Which Takes Priority, The Children or the Chores?


My husband and I are feuding over the state of our home. He wants it to be spic and span, but my priority is our two young children. I think it's more important to be present to them than to worry about a sticky kitchen floor. Who's right?

Tom and Caroline: Both! Of course the well-being of your children trumps the sheen on your hardwood. With little ones around, a measure of contained chaos is to be expected. There are some days when it's all we can do to keep everyone warm and well-fed. Remind your hubby that, in the blink of an eye, your toddlers will be graduating high school. He'll long for the day when he could stub his toe on a toy truck or trip over a teddy bear. You'll have oodles of time then to scrub and polish.

At the same time, cleanliness is important. We have to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us. The family has to function. Dishes have to be washed. The laundry has to be put away. Our children simply do better in an orderly environment. Order even makes play more fun: When they open the block box, they find blocks. When they open their Star Wars case, they find Star Wars action figures. Order also sounds important to your husband, which is no small matter. Even if Mount Laundramore doesn't faze you, if it bothers your husband, you need to improve out of love for him.

Caroline: I've struggled with this ever since my first son was born, trying to find the balance between being a good mom and a good homemaker. In fact, just recently I was tempted to despair. No matter how hard I tried, I could not keep the house in shape and the kids happy. I wanted to quit and declare it impossible. But a friend mused that, if God called us to be good wives and good mothers, then it can't be impossible. There is a way.

How can we do it all? First, remember that our goal is not a house ready for the cover of House Beautiful magazine; our goal is order. Second, we need a schedule — bathrooms on Monday, yard on Saturday, iron on Sunday and so on. If we're waiting until we “have the time,” nothing will happen. Consider swapping the kids weekly with a friend so that you can have a solid block of time to work. The kids will love it.

And third, consult experts and invest in some resources. Pick the brains of moms who are doing a good job. Glean the best ideas from a solid Catholic author. For example, Holly Pierlot's A Mother's Rule of Life (Sophia Institute Press) has helped me get on track.

Tom: A word to husbands: Your wife needs your help. The more you pitch in, the less stress she'll feel. Order in the home takes both of you.

Caroline: Some days we're called to sit down and play “Chutes and Ladders” for the umpteenth time; other days we're called to persevere and mop the floor. We can ask the Lord and his mother for the wisdom to know what kind of day we're facing.

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama.