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?