Housekeepers for Homemakers

Money well spent

Ariel Gore says in one of her books, and I'm paraphrasing here, if you have to choose between spending money on a therapist or spending money on a housekeeper, choose the housekeeper.

I can already hear it, though: "Wait, you're a stay-at-home mom, why on earth would you need a housekeeper?" I'm lucky, if you want to call it that. I have had fibromyalgia and then a heart condition through much of my stay-at-home career, so I have an "excuse." But I heartily recommend housekeeping help for healthy homemakers as well. If you have the money, it's very well spent.

Never forget that staying home is a 24/7 job. You're at this with very few breaks every single day, usually for years. If you hire someone to take some of that load off of you for a couple of hours a month, or better, a couple of hours a week, that's hardly an indulgence. Author Kathy Fitzgerald Sherman says the average American stay-at-home spends 39 hours a week on housekeeping--not counting child care. (Sherman's book: "A Housekeeper is Cheaper Than a Divorce"!)

At the very least, consider hiring help quarterly for big cleaning jobs: Washing the walls, the outside windows--all the heavy-duty cleaning that doesn't need doing weekly but that really can wear you out.

If your partner complains, tell him he can either give you that break himself or he can hire it out. Give him a couple of bouts of cleaning the oven, the fridge or the windows and he'll be reaching for the classifieds himself. That's not an indictment of guys; that's just reality. He's tired from working all week outside the home as the breadwinner. But you're potentially even more tired from constantly being on duty.

Too often, the last two priorities on our to-do lists are our relationships, followed by ourselves. Free up some of that energy for yourself, and for your partner. Hire some help around the house.


Spirrah's picture


I had an idea while reading your article. Those moms who do stay at home and are physically able why not share the housekeeping? With other SAHMs or those who are not. This way those mothers will have some time to talk to an adult and have fun cleaning. Make it a cleaning party! Put some fun music on and dance while working! Then trade off with the mom who helped you clean that week. Go help her clean her house. This would also get the kids out of the house for some good playtime fun with other kids or become an opportunity to teach them the importance of cleaning, once they discover just how fun it can be. ;)

Just a thought!

Jilsyt's picture

The other day, we visited some family. Their home was immaculate (duh, she had guests coming, who doesn't clean!?!), but not only that, it seemed kept up, and well organized. My husband commented on how nice it would be if our home were that organized still (we were pre-child neat freaks). He marveled that they had three children, yet still had "neat freak" status. Anyhow, after staying with them for a few days, I pointed out that she cleaned and organized while her children were at school, and when they weren't at school, they were either outside or at soccer practice (hence, not messing up the place!). Anyhow, I told him our house would be that clean as soon as our children were in school. Then it dawned on him that they won't be...unless we decide Not to homeschool, which he is strongly for. Anyhow, I pointed out to him that a house keeper would be cheaper than a private school, and therefore I could focus my efforts better on schooling the children at home. At this point in time, we can't afford it, but feel that perhaps in the future (when he's not a graduate student while I stay home). We also hope to find creative avenues for housekeeping, such as helping a student pay for college by hiring them as the keeper, as someone gave me that opportunity and I was extremely grateful.

Anyhow, my thrilled-ness was that it didn't take a lot of cajoling to get him to agree!

angelb's picture

For me hiring a housekeeper isn't as big a deal as hiring a gardener. I've slowly been replacing the grass with other less needy things, but we keep some grass for the girls to play in and to appease the neighbors. I don't have the time to mow or the strength to mow the hillsides which is what most of our yard is. DH hates yardwork so it was left to me. There is nothing that gives me as much joy as Wednesday morning at 8:30 when the truck pulls up and the guys get out. By 8:45 my yard looks great and I didn't have to do a darn thing!

If you are looking to hire a housekeeper, I'd like to suggest you hire a person rather than a service. After reading Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" I was shocked!! at how those services work. I worked as a housekeeper for a number of years, but never with a service. I always cleaned my houses as though I was cleaning my own home. Not so with the services Ehrenreich worked for. Their cleaning practices disgusted me. Plus, hiring a person usually costs less than a service and she gets to keep more of the money. I'm sure there are very good, very reputable services out there, but I must admit I'm very wary now.

Beverley's picture

We could never afford someone to come and do a bit of housework each week while our children were growing up, but in hindsight it would have taken the strain and pressure of our marriage... We homeschooled our children which meant I was not only keeping house, but raising and teaching the children 24/7! There was a lot of chore sharing and to be honest, chores and housekeeping are packed with learning across the curriculum, so we wouldn't have wanted someone to do all of the housework for us! I could never keep on top of all the jobs that needed to be done and we simply had to lower our standards... This could have been avoided if we'd been smart enough to set aside the money we spent on hiring movies, buying chocolate and the odd bottle of wine to subdue our worries, on two hours of housekeeping a week. Thanks for the idea - I'll pass it on.

Lynn's picture

Thanks, Spirrah, and welcome to TNH!

