... to think (LONG, sorry) my friend is a very good mum, even though her house is filthy & cluttered.

(244 Posts)
LauraStora Thu 23-Jan-14 20:03:20

My friend is an LP to a boy of 6 and a girl of 8. They're cheerful, bright, imaginative, playful kids who are fed, warm, clothed & bathed and do well at school socially and academically. My friend is fun, kind, talented (she paints and makes a living from making pottery) resourceful and caring. She is a patient and attentive mother and a great friend. I spend quite a bit of time with them and the whole family seems happy and fond and supportive.

But... a mutual friend says my friend is an inadequate parent who should be given an ultimatum to clean up her home or else be reported to SS. Frankly original friend's house is a tip. It is dirty (dusty surfaces, mucky carpets & upholstery) and very cluttered, both with permanent possessions and things that haven't been dealt with e.g. unwashed dishes, piles of laundry. To give some examples, the dining room is full of bags and piles of possessions to the extent that nobody can go into it. The kitchen isn't so cluttered but the family's chickens are often free to roam into it from the garden, so there's hay and feathers and grit left on the floor. The kids share a bedroom that is stuffed with all the toys they've ever owned from birth, so is very cluttered, and if you want to sit down in the lounge you have to move piles of books and knitting and paint sets and kids drawings from a year ago and unfolded laundry off a seat and even then it will be covered in pet hair and old mud. I do cringe slightly when I visit, and on occasions have to breath through my mouth to avoid the whiff! The bathroom is pretty grim to be honest.

But, the kids sleep in sheets that are changed and washed every few weeks and the kids' clothes always seem clean if crumpled. When the weather is warm, the family more or less lives in the garden anyway and as I say seem happy. My friend has never seemed remotely depressed and laughs off any suggestions that I or other friends might help her clean or tidy or sort, saying things are fine and they're happy the way they are.

However this mutual friend, Z, is increasingly troubled by the state of the house, and as I say now intends to issue this ultimatum. AIBU to think there's no real cause for concern?

I'd be interested to hear, if you grew up in a messy chaotic house, did it affect you badly? Should I be concerned for these kids or am I right to think they're happy, cared-for kids who just have a bit of a slattern for a (lovely) mum?

FanjoForTheMammaries Thu 23-Jan-14 20:05:31

I agree with the concerned friend. Children have a right not to live in smelly squalour.

bodygoingsouth Thu 23-Jan-14 20:08:07

cluttered is fine, filthy is not.

probably be the case soon that school friends will visit and tease the children about this.

don't know if ss be interested if the children are thriving.

is she a hoarder? I mean serious issues not just clutter.?

Nanny0gg Thu 23-Jan-14 20:08:45

Why is the house like it?

Lack of time? Lack of care? Lack of interest? A genuine belief that it doesn't matter?

FanjoForTheMammaries Thu 23-Jan-14 20:09:21

And of course i meant SQUALOR.

livelablove Thu 23-Jan-14 20:10:22

She sounds like a lovely mum, as you say, but people do get up in arms about this stuff. If your friend gets SS in they will hate it. I have a friend who this happened to.

RandyRudolf Thu 23-Jan-14 20:11:28

Sounds like she has hoarding issues. I think in the long term this is something that is going to have to be addressed.

HandMini Thu 23-Jan-14 20:12:10

It will start to matter more to the kids as they get older and start to clock that not everyone lives like them. I'd like to say it doesn't matter, but I think it will start to affect whether they bring friends home etc.

bunchoffives Thu 23-Jan-14 20:13:25

Agree that the kids will be embarrassed as they get older.

Are you sure she's as happy as you say? Sounds a bit like the state you can get in if depressed for a long period.

SeaSickSal Thu 23-Jan-14 20:13:31

I think if a friend has an issue like this and you react like Z has done then you are a bitch.

There are a million and one things that you can do in this situation which don't go as far as issuing ultimatums and calling in social services.

Have either of you thought about talking to her about the situation and what is causing it? Perhaps doing something really radical like offering to help her out?

Goodness knows I'd much rather spend a couple of Saturdays helping a friend run a hoover round and put some Cif in the bathroom rather than letting social services loose on a happy family.

Roshbegosh Thu 23-Jan-14 20:14:06

It will keep getting worse if she keeps accumulating stuff and never sorts anything out. The kids sound like they are happy though, it is hard to say. There is a point beyond which it is abusive to keep the children in filth, mess and piles of shite up to their ears with no where to sit or anything. Until then they are no doubt better off with her than in care.

bunchoffives Thu 23-Jan-14 20:14:26

But nosyparker friend should keep her beak out of it imho. What kind of 'friend' does she consider herself to be if the SS removed the kids into care?

midnightagents Thu 23-Jan-14 20:14:28

Live and let live. It depends on the children's health. If they are healthy then the other friend needs to butt the heck out. Why risk all the emotional stress and trauma when the kids are fine?! Madness!

