On Hiring a Housekeeper

I’ve struggled for a long time to even begin this post, because it’s so emotionally loaded for me. We have hired a housekeeper. And it was the best damn idea we ever had.

In a time of worldwide economic hardship, we are fortunate. We live in a city where our mortgage payment is obscenely low for a house that’s safe, warm, well-insulated, and structurally sound (if not as lovely as some of the houses near it). We have outstanding health insurance that affords us world-class care for very little co-pay. I try not to let myself forget to be thankful for these things, because the combination of low mortgage and negligible health bills allows us to live comfortably from one non-profit accounting salary and one part-time instructor/writer salary.

Can we vacation on the Riviera each summer? Can we join a fancy gym and get bi-weekly professional massages? No. But, we decided, we sure can afford $100 per month for about 6 hours of housekeeping.

When I was in the midst of my first trimester exhaustion and pounded with work, cleaning my bathtub seemed as impossible as flight. Forget about the toilet or floors. I had a talk with Corey–I was not going to get MORE energy as the pregnancy continued (and, by God! my writing work keeps coming in!).

Corey never felt like the issue should be an issue; it seemed an obvious solution to him. For me, this outsourcing was more complicated. I come from Central Pennsylvania German Protestant people. I come from a stubborn place, where people regale relatives who “never complained a day in her life” and my father tells stories of working summers as a roofer since he was 12 years old (usually, these stories were meant to spur us into action washing dishes or something). I come from people who work and cook dinner and clean their houses.

Or do I? If I still lived near my family, I’d have unlimited free childcare and, perhaps, the energy to then clean my own house. Or maybe I’d have grandmothers who “drop by” every week on the same day to do my laundry and “tidy up” around the house–I realized recently that many people from home outsource some household help in the form of financially-uncompensated love from relatives.

The idea of hiring a housekeeper seemed somehow too fancy for me at the same time as it seemed an amazing time-is-money-too solution. It helped me to read a discussion on Rookie Moms, which led to a discussion on The Happiest Mom. Until very recently, Meagan Francis reminds us, hiring household help was the norm even for people who struggled financially.

Francis talks about the plot of Little Women, reminding us that the March family would rather not give any gifts at Christmas time than have to release their full-time housekeeper. Household help was seen as such a necessity that it trumped Christmas gifts. Now, women instead feel pressure to simultaneously maintain spotless households/lawns, work for $$, and spend as much time as possible with their young children. And most of us live far away from our extended families.

I say women feel this pressure because I also can’t help but feel this housekeeper is MY expense, which is total bullshit. I’m not even the dirty member of this family! I throw my underwear in the hamper, for instance, and I chew my food and swallow it rather than hide it under the furniture. Why have I been allowing myself to feel guilt over out-sourcing some of our household tasks?

The first day I came home from work after Jackie had been here, I sat on the floor inside the doorway and wept for joy. Granted, I was pregnant and I weep during Christmas carols, but our house smelled of Dr. Bronner’s, the hardwood floors gleamed, and my baseboards had been dusted. My baseboards! Who remembers even owning baseboards when it’s time to dust?

I had about 6 minutes to enjoy it before I picked Miles up and he acted like a 2-year-old, but I also had the satisfaction of knowing only clutter plagued my house. Clutter versus Duplo-block-sized dust clumps.

It didn’t take me long to feel comfortable having a housekeeper. I no longer think about cleaning apart from daily maintenance stuff, and I use that space in my brain to dwell on my family or my work or my long-lost “pre-baby” friends. I feel happy to provide some income for another family during a tough economic time and I couldn’t feel more joy during those two 6-minute periods each month where everything in my house is arranged just the way I’d like it to be, and I didn’t have to put it there.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 11th, 2011 at 2:52 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


5 Responses to “On Hiring a Housekeeper”

  1. emily Says:

    I’m currently stalking Groupon for a housekeeper. We really can’t afford it but we’re going to get one once a month anyway because we don’t have time to clean the bathroom as it is and the babies aren’t even walking yet 🙂

  2. Mer Says:

    This is definitely on my wish list…my bathrooms are ridiculous already, and have been since before I was even pregnant. Also, having all wood floors really makes the dust show up – I swear, even when I vacuum & dust, it looks like I haven’t within 3 days! It’s nuts. My parents have had a cleaning lady since I can remember, and now I feel like my house should be magically clean and dust-free once every two weeks, but it apparently doesn’t work that way! I don’t think it’s possible to get someone for only $100/month around here…how did you find one? Recommendation from a friend?

  3. Katy Says:

    I definitely got a recommendation from a friend–we tried getting a housekeeper from Craigslist after Miles was first born and I needed some help for a few months. That did NOT work!! Many people in this area ask $100 flat fee to clean a house. I felt this was too much money for my 1,000 sq/ft house and sought someone who would work for around $20/hr. I feel this is a fair rate, and was happy to find someone who agreed!

  4. Leah Says:

    The best thing I ever did for my sanity was to hire a housekeeper. I made the jump about 3 months ago and wen throight the exact same angst you went through! Congratulations 🙂

  5. Monica Says:

    FYI – I use Extreme Housecleaning, LLC. I pay $75/mo for 2br/1ba/kitchen/LR/hall as a once-per-month cleaning. For biweekly, it would be $65/visit. They are actually very willing to work with you to make it affordable.

    A home-owning friend of mine recommended them. For their home (4br/2ba), they pay $75/visit for bi-weekly cleaning. However, each time they only clean the living room, bedrooms, and kitchen. Then they alternate cleaning the office/upstairs bathroom and the basement/downstairs bathroom. When they had their initial walkthru, they were able to negotiate a lower price by splitting up areas and alternating cleanings.

    Just thought I’d throw that out there for those considering services in the future, as a less-than-$100 option. I am extremely happy with the job they have done thus far – we’ve used them since last February.

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