Lynn Siprelle, Editor

Cheyenne's picture

Im a 21 year old college student working as a part-time housekeeper in Boston. This is a list of things we hate:
1) When you do your laundry on our scheduled day. We need the machines available to do only linen and towels like agreed, not your personal laundry. 2 loads is 2 loads, for the price agreed. Not 6!
2) Bounced checks. No one works for free and everyone has bills.
3) People who complain when they have to pay, especially if they are paying late.
4) You taking out whatever you take out on us, especially any fight with your husband, autistic kids or neighbors, we dont care and its not our fault.
5) When you want to know everything about us, but dont what us to know anything about you.
6) All kinds of paraphernalia(racist, narcotic or sexual, just hide it. This also includes prescription meds for all conditions.
7) Accusations of theft when in reality you cant find your stuff because you're so disorganized.
8) Cancelling at last minute, or reschedulling to another week that isnt yours. Bi-weekly is bi-weekly, next Wednesday is another client.
9) Taking ur money for vacation and expecting us to charge the same price after. The house is dirtier therefore more money. Dont act like you dont think its fair.
10) Making passes at us. Or accusing us of looking at your husband.
11) Thinking our job is easy, its back breaking and tedious. Especially after clients become complacent. A monkey would quit this job.
12) Assuming we dont speak english. I was born here, third generation. Or assuming we are stupid. "....norturnal, that means they live at night,..." Or assuming all stereotypes of poor people. A lot of immigranst I work with were middle class and educated in their countries.
13) Leaving the door closed when you promised it would be opened. You dont trust us to give us a key, like on my free time Im going to be in your house, yeah right.
14) We charge the going rate and your free to look around for prices. Cheaper doesnt mean better. You cant expect someone to do everything at a professional level for nothing. We didnt tell you to buy a 5 bath, 5 bedroom, 4 story huge house plus laundry for the measley price of $100. (I still have to get my hours, remember, my boss keeps the majority. Also Gas, Inflation and Business Expenses.)
15) "My husband does nothing." In Afghanistan women light themselves on fire just to escape their horrible lives. In America, college educated Lexus driving "feminists" stay-at-home moms bitch about their husbands who do "nothing." All I see you doing is watching VH1 and playing computer games/online shopping.
16) An addition like a dog, cat or baby is a price raise because of more dirt/mess. We didnt tell you to get it.
17) Heavy, fancy $500 vaccums that dont clean hardwood floors or stairs. Housekepers arent body builders.
18) Demanding hotel quality service. You aren't the Queen and this dump isnt Versailles.
19) Expecting us to care about whatever you are whining about or pretending to be a victim of. We dont care. Just like you dont care either about our problems. Its a professional relationships. Dont friend me on facebook.
20) Immigration status is the boss' responsibilty, not yours. If Im speaking this level of english, I was born here. Common sense.
21) Expecting us to be magicians. You cleaned 7mos.-3 years ago, a first time cleaning wont make your stove or bath tub look brand new. It will take a good 3 times to make your house truly shine.
22) Regular schedulled appiontments are cheaper. 3 months of dirt/mess, you're looking at a first time cleaning price because everything has to be done again. It will take more time and more cleaning solutions.
23) Jews and Indians, no offense, you people pay horrible and the former treat us like slaves. We deteste you. (I am a Jew myself. A love of money screws people of what they deserve to be payed.) This is America and we are not dalit. You cant get everything top to bottom plus laundry for $50-$80! You are all business owners and doctors, you can pay better or clean after yourselves. If not slavery, its exploitation.
24) Dont become complacent. We hate a sink full of dirty dishes and an empty dishwasher. Dirty diapers everywhere, dog crap and broken trash compactors because no one wants to take it out because "Jackie's coming on Wednesday."
25) Also phone messages we cant comprehend because you speak too low, too fast, rambling/mumbling, drunk/high, or just simply lying.
26) Im also not supposed to take your dog out for a walk, get you coffee, change your baby or answer the phone. That is a maid.
27) Complaining about my work to the boss to make me look bad infront of her or to make my life miserable. Eventually she will catch on to you because you of all our clients, is the only one complaining.
28) Window cleaning is an additional price. Its a bitch and time consuming. We could be at another clients making more money.
29) If you arent serious and cant afford it, then dont waste our time because time is money.

Guest Elizabeth 's picture

Hi Cheyenne !
I share your frustration and could add more to your list .
All the favorite they ask do me a favor and expect later as a part
of your job that makes me mad or tell me they can't get illegal to
do the job cheaper ! Elizabeth

Cheyenne's picture

1) Stainless Steel anything. Black bathrooms, easy stainable marble/onyx/granite/etc. and expensive breakable things beginners/in-training cant clean. Be more conscious before you renovate and what you buy.
2) Looking down on us. You should be thankful for what you have. Some people will never have a housekeeper ever in their lives, even in America.
3) Rude kids or impolite friends/family.
4) Lying to us when was the last time you cleaned or had a leaner. We can tell dirt/mess because we've seen it all.
5) Stop walking around back and forth, dirtying up what we just cleaned and THEN asking us to clean it again or accuse us of not cleaning it.
6) Beginning to organize when we walk in. You should've done it before. You know what, JUST leave it and go to work! You're getting in the way.
7) The stereotype that we overcharge, dont deserve our money or not being allowed to price our work. We charge what we charge and what is fair. (This also applies to the fields of childcare and construction. Dont negotiate $150 to $80! Who gave you 50% off?! I cant negotiate my rent/food 50% off.)
8) Please dont smoke while we are there.
9) We've had all sorts of customers from all ages, incomes and all walks of life. You arent the first difficult client or the last. We know how to deal with you.

Guest's picture

:O Wow. With that kind of judgement and bitterness before I've even called for a price quote, it makes me think twice about ever calling for any help. From anyone. It's nice to know that when I'm ill and I need hired help to keep up my home, the woman I'm paying to help me is secretly (or not so secretly) judging me.

**And I have worked as a housekeeper as well.

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