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The Help: the truth about hiring a cleaning service

by Meagan Francis on May 7, 2011

cleaning service, maid service,
I can remember the first time I decided to hire cleaning help. I was largely pregnant with my fourth child, with a two-year-old at home all day as well. I was working a couple of afternoons a week outside the home and full-time from home to keep my fledgling writing career in the air. My husband was working in another state for weeks at a time, sometimes only home five or six days a month. I was managing, but I was grumpy and stressed out.

I’d taken a card advertising cleaning and errand services from the grocery store bulletin board weeks earlier, but had been putting off making the call. It felt almost ridiculous to hire somebody to come clean our rather shabby rental house, especially when our budget was tight. And indulgent, too; certainly not the kind of thing my own mother (who made ends meet on a way-below-poverty-level income) would ever have considered doing. But I thought that if I could just get somebody to come a few times, I might be able to get ahead again, enough to let things go until after the baby came without getting the house condemned by the health department.

So I called the number, and a pleasant woman, Cyndi, answered the phone. Cyndi was a mom herself, looking for flexible work she could manage around her husband’s schedule so they could avoid paying for daycare for their toddler son. I talked a mile a minute on the call, rattling off all the circumstances that had led to making the call. I justified myself for a good three minutes, wanting to make sure she understood that I wasn’t just sitting around eating bonbons all day, I wasn’t lazy, I wasn’t elitist, I wasn’t spoiled. I just…

“You just need help,” she said with empathy in her voice.

“Yes,” I breathed. “I just need help.”

Cyndi cleaned for us three hours a week, every other week, for five or six months, until after Owen was born and Jon started working close to home. While she was coming I still worked hard, but I no longer had to make choices like: “Will’s napping; should I work on that article that’s due tomorrow, or try to squeeze my swollen body behind the toilet?”

We’ve moved twice since Owen was born, and have had cleaning help here and there since, usually when things are especially busy (book contracts, another new baby). Right now we’re on our longest stint with consistent cleaning help–Lynda, our current house cleaner, has been coming twice a month, 3-4 hours at a time, for about a year (with occasional breaks of a month here or there when vacations or other events came up.)

In our discussion about hiring help last week, I saw a lot of generalizations–many of which I once, myself, believed–come up about what it means to hire help and what it means to be hired help, and I’d like to take this opportunity to give another perspective on a few of them:

“People who hire help think they’re too good to scrub toilets.”

I’m sure there are people out there who fit this statement…and then there are the rest of us. Many of the people I know who have cleaning help have it twice a month or so, leaving plenty of “dirty work” to tackle in the meanwhile. We all pay for conveniences and we all choose different things in which to invest our time. I don’t think I’m “too good” to make bread just because I buy mine at the store. Likewise, I don’t think you believe you’re “too good” to make homemade play-dough just because I prefer to make mine myself. Ranking housecleaning as a demeaning job says a lot about us as a culture, namely that we don’t value it highly enough.

“If you need help to keep your house clean, your standards are too high.”

Well, “need” is relative. Now that I’m no longer eight months pregnant, I don’t NEED help in the same way I did when I could barely get my huge body to the floor to wipe up spills. But I found that I functioned better with a certain level of cleanliness, and in order to maintain that, and still have time for the other things I want to do (like work…and sleep), I do need help. I can keep the house reasonably clean without help, but certain tasks (like mopping the floor) often fall by the wayside, and on my own I won’t get to them as as often as I like.

As for cleanliness standards, I don’t really feel like it’s up to me to tell anyone else how clean “clean enough” is. If you like your house white-glove-clean that’s not a moral failing. The trick is getting it that way without killing yourself, and paid help is one way to get there. Temporarily adjusting your standards, giving up something else that isn’t as high on the priority list, or delegating to family members are other ways.

There’s also nothing wrong with not really caring if your shelves are dusted or if the bathtub gets much attention. I totally understand if, for you, a house cleaner would be a waste of money because you’d way rather eat out twice a month than have clean baseboards. Why can’t we allow for personal preference? I find it so strange that some mothers feel they have to apologize for having not-clean-enough homes, while others get questioned for wanting “too-clean” homes. Talk about a losing proposition.

“Cleaning help is a luxury, only for the privileged.”

Yes and no. To me, hiring Lynda is a business decision, and a time management decision, and a decision about the way I want my house to look and how much effort I’m able to personally put into getting it that way. Much more than a clean toilet (which I have to clean many times between her visits anyway), what Lynda gives me is time–time to write in the afternoons when Clara is napping, for example. I’m much more likely to clean while Clara’s awake, because I can involve her in that and also engage with her while I clean. It’s not so easy to involve her in answering a dozen emails or writing blog posts, so I prefer to do those things while she’s sleeping.

In a first-world country, most of us have luxuries of one sort or another, whether it’s that salon haircut or gourmet coffee. I’ve given up some of my luxuries, like the premium cable package, to make room in our budget for Lynda’s services. To me, that small sacrifice is absolutely worth it, but somebody else might have a different preference.

The fact that I am able to make decisions like this about the way I spend my time is a privilege by world standards. But if you are reading these words using your personal high-speed Internet connection, you are most likely also very privileged by world standards. A lot of people drive much nicer cars than me, and live in much nicer houses than I do. I suppose they makes them “more privileged” than me, but that doesn’t make them bad people, nor does it mean they aren’t aware of their privilege…just like we should all be.

“Hiring household help is classist and unethical.”

I’m glad the class, race, and sticky ethical issues surrounding cleaning help were raised in the comments (and there are some seriously intelligent arguments posed in the discussion–thank you so much to everyone who jumped in.) Those are important issues and ones I think we need to think about. However,  I think we also have a lot of power to change the harsher realities associated with the “household help” industry by acting with fairness, thought and integrity in our own decisions about whether and how to hire help.

One way you can act responsibly is by making sure your “help” (cleaner, lawn mower, babysitter, etc) is paid a fair wage for the area you live in. That does not necessarily directly relate to the amount of money you’re paying per hour, by the way. Many large services collect pretty large hourly rates to send out a team of “maids”, then keep most of it and pay their employees minimum wage. If I were considering using a service, I’d ask them what their employees are paid per hour plus whether or not they earn benefits. That will give you a good idea of how much the company values them, which can speak volumes about what the employees’ experiences working with that company might be like.

I personally prefer working with an individual. Lynda (who, by the way, is more educated than I am and is working her way through a Master’s program while her kids are in school) is able to set her own rates, manage her own schedule, keep all the money she earns, and use the products she prefers (natural ones that don’t give off fumes or tear up her hands.) Also, I like that she and I communicate directly rather than through an office or scheduler or supervisor. It just makes things feel simpler and frankly, less sticky. Before you work with an individual there is a lot to consider–one issue being whether you’ll be using that person’s services frequently enough, and paying him or her enough, for the IRS to consider it an employee-employer relationship. This MSN article lays out many of the factors that you’ll need to consider, and this IRS publication gives more specific details about this tax year.

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world in which class distinctions affect every purchase we make, and I see dealing with household help fairly as one way we can make a small difference in our own homes. I like what Trish had to say about this in this comment: “I think it’s just a matter of transparency. You can’t see those people who are making your food, or who work in the factory making your car, etc. While my housekeeper, is right there….in my face. In a way, I feel like this is more honest.”

“Running a household isn’t that hard. You should be able to do it yourself.”

Okay, I’ll grant you that compared to the days when clothing had to be beaten with a rock and water carried from a well, running a household today–heck, doing pretty much anything today–isn’t that hard. But so what? I take pride in being self-sufficient, but just because I can do something doesn’t mean I always have to. Particularly when there are a lot of other somethings competing for my limited time and energy. I work hard in all aspects of my life, but there are no extra points awarded for working harder than you have to. Just what are we trying to prove, and to whom?

