Jessa Duggar’s parenting skills are frequently debated on social media, whether it’s how she homeschools, disciplines, or child-proofs her house for her two children. And now she’s being tsk-tsk’d for keeping a messy home.
The 25-year-old mother of 2-year-old Spurgeon and 1-year-old Henry recently shared a sweet video of her youngest child clowning around at home — and commenters didn’t take kindly to the state of her house.
In the video, Henry climbs on a plastic slide among scattered laundry, a blanket, and toys. “Henry discovered a new game last night. (And daddy came to aid by moving hard objects from the fall zone and padding the area with pillows and blankets,” Jessa wrote.
But many took issue with the mess, particularly the “hard objects,” which they claimed posed a danger. “What a messy place, clean it up,” wrote someone on Facebook. Another person wrote, “Do you ever clean your house? Kids do take naps, & daddy’s home not safe for kids to live in a dirty house!”
In October, Jessa went on the defensive when Facebook photos showing her home in a less-than-perfect state spurred a backlash. “We all try to put our best foot forward and are most comfortable posting our ‘highlight reel’ for people on social media to see,” she wrote on Facebook in response. “I could’ve waited 24 hrs and posted pics of everything freshly cleaned and looking beautiful (the stovetop is sparkling, dust bunnies have been removed, laundry is folded, bed sheets are washed, etc). Certainly people would find no fault with that … but many may find fault with themselves. I didn’t do that for a reason. Reality.”
She added, “I said it before, and I’ll say it again: ‘I am not trying to pit a clean house against interaction with kids.’ I believe in, and value, both.”
Keeping a clean home is on trend these days, between research showing that organized folks are healthier and more physically active than messier people. And de-cluttering crazes like Swedish Death Cleaning and Marie Kondo’s KonMari method have swept social media, setting what sometimes feels like an impossible standard.
But according to Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting and youth development expert, “mess” is a subjective concept that’s problematic under two conditions: “If the mess is dangerous, for example, it causes mold, spreads germs, or is physically unsafe, or if it causes undue stress for people living in the home,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The truth is, toddlers thrive in messes as a creative or self-expressive outlet, and they can even learn how to properly organize through their cluttered environment. So, even though it’s maddening to trip over man-made forts or to have your kid pull out every one of his possessions at once, making a mess could be his way of exploring, much like playing with food.
“The degree of mess a child makes may also depend on their personality,” adds Gilboa. “While making art, some kids like all their supplies accessible, while others prefer to get only what’s needed at the time.”
Gilboa says that as kids grow, parents should note whether clutter has had an impact on how they care for their possessions. “If you see that your kid throws his toys around with no regard, it’s OK to say something like, ‘I know we’re relaxed about our home, but we also respect our belongings.’”
Neatnik parents should also organize for their own comfort, not to reflect a certain image. “It’s not reasonable to live for other people’s expectations,” she says. “Also, parents shouldn’t expect kids to be neater than they are themselves.”
As for people connecting the state of Jessa’s home to her parenting: “That’s just something else to shame parents about,” says Gilboa. “Jessa is brave to show such real photos, but her kids are having fun. People are missing the point.”
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