cleaning lady

cats sweeping broomWhen I was in college, I lived in a dorm. Dorms can be great equalizers. It’s hard to tell who’s as poor as you are or as rich as Midas when everyone’s living in the same building, schlumping around in sweatpants and pajamas. Hardly anyone at Cornell had a car (the campus isn’t vehicle-friendly) and this was way back in the day before cell phones, laptops and even computer ownership might have given some clue. One telling factor was Spring Break plans — if you were off to Prague on a moment’s notice, that probably meant you weren’t down to your last two dollars, as I often was. The more economically challenged among us often stayed put for Spring Break (and had a fun time, too).

Another thing I noticed was cleaning ladies. Every now and then, one of my friends would mention their housekeeper, or the cleaning person that came to their house, back home. I couldn’t fathom such a thing. We’d never, ever had a cleaning person. Quite frankly, at the time, my mother was working a second part time job *as* a cleaning person, to keep me in school. You can imagine how galling I found it when a fellow student protested to me that having a cleaning person wasn’t a luxury; his mother worked, after all. She didn’t have time to clean. Meanwhile my mother worked all day, worked cleaning offices at night, and cleaned her own house with whatever energy she somehow had. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, but I still think having someone come to clean your house, unless you’re physically incapable of doing so (and a lot of those people can’t afford help, sadly), is a luxury.

You have to imagine, then, how weirded out I am by the fact that we have cleaning people coming to the house this week.

I mean, this isn’t a regular thing. We had a Groupon, and it’s a spring cleaning kind of deal. Dave’s super busy in tax season. And I have a little trouble doing certain things, especially when there’s bending involved. It’s still a luxury, though, and I feel strangely guilty about it.

I’m a lousy housekeeper. I didn’t inherit the Leonard cleaning gene, the one that guaranteed my grandmother’s basement floor was safer to eat off of than most people’s kitchen plates, and the one that made my mother stress about dust bunnies in the storage closet. Yeah, I missed that. I don’t have it in me. But I grew up with it, so I end up looking around my reasonably neat house and seeing nothing but dust and dirt and feeling ashamed.

So as a result of all that matriarchal genetic pressure and guilt over economic divide, I’ve been desperately restraining myself all week from cleaning the bathroom ahead of time, because I don’t want the cleaning people to see that my bathroom is dirty and think I’m lazy. I haven’t succumbed yet, but there’s still more than 24 hours to go. I’d say it’s 50/50. At best.

5 thoughts on “cleaning lady

  1. I totally get this. Here’s another perspective, and it’s one that came from my mom…
    We did have a cleaning lady when I was growing up, but we didn’t have a lot of money either, something I found out when I looked at my college financial aid forms; I was amazed at how well my parents budgeted, and how far they made their money go. I know it wasn’t as hard as your mom had it, but we were by no means well off. Anyway, the point is, when I was teaching (a while into my career), my mom suggested that I get someone to clean for me periodically. I felt it was a luxury, too, ‘though for what I’d have to pay it really wasn’t — I just wasn’t a great budgeter. 😉 Mom looked at it this way: she said (and I’m paraphrasing) that when you hire someone to clean, you’re giving them work and employment, something THAT person NEEDS. So if you’ve found it necessary to pick up the slack from your own busy schedule and help get your home looking less like a cyclone hit and more like something livable (even if you’re alone most of the time, as I was), there’s nothing wrong with hiring someone to help. Looking at it that way, I wasn’t as hard on myself for (a) spending money on something I could do myself and probably should save, anyway, and (b) not keeping up with making my home somewhere I wouldn’t be embarrassed to invite guests. Mom was a wise woman. So enjoy the fact that you can do it…and if you feel the need to “pick up” a bit before the cleaning people arrive, I get that, too. Everyone does it! 😉

  2. Those are good points, Claud. I think the only one that’s holding me back is that I can’t claim to have a busy schedule these days. Timing alone, there’s NO reason I couldn’t do this myself. Some of it I’d have trouble with, back-wise. But the rest? Inclination, and a battle between time vs money (would I rather we spend money on this and have more time for schlumping, or would I rather save the money vs my time?). My inclination is missing, and time is winning out. 🙂

  3. I don’t have a busy schedule either; time still wins out. 🙂

    Incidentally, I miss you! Gotta do a FaceTime or Skype one of these days! Lotsa hugs to you and Dave!

    • Right back atcha — definitely! And if you’re ever in the NYC vicinty, there are a few of your favorite Gertrudes around these parts. 🙂

      • I know! We are WAY overdue for a NYC trip; two cats on meds (‘though doing well) makes it hard to travel, but we just lined up a new vet tech who can stay here when we need/want to get away. When we make plans to head in your direction, I’ll certainly let you and the other local Gertrudes know! xoxo

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