In the discussion from the other day, one reader accused those of us in favor of hiring help of just validating one another’s choices. After some thought, you know what? I’m okay with that. Unless I get to actually live in somebody else’s shoes, I have no idea what she needs or doesn’t need. Whether she hires help or does every blessed household task herself, I am willing to give every mom reading this the benefit of the doubt that she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got, and that in reality, she’s probably already her own harshest critic.

So there you are, moms: consider yourself validated as my Mother’s Day present to you. Really, it’s the least we can do for one another, don’t you think?

Photo: Rubbermaid Products, via Flickr Creative Commons
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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry May 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

So many good points to think about! My brain might explode!

:)

I go back and forth on this so many times… My husband once asked me about getting someone to clean because it was Christmastime and I was stressed and losing my mind. I couldn’t pull the trigger on it, but not really for any good reason. Just a vague guilt and feeling that I shouldn’t need to do that. Within that same season I’m sure I got my hair cut for $45 and went out to eat one too many times. Maybe that money would have been better spent elsewhere.

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Nadine May 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Bravo! Well said! Isn’t it grand that we live in a world where we can choose AND have an opinion. Women are just plain too critical of each other, and of themselves. We ARE our own worst enemies in SO many ways. Doing the best we can with what we have is the best ANYONE can ask for.

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Ellen May 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Meagan, this is a great sum-up of the discussion from the past few days, and you make some excellent points. To add some more food for thought, throughout these discussions, I’ve been thinking of several books I’ve read in recent years that look at housekeeping from a faith perspective. Two examples are Kathleen Norris’s The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry Liturgy and “Women’s Work,” and Margaret Kim Peterson’s Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life. These books support many of your points above. In our culture, we often decide that those who care about their home’s cleanliness and appearance are snobs or materialistic, or we demean those (including ourselves) who spend time cleaning as spending valuable time and energy doing things that aren’t valuable. We see laundry and cleaning as a waste of our time, drudgery that keeps us from more valuable endeavors. But these authors argue that mindful attention to the everyday necessities of life and our daily surroundings–attention to the spaces we inhabit, the food we feed our families, the state of the clothes we wear, and the ways we make our homes welcoming to both its inhabitants and our guests–enriches our relationships and our spiritual lives. I just wanted to recommend these books, especially for other readers for whom religious faith is important. (And no, these are not propaganda arguing that a woman’s place is in the home, on her knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. They are written by smart, successful women and addressed to other smart, successful women who might wonder if caring about a clean kitchen floor makes her shallow.)

I think it’s necessary for each of us to decide how to make our home a place of refuge and growth for us, our families, and guests. For some, refuge might come from clean, uncluttered spaces, and for others, refuge might require freedom to leave the dishes in the sink or the beds unmade. Then once we figure out what level of cleanliness and order is important to us, we figure out how to make that happen given the many and varied responsibilities we have both in and out of the home.

Thanks again for this thought-provoking topic, and Happy Mother’s Day!

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 5:04 am

Ellen, those both sound like excellent books. I’m going to check them out. Thank you!

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Jamie May 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I do feel like a hiring help is a privilege and not something many moms can afford. Our home is often a huge mess, but my husband and I agree that taking care of it is in my job description for the position of “Stay at Home Mom.” Fortunately we also agree that the house doesn’t have to be spotless and he does help when he is home. I’ve often discussed this with a friend who thinks I have a right to have a cleaning service and take my children to daycare so I can have some time for myself. While I think that’s a nice idea, I don’t think it’s a right or fair to use our money in that way. My husband works hard and then comes home to help out with the house and kids and has very little “me time” himself.
I do think it’s great that you’re hiring a mom and providing her an opportunity to care for her family and make some extra money. I see it as a win-win situation and not classicist at all.

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 5:08 am

Jamie, I would agree that it is hard for the average family to afford cleaning help *on top of* all the other little lifestyle luxuries many families have grown accustomed to–the daily Starbucks run, the gym membership, eating out, etc. We were doing some serious budget-crunching a while back and I was considering stopping cleaning because it looked on paper like we couldn’t fit it in. I did some math and realized my twice-a-month cleaning service cost the same amount as our premium cable package. We ditched the cable. :) I think it’s just a matter of making sure our money is going where we really want it to–and it sounds like you’re satisfied without help, so it wouldn’t make sense for you to shell out the bucks for it.

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vicki May 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Jennifer began cleaning our home an hour before I went to the hospital for a csection for my first biological child (2 stepkids!!). She comes every other week for 2 hours and does a great job doing the things I can’t do right now. I actually like cleaning the house and I like having a clean house. But my husband and I decided that was something to delegate for now.
Thanks for this post. It’s interesting how taboo the subject is.

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Nicole May 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Great post! I totally agree with all of the above. We’re anti-martyring on our blog… if you can afford someone and you need your house to be clean, for goodness sake, hire someone! No need to spend life unhappy and complaining. And yes, pay them well and treat them with decency, because that is how you should treat everyone you interact with.

There’s nothing special about cleaning… if men did it, we probably wouldn’t even be considering there to be an ethical violation because everybody would value it. It’s only an ethical problem if you think there’s something shameful about being paid to clean. There isn’t. It is a valuable service, just like being a chef or a landscaper or a taxi-driver and so on.

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TheFeministBreeder May 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I just wanted to let you know that I worked as a housekeeper for several years in my late teens/early twenties. I worked for my aunt who ran the 2-3 person cleaning business, and also lives in a half million dollar home (in an area of IL where a half million dollars buys you a WHOLE lot of house.) She also drives to her jobs in a $50,000 car. She (and I) never saw anything degrading about the work we did. Frankly, half the time my aunt was cleaning houses that weren’t nearly as nice as the one she owns. I don’t really understand why people would look down on that profession, but the next time anyone is thinking that they are automatically more privileged than The Help just remember that your cleaning lady might actually have a bigger bank account than you do.

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 5:09 am

Very good point, Gina. I have no doubt that our cleaning “lady” has a higher household income than us.

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MamaMeYeah May 9, 2011 at 11:39 am

“mindful attention to the everyday necessities of life and our daily surroundings–attention to the spaces we inhabit, the food we feed our families, the state of the clothes we wear, and the ways we make our homes welcoming to both its inhabitants and our guests–enriches our relationships and our spiritual lives”

exactly. hiring someone else to do it is not, in my opinion “mindful”

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MamaMeYeah May 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

sorry…that reply was supposed to go with the other comment above by Ellen…I was working on another comment in reply to this, basically saying that, to the observation that “your cleaning lady might actually have a bigger bank account than you do” I would say, they didn’t get that big bank account by paying someone else to clean for them…which is part of my point on how middle/lower class folks blow money on things like this…it’s part of the hedonistic treadmill…anyway, sorry to mud up the validation!

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Nicole May 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Believe it or not, there are gains from specialization of labor that both parties from benefit from. When people do what they’re comparatively better at than other people, both people win and surplus is created. This is called comparative advantage.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

It’s actually an argument *for* SAHP– one spouse specializes in labor market work and one parent specializes in home production. But there’s no reason that can’t be taken a step further and both parents specialize in labor market work and hire someone to help with home production.

If you don’t believe in specialization of labor then you should also be spinning your own clothing from your own raw materials and certainly should not have electricity or internets. And definitely nothing made in China. And dad shouldn’t work outside the home (that you built yourselves by hand) either.

lil May 10, 2011 at 8:10 am

I have a very difficult time following your reasoning. You’ve been a server/waitress and that was not beneath you, but you believe it is suppression to hire a person who is wanting to earn extra money, work a more flexible schedule, and be her OWN boss? As a child, my first “job” was doing extra cleaning jobs at home (other than my assigned tasks) and it never felt demeaning–I saw personally how it took stress off my my mother. And on a historical level, waitressing is a very recent job–years ago, restaurants as we know them now were not in existence. Women who worked in taverns often had a negative stigma (which was primarily used only by travelers who had no cook and kitchen with them). “Respectable” women would work for a respectful family–and would clean when the family was not taking their meal. You seem to re-write history to fit choices you have made. In fact, while cleaning another’s house is a service task, I can’t think of a job that doesn’t involve such a service relationship, i.e., lawyers work FOR a client and doctors FOR their customers/patients. Even the most highly-paid jobs ultimately boil down to service to others (including sales). Is your family income coming from a source that is not ultimately rooted in providing a service to others?

If your concern regarding hiring somebody to clean is that it puts that person down, it seems inconsistent with your comment that those who are “lower class” or “middle” class should not be paying a another person to clean for them. I see such a comment as elitist and paternalistic–assuming you are a better judge for “correct” expenses that the person herself and that if an upper class person decides to make the same decision, that person is not “blowing” their money away. What is the difference between spending money to have a person clean 1-2 a month or spending money on a babysitter for 1-2 times a month–or is that another expense middle and lower class people are not entitled to spend upon? What about other services, like photography, car repairs, home repairs, hair stylists, mowing, etc? Or purchasing premade clothes?

We must as women learn to listen to our souls–we no longer need to cook and bake every single thing–it’s OK to buy loaves of bread, boxes of noodles, cake/brownie mixes, etc. It’s OK to supplement household tasks, as well, including a few hours of supplemental cleaning a month or hiring somebody to mow the yard. If you like to mop the kitchen or dig in the garden, then wonderful. If you like to make your own pasta from scratch, go for it. But what is the point of doing it all ourselves, if it makes us miserable? What’s the point of having a little extra money if we’re so stressed out, we are not enjoying the wonderful lives we’re given? We can have “mindful attention to the necessities” without meaning that we need to sew all of our families’ clothing by hand or cook each meal from scratch or do all of the cleaning. And for the record, this isn’t a matter of validating a choice I’ve already made–I don’t have a cleaning person, but I think hiring one can be a win-win situation for all!

Ellen May 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm

That’s definitely something I’ve wondered about when I’ve read those books and thought about mindfulness in my own house, particularly valuing the nitty-gritty cleaning, cooking, etc. as important contributors to my family’s life, not drudgery. I do think that intention and attitude matter. If I’m hiring out the cleaning because I consider it demeaning and beneath me, that’s not being very mindful or valuing the little things that make a home a home. If I hire cleaning help because it makes it possible for me to have the kind of home that is clean, welcoming, and nurturing (and if I don’t look down on the cleaning person as less valuable than I am), then I don’t think mindfulness and household help have to be mutually exclusive. I have to admit, though, that this question is a central reason that I’ve been uncertain over the years about whether I would hire help if our finances allowed. Now, though, given that I have started working P/T from home for the first time since my oldest child was born 11 years ago, and that my musculoskeletal disorder is causing more and more arthritis and associated pain, I’m beginning to feel like pondering big questions like that is a little beside the point. I just need some help, and will find some when the P/T work starts paying off a little more.

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Ellen May 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Sorry, this ended up in the wrong place…meant to respond to MamaMeYeah’s comment about hiring help not being “mindful.”

Susan May 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Meagan! Well said! I always think it is so interesting how, women especially, are so judgemental of other women! We are already our own worst critics! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could support each other more-and,if a housekeeper helps you make it thought the day or month-go for it! Great job!!

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Sybil May 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I have read the posts and comments on all of this with total bewilderment. It never occured to me that someone would ever need to justify paying for a legitimately offered service. That people care that other people hire cleaning help, or judge them for it, absolutely floors me. My eyes have officially been opened!

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Maman A Droit May 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I hope the luxury section wasn’t directed at me! If so, I apologize for making anyone feel like I was judging them. I guess I didn’t realize how taboo it is to call someone else’s expenditures a luxury!!
I do think for a working mom there is more cost-benefit-analysis that goes in to it. For a stay-at-home mom there’s no question of “will saving time by not cleaning allow me to make more money than cleaning help costs?” So I think it’s a lot harder to justify the costs if you’re on a tight budget.
My mother-in-law used to clean houses and my two best friends from college do now, so I sure have a lot of respect for ladies (is it ever guys???) who clean for a living. But I still think it’s a luxury, and that there’s no shame in enjoying luxuries if you can afford them!

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 5:14 am

No worries, Maman. I lost track of who said what in that huge thread but I was just keeping mental notes of some of the issues raised. I think it is a lot trickier for at-home moms and if I weren’t earning money writing I’d have a much harder time justifying the expense, so I very much hear you!

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Maman A Droit May 9, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I looked back over the comments and saw that some other people (one specifically…I think you know who I mean) said close to the same thing but much, much less nicely, so I totally understand feeling the need for a rebuttal and that it wasn’t directed at me:)

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Leah May 7, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Wonderful summation. Amen.

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Susan @ 2KoP May 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I cleaned houses and offices while I was in high school and college. I was also a secretary. I have found it difficult to hire and supervise both household help and secretaries. It makes me feel guilty on so many levels, and I have never wanted to be like one of the bosses I hated. On the other hand, I would have hated a wishy-washy supervisor almost as much as a jerky one. I think the key is respect. There are times I find cleaning overwhelming, but other times (like when I’m really angry) that I find it cathartic. I’ve often thought creating a kind of household co-op would work well, where a group of friends support each other by each doing what she (or he) does best. I did hear somewhere that it takes a village.

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Bonny Clark May 7, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Eh, hiring help shows that you are savvy about circulating $$ in the local economy.

My short-version two cents is that we Moms need to just stop listening to the unproductive, yammering crazymakers in our lives and just do what works best for our families. ;-) Some people will never be happy with the choices we make – and that’s OK – because letting their opinions (or not!) matter to us is a *choice* we get to make.

Happy Mother’s Day, ladies!

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missy May 8, 2011 at 6:57 am

I’ve just gone back through the many comments and am blown away (like others) by the different opinions. Blown away! I’m glad you raised this issue – it’s a great reminder that my own opinion is mine. No one can take that away from me. BUT I need to be mindful that what others believe may be so different that civil discourse over it is difficult. I commend you for your civility to some of the more colorful and negative responses. You handled it very well.

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Lisa May 8, 2011 at 7:25 am

Bravo. Bravo!

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Shell May 8, 2011 at 8:05 am

Wow. Thank you for this.

I too have those thoughts that if I were to hire help, it would make me look like an elitist, a snob, or just lazy. After all- I’m AT HOME.

But, I also work full-time from home in addition to taking care of three small children (1 who is home all day with me and another who is home most of the day). I get behind and feel like I never get any downtime.

You gave me some interesting points to consider!

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Kerri May 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thank you!!! The amount of work that the two women who come and clean at my house can do in 2 hours would take me an entire day if I had to do it myself while also taking care of (or more realistically, not giving enough attention to) my two young kids. I work full time (though telecommuting 3x a week, at the office 2x) and I think it is better for my family to free up that time. And I am helping to provide employment for others so they can help support their families. It’s not a luxury, it’s just a choice of how to spend my money. Some people put all their money into a big house. We have decided to stay in a smaller house so we have the money to spend on vacations and on services like housecleaning and landscaping.

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Casey May 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

We don’t hire cleaning help. Some days I think about it, but in the end having a clean(er) house than what we have now isn’t worth it to me. I’d rather buy more makeup or go out with my friends or something like that with the money.

