimes. Thanks for commenting!

  4. April @Pixie Dust Savings
    June 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm (3 years ago)

    I don’t even have kids yet, but between blogging and other things I don’t always get to my spotless house position. I do my best, but I tend to get lost in more creative tasks. :)
    April @Pixie Dust Savings recently posted…Jennie-O Coupons!My Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      July 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm (3 years ago)

      It’s definitely more fun to do creative things! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Jessica Cavalier@sloppycopymommy
    June 29, 2013 at 10:58 pm (3 years ago)

    These are great tips. I’ve always had a hard time with this topic. I’m such a mess naturally, and my husband is such a mess naturally…we’re a happy mess–and I’ve even been told that officially by my sister, which makes it obviously true. :) I always curse the Fly Lady when my sink is full of dishes. This seems to help me feel better, for what it lack in actually tidying things. Ha! Great post.
    Jessica Cavalier@sloppycopymommy recently posted…The Lies We Tell Our ChildrenMy Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      July 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm (3 years ago)

      Ha! I love it! I’ll have to start blaming the Fly Lady too. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Brittanie Pyper
    June 30, 2013 at 3:48 pm (3 years ago)

    Great Post! For me, I have a 3-year-old boy and it’s like I have two kids. I spend my time cleaning one room and make it to another and it’s destroyed. Our couch and carpet can surely tell you a toddler lives here and it’s tough to clean and keep clean. I quite my job as soon as my son was born but I know my house was cleaner since it wasn’t designed by a toddler at that time. I think what I have a hard time with coping with is that I am a work-at-home mother as well and balance taking care of my son, the bills, housework, dinner, blogging, homework (I am in college) and everything else that when my husband gets home who works full-time and goes to school full-time I just want the house to be clean for his eyes. I know he appreciates what I do but sometimes i feel like when he comes home he thinks “ugh what did you do all day?” Which I know he doesn’t but I still feel that way. So thank you for this post because it really makes me feel like I am not alone!
    Brittanie Pyper recently posted…Brittanie’s Best Weekly Deals 6/23 – 6/29My Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      July 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm (3 years ago)

      Wow, you really have a lot on your plate! I hope you’re able to give yourself a little slack because it sounds like you are doing an awesome job caring for and creating a great life for your little one! And that’s what really matters, right? No one will remember the dust bunnies.

  7. Jean
    July 3, 2013 at 10:39 am (3 years ago)

    I have two older boys (8 & 12) and this still applies although the toys (with the exception of Legos) are different now. One thing that worked for us when the boys were younger was to have a fifteen minute clean up after breakfast, lunch, about 4:30p.m. and after dinner where we all worked together. I should bring that back for the summer. Unfortunately, the clean up song has lost its effectiveness around here.
    Jean recently posted…Wonder if it Works Wednesday, Mini-Project Perfection?My Profile

    • Amber Schultz
      July 3, 2013 at 10:42 am (3 years ago)

      I love the idea of having several scheduled clean up times during the day. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Troll King
    July 4, 2013 at 1:26 pm (3 years ago)

    1. “oh, you can clean and cook while the baby sleeps”
    2. “sleep when the baby sleeps!”

    On the days my wife isn’t working and SAHM’s, I don’t expect sweet f**k-all to get done. I’ll do it myself later, or it won’t get done, and life will go on even if the curtains are not vacuumed. Amazing, that.

  9. MJ
    July 22, 2013 at 10:51 am (3 years ago)

    This is so true. The timer is especially good because really it’s not the time that sucks, it’s the futility of picking up/washing/vacuuming/sweeping blahblahblah when it is just going to get dirty again in 10 minutes. I don’t know how to fix that– little rewards for yourself? Gold stars?
    And I so agree about #4. I’m sorry to say that I am always happier to see a mom with a house dirtier than mine. Makes me like her even more, in fact.
    And #5- put in the time and effort to get kids in the habit of chores. We all know it’s 10x easier just to give the kid 15 minutes of TV time and just get it done yourself, but they need to not be passive tenants. I am trying to come up with a mental list of chores for each of my kids to do in each room, so if I’m, say, folding clothes in the living room they can empty trash, fold washcloths, dust, pick up toys, etc.
    MJ recently posted…Co-sleeping and Bed Sharing: Can it be Safe?My Profile

  10. Kasie
    October 4, 2013 at 5:25 pm (3 years ago)

    Definitely cleaner when I was working. Three boys here, one in school, and I thought I was alone being the only one whose home is messier when I’m a sahm. Thanks for your post! Nice to know I’m not alone.

  11. Melissa
    October 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm (3 years ago)

    My children are 4, 2 and a half and 10 months. My house is clean almost always. We taught our kids from an early age to pick up after themselves and everything has it’s place. My day starts at 5:30 am and I sweep, wash and vacuum all before the youngest two are awake. It’s all about time management and having your kids on a schedule. My husband works out of town and is gone for four to five days at a time and I am also pregnant for baby number four, so if I can manage I think anyone can :)

    • Amber Schultz
      October 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm (3 years ago)

      That’s awesome that you have a good system for your family! It’s great to get the kids picking up at an early age. I think we need to be careful though when we say, “if I can manage I think anyone can”. It’s really all about the individual family. :)

      • Melissa
        October 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm (3 years ago)

        I didn’t mean that as a negative and you are right, it is about the individual family. Everyone’s situation is different and I did not take that into account. What I should have said is if you find a system that works for you, then your days can be productive and less stressful.

        • Amber Schultz
          October 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm (3 years ago)

          I totally agree! And goodness knows we all need less stress in our lives!

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