I read an interesting quote- think it was the dalai lama- which was in response to someone saying "westerners keep their graveyards very clean and well kept", and he said "yes, and the graveyards they live in". Which I took to be a reflection of the fact that western levels of cleanliness are culturally constructed, unnatural and unnessecary.

Flexiblefriend Thu 23-Jan-14 20:15:56

She sounds like a great Mum, apart from the state of the house. I don't think bringing up children in that sort of environment is ideal. If you find the house unpleasant to be in, surely her DC's do to, and they are stuck with it!

MrsReacher85 Thu 23-Jan-14 20:16:34

That sounds pretty similar to my parents house. It was caused by lack of interest I think, although I also think they don't realise how manky it is. They've stopped seeing it if you see what I mean.

I realised it wasn't the same as my friends houses pretty early on and was seriously embarrassed. Long term I would say the only affect is that I'm determined that my house will be different for my DS. however, it does affect our relationship now as I would never leave my son there without me and avoided visiting while he was crawling.

LauraStora Thu 23-Jan-14 20:17:47

'Have either of you thought about talking to her about the situation and what is causing it? Perhaps doing something really radical like offering to help her out?'

Have you thought about doimg something really radical like reading the OP? Yes, we have offered help. She cheerfully refuses it and says they're happy as they are.

DollyHouse Thu 23-Jan-14 20:17:54

That does sound filthy and I wonder if it's a reflection of other things happening in her life. There's comfortably scruffy and there's dirty. If it's dirty she might need some help. Probably preferable that it comes from friends rather than ss in the first instance!

theeternalstudent Thu 23-Jan-14 20:18:57

Does she own her home, is it privately let, HA or Council?
If it is the later 2 then they will have resources/departments that can help with out (but not guaranteed) social services help.

Problem is that with large amounts of clutter and dust you can almost guarantee mould and other unsavoury and unhealthy problems. Also if your friend has a hording problem then it is likely to get worse.

I doubt social services will be interested. My house is a bit like that (although okay we keep the front room semi okay & do wash up several times a day - but piles of shite everywhere? Yep, tick). Anyway we have had many a social worker through the door over the years (severely disabled child), they always accept a cup of tea (so can't be that skanky) & the only time I have seen a SW refer to the house it was described as 'child friendly' along with some reference to there being lots of toys.

SS get concerned about squalor & too-tidy houses but there's a huge range that they would consider 'normal'. The squalor & too-tidy houses have to be extreme examples for them to care.

Bumpandkind Thu 23-Jan-14 20:21:56

I wouldn't think there is a cause for concern. Each to their own. I'm not a big cleaner myself but too much mess and clutter brings me down. As long as she and the children are happy I don't see a problem.

lilyaldrin Thu 23-Jan-14 20:22:27

I think it will depend on the impact it has on the children - is the kitchen hygienic? Is food stored properly? Are there clean plates to eat off? Is there chicken poo on the floor?
Is the bathroom hygienic? Are they able to wash properly?
Do the children or their clothes smell?

A house that is filthy and cluttered and basically safe, and clean enough - ok. Inadequate or unsafe food prep, bathroom or sleeping areas - not ok.

bishbashboosh Thu 23-Jan-14 20:23:41

I was brought up like this. Dig hairs everywhere, total filth, didn't even have bed sheets!!!

It affected me in that I never caught bugs, I still don't. My immune system and stomach us made of steel. I've never had diarrhoea, really!! If I get a sick bug it's just a vague sense of nausea for a few hours.

Coldlightofday Thu 23-Jan-14 20:26:38

SS won't action someone having bad housekeeping habits.

If the children are happy, healthy, clean, achieving etc then there is no cause for concern.

Thetallesttower Thu 23-Jan-14 20:27:19

I think your friend is being unreasonable. I know one family who live in utter squalor, old stuff stacked outside house, carpets beyond dirty because of animals in the house, my eyes popped when I went in. SS were 'informed', they went round, and closed the case, because the mum and dad were good parents, children doing well at school and always suitably dressed. No issues basically. I have another friend who also has that house/garden thing going on, so lots of mud inside and dog hair everywhere, stains on furniture, toys grubby. Again, happy healthy successful children - in their case, they eat all organic food!

On its own, a tip of a house won't always interest SS, it will if it is a sign of neglecting the children. Of course a different social worker see it it differently, but I would not report a friend for having happy children. There are lots of things our parents do which are mortifying and not great (shouting, wearing embarrassing clothes, being a hoarder, having 'issues') but you can't report someone for the fact they might cause stress to their children in later life by being a hoarder unless the place is positively dangerous.

Re-read your op. I don't think SS would give a damn about the dining room being used as a store room. They might worry about chickens in the kitchen & the state of the bathroom if it's a hygiene risk & never sees any cleaning - but it would have to be very bad for them to be interested.

I think unless it's an actual health hazard (not just dog hair, I mean a food poisoning/bug catching risk) reporting to SS is pointless. What could it achieve?

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