We did hire someone to clean our apartment after we moved out last fall. I had a 3 and 4 year old and I was 38 weeks pregnant. It was my best decision ever, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

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Mary Tsao May 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I fought this issue in my head for many years but finally relented and hired a weekly cleaning team. They work for themselves and we pay them well. Best decision I ever made. I no longer nag my husband about helping me clean, and one morning a week I get to have extra special mommy-daughter time with my youngest child while somebody else does my chores. Honestly, if I could afford it, I’d have them come every day. Hell, I’d hire someone to do the cooking, too.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, Meagan!

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erica @ expatriababy May 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Meagan, thanks so much for writing about this. It has really prompted me to think about some of the choices I make, and examine the motives behind my beliefs. As a new mum, I don’t get a lot of “thinking” time, so this is a real treat!

I was fascinated by how heated the debate got with reagard to hired help. It is particularly interesting that much of the debate was focused on hiring cleaning help as opposed to childcare help. Most of us wouldn’t have a second thought about hiring a babysitter for a few hours per month. I’m still wondering why this is the case!

My take on the passion that was raised by this debate is this: as mothers, we all make choices for our families. Do we breastfeed or bottle feed? Do we co-sleep or not? Do we use time-outs or gentle discipline? Do we stay at home or work outside the home? Do we hire help, or do we do it ourselves? Many of these decisions are values based. They are emotionally loaded because the perception is that our decisions have potential to impact our children’s physical, emotional, or moral development. We therefore, on some level, think that people who do not make the same choices we do are somehow judging us. And because the stakes are so high, we can get defensive about the positions we hold.

Like you said in your post, it’s hard to know exactly what another person’s situation, and without living a day (year!) in their shoes, it’s hard to judge. I think the same could be said for most of the hot-button issues in parenting.

Again, great discussion. Thanks for giving my ol’ brain a workout.

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Elizabeth May 9, 2011 at 5:03 am

Thanks for this post – I enjoyed it, like all the others.

But I can’t help wondering if the rantings of a particularly strident and judgmental reader on a previous thread have made you defensive! Goodness me, no need to justify!

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 5:16 am

Ah, I know, no need to justify…and yet I didn’t want to ignore the valid issues raised, either. Especially since I got the feeling a lot of commenters still needed “permission” to feel OK about their choices. Thanks for jumping in on the discussion!

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MamaMeYeah May 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Repost of a retweet…just doesn’t make sense…
“Repeated insistence that you “just don’t have time for” (insert popular activity) doesn’t make you look busy & important” (OR, insert “housework”!)
AND, I think it’s pretty lame that so many of you need validation and “permission” for things and always seem to be saying “I am a great mom”…(like if you repeat it enough it will come true, like the vast majority of moms are just fine moms….)
OK, I promise, that’s my last. I don’t have issues or a chip on my shoulder or anything bad. I myself work and have nothing against working moms, I just stumbled on the post the other day and thought I’d enter the fray. This is really not a realm I want to play in. Peace. Out.

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Meagan Francis May 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Since it’s my retweet you’re reposting (I had a feeling that if you saw that you’d pick on it) I’d like to point out the distinction. There’s a big difference between being open about the fact that you choose not to spend your time on something, and constantly complaining about not having time for something. I brought up the issue here as an interesting discussion, not to complain. And if you knew me in real life, you’d pretty much never hear me complain about not having time…for anything, though I imagine, since BusyMom said “popular” activity, that she was talking about something like reading or exercise.

And again, since you brought it up…I read back through a few of your blog posts the other day, and in a few of them, you put your “issues” out front and center. Unfortunately, it looks like you’ve taken those posts down, and since you must have had a reason, I’m not going to detail what they were. But yeah…after being taken aback at your tone here and then reading your blog, it made more sense.

Hey, we’ve all got issues, and I’m no exception. But I think when you wander into somebody else’s playground and start telling people how wrong they are–in, frankly, a really jerky way–you open yourself up to criticism.

The world is not as black and white as you make it out to be. I think it’s great to have conviction and strong values. But to me, compassion and empathy are even better.

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SusanP May 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Read both blogs and comments today… feeling a little late to the party :-(

Couple of thoughts – I’m short on time so they may not be as organized as I’d like…

Think of many men who have a successful career. They send their dress clothes to the dry cleaners. They hire landscapers to take care of cutting the lawn, etc. They take their cars to mechanics. Sure they could do it themselves, but if they can afford it, they delegate it out so that they have time for themselves or their family. Why should a woman with a successful career and the means be any different? Why is cleaning house so unique in this respect?

The reality is, if you are out of the house from 7AM to 5PM, M-F, that leaves a certain amount of time for the kids and the spouse. Someone commented that they can do housework while spending time with their children. If you are home most of the day, sure. But when you get home at 5pm, you can’t sit and help with homework while mopping the floor. You can’t read stories while scrubbing the toilet. You can’t have sex with your husband while you are folding clothes. Ok, well you *could* but how would that make the child or spouse feel?

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Leila (Don't Speak Whinese) May 9, 2011 at 5:25 pm

People do what is best for them and if someone wants to judge that then I say who cares? I’ve used cleaning services and paid some friends to help me around the house… why? Because I wanted to. I’ve gone long periods of time without someone else helping cleaning my home… why? Because I wanted to. My kids have chores. I have chores. Sometimes those don’t get done and sometimes we spend more time cleaning than anything else. Why? Because.. well.. you get the point.

The parenting world and blogosphere makes so many people on the defense. Do what you want to do and roll with it with a pep in your step!

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Karla May 9, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This was one of my favorite blogs ever! I will no longer feel guilty about hiring help. Besides nobody says anything when you hire a hair stylist…what’s the difference?

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Shana May 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Yikes. Like Sybil, I’m totally blown away by the strong opinions here. My husband and I have hired someone to come in and clean twice a month….for the last 10 years. It’s just better for our marriage. We’ll drive crappy cars and give up food before we give up our cleaner.

I do find it annoying that jobs like “keeping the house clean” are automatically lumped into the “stay at home mom” category. My husband works all day at an office. I work all day at home with the kiddos. When he comes home, we’re both off the clock. From that point on, everything is split – the housework, cooking, getting the kids down, etc.

Admittedly, I’d make a terrible house-wife. But I’m a very happy SAHM, LOL!

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Kim May 10, 2011 at 10:15 am

We are truly our own harshest critics. And women in general are very hard on each other as well.

I finally hired a cleaning service for the first time last month. They cleaned both my bathrooms and did the kitchen, even cleaning out the fridge! I felt such a huge weight lifted off my shoulders when they left. I was no longer behind. I got rid of the guilt about being so far behind in my household chores. It truly saved me.

They are coming again today. I have company coming for dinner tonight and last weekend was just a mess of stuff to do and craziness. Yesterday I was sitting at my desk at work, trying to plan out the crazy cleaning schedule I would need to follow to get the house in order. And in a moment of clarity, I called the cleaning service and asked if they were available today. So last night I cleaned up the living room and did some laundry. And today, while they are cleaning, I will shop for the ingredients for dinner. And I will be a sane hostess tonight.

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lucy May 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

if men took on half the domestic work perhaps we wouldn’t need to angst about all this? men can squeeze behind toilets too, even big men.

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Christine May 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm

We outsource pool, yard & house e/o week. People need the work & we need the fleeting time w/our little ones. Funny, nobody ever asks a corporate exec if they delegate or divide labor or “hire help.” Life, in all areas, is @ prioritizing & arranging cooperation. Many hands lighten the load. Even prehistoric humans got this. Nobody did everything themselves. It’s inefficient & probably not a great survival strategy.

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deltalady6 May 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I’m like Sybil, blown away! It never would have occurred to me that there could be so much debate about this! I’ve had help for about 16 years, twice a month, & I’ve continued it even though I’m now retired (because I’m busier now than when I was working). My “cleaning lady” (which is the term she herself uses) is a dear friend who loves to clean, & says she will continue to do my house even when she’s retired because she loves us so much. She’s happy with what she makes & has enough money to travel to Argentina (where she is from) once or twice a year, as well as going on cruises & other holidays. I certainly don’t see myself as elitist & no-one I know has ever given me grief about this. It’s mutually beneficial & I hope it never changes!

