just do the dishes. please. the kids will be fine.


Before you get all panicked that this is another one of those articles that tells you to ignore the dishes until tomorrow because babies grow up to our sorrow let me reassure you: it’s not. It’s instead a breath for those who feel just a bit of guilt.

Do the dishes. Please.

Because even though babies grow up it’s best if they grow up when the dishes are done.

And don’t feel guilt about doing those dishes.

You’re teaching kids that dishes are a fact of life. You eat, you make a mess, you clean up.

Sometimes I think those articles that tell us to savor the moment miss that sometimes savoring the moment is WAY more enjoyable and easy to do when there isn’t a big pile of dishes staring us down as the food dries on it.

I know.

I’ve fought that part of me for a long time thinking that there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be the mom that ignored the dishes or the laundry or the to-do list, but truthfully, I wasn’t. And then, then because of all the poems and Pinterest pins and blog posts about how motherhood is short and we need to savor it filed my stream then I’d end up feeling guilt because there I was, scrubbing off dried macaroni and cheese that had turned to glue on the plate versus reading a book.

But friends, again, I really really struggle with reading that book when that pile of dishes is looming in the background. Like struggle. Like I’m the mom that will play with the kids but end up sorting the toys and making playing cleaning instead of playing. It’s about finding YOUR balance.

So I’m writing to you moms a word of permission.


Do the dishes.

You are not a bad mom if you’re not sitting there savoring every single moment.

Work must be done. We can’t live in disarray. Or, at least, my personality struggles there. And it, again, is teaching our kids the value of order, chores, responsibility and stewardship when we take care of things around us. And you know what? Doing the dishes might be important for you but not for someone else. But I feel like I just want there to be that permission, in a world screaming at us to savor every second, that doing the dishes or the laundry or all of that stuff is still good. It’s mothering. It’s life.

Do the babies grow up?


My oldest is in college on the other side of the country. So I’m not a writer giving mom advice whose oldest is five. It’s really really easy to think that one has the answers then. But, I’m telling you, until you parent a teen you cannot advise on a teen. And let me tell you, I cannot advise on motherhood beyond the age 20 years 9months. Because that’s my time.

But, listen. In those almost twenty-one years of motherhood I fought myself and my need for order because I allowed the guilt of missing the moment sneak in.

Do you know what happened?

I became crabby. I became frustrated. I became overwhelmed.

So I decided – forget the guilt. And I started creating order and peace. And in that space the real me began to emerge – the me who could laugh and enjoy the moments because I didn’t have a million things staring me down.

I am a better mom when the dishes are done. 

Listen, real life is just this way. We don’t get the luxury of wrapping up life in two hours like a movie or 38 episodes of a sitcom where the staff and set crew clean up the mess. You and I do it.

No more guilt. Do the dishes. Be proud. Love your kids. Savor the moment when you can. Find the balance that works for YOU and your family.

But seriously, if you need order, no guilt. That happiness matters.

Because you know what? I want my kids to see me happy.

And my happiness?

It likes a clean counter.


ps. My daughter survived. And she, haha, likes a clean counter as well. You can read about that story in my new book -> The Brave Art of Motherhood (Autographed) and Amazon

If you want REAL community I’d love for you to join our page.

46 Responses to “just do the dishes. please. the kids will be fine.”

  1. April 7, 2017

    kim Reply

    Thank you! Sometimes I feel like a nut case bc I need cleanliness to be calm. It’s a control thing. But it just feels good to have a clean kitchen (clean, not necessarily uncluttered) & table.

    And it gives me a few minutes break from everyone!

  2. April 7, 2017

    Kathryn E. Graf Reply

    YES! Thank you. Those poems, etc. always make me think, “BUT… the dishes, laundry, floors, etc. have to be done at some point!!!” At least some semblance of order makes life go so much better for me in my house. God bless you.

    • April 8, 2017

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      I really have discovered that I am a better mom when I have balance and order. Blessings back to you.

  3. April 8, 2017

    Cheryl Reply

    So true – it’s good to get a balance. Teaching your children to help and care about their environment/ home is good too. I like my home to be tidy – not always possible to do in the work load of life – and I have grown to accept that. However, I believe that everyone benefits from a house that has a reasonable standard of cleanliness. It is more relaxing for everyone ( maybe me just a little bit more than the rest of the family! ) My husband has taken over the evening kitchen duty – he puts the TV on in there and loads the dishwasher/wipes the counters down etc – It is much appreciated and a lovely way of him showing love to me. 🙂

  4. April 8, 2017

    Cari Reply

    Thank you! I’ve always wondered, when do all of those posts,poems,etc think the laundry will happen, when I’m busy “savoring every moment “? The laundry fairy has yet to grace us with her presence, so when they say “the laundry will wait”… for whom exactly? Me! I’m with you- do the dishes! Lol

  5. April 8, 2017

    Kate Reply

    I love this post! Those poems and encouragements to savor every moment are sweet, but unrealistic. No one can savor every moment! There are just a ton of things to be done. Plus, who really savors the moments when kids are sassing back or coming home past curfew or hitting their brothers? Thanks for the permission to get stuff done that simply has to be done!

