I’ve been reading with great interest the conversation my friend Meagan Francis started over at The Happiest Mom about modern families hiring household help. And I know I’m not alone: in addition to sparking a hopping debate in her comments section, Meagan’s essay was featured at Simple Mom and Motherlode.
I applaud Meagan for dipping her toe into some potentially shark-filled waters. While many of the comments on her post – and those that followed it at other sites – were supportive of her admission that she employs a housekeeper twice a month for 3-4 hours at a time, others were critical of her. Still others seemed to embody the attitude I have: they have help, but are almost embarrassed to admit it.
Yes. You heard right. My name is Kristen and I employ household help. More specifically, I have a twice monthly cleaning service and – here’s the real kicker – a remarkable mother’s helper who has been with me almost every weekday since I got out of the hospital after Baby Sister was born.
My heart dropped into my stomach a bit just writing those words. And why? Why do I feel like my nine year old self sitting in a confessional, telling my Catholic school priest my sins?
Bless me, readers, for I have sinned. I pay two different women to help me manage my household.
I guess I fear that you’ll think I’m spoiled. Or lazy. Or weak. Maybe you’ll think differently of me now that you know that I am not some Superwoman who can take care of three kids under four years of age by herself. Maybe you’ll make assumptions about my priorities or my short-comings.
Maybe so. But this is who I am and these are the choices that Husband and I have made. And in the interest of fostering an open community here at Motherese, I want you to know me. The parts you might like and relate to. And the parts you might question.
And I confess to you today for two reasons – with thanks to Meagan for helping me see the importance of doing so through the discussion that her post generated:
1. I realize that I, like you, am doing the best that I can. And right now, I need help.
I can’t physically or emotionally do this job by myself while Husband is at work. When we contemplated having another child so soon, I knew I would need a right-hand [wo]man by my side in order to make it work. And we were lucky enough to find a young woman who has become an integral part of our family’s life.
And maybe you think you could do it without help. And maybe you have done it without help. And I applaud you for that.
But this is what I’m doing. This is what works for me and my family.
And maybe you’ll judge me for this admission. Maybe you’ll feel just a twinge of Freudenschade. But I hope you won’t.
After all, does any of us really know what goes on in anyone else’s household? Maybe your partner travels every week and you pull the night shift solo. Maybe you live next door to your parents and have copious free childcare. Maybe you are a single parent. Maybe you have teens and your parenting challenges are far less physical and far more emotional.
We all have circumstances in our lives that make them relatively easy and relatively hard. And I think we are all just doing our best to get through the days as happily and healthily as possible. And this is how I’m doing it.
2. The work that I do as a mother and household manager has real value. And just because we humans don’t pay stay-at-home parents to do their jobs doesn’t mean that families could function without someone doing them.
When Husband and I were calculating the cost of increasing our family size, we thought about the monetary price of hiring people to help do some of the work I normally do solo. We weighed the cost of that short-term help, the benefits it would lend us, and the sacrifices that we would have to make in order to afford it. And we reached a number that we could live with. And when I write checks to the women that help us keep our household functioning, I recognize the monetary value of my own work in our home and how lucky I am not only to be able to afford their help, but also to have a partner in Husband who recognizes our value as well.
What do you think?
Do you have “help” – whether hired, familial, or community-based? For what tasks would you love to hire household help if money were no object?
More importantly, do you still like me? :)