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jodifur May 10, 2011 at 6:21 pm

I’m so late to this, but I just want to say I consider our cleaning service a marriage saver. My husband and I used to fight all the time about cleaning, we got a cleaning service, and we don’t fight about cleaning anymore. Win, win.

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MemeGRL May 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm

This was so interesting…I’m so glad Motherlode picked it up so I could catch the whirlwind a little bit.
When I was little, my mom stayed at home with me…and when I was in 3rd grade, she went back to work as a teacher and the first thing my parents did after she signed the contract was to hire a housekeeper. It was very clear to my father (and mother) that my mother would no longer have time to do everything she had done before. And he was not of an era or mindset to start doing more himself! The housekeeper came to our house before my mother left in the morning, mostly to keep me company, but also to unload/reload the dishwasher, iron, and a few other tasks that were time-consuming but expected (mostly by my father) in that time. It never interfered with my chores, and my father also suggested that we go out to dinner every Friday as well to give my mother a break from cooking and cleaning up after dinner at the end of the week.
In this day and age, my husband and I employ the daughter of one of my long-ago housekeeper/babysitters, who took over her mother’s cleaning routes. Our families are friends, as we have known each other for decades now, and there is nothing she does in our house that we don’t. But it is worth it for both of us–for her to have the work, and me to have the break, and for both of us to keep the connection–the difference is, I can’t get to deep clean the entire house in a day because of my other obligations–and preferences. She only has to worry about the “stuff,” not the kids or the cooking or the laundry. It never crossed my mind to be ashamed or guilty about this, and I appreciate the commenters who drew the great “I’m not ‘above’ baking my own bread or sewing my own clothes”–that’s exactly my attitude about it.
Again, a great topic–thanks!

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Shasta Kearns Moore May 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Wonderful topic; clicked over from Motherlode.
As I said over there, I was just gifted housecleaning services and they are very addictive!!
Your post also made me think about my mother’s day post in which I talk about the sexism that still exists in our culture in that traditionally female roles (child-rearing, cooking, cleaning) are still not valued as highly as traditionally male roles (CEO, doctor, lawyer).
Check it out if you’re interested:
Mom bloggers are raising the very status of motherhood in our society

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Jessica May 10, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I have a sign that hangs in my living room ” A clean house is a sign of a wasted life.” I have never hired help, or even thought of it until I started reading this discussion. Not that i wouldn’t love some help. There is just no room in our finances right now. I do stay at home with 3 kids, and my house is fairly clean most of the time. My children help, and my husband does as well. I believe we make a pretty good team. I also like my children to see me clean, to work to pull my weight in our family’s relationship. To understand that they must work and maintain what they own. I see no wrong in getting help where you see fit. It doesn’t matter to me how clean your house is or isn’t. Just don’t forget to enjoy life, and don’t waste it cleaning.

You missed a spot.. over there …

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Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) May 10, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Amen Megan!!!! I think it has been well expressed by u and ur commanders that there is no shame and no need to justify! Hiring help allows me to work and maintain my health and sanity. And trust me it is not because we have extra money to spend. It is because I am a working mother who needs help.
I will never understand the compulsion to judge another mother’s choices so brutally!

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Lee May 11, 2011 at 5:45 am

I have just started using a cleaner and the best bit about it is for a few moments of every fortnight I can sit back and appreciate that the house is clean and tidy. All of it. At once.

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Leah Ingram May 11, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Meagan:

This topic is so timely! My husband and I have been going back and forth about bringing in cleaning help–something we haven’t had since going frugal five years ago. But our businesses are busier than ever, my husband is likely getting yet ANOTHER promotion at work (all good) but that means he’ll be around even less. Also, we’re making good money–not get rich money but we’re doing OK. And, like you, I often have the quandary of, “Do I vacuum and wash the floors, or do I get ahead in writing my blog postings–my PAID blog postings?” Hiring a cleaning person would amount to about $200 a MONTH, for twice-a-month visits. Currently, I earn that in about two hours but I spend many more hours on cleaning. I think you’ve just convinced me that I’m going to pull rank on my husband and just TELL him we’re bringing in help! Thanks!

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Guest June 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm

The irony is that I outsource a lot of household chores so that I can do things like…spend time with my kids, bake, garden. I think it’s humorous that someone would look down on me for not doing all of the cleaning myself. Guess I’d ask that person if they grow their own vegetables or bake all their own bread – ha!

PS – My husband hires out the lawn care. I’d love to know if the naysayers think that makes him a bad dad/husband. I appreciate that it’s 3 hours he gets to spend with the family.

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muskrat June 13, 2011 at 5:20 am

I still can’t believe people had the gall to criticize this decision.

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Lesley June 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

Read this post last month, but didn’t realize that the comments had gotten so spirited. Just saw it mentioned on the NYT Motherlode, so had to come back to visit. I’m on both sides of this. I do feel guilty in having someone come into my house to clean 2x a month. But, I LOVE them and I’ve given up other luxuries to afford this particular luxury.

Strangely, I inherited the team of housekeeping ladies from the previous owners of my house. When they moved to a larger, more expensive house, they could no longer afford them. The cleaners met me on the move-out/move-in day and asked if I wanted to continue their services. I don’t know if I would have gone out to find a cleaning team, but I LOVE them. It has definitely freed up so much time to do other things that I can’t afford to hire people to do—like doing all of our landscape & sprinkler installation, painting my own house, refinishing my own upholstery, doing my own alterations. Frankly, I’m better at those things and it is a better value for my time. Also, I love that the ladies take 30 minutes to do what would take me 8 hours to do.

When I’ve asked my husband if we should really have the cleaning team, he has been adamant about keeping them. It’s given us more time to hang out and do absolutely nothing with our family.

On the flip side, I was paid to clean two medical offices when I was in high school once a week. It was the best job I ever had! I made three times the amount of money that I could make anywhere else. I loved the flexibility of the schedule, as I could do the cleaning anytime that worked for me over a weekend. I loved that I could crank the radio up and do my job. Sadly, I was paid more per hour in that job 22 years ago than most people offer me for part-time work. Ha! I haven’t thought about that in a long time.

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Laurel June 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

This is a very dishonest discussion. IF YOU CAN EVEN THINK ABOUT hiring someone else to clean your house, you are rich. Much richer than the average American (even if not “Bill Gates” rich). Most people could NEVER DREAM of hiring a cleaning service; if they don’t have enough hours in the day, THEY MAKE DO. If they can’t manage 3 kids, THEY DO NOT HAVE THREE KIDS.

Just listen to the prissery here: “my kids college is all paid for” — who are you kidding, lady? YOU ARE RICH!

And let’s be honest: 99% of the “cleaning help” is not your Aunt Tilly — not any more. For most people to be able to afford this, the wages are very low — sub-minimum wage. No benefits. No health care. No retirement. Usually “under the table”. Hire a “service” and they get $20+ a hour but the worker is lucky to take $8 of this.

So most of them are illegal aliens. Most have brown skin. African Americans won’t do this anymore — too degrading. A few white people do it, and they are likely East European immigrants, mostly Russian (they will get out fast as they assimilate). So most are illegals. Let’s not kid each other. The illegal is also cutting your lawn. Watching your baby. Cleaning your toilets. Cooking your food.

Because you are a lazy, rich, spoiled entitled white woman with an affluent husband. BE HONEST.

Average families NEVER EVER had cleaning help. Or decorating help. Or personal shoppers. Or personal trainers.