  6. April 8, 2017

    Maria Reply

    Amen!! I feel like I can be my best self when my house is in order and the dishes are done. I know I’m completely neurotic and I’m constantly working to keep a balance so that I don’t miss precious moments with my children because I’m busy sweeping the floor for the 25th time. I can’t thank you enough for this post!

  7. I love this!! I also feel overwhelmed with guilt when you read those poems, forget this and that “I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep”. It makes me so sad to think that we are so busy with tending to 3 kids, their schedules, a house, a job, etc, but stuff needs done!!!! I agree that living a life in disarray and chaos is not good for my mind, or our family. How can anyone savor the moment in an out of control house?? So today, I’m letting go of the guilt and will continue to do my best to balance it all.

  8. April 9, 2017

    tattoo artist Reply

    I love this!! I also feel overwhelmed with guilt when you read those poems, forget this and that "I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep". It makes me so sad to think that we are so busy with tending to 3 kids, their schedules, a house, a job, etc, but stuff needs done!!!! I agree that living a life in disarray and chaos is not good for my mind, or our family. How can anyone savor the moment in an out of control house?? So today, I'm letting go of the guilt and will continue to do my best to balance it all..

  9. April 9, 2017

    Martha Reply

    I think that there has to be balance. If you spend all your time cleaning, (because you can), that is not healthy either. For me, I want my children to grow up with a semblance of neatness. But I also do not want them to remember me tense and on them every second for using a dish. I enjoy a clean house, I enjoy when the dishes are done. But I also had times when I did not want to cook because I couldn’t wash another dish. If you are staying up half the night to keep things cleaned up, change a few things to simplify and do take the time to read sometimes. But it doesn’t mean to ignore the house and laundry forever.

    • April 9, 2017

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      Agreed. Balance, balance, balance and EACH MOM, EACH HOUSE will have it’s own balance. 🙂

  10. April 9, 2017

    Sally Reply

    Completely agree! But, I think it can be both…savor your babies AND wash the dishes. I don’t see a lot of moms skipping dishes because they are spending moments cuddled with children. They are skipping dishes because they are spending hours attached to cell phones, social media, etc.

    That’s the problem more than basic housework. There is time enough in the day for both housework and precious time with little ones.

  11. April 10, 2017

    Susan Reply

    Im a mom to six children. I cannot find a balance . I cannot stand the clutter, it makes me so over whelmed.
    My husband works long hours and i hate missing any event for my kids ,so I am usually running.
    Im ridding my house now for a spring cleaning. Hopefully this will help me in a better direction.

    • April 12, 2017

      Sonia Reply

      As a mom of six also, I say do the dishes…and let the kids help. ☺

  12. THANK YOU! I enjoy a clean space. It makes the whole house calmer. It makes me happier. It makes my kids happier. Everyone wins with clean dishes, a clean house, etc. Think about the other side, when the dishes have piled up and everyone’s screaming in your ear because they’re hungry. I hate saying (and they hate hearing), “I have to do the dishes before you can eat.” Thank you for this post. I’ve been so bothered by those cutsie pinterest posts!

  13. April 10, 2017

    Barbara L Lewis Reply

    I savor watching my family do the dishes with me!

  14. April 10, 2017

    Jen Reply

    Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you! Very well put!

  15. April 12, 2017

    S. Wright Reply

    I HAVE to keep those dishes done!! And the lawn mowed, and the floors vacuumed, and the groceries purchased and put away, and the laundry done and hung up/folded!! Because even though my children are great helpers, being a widowed, homeschooling mom of 4 means that it’s up to me to keep our “world” going around as it should! There no one to tag-team with! So yeah. There are lots of times when I could sit down and play, but I have to keep on top of ALL the family responsibilities. If the house falls apart, so do I – overwhelmed and drowning…..

    So thank you for this post. I want to be a good mother – one who is THERE for my kids. They need me more than ever now that their dad can’t be here. But part of my being there is keeping the basics under control and providing that safe, calm, comforting environment for them. And I can “be there” for my kids over a sink of sudsy water…

  16. April 13, 2017

    Patty Reply

    No advice if you haven’t lived it yourself! Yes! I roll my eyes hard at the folks who know everything about parenting when their oldest is four!

  17. April 13, 2017

    NaDell Ransom Reply

    AND teach them to help clean up too so you can all enjoy whatever is next together. Their future roommates will thank you.

