Don't Hate Me Because I Have a Cleaning Lady.

It's true, my clean little secret, if you will.  My name is Mary Tyler Mom and I have a cleaning lady.  "Hi, Mary Tyler Mom!" 

I blame my mother-in-law.  This dear lady, on the day of my mother's funeral, gifted me six months of bi-weekly cleaning services.  I was five months pregnant and tired after helping care for my Mom for eleven months after an undiagnosed brain tumor bled out while she was playing a slot machine and paralyzed her before killing her.  The dust bunnies in my home were the size of caribou after that year.  Dust caribou are not so cute. 

I used to marvel at the middle-aged gals I worked with who talked about their cleaning ladies.  She does this, but she doesn't do that . . . La.  Di.  Da.  Truth be told, it kind of made me sick.  They lived in a different world than I did, and apparently one that was much cleaner.  But then one day a gal spoke up and talked about her first cleaning lady.  She hired her when she was a single mom after her divorce.  Working full-time and living alone with her young daughter, she realized she was spending valuable family time cleaning.  She caught herself weekend after weekend cleaning rather than playing, cleaning rather than spending time with her girl.  She threw out her mops, called a cleaning service, and has outsourced the family dirt ever since.

I thought of that gal when the cleaning service gift was offered.  I was so bone tired from pregnancy and caregiving and grief that I embraced the life of one with a cleaning service.  I pretended to be a lady of leisure.  Who am I kidding?  It was easy.  When I went back to work after maternity leave and the gift ran out, we found a way to work it into the budget.  An unexpected expense, to be sure, but so damn worth it. 

I mean if someone had told me when I was a girl that I would marry for love, make babies, work a meaningful career, and have a cleaning lady, my eight year old self would have some pretty fancy ideas of what kind of life I had created.  My forty-one year old self knows I'm just living the best I can.  You make choices, you make sacrifices, good things happen, bad things happen, horrific things happen.  We all just do the best we can.

So, yeah, I have a cleaning service that comes once a month.  I don't talk about it a lot, but when asked, I answer honestly.  We pay $110/month for two gals to come once every four weeks to clean every room in our home.  They change the sheets, but don't launder them.  They clean the outside of the fridge, but not the mess on the inside.  My windows are filthy, 'cause they don't do them and neither do I, but my baseboards shine.  And, yes, it is sometimes a pain in the ass when "cleaning day" arrives and I have to clear all the surfaces of folded laundry, or the bills I meant to pay, but haven't yet, or empty the dish rack cause I don't want anything broken, but I know not to yammer on about it.  I know we are some lucky freaking ducks to have the $ to pay someone else to clean our dirt.  That, I get. 

What I also get is that for me a messy house is a "hell to the no."  I can't stand dust caribou, and I love when my husband cooks, but hate cleaning up the mess he makes.  I mean geez, how hard is it to wipe the damn stove top down?  For some of us, too hard.  So to preserve our marriage and to keep me from harping and acting all the martyr, which I am entirely capable of, we choose to have help.  We outsource our dirt. 

If you promise not to hate me for having a cleaning service, I promise not to act all Gwyneth and pretend my home always looks the way it does on cleaning day.  I promise to keep it real and acknowledge I need help and choose to pay for it.  I promise to acknowledge not all can afford it, but I wish they could.  I promise that if you take a look at your own budget, you, too, might be able to afford it with a little less cable or a little less latte.  I promise life is just a little bit better with a clean home.  Deal?

 

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  • I know that some people that use cleaning services can seem obnoxious. It's definitely a luxury/extra, and it seems so indulgent.

    But I think it can be worthwhile - I love the saying that "you can make more money but you can never make more time" and there are times that makes sense.

    (Cabs are an indulgence, too, but sometimes paying seven to ten bucks to be somewhere on time versus waiting for whatever misery the CTA is about to visit on you is worth it.)

    I wouldn't feel guilty about it if it works for you. I personally respect anyone who makes a clean house a priority. It depends on your point of view. Better that you spend money on something you can enjoy vs. something that's a waste (e.g., ATM fees, overdraft fees).

  • Once a month? I don't begrudge you that at all. A house can get pretty dirty in a month. And, I'm assuming, you don't wait a month for the stove to be wiped down again, so you're probably still doing a lot yourself. So have at it! I am only slightly jealous.

  • I hate you. ;-)

    I would kill to have a cleaning lady! It's my dream. I'll keep designating the chores to my better half and I'll bluff my way through the rest.

  • I am just going to stop writing and link to what you write instead. You SAID IT LADY.

  • Once I could afford it, it was the first thing I got. I LOVE IT AND it is worth every stinking penny!!!

  • Don't think I can afford a cleaning service. Wish I could and I love this article.

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    My grandmother cleaned houses into her late 70s. Maybe her early 80s? There was no stopping her. She had a skill set, and she knew it was worth money, and she was all too willing to trade the one for the other.

    So I have no qualms about paying someone to clean our apartment, as long as I remember that it's a trade, and I'm doing my part to keep the trade fair. We pay our cleaning person the same hourly rate I make, because I consider an hour of her work to be worth the same as mine, and if there are tasks that I want done "just so," then those are tasks I do myself or I let it go.

    By the way, I don't believe for a minute that there are clean living rooms anywhere in America outside of Real Simple magazine and my mother-in-law's house. (And even then, she was probably expecting company :-) Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, the Renaissance, Georgian England, over and over, the same story repeats: people are either a) living in filth, b) living with servants who help keep things reasonably clean, or c) too proud for a and too poor for b, and so spend their whole lives furiously fighting to maintain a tiny square of order and cleanliness, with highly mixed results. So I think we need to give ourselves a break, and yeah, maybe have a cleaning lady or two.

  • When my sons were little, we upped our cleaning lady to every week. It was a crazy indulgence, but I'm a working mom and as you wrote, I was spending way too much time on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor instead of playing with my kids. (I didn't know the terrible twos is when you should have a dog!)

    When one of my girlfriends found out, she stopped talking to me! And she even had a cleaning lady! We still have a cleaning lady. Not every week. But I'm still out one friend.

  • So the next question is, should a recent retiree continue to have a cleaning helper? No work to justify it, no pay to compensate it, lots of unscheduled time--is it time to reintroduce myself to the vacuum cleaner?

  • In reply to MAMil:

    When my Dad retired is when Mom called in a service. Because now that he had all this time to be home, he walked around behind Mom and told her she was doing everything wrong. As in she didn't know how to vacuum properly. I think the cleaning lady saved their marriage.

  • I would love to read this post, but I have a sink full of dishes to wash, carpets to vacuum and furniture to dust. : D Seriously, thanks for another great post!

  • OK, I'll let you have a cleaning lady and not hate you.

    I'm a stay-at-home-wife and theoretically have all day to clean (if I can put the computer down and get up and do it). But the house is decades old and has that lived-in look, no matter if I was on my hands and knees from morning till night scrubbing every inch of surface - it wouldn't look any different!

  • I envy you the cleaning lady! It's first on my list of things to do when I win the lotto! My mom had a cleaning lady for years. Of course when I was 7 and my sister was 4, she also was working full time as a nurse and doing distance ed to get her Batchelors in Nursing and still wanted to spend some time with us kids and our dad!

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