In the end, you save your precious “blog” but you teach your kids that is OK for rich white people to pay $7 an hour for a illegal brown skinned alien to get down on her knees and clean shit out of your toilets.

You spoiled, lazy prats.

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Meagan Francis June 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

“For most people to be able to afford this, the wages are very low — sub-minimum wage. No benefits. No health care. No retirement. Usually “under the table”. Hire a “service” and they get $20+ a hour but the worker is lucky to take $8 of this.”

This is not my experience. Please read what I wrote.

“So most of them are illegal aliens. Most have brown skin. African Americans won’t do this anymore — too degrading. A few white people do it, and they are likely East European immigrants, mostly Russian (they will get out fast as they assimilate). So most are illegals. Let’s not kid each other. The illegal is also cutting your lawn. Watching your baby. Cleaning your toilets. Cooking your food.”

This is not my experience. Please read what I wrote.

“Because you are a lazy, rich, spoiled entitled white woman with an affluent husband. BE HONEST.”

On a global level, everyone reading this is incredibly wealthy. So…? (the ‘affluent husband’ part made me LOL)

“Average families NEVER EVER had cleaning help.”
According to my research you are dead wrong.

“In the end, you save your precious “blog” but you teach your kids that is OK for rich white people to pay $7 an hour for a illegal brown skinned alien to get down on her knees and clean shit out of your toilets.”

This is not even remotely close to my experience. Please read what I actually wrote.

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SusanP June 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

Laurel, I am not sure if you are still reading but I want to reply to your post to enlighten you on some things. I’m not sure if you really think this way or are just trying to get people all riled up for entertainment.

What is wrong with being “rich” by your definition? Is it not a good thing to be successful? Go to school, get an education, have a decent paying career?

You say those of us who hire help are spoiled, lazy, and have affluent husband. I really had to laugh at this one. I don’t consider myself lazy for getting a B.S. in PHYSICS, an M.S. in ENGINEERING, and working full time for the last 11 years in a high paying job that I earned, and have kept through countless layoffs, because I’m smart and work hard. My husband is no dummy either. He is “browned skinned” by your definition – he immigrated (legally) here and worked his way through college, earning an Electrical Engineering degree. He also had a successful, high paying career because he is smart and worked hard. I hardly consider either of us lazy or spoiled. When we started having children, he was the one who quit to stay home with them. However we both felt it would be good for him to keep his skills fresh and have something non-kid in his life. So he started his own consulting company from home. He’s now to a point where he has a healthy income. Why? Becuase he works hard, is smart, and is far from lazy. Not only does it give us financial security now, but if anything were to happen to either of us, we know the one left behind can support the household as we both have education and strong resumes. Kids grow up. People get sick and die. In this economy, it’s foolish not to do this. We have a modest home that we can afford on one income.

It got to a point though, that with my work schedule, and his business, that we needed some extra help. We do not have any family that lives near us. No Grandma’s/Aunts/Cousins/etc. We’re on our own. So through friends we found a wonderful woman who we pay to come to our house twice a week. It gives my husband time to meet with his clients, make phone calls uninterrupted, and she does some of the cleaning around the house. She was born in the gold ‘ol U.S.A. She is retired, a widow, and her grandchildren are now in high school. She loves spending time with our kids and helping us – all while earning some extra fun money.

So not only are you way off base on your statements, but it makes me wonder these things…

Should my husband and I not work so that we don’t need to hire help? Should we not earn money because then we’d be “rich”? What should we do with our educations? Sit at home and collect welfare? Should we not have gone to college at all because other people could not? We both paid for it ourselves by the way. In fact, the school paid me to go to grad school because I did so well as an undergrad. Should we have instead just worked at McD’s or Wal-Mart starting at minimum wage? So as not to offend other people with our “wealth” and ability to hire someone to help us out? Or let me guess, better yet — because we are educated and wealthy, we should not have kids at all.

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Laurel June 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm

If you guys are honest, the reasons you “can’t clean the house” is not your fabulous job as a neurosurgeon or your incredibly important “blog”.

It’s that you spend a lot of your day shopping — you are on the cellphone yakking it up — you are on Facebook, with your pals — you are gossiping — you are watching TV (300 channels of cable! Netflix!) or you are surfing the net.

You are not doing anything so very important. Turn off the TV. Give up the cellphone and cable. You would have GOBS of time to clean your houses! (which are likely all McMansions….)

I’ve never seen such dishonest self-justifying. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!

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Meagan Francis June 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Laurel, your assumptions could not be more off-base if you tried. I’m not going to bother knocking them down one by one, because they are so ridiculous.

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lil June 17, 2011 at 8:16 am

BOY, Laurel, do you jump to conclusions without worrying about support!! I’m one of those who has paid for children’s college, but I did it by making different choices with my money than many people I know. I spent money on my state’s prepaid tuition plan for a 2-year community college and 2-year state university, as opposed to spending money on things I don’t care about: I have NO cell phone (gasp!-people think of me as poor because of that); I don’t care about cable; I don’t go out to movies; I go on dates with my hubby only when my mom can babysit and even then, we go out on cheap dates; I buy “preloved” clothes on the rare times when I buy clothes; I partcipate in mom swaps for my kids clothes; my car is old (1994, to be exact). And in case you wondered, paying for college via this method was less than HALF of what many people pay for a car payment–it was less than $200 month for about 4.5 years. As for us, my “affluent” husband is a high school teacher.

However, in comparison to worldwide population, all Americans are rich, particuarly since the average income on a worldwide basis is $5K per year. Growing up in the military with only one person working on an enlisted salary, it was easy to feel poor until you moved to Clark AFB in the Philippines–then you realize just how rich this country is.

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oilandgarlic June 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

I have been on both sides of this issue – judging a homemaker with 2 kids who hired cleaning help (daily) while her family struggled to make ends meet and had major debt. I wondered why she couldn’t manage the household if that was her full-time “job”.

Now that we have kids, I can understand that it is not easy to care for kids and keep the house clean. I know that w/o hired help, I would usually come home to a messier home. I do think that being “on the computer” and Facebook etc.. and just plain bad home management does make hiring seem more “necessary” these days.

There are also generational issues at work. My mother and her friends are much more capable in cooking and cleaning than ANY of my SAH friends. The previous generation also seemed to expect cleaning to be part of their chores while my friends want more free time to exercise, relax and interact with kids, etc.. This is not wrong but expectations are definitely different.

I admit that I think balance is key. If your family is on a tight budget, the homemaker should be responsible for keeping the house clean. I think that takes out the “glamour” of staying home for most women who I know have opted out because they also hated their jobs.

Anyway, I think this discussion can be conducted in a civil manner. I love help and don’t really feel the need to justify it.

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Kimberly June 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Wow Meagan, you really know how to start a discussion! I saw a retweet and followed the link, first reading your post. I thought it was a mistake seeing as not a thing you wrote in your post, in my opinion, could be taken in a negative way. Sheesh was I wrong! I had a good chuckle going through your comments – felt pity for those so up in arms about the issue, and didn’t for one minute feel bad about myself. I am a happy stay at home mom and photographer. My husband and I have worked damn hard through our lives to be able to live the life we do today. We are incredibly blessed, not only with four beautiful boys, but with a gorgeous home (not big but fabulous on a little farm), and the ability to travel. And, we have a cleaner. A cleaner that makes more per hour than I have ever made. A cleaner that I look forward to seeing every other week, when she comes and in four hours, leaves my home sparkling and fresh. I am ALWAYS the first one in after she leaves, if only to enjoy the perfectly dust-free surfaces for a moment before the crew enters. I LOVE it!!! Even during the times that we have struggled, I have still had her here, as my happiness at having our home really thoroughly cleaned twice a month does wonders for me. I obviously maintain it (with four boys on a farm you can imagine how messy and dirty it gets!) but love knowing that it never goes too long before the bathrooms and floors are scrubbed. Yes, I could find the time to do it, but you know what? That is OUR decision – one that I am happy with, and one that no rude, opinionated, angry-at-the-world reader is going to make me feel bad about. I occasionally hire help for the property as well – shocking, I know! ;)

Have a great day my friend,
xx

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Sarah June 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Laurel, I may not be a neurosurgeon but I am a doctor, working all day to save lives or just make people feel a little bit better.
I am damn well going to pay for a cleaning service (she works for herself and I pay her 20 dollars per hour). I also pay for catering occasionally.
Do you sew all your own clothes? Are you sure that the fabric you wear is not made from cotton picked under less-than-ideal circumstances? Are you sure the cotton-pickers are paid more than 7 dollars per hour? Do you eat fruit that has been picked by illegal Mexican immigrants?!