  18. April 14, 2017

    Kitty Reply

    I guess as a new mum to a 3 month old I sort of felt like those memes were about reassuring mums who were struggling to cope with the housework while looking after a baby that just wants to be held all the time. I find it strange that actually for me my house is cleaner than it’s ever been because I suddenly have the urge to scrub and fit it in whenever there’s someone else holding the baby. I look forward to seeing how I react to them when I’m toddler wrangling. Or dealing with a grumpy 5 year old. For now they leave me feeling slightly smug about my newfound housewifeliness (note-comment intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek) and make me cry because I am sad that this wonderful tiny baby of mine has already changed and grown so much and this special time we are sharing is going by far too fast. But not too fast to keep the house clean when I get a minute.

  19. April 14, 2017

    Jennifer Crooks Reply

    Love this post.
    I always think “who are these mums who savour every moment and everything else can wait” do they have cooks and cleaners ?
    I think a balance is what’s needed, as a mum of 3 who also works part time as a nurse and whose husband works 70+ hours a week there’s always so much to do. I do try and take time to spend time with my children but then have the guilt the other way where I’m thinking of the million jobs that need doing. If my youngest (2.10months) asks for a cuddle I’ll always stop and give her a cuddle though.
    Definitely agree with a PP who said it’s mobiles that take us away more than housework. I often think my Gran who brought up 5 children probably had a much more smooth running home than me because she never once sat down to look on social media !!

  20. April 14, 2017

    Suzanne Johnson Reply

    I love this. I found a great thing to do is have the kids HELP you with the dishes. No matter how old they are:)

  21. April 14, 2017

    Caylee Reply

    You know what I really dont like, when people say ” this is how we should be ” because theyve had this epiphany for their lives and now believe this is what everyone needs! I love that you say this is what works for YOUR personality type. But it happens everywhere “do this work out and you’ll be ripped” “do paleo and you’ll feel a million bucks!” “Iv become a vegetarian and I’ve never had more energy “. Except that everyone has a different personality, a different body type and different needs. Those awesome, empowering whatevers that the writer insists on is only good for that kind of person, but the WORST advice for another.
    I have 3 kids under 9 and have spent my motherhood feeling guilty for everything because I like and I need order, discipline, routine, healthy food, and most of all, a clean and hygienic house. Not super tidy, but clean.
    So thank you for this article. Finally right!!??

  22. April 14, 2017

    Cheryl Reply

    Kids really like playing in the sink while you do the dishes. I know this for a fact. I know do it with my granddaughters.

  23. April 14, 2017

    Lights UP North Reply

    Wonderful article. Thank you for speaking a truthful perspective.

  24. April 15, 2017

    Bespoke Mama Reply

    I really struggle with this! I am naturally really messy, but find it really stressful. I have been dabbling in minimalism but am at a really awkward point where I find it really stressful having work left undone, but on days when the twins are mummy-centric and won’t let me do any work I can’t relax and enjoy them like I used to! Because I have gotten used to peace and order 🙈

  25. April 15, 2017

    Marianne Reply

    For me I take those poems as it’s ok to let stuff like that wait once in a while. You definitely have to find what works for you.

  26. April 16, 2017

    Becca Lydic Reply

    I can agree with this article and also with the “savor the moment” articles as well. There definitely has to be balance-having a spotless home can’t be our “god”. We should have times where we are engaged with our kids and not distracted. BUT, our lives aren’t supposed to totally revolve around our kids. Work can be done together. Mom shouldn’t be up cleaning & doing everything while everyone else sits back. Kids like to help parents with chores and that time spent together is valuable, just like time spent just playing with them. Things do have to be done and kids need to know they are not the center of everything-how do we think we are ending up with so many entitled people these days? That doesn’t mean not making your child feel special. My daughter can know that I love her unconditionally & would do anything for her, but, as I tell her sometimes, “it’s not all about you!”. Don’t get me wrong I struggle with this balance as well but I definitely don’t think we do a service to our kids to let them rule and determine our schedules/what we get done. Of course there are the days when you just don’t get it done and choose to snuggle up with the kids and focus on them. But if I go too long without keeping up with the dishes/cleaning etc I get stressed & then instead of just a little cleaning each day, I have a big mess that ends up needing to STILL BE CLEANED ANYWAY! And it takes me a lot longer to do, Which defeats the point!

  27. April 17, 2017

    Laurel Reply

    A simple, “Thank you.”

  28. April 18, 2017

    Stacia Reply

    I can say that my almost 26 year old daughter also appreciates a clean counter and dishes {and floors and laundry} I think it’s important that they realize things must be done around the house to learn about responsibility and being a good roommate/housemate. I don’t think either of my kids think they missed out on my attention because I spent a few minutes tidying up while talking with them.

