Now I know what it means to be bourgeois in New Millennium America.
We first got housecleaners when I had been an at-home dad for a couple of years but was struggling to keep up with my domestic duties and a new infant. When you have a baby who naps 27 times a day, and it’s all you can do to get supper on the table every 24 hours, when are you supposed to run the vacuum cleaner? I gave in one day when my Lovely Bride told me, “I just have higher standards of cleanliness than you do.”
Angered and embarrassed, I hired a couple in their 60s to do the first two floors every two weeks. I am too much of a control freak – and too cheap – to have them do the third floor attic/guest room/home office or the basement playroom and bathroom.
I grew to resent them for making me pick the house up within an inch of its life every other Tuesday. I get the point – the more time they can spend vacuuming and scrubbing, rather than picking up toys, the cleaner my house gets in the end. But as the person who does all the pickup, almost always while trying to get lunches made and kids out the door to school, I came to dread housecleaning days.
A year ago, the 60-ish couple retired to their weekend home in Martinsville, Va., (who vacations there?) and handed me off to their 30-ish daughter. She was often late, never as thorough (the kitchen used to gleam when the couple was done – now I have to remind her to clean the toaster, say, or the microwave) and sometimes just didn’t show up. My wife was ready to fire her months ago, but I’m the one who has to make the phone call and face the questions about what was wrong. And I hate to disappoint anybody or give them reason to not like me.
I once caught her in a lie, I think. She didn’t show up, and I called to ask if something was wrong. Her sister had died, she said, so I told her forget about cleaning that day and I would check in later in the month. A week later, her mother called to tell me (not to ask) that she was listing me as a reference for a cleaning job.
“I’m sorry to hear there was a death in the family,” I told her.
“What? Oh, my nephew died,” she said.
Not your daughter? I asked.
“I’d know if it was my own daughter who died!” she said.
I never did confront her daughter who cleaned our house. What would have been the point?
My own sister wisely pointed out to me that if I had found the most prompt, truthful, attentive and thorough housecleaner, the person probably was going to move on to more lucrative employment soon. Good point.
So I fired her. I called her at lunchtime today and left a message, because she never picks up.
I realize that I’m blessed just to be able to afford to pay someone to clean my house. And I’ve made more work for myself: there’s nobody else to blame for our toaster being a disgusting hive of cremated crumbs and charred cheese. Or for scum in the tub or grit on the floor. And I realize that I’m a whiny jerk to complain about the whole thing.
But finally, it’s done.