I think we should be honest about some things here. I chose to go to medical school (and accumulate the student loans), because, apart from the joy of saving lives, it entitles me to a high salary. Which I will use as I please. I also have a huge amount of responsibility/liability and live constantly with the possibility of making a huge mistake, killing a patient, or getting sued.

Cleaning is hard work- but it’s not brain surgery. That’s why you only get 20 bucks an hour. You also don’t have to worry about getting sued, and people are generally really happy about what you do for them.

Getting your house cleaned twice a month or so is not a huge investment. The daily cost is probably equal to that of going to Starbucks or something every day.

You seem to think this is a moral issue. I think it’s an issue of priorities.

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Jamie McMillan June 15, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi, I just wanted to chime in here. I’m a 28 year old white female and I worked for 5 years as a housekeeper for a wonderful family. I was paid fairly and the wonderful flexible hours I had allowed me to go back to school to work on my University degree. The family I worked for was by no means rich. They saved money in many other ways to afford to have someone look after their home. This arrangement made both our lives better and I took satisfaction in the job which I did well :)

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Maronixardwick December 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Great article!. Great debate in the feedback posts. I can see both sides of the argument and the wider debate. The Cleaning industry is nearly as old as the oldest trade “ahem” and with people living longer and more and more mothers going out to work and with other social factors combined the Cleaning industry is here to stay whether we like it or not. The state of homes I have seen people live in it could be argued that by not having someone clean their home these people are infact abusing themselves literally. However unless you do some ECO Cleaning and not too much bleach cleaning or the use of chemicals/detergents over the longterm can actually be harmful to your health!.

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Maronixardwick December 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

I can see both sides of the argument and the wider debate. The Cleaning industry is nearly as old as the oldest trade “ahem” and with people living longer and more and more mothers going out to work and with other social factors combined the Cleaning industry is here to stay whether we like it or not.

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maids Eden Prairie January 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Since most people are living very busy lifestyles, having the services of professional cleaners is convenient. They are a big help in making sure that the cleanliness of households are maintained. Owners do not have to worry about keeping their homes organized since the cleaners are on top of these things.

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tony May 23, 2012 at 9:42 pm

I haven’t hired a housecleaner, myself, but my ex-wife, a former teacher, does this work for others. She likes running her own business, and she does well.

For my own part, I run a business from home (freelance translator and webmaster), and something I do is, most of the time I pay for someone to pick my laundry up and wash it, and bring it back folded. There’s a laundromat right across the street, but, frankly, the two to three hours I would spend washing clothes for myself and my daughter are better spent working, and well justify the expense of hiring the laundry out. I very much respect and appreciate those who provide this service.
At times when my work load is low, I will do the laundry myself, but most of the time, it’s just worth it to hire out, even though it costs as much as 3 times what doing it myself would cost.

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laura June 7, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Women need to be less hard on each other. I think a lot of our stress comes from worrying what other women will say, more so than pressure put on by our husbands and children. If hiring help works for your family, go for it. If it does not, don’t. I will scrimp and save as much as I can but Ii won’t give up my cleaning lady because I need her for my sanity! (Although I never mention that I have one to certain people I know (;

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Maid Service Princeton NJ August 18, 2012 at 5:35 am

Agreed. Hiring a cleaning service is supposed to make life easier, not more hectic. I’ve had good and bad experiences with hiring a cleaning service. You want to do your research and make sure you hire someone you can trust. Thanks for sharing.

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House Cleaning Red Bank September 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

Cool post. Maid services are on the rise, as less and less folks have time to do it themselves. Pretty neat to see all of the new businesses opening up!

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B February 5, 2013 at 4:17 am

I really loved your article.

My mom and I clean homes and apartments for upper middle class couples without kids, and very busy middle class families. You gave me great ways to advertise our business better to working mothers who need more time! You’ve gain a fan and a follower!

Thanks! Keep writing.

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Amy February 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hi Meagan, I came across your blog while doing some research for my business plan that I am currently updating as I’ve grown my eco-friendly cleaning company from a one-man show – me – to 4 vehicles and 12 employees, including part-time office help. I commend you for hiring the help you needed when you needed it and not feeling bad about it. I agree with you that many people could probably afford to hire a cleaner, it’s really just a matter of prioritizing where you spend your money, in your case you cut cable. While this isn’t true or possible for everyone I am confused by the mentality that still exists around hiring a cleaner. Most women work outside the family home and even if you work at home as a mom, it’s hard work! So many women put pressure on themselves to be martyrs for their families when they don’t have to.

I am slightly offended that many of you refer to the cleaning help as the cleaning “lady” as I have several men that work for me and are impeccable cleaners! I also found it interesting that the general consensus is hiring a professional company means you’ll receive less personalized help or will be paying into the pockets of the owner. I have worked my butt off and I have big plans to grow my company and am certainly not living the high lifestyle – I do plan to one day and believe I deserve it after all the hard work I’ve put in to my company. I believe in giving back to my community and do so by donating to several charities, giving away free cleaning to women living with cancer, and paying my staff a nice wage.

Before you judge the big companies, remember, many of them, like me, used to be the ones out scrubbing the toilets and never feeling demeaned doing so. I love helping people and this is how I can help busy families or families who just don’t want to clean and would rather do other things. If I have the choice between cleaning my own house or taking my dog for a hike, I choose taking my dog out. And I happen to like a really clean house!!

I could go on forever about the benefits of hiring a cleaning service and one thing that I don’t necessarily consider competition but is always going to be available is the “lady” you’ve hired to clean your home. Does she carry insurance? Have a business license? Here we pay for WorkSafeBC (I’m not sure what the equivalent is in the States), but all these things cost money and a LOT of it, which is why we have to charge more. Does your “lady” pay taxes? I’m able to provide 12 jobs for people in my community (and I provide vehicles, so they wouldn’t be able to clean on their own without a car). Consider these things before you shun the big companies.

We pay for plumbers, electricians, mechanics etc. These are all specialized services. Think of cleaning as a specialized service because it is. I work very hard to train my staff and train them well. By paying your cleaning “lady” cash so she can pay for college you’re not exactly contributing to the local economy, either.

Jus’ sayin’

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Jeremy February 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Lil, first let me say I love this site. I work for a professional cleaning service and through our interview process we ask all potential clients what prompted them to call us. Usually the answer is something like, we’ve seen your cars around town or heard about you from a friend. Reading about different consumers thought process’s leading up to making that first call has been very educational for me personally. One thing i would like to mention to anyone contemplating An independent vs. a professional service besides professionals just being able to make appointments barring sickness or injury is that they will usually also be bonded and insured to protect you the client against IN HOME injuries and Accidental breakages. You can also feel safe in the knowledge that the people entering your home have been background checked and tested for a propensity for things like theft and misappropriation.

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Allison Alina April 17, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Thank you writer to give a post about cleaning service in details. By this post, i learn how to clean home efficiently.