  29. April 19, 2017

    Michelle Gourley Reply

    To all these ladies saying “have your kids help you do the dishes!” Um, my kids are 5, 3, and 1. I do not have 3 hours to do my dishes every night which is how long it would take to wash my dishes and clean up my soaked kitchen and children after they “helped.” 😀 yes, they help me unlaod the dishwasher and yes I get where you’re coming from, but you’re MISSING THE POINT of the article entirely. The point is, it takes time and energy to keep a clean space that your family can enjoy. And no one needs to feel guilty about putting in that time and energy because it takes away from time and energy with their kiddos. That’s just the trade off and its ok.
    Love, a legitimately terrible housekeeper and tired mama up to my elbows in dishwater.

  30. April 20, 2017

    Heather Reply

    I love so much about this article, but I think it misses one key point – MOM does not need to do the dishes by herself. Children, of the appropriate age, can and should be taught that if we all make a mess, we all clean up. When we ALL get the chores done, then we can ALL play. Children that don’t learn some order and structure creates problems, but those who think that it gets done automatically, that’s a different problem.

  31. April 30, 2017

    Chelsey Brooks Reply

    I love this! I always do dishes right after dinner. I am such a better mom when my house is clean! And why wouldn’t I want to teach my daughter to be clean and that doing those things are important? I want her to grow up and be a good wife and mother and I hope she thinks doing the dishes is important too. If I am feeling the mom guilt while I am cleaning then I try and involve my daughter and give her something to do. She likes to unload the silverware or wipe off the table so I let her help me out so we can spend time together and she can learn how to do work also.
    I’m also a better mom when my kids are put together. I think it is so important to everyday dress my daughter and do her hair. She loves running to the mirror when I’m done and seeing how beautiful she looks for the day. (It’s hard to get mad at them when they look so cute 😀) Obviously I’m not trying to teach her to be vain and to obsess over her looks but I want her to know that it’s important to take care of herself and I want her to grow up feeling beautiful and confident.
    Thank you for reminding us that yes, our children grow up fast, but we still need to do things around our homes. We can’t use our children as an excuse to be sloppy. It is important to do these things and to have our children see us doing them.

  32. July 6, 2017

    Heather Reply

    Yes! Thank you for the balanced perspective. I love my “messy” friends and totally understand that they are different personalities, different stages of life, and have different needs to meet. But, I would like to take a black permanent marker to every place I see the phrase “A mess house is a happy home” or something like that. If it’s my house, it’s not happy unless it’s (mostly) clean. 🙂

  33. July 6, 2017

    Kay S. Reply

    Thank you thank you thank you! I come at this from a different perspective. My parents are hoarders. We were never taught to clean, but my parents blamed the unclean house on us all the time. We were yelled at to clean and yelled at when we did clean because we’d throw away something away that my hoarder parents thought should’ve been kept despite being broken and covered in cat pee.

    Cleaning is hard for me. I’ve spent my adult life learning basic cleaning skills and working through anxiety that comes with that. But I keep working on it because I’m determined my children won’t grow up the same way I did.

    Every time I see an article about how the cleaning can wait it stresses me out more. I’m sure SOME people need to be told that, but if I give into that it’ll be too easy to let everything get ready bad really fast.

    Ultimately, I think it’s all about balance. There are people who keep a clean house, practically a show house, to the neglect of their children. There are people who keep an unsanitarily/unsafely messy house, which is also to the neglect of the children, at least to the extent that they’re neglecting the children’s need for a healthy environment. But I think most parents fall in between, and whether the house is cluttered and the sink is full of yesterday’s dishes, or the house is really clean, the point is that they know they’re both safe and loved. Most kids remember whether they were safe, loved, and provided for way more than whether the house was spotless or cluttered.

  34. January 23, 2018

    Bon Reply

    Cleaning can wait. Do the dishes. Dear Mom, I see you. So so many articles floating around that stress some out and validate others, then vice versa. I appreciate more like this one that sends the message that mom is not responsible for entertaining her children all the time, but will irk others who look at this and think “I can’t handle one more thing!”

    It’s ok Moms, you are doing great. Do what you can, rest when you need to, and love your children fiercely.

  35. April 10, 2018

    Amie Reply

    Amen sister! But may I add there are a lot of moms using those “leave the dishes” quotes as an excuse to have a dirty house! They are sitting on their phones or computers. Balance. And I am also a mom of 3 grown, married, balanced, tidy children,. Plus 2 grandsons who are being taught to “clean up clean up! Everybody do their share!”

  36. April 26, 2018

    Chris Reply

    Finally, I have found a mom match!! Yes, I need the dishes done before I can sit and enjoy my littles. I have been looking for this perspective and am so glad I found you. Thank you for understanding this simple yet gut wrenching potential source of quilt.

  37. […] This really resonated with me. As someone who just can’t hang with dirty dishes. […]

  38. […] Martin wrote a piece that I’m sure many of you have read called “Just do the dishes. Please. The kids will be fine.” I instantly clicked on that title because I too was worried about being present 110% of the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.