Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. We weren’t poor but I would call us lower middle class. Looking back, I honestly have no idea how my mom, who was a single mom for most of my life, managed it all. Between sports fees, Esprit sweatshirts, and those AWESOME Bennetton circle-bottomed bags, she somehow bought me the trendy clothes when she could while still keeping food on the table.
But needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of extra money for luxuries. My mom worked full time, started her own business, was the primary bread-winner for years, somehow raised two pretty awesome, non-law-breaking kids (well there was the one time my tween brother flipped over a Dumpster with his friends — but no record!), made dinner almost every night and cleaned our whole dang house — two kids, two cats, a dog and all — pretty much by herself (sorry for not helping out more!).
Clearly, she was overworked. Why else would she have allowed me to pick out this prom dress?
And maybe because my mom was such a supermom, I’m not the world’s best cleaner. I’m not saying that our house is dirty, per se. Just cluttered. I’m terrible about sorting through the piles of mail, cleaning off the top of the dressers and keeping E’s toys organized. And don’t even talk to me about cleaning the tub and shower. Ugh, is there a worse chore on earth (well, maybe cleaning toilets).
Until December, I went into the office 3 days a week and was home with E. the rest of the week. Money was tight. And since I was home more than at work, I figured I had no justifiable reason to seek outside help.
But then I started working Monday through Thursday, 9-5. And suddenly, I could not keep up. The house was a disaster. I started spending Fridays, the one day I had with E., a day I envisioned as our special mother-daughter days, running around and trying to clean the house and do all our errands.
For the past couple Christmases, my mom had bought me gift cards to a large maid service (didn’t I tell you she was the best). But I saved those maid bucks like the treasure they were, and used them for deep cleanings when guests were coming or we were hosting birthday parties. But once I got a taste of the crack, I knew I needed regular hits.
After much angst and middle-class guilt, I finally decided to own up to the fact that a) I’m no Alice b) with some careful budgeting we could swing it and c) this actually could make ME a better mother (I hesitate to write that because I don’t want people to think that I think those without help are bad mothers; this is just something that I suspected could save my sanity, thereby making me a better, more engaged parent).
After asking around, we got a recommendation from a friend of ours. So, starting six weeks ago, the lovely Andrea started coming to our house twice a month. And for the first time in my life, I had a cleaning lady!
I wish I was exaggerating, but when I walked into the house after the first cleaning, I cried some happy tears. Look, the paper towels AND the dish towel are kitchen origami!
I mean, she does some actual cleaning too. The floors? Oh yeah, you can eat off them. Which is good, because E. tends to eat dropped food off them anyway, so at least I can feel better about that. The bathrooms. Oh, the bathrooms. If I could, I would write love songs to the bathrooms after Andrea days. And she cleaned out our laundry room. I’m talking mopping old, sticky laundry detergent stains off the floors and throwing away 75 percent of our embarrassingly large plastic grocery bag collection (I forget those damn reuseable Publix bags almost every damn time).
But I think the single greatest thing about having someone come clean the house every two weeks is the prep work for her. I clean for the cleaning lady. Every other Wednesday, the mad scramble is on to sort through mail and clean up toys so that she doesn’t have to clean around the clutter. That biweekly process alone almost makes it worth it.
I’m not sure if we’ll always be able to afford a
fairy godmother cleaning lady. I’m sure someday it’ll have to go so that we can pay for traveling soccer teams, ballet lessons or ugly prom dresses, but until then, I’m going to savor every single clean second and stop feeling guilty. Some moms buy Starbucks, get manicures or shop regularly. I drink the majority of my coffee from the Keurig at work; E paints my nails and most of my clothes come from Costco and Target these days.
I may be sacrificing those things, but I’m gaining something much more valuable — time with my daughter. Tomorrow, we’re waking up early and spending the entire day at Epcot. Just the two of us. So yes, in this case, money CAN buy me love.