Friday, October 4, 2013

Hired Help

I’m glad my last post reflected my deep and abiding love for my daughter, because today I’m going to tell you about how mean I am to her. First, let me offer a bit of context.

I am not a great housekeeper.  I do not like to clean house, and I am not naturally good at it.  Those of you who are good at housekeeping will not understand what I’m talking about.  “Naturally good?” you’ll wonder, “you just clean up and keep it clean.  What’s to be good at?”  But those of you who work hard at it and still have a messy house will relate.  Some people really are naturally good housekeepers and some of us are not. 

Where I live, many families, if not most families, hire help cleaning their homes.  The frequency varies, but almost everyone I know has a cleaning service to tend their homes at least twice a month.  This is a luxury my family cannot afford.  We are getting by in an affluent community on a college professor’s salary.  I have to clean my own home. 

A few months ago, I decided to hire help in spite of our limited budget.  I persuaded Juliet to clean the downstairs bathroom every Saturday for a paltry sum.  She was eager to line her wallet, and I was eager to unload one task.  The arrangement worked well for us.  The bathroom sparkles!  I especially appreciated her desire to maintain the work during the week, and I was amused by her exasperation with family members who spoil her work.  She spoke the very words I so often have said myself.

I have one complaint about her work.  She does it too late in the day.  I have asked her to complete the task before lunch.  I don’t want her to put it off and find that the day is gone before she gets to it. 

Here’s where I turn into a meanie.  This past Saturday, I reminded her that I wanted the bathroom cleaned before 11:30.  I explained that we had plans all afternoon, and that all our household chores had to be finished in the morning.  This was especially important, because it was Caroline’s birthday and we had company coming for dinner.  She insisted that she would get to it.  I didn’t want to nag her, but I wanted to let her know what was at stake.  “Juliet, if you do not perform a task according to your employer’s instructions, you get fired.  You lose future opportunities to earn money.”  She again said she would get to it. 

When 11:30 rolled around, I sighed and began cleaning the bathroom myself.  I was on the floor cleaning the tile when Juliet passed by.  “I would have done that for you.  You don’t have to do it.” 
I reminded her of my earlier warnings.  “It’s too late.  You’re fired, honey.”  She began to cry and hurled excuses at me:
  •      I didn’t think you were serious.
  •      I was busy.
  •      I couldn’t see the clock from where I was sitting.
  •      You didn’t remind me.

“I don’t want to be fired forever,” she cried, “I like cleaning the bathroom!  I like earning money!”

“And I like having your help, but I need reliable help, Juliet.  I need someone who will do the job the way I ask her to do it.”

So I lost my cleaning lady. 

Over the coming weeks, I will give Juliet opportunities to show me that I can count on her to be responsible and to live up to her obligations.  I really hope that I can re-hire her on a permanent basis. 

My house needs her.

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