I love a clean house, but since I have kids, work full-time, and currently have a pile of laundry that rivals some mountains I’ve hiked, it’s not always possible for me to have a lovely, clean home. I remember my mom mentioning more than a few times how great it would be to hire a cleaning service to free up her time to do other things. But I always thought cleaning services were only for the super-wealthy or the “ladies who lunch” kind of women. How could I even consider hiring someone to clean up my messes when, as a mom, it seemed to be my job to do the work?
The Pressure to Have a Clean Home
A load of data exists that shows women handle the bulk of cleaning at home. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2018, on an average day, 84 percent of women did some kind of household activities like cleaning or laundry. On days they did those activities, women spent around 2.6 hours, while men did two hours.
Whether this arises from social or personal expectations, moms who work handle the majority of household chores, including cleaning. For mothers who are the family’s breadwinners, a Washington Post study points out that they do almost an hour of housework a day, even when working, compared to breadwinning dads. On days they have off of work, they do almost three times more cooking and cleaning than dads who bring home the bacon.
This was my life for many years. I put a lot of pressure on myself to keep a clean home, which came at a price: a loss of time with my kids and tension with my husband, who was staying home to take care of the kids. For me, a clean home was a status symbol that I had my life together, and it was my job to provide a spotless space for my family to enjoy time with each other and for our guests to relax and have fun.
Hiring a cleaning service was in the back of my mind, but I never thoughtfully considered it, because those pesky expectations of mine got in the way. I didn’t want to hand over something to someone else that I identified with my worth as a woman and mother. It sounds almost silly writing that, but it’s how I felt for years.
My pride was getting in the way of a more harmonized household. That was a tough lesson to learn. I would be scrubbing the bathroom on a Saturday morning or vacuuming the living room late at night and for what? I did it for my family, of course, but also because I wanted a clean home. I also did it because I thought it was expected of me, that I had to suffer more in order to have worth as a woman and mother. I was almost proud of the fact that I pushed myself to the limits, that I worked all kinds of hours providing for my family and still managed to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. But I was exhausted and not even spending the time I wanted with my family. There had to be a better way but I needed to let go of the pride I felt that I could do it all.
Feeling Guilty For Yet Another Thing
When I finally considered hiring a cleaning service, I did it in secret, never telling anyone I was letting someone else clean our bathrooms, wash our floors, and dust our baseboards. I did not want anyone to know I hired out something that I was “supposed” to be responsible for doing.
The guilt factor was strong. I was already feeling guilty about being a working mom. Now I was feeling guilty for paying someone else to clean my home because I was too busy from working and handling other household chores. Why can’t I be supermom and sleep for four hours a night, work for eight (usually more), make dinner, clean my house, and run five miles every morning? As ridiculous as they might sound, these were the questions that plagued me with guilt.
A Pew Study from 2017 revealed that 43 percent of working full-time mothers believe they don’t spend enough time with their kids. That number is 28 percent among moms who work part-time or not at all.
A 2014 Care.com survey showed that a third of working moms won’t hire outside help because they feel guilty, even though the same survey shows that more than a third of working moms feel like they’re always falling behind. This is exactly the kind of pressure I put on myself, and it was stressing me out.
The guilt was real, and the time I spent every week cleaning my home only added to those feelings of guilt because it took away time I could spend with my children. While supermom status was fleeting, I could do one thing to get some of that precious time back with my kids – hiring a cleaning service.
Once I made the decision to go that route, my breakthrough moment came after the fact when I was planning to take my kids on an all-day hiking adventure in the mountains near where we live on a Saturday. I would not have been able to do this had I not hired the cleaning company since my previous Saturdays for many years were spent cleaning my home. What a feeling of freedom I experienced.
My Way or No Way
I’m a terrible delegator, partly because I want to do things my way. This quality isn’t restricted to the workplace—it manifests itself at home. I’d ask my husband to help clean the kitchen, but find he didn’t do it as I would have, so I would get upset, do it myself, and sulk off. Not childish at all, right? Hiring a cleaning service meant I had to get over myself and my own ways of doing things and let someone else do it their way.
One thing I let go of as my experience with the cleaning company continued was letting them into my bedroom and rearranging things in my very personal space. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with them cleaning the bedroom and bathroom just because it’s a more personal area. However, I came home one day after they left and found my bed looking like a hotel room bed, made to perfection, the total opposite of what I had usually done. I was sold and let the cleaning ladies clean wherever they wanted after that.
Getting That Time Back
The women that clean my home are amazing. Not only do they do a better job than I ever could have done while being so sweet and kind, but I’ve been given back hours per week of quality time with my family. My cleaning ladies have been coming to my home now for over five years and I only started to tell people I am using a cleaning service maybe a year ago.
I still get nervous that I’ll be judged by moms who think I’m “less” for hiring out something that women are traditionally expected to accomplish or that I’m super-wealthy (I’m not). But this is who I am and the choice I’ve made as I try to maximize the time I do have with those I loved. Old expectations die hard, but now I’m not afraid (mostly) to tell people about my service because I have no regrets.
Instead of cleaning for hours on a Saturday morning, which I used to do, I take my kids hiking or kayaking or to a park. It’s much easier to pick up around the house for 15 minutes a day knowing that my entire home will be clean again in a week or two. I don’t get frustrated with my husband anymore for failing to do things my way when it comes to household chores, because I know it will be done soon by my cleaning company. I have time for days at the park with my kids, time to catch up with my husband after a long day of work, and time to escape into a good book.
Sometimes I struggle with anticipating judgment from other moms about using a cleaning service. I still hesitate before giving away my secret. Will they think I’m lazy, that I’m not a good wife and mother because I don’t spend 20 hours a week cleaning my home? But my sanity and my time with my family have been worth every dollar I’ve spent on my cleaning service. My only regret: I wish I had shoved my pride aside and done this sooner.