I hired a charming young lady to come help me clean today and I feel so weird about it. I've done this exactly twice before. The first time I had been sick with bronchial crud for weeks and Passover was rapidly approaching. A group of homeschooled teens were trying to raise money for a trip to Washington DC so it felt like a good thing to help them out and let them help me out. And they were awesome--my own teen has shown no such work ethic around here. The second paid house cleaner came the day before The Dark Lord's bar mitzvah. She was a friend of a friend in a bit of a tight spot so I felt like I was doing her a favor.
This time I had a young woman in my class who was trying to get her housecleaning business off the ground. A few weeks ago I helped her make fliers and business cards and arranged to have her come work for me a time or two before the bar mitzvah. As happens all too often with my students, she's disappeared. She hasn't come to class in a couple of weeks and her voice mail is full. For all I know, she's been deported which at least means she gets to be with her son again so it wouldn't be all bad. For whatever reason, she's gone.
Thus, I ended up searching Craigslist the other night and came up with Sarah who promised to bring her own eco-friendly cleaning supplies. She showed up on time and got to work and has been going non-stop all afternoon.
The thing is, it feels weird to me. I don't know that I'll ever be one of those folks who finds housekeeping to be a deeply spiritual practice. But it does seem that I should be able to manage far better than I do. Mostly I just ignore anything beyond the basics of clean dishes and clothes. When forced (usually due to impending visitors) to clean properly I start out with the best of intentions, wander into another room to put something away, and thus begins a seemingly infinite sequence of distractions at the end of which I find myself both exhausted and baffled by how little I managed to accomplish.
The fabulous Sarah has been working nonstop for the past 3 hours. I've tried to move some of the junk out of her way but she doesn't seem to mind. I imagine that since it's not her junk, it's not a big deal to just work around things rather than get bogged down in decisions about what goes where.
I did a few paid housekeeping stints myself when I was younger and always felt resentful and somewhat superior in that I was sure I'd always be able to clean up my own messes. Hiring someone to clean? How lame. How bourgeois. But that was before kids. These days I find the chaos overwhelming and there's always something or someone demanding my attention more loudly than my kitchen floor. I want to be that serene mother who keeps things under control. I always think that, given a free weekend, I can get it together. Well this is the last weekend before the bar mitzvah and I finally know when I'm beat. I still have a lot of things to do that only I can do so it's not the worst thing in the world to have someone handle the cleaning, is it?