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Angeles Gonzales May 8, 2013 at 9:51 am

I appreciate the post because I was thinking to hire a cleaning services but reading this post I think I’ll do it myself. Excellent information on how to clean your home effectively.This blog has helped me a ton.

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Amy October 5, 2013 at 9:34 pm

I am disabled with a husband and 2 children. I have been batting around the idea of hiring help for a while. We don’t have a lot of money and we live in a relatively small 3 bedroom apartment but I feel bad even considering it. I have recently come to realize that trying to manage health issues, raise children, run a household, clean the house, attend college and doctors appointments all while trying to be a good wife are impossible for me. I am sure there are other super women out there than can do it and I commend you for it. We are low income by most standards but having someone come once a week seems to be my only hope of maintaining my sanity. Anyone that says hiring a cleaning person s in any way wrong or classist seems to be missing one important thing. These people need to earn a living too and they are doing what they can to provide for their own families. It is honest work and trying to discourage people from seeking these services doesn’t seem fair.

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Frances February 21, 2014 at 12:55 am

This is an interesting discussion. I’ve had a cleaning service for years, even before my husband and my small boy came along. I think cleaning is very valuable work, so much so, in fact, that I am willing to trade my hard-earned dollars to have a cleaner house than I am interested in achieving on my own. My present cleaner is a lovely person who charges a living wage and clearly respects herself and her role in my family’s home. And she likes making things shine. I don’t; I’d rather spend my time doing my own paid work, which is neither more or less valuable than hers, it’s just different. I call that a win for both of us.

As for the argument that having a cleaner somehow means that I am not being mindful in my own home, or — no. Feeling constantly unsettled by a dirty house but resenting doing the work involved it keeping it clean was not paying mindful attention to my living space, it was being disrespectful to both it and to myself. I made a very thoughtful, considered decision to delegate major cleaning. Isn’t that the definition of mindful?

I am not lazy. I work very hard. There is nothing morally superior about suffering through work that I don’t like doing, no matter how valuable I consider it. And yes, compared to much of the world, I am rich. But because she has well-paid work, so is my cleaner.

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Joanne Watson March 5, 2014 at 2:02 pm

There is nothing wrong with hiring someone to help you. People tend to get busier and busier each day. A friend of mine works in a window cleaning company in London (http://www.windowcleaningbattersea.co.uk/) and she told me the number of clients has raised. Almost no mom has the time and energy to scrub the floors and windows each week.

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Patricia March 9, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I am going through this right now with my home. I started a new job and went from 50 hour work weeks to 70-80. My husband works about the same. He has one day off and my days are split every other week. The point is my day off i am usually trying to convince myself to get up and scrub down the house which is in dire need, but i don’t have the energy. My friend gave me a card for a maid service and now as a couple we are discussing it. Because neither one of us expect the other to clean the house its just to much to fit in a day.
But its amazing how much goes on in our heads about this, its not just us women my husband is having the same conversation in his head. Its amazing how much we get programed by society by such things. For me my mom was like women can do anything have children, keep a career, keep a great sexy relationship… Go womens lib! (Yes thats my Mom)

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MamaMeYeah May 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

*Of course* you have a difficult time following my reasoning. It’s clear I’m not dealing with a huge brain trust of readers commenting here on this blog. Anyway, to be clear, I don’t think there is any shame in being a cleaning person or any other kind of service person. Heck, if you can get someone to pay you to do something they should be perfectly able to do themselves, then more power to you! Something that few seem to grasp is the line between private and public life. People should be able to manage their stuff (homes, children etc.) on their own in their private lives otherwise, I contend they have too much STUFF…and definitely too many children. The sense of entitlement displayed in most of the posts is breathtaking. So entitled to breed and then hand your children off to others while you do “more important things”…have a home your family can’t keep up on it’s own to house all these children you were so entitled to have (or just have a huge home because you CAN!) and then expect someone else to clean it. And, I DO criticize those who spend in ways I would find foolish. Especially when you hear of people having 3, 4, 5 kids, and blithely saying they don’t intend to pay for their college, while hiring cleaning help. Honey, your kids had better learn to clean up after themselves if you’re not planning on sending them to college!

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Meagan Francis May 10, 2011 at 11:07 am

Actually, I find the repeated insistence that you should get a pass on what you do in public to be–what’s that word again?–oh yeah, that’s right, a cop-out. As far as I’m concerned, our private and public lives are very interwoven. I’d love to discuss my views on that, but it’s clear you aren’t interested in having an actual, respectful discussion, so why bother?

“It’s clear I’m not dealing with a huge brain trust of readers commenting here on this blog.” Ha! that statement made me laugh out loud. The people engaging thoughtfully in this discussion are some of the smartest I’ve had the pleasure to read–and no, they aren’t all my friends; in fact, I think a lot of them just wandered in from Facebook. What’s clear to ME is that you are either unwilling or unable to engage in a respectful discussion, and I’m done letting you insult people on my turf. If another mean-spirited comment comes through, it’s getting deleted.

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MamaMeYeah May 10, 2011 at 11:14 am

I think you are not understanding what I mean by “public vs private”…it’s not getting a pass on what you do in public. It’s so frustrating to converse with people who only seem to want to justify their entitlements (you didn’t touch that one…did you?) I said the braintrust comment because nobody gets it, they just want what they want…to not do housework…fine. I’m not going to reply again, so I just don’t want anyone to mistake my non-reply as conceding to the inane points about hairdressers and restaurants, or that I “don’t have an answer.” But I just see it’s fruitless to try to discuss something with people who want to remain in willful denial in order to hold on to thinking they’re justified in their entitlement.

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lil May 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Thank you for trying to clarify your argument but your private/public distinction still makes no sense. Under that philosphy, you should be baking your own bread (How can cooking your family’s food become private simply because processed food can be purchased in a store?) And one should never hire Stanley Steamer (which is one cleaning service I do use). Also, one should not ever use a home decorator or make service calls to electricians, plumbers, etc for home repairs because that would be private (you definitely can’t call a backed up toilet at home a public affair).

I find the name calling particularly ironic because you freely admit there are some things you can’t do, and use your lack of knowledge to justify hiring help. However, I can assure you that one can learn most anything–give yourself more credit and learn how! (Particuarly if you have this private/public distinction) In fact, I recently learned how to do plumbing (including welding copper) and wiring (including three-way switches) and finished up a big project using my new knowledge.

Your issue with this sense of “entitlement” is baffling–entitlement is the belief that you should have certain “privileges” or have the right to something that you did not earn. How can that definition apply to situations where one is spending money he or she earned for a service that he or she values?

And I’m not sure from where the discussion of kids and college is coming and how it relates to cleaning help. For the record, I have 2 young children, their college is already paid, and everybody in my family cleans up (including my dh). However, I respect that many people (including my dad) disagree with paying for their child’s college education because it leads to a sense of entitlement. I can tell you from personal expereince that paying for my own college really helped me to take college seriously. One does not need to rely on parents to pay for college and can do so without even going into debt. I waitressed my way through, was highly involved in college leadership councils, and got good grades.

You really seem to have anger management issues, particuarly since you seem so angry and throw out insults simply because the world is filled with people who have different points of view. The insults don’t help your position, but give the feeling that you’re lacking in either self-control or wit.

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Meagan Francis May 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Lil, I believe she’s talking about an essay I wrote for Babble.com a few years ago admitting that I was not planning to pay my kids’ way through college and didn’t think that the ability to pay for college or not pay for college should be one of the biggest factors of number of kids to have. Obviously, there was a lot more to it. The irony is that by hiring a house cleaner I actually free up more time to write which allows us to have a greater household income which allows me to put things like college savings at a higher priority…

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maria April 14, 2014 at 2:05 am

I do my own hair. Do you?

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