26 January 2012

Whether to Employ a Cleaner?

This is a subject close to my heart - whether to employ a cleaner?  I have employed one for many years on and off, but preferably on, by a long chalk.

Money is tight, but so is my energy.  Fraught is what many mothers are, - single or not, working or 'not '- much of the time, especially those of us who are isolated from our families, for whatever purpose.

All this stuff raising awareness of Post Natal Depression (PND) has been playing on my mind.  It is particularly prevalent at the moment, both as a concept and as a blogging subject. Black Dog Tribe publicity, an organization brought about with the help of the famous comedienne, Ruby Wax, and much lauded by others mums with experience of the conditions it supports, has brought the subject to the fore more than ever, its aim being to eliminate the stigma attached to mental health problems.

Being a Mummy Blogger, I try to read other Mummy Blogs. We're all short of time, which brings me to my point.  These other writers have made me aware how common PND  is. I really had no idea and neither do many people, so it often goes unrecognized, even - or especially - by the sufferer.

I read a particularly moving post (and there are many out there) - by Mammywoo and it touched me to my core. It even raised the issue inside my heart that I might well stray into it myself on more occasions than I'd like to admit to, but I digress.

Motherhood is exhausting.  So is Life, often.  Time is precious.  

I pay my cleaner for not having to think ten times a day / week / month 'I must wash that kitchen floor,' 'Oh God, I really should be dusting / hoovering / cleaning the bathroom.'  We all know that it goes on and on...

I do clean our loos.  I do tidy up.  The kitchen still needs doing every day - but the floor doesn't.  'A woman's work is never done?'  Never a truer word said!

I know what men are like - I have been married - they'll say 'We don't need one / can't afford one / I'll help more... etc. etc.'

Will most of them help?  Really?  Truly?  Will they Bo**ocks.

Before my Ex-Husband's 'Money-Well ran dry,' he paid maintenance for the children and even someone as dim-witted as him saw that he needed to pay for the cleaner for us all every week as well.  Frankly, it was the least he could do.

It seems some people find it more socially acceptable, in the UK, to pay for childcare - to give them the opportunity 'to get things done,' rather than pay someone to do those things (probably at a lower rate) and spend that time doing want they want, with or without their kids, instead.

Let's face it, who wants to spend their week-ends and/or evenings doing the cleaning while hubby has all the fun (watching sport, playing with the children, or on his X-Box) and your resentment builds?  It's the breakdown of many a marriage, that kind of thing.  Who doesn't want more energy for each other, let alone for oneself?

Being a Single Mum, with one child at school and one pre-schooler, it is a constant source of stress and dissatisfaction trying to do the housework.  It is relentless.  I still have to do plenty because my cleaner only comes every week or two.

However - and here's the thing - everyone helps tidy up the day before (which can be exciting because your glee rubs off on them!) and then he/she comes in and does their magic.  For one day you feel worthy!  You don't feel a failure or so frustrated.  You feel happier, lighter and free-er!  I not only speak for myself here, but for the many friends I have converted over the years.

Yet we all agree that what we're really paying for - and you'll love me for ever for this  - if and when you do your duty to yourself and your family by making Mummy less like a (miserable) 'Witch' - what my son calls me when I'm clearly not coping - the most important thing of all is the SPACE in our minds.

Suddenly - for what works out as a few pounds per day - less than the cost of some cheap wine, your money will buy you freedom to think.  Your head will no longer be cluttered with a list of 'shoulds' and 'musts' and, perhaps, shame?

Alone with a young baby (and his brother), employing a cleaner allowed me to lurch from one Friday to the next.  It kept peace in my heart and confidence that I could continue.  It gave me light in the tunnel of those dark days.  It saved my life.

Sarah at St. Bloggie de Riviere, says it saves her sanity, yet her children are older and she works. She said this in a comment on Adventures of a Middle-Aged Matron's recent post waxing lyrical about her angst and guilt about getting paid help, even though she has been practically bed-ridden for a quite a while!  Is it me (I am a Brit) or is it a British thing?

Regarding PND - how many women could benefit from employing a cleaner?  Could it save some from falling over the edge? Could there be any greater gift than that kind of help?

In the old days, families lived together and the pressures were halved.  Help was at hand.  The mother's mother had 'been there' and, ideally, kept on top of stuff that always needs doing, without being asked.  Yet, how many of us live in an ideal world?

Nowadays, we don't know how to get over what is quite the shock of giving birth.  The most cruel expectations are often our own. 

Two of my friends now employ their mums as paid Cleaners.  It benefits everybody.  Help doesn't have to be expensive.  Word of mouth is best,  Agencies, if you can afford them, are out there, but I have never used one.

I know it's not for everyone.  Cleaning can be a meditative process and quite enjoyable.  Plus this isn't meant to be a simplistic approach to what is a serious, complex condition and I'm not saying it's the answer, but if it helps to prevent some of the stresses and strains of daily life, for most people living it in a heartfelt, happy 'good' way - and it does - possibly benefiting every relationship in the house - and it really can, how can it not help to prevent the deepest darkest demons doing their very worst when you're most vulnerable?  I'm just saying, might it help things not get as bad as they could or would without it?

What do you think?

Do you employ a cleaner?

You don't have to be a mother to justify it.  Work comes in all guises.  We all feel overwhelmed sometimes.

How many people would like to 'fess up - because let's face it - many of us that do keep it quiet, for fear of being judged a failure or, worse, a snob?  It's not only the stigma of having mental health issues that needs to be addressed and conquered, but the one attached to those who pay for help, perhaps in the absence of any other, when it just makes sense to free up your time and your mind, to be able to be yourself.  There's nothing wrong with that.


  1. You've absolutely decided me: I'm having that cleaner. Only once a month, though, so I can salvage shreds of domestic pride. Unsually, my husband has always urged me to have one and offered to pay, but I dreaded having a stranger doing a job less well than I felt I'd do it my self and, worse, having to point out her failures. The one he eventually found, though, was a marvel, so I shall swallow my guilt and be effortlessly spotless!

  2. So glad to hear it. Then I have done my job!

  3. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I love this post and completely agree with you. I would get a cleaner in a shot if I could afford it. I hate housework. I would never pay a childmind to have the kids while I cleaned, that's just crazy. I want to spend time with the kids I don't want to spend time cleaning.

  4. Thankyou Rebecca. How very encouraging. I hope you keep it in mind!

  5. Saturday mornings used to be hell for everyone until I got a cleaner. I was such a bitch because I hate cleaning. Some people find it cathartic, I can always think of 100 things I'd rather be doing (starting with watching paint dry), and it's so endless. That's what gets me. You barely finish and you have to start all over again.

    Now I can invite people over for dinner on a Friday (after my cleaner's been) and I don't have to cook AND clean the place beforehand. I can concentrate on the cooking and be less stressed out.

    In France, if you pay someone through an agency, they benefit from being official, but it's a tax 'niche' so the government knocks off half what I pay from my taxes. I get a clean house and peace of mine, my cleaner has a job. Win-win!

    I would never ever pay a childminder so I could clean my house. I'd rather have a bit of muck about and go to the park! (I also have fairly high tolerance of mess...)

  6. I have a cleaner that comes once a fortnight - she's great and very trustworthy. If I had to do all the cleaning - I would be very down, and would not have time for any writing at all! I dont mind doing a bit of cleaning myself but its a much better scenario emplying someone else to do a much more thorough job! Great post.

  7. Hi Sarah, I think our tolerance of mess has to increase once children come along and thank you for admitting that your personality is also affected! Sorry I forgot to mention had linked to you.

  8. Hi Older Mum. Aha. A confession. Please make that public. I reckon a good few pro bloggers must do - because there simply isnt time otherwise, is there? Let's help abolish the stigma. Good for you!

  9. I have a cleaner and have no quibbles whatsoever in admitting it. I am a SAHM, but also enjoy writing for fun, charities and occasional commissioned work.

    Do not feel guilty! Feel good about it. It is one less job for you to do, because let's face it, there are still plenty left for me. My only regret is that she doesn't come every day!

  10. I used to have a cleaner but she wasn't doing a thorough job so she had to go!

    However, I'm hoping to have another one this year because I'm totally useless at doing it myself!

    CJ x

  11. To citygirlnomore, thank you for responding to the call. I don't feel remotely guilty - that's the whole point of the post! I will have to re-read it! Let's help others who are still hesitating!

  12. To CJ - Thank you for admitting to it! It's the not thinking about it you really pay for isn't it?!

  13. Times are tough, and my hubby is not working, but the cleaner is the LAST to go.

  14. No, I really can't justify it or run to the cost since I don't do paid work. But I heartily agree with your view. For a few years, when Husband had a job that 'required us to entertain', he was entitled to paid help at home. It was bliss! A cleaner is far quicker and more efficient at cleaning as they don't get sidetracked into thinking about how the furniture/room/ornaments are arranged - and they don't just do the bits that show!

  15. Hello hausfrau. Have seen you over at Sarah's. Glad you agree and at least you have tasted la difference! You are right about them being able to stay focused on the job in hand and getting it done! Yes, it is a blessing.

  16. I have a cleaner. I work and have two kids and there's enough tidying up to do all the time - I do not have the energy to properly clean as well. So once a week someone does it for me :)

  17. Thank you Mrs B for fessing up! I can see hyou've been through a great deal. It all helps, doesn't it?

  18. If we did get a cleaner, the missus would probably still go over it again anyway to make sure its done right ! ;-)

  19. Hello BIFOM and RPOW - yes , there are some women like that - but they soon get over it!