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No More Maid
Mom with a View

No More Maid

I scandalized my children and let go of the housekeeper. It wasn't easy.


"My maid's name is Rosa." "Mine is Esperanza." "Ours is Maria."

I listen to the kids in carpool rattling off the names of their household help and comparing their various attributes. "Do you know who our maid is?" I want to ask (but I keep my mouth shut since every word I speak is an embarrassment to my children). "It's me."

I can imagine the shocked silence that would follow. A house without a maid? Even adults pause mid-conversation. Here in the land of illegal immigration?

Yes, it's true.

We do our own dishes, make our own beds, wash our own laundry and mop our own floors. (I don't want to discuss the bathrooms). And we are very alone in this experience.

True confessions. It wasn't always so. From the birth of my eighth child until eight months ago, I had regular help. I didn't even think I was spoiled; I categorized it as a need, not a luxury. And so did my children who I would have been busy screaming at to pick up their stuff...

And it was actually traumatic to let go. But I knew the time had come. Although I was growing resentful of her cavalier attitude and tasks left undone, mostly I wanted my house back. I needed some space, some privacy (and the extra money).

So I scandalized my children and all their friends (if they can even talk about it in public) by letting go of the housekeeper. It wasn't easy. And we all work a lot harder now. In fact, there is literally never a moment's rest because there is always something to be done and no one to leave it for. I'm tired (I know I'm getting no sympathy from those of you who have always had to do it all yourselves!).

I know it sounds spoiled to even talk about it. Household help is a luxury that I was privileged to enjoy for many years. But in Southern California, it is a relatively cheap one.

Despite the grumbling, everyone has a sense of ownership, not entitlement.

Yet we have all grown from the experience of having to do it on our own. Not because it takes great brain power or imagination (as they say "It's not rocket science"), not because I believe you need to train children in household chores (they can figure it out pretty easily once they're on their own), but because, despite the grumbling, everyone is working together. Everyone has a sense of ownership, not entitlement.

Last week I overheard one of my daughters mention how glad she was that she got out early on Friday so she would have more time to clean the house before Shabbos! (If I mentioned her name, she would never speak to me again.)

I'm actually proud of the way everyone has stepped up to the task; I have my own little cadre of (well-treated) Cinderellas. And everyone takes pleasure in the fruits of our efforts. The clean house for Shabbos means more to us.

Some days (okay, frequently), I miss the help -- especially when peeling all the potatoes for the latkes (each girl had to do ten), polishing the silver (assigned to the guys) and all that Pesach cleaning -- but most of the time I am appreciative of the privacy, and grateful that I have the energy to do it myself. And even more appreciative of the support and help from my kids.

I am out of step with my society -- but not for the first time. Although I've lived in this house for 19 years, I am only now starting to feel like it is truly mine (except for the part that belongs to the bank!). I am only beginning to taste real ownership. As are my kids. And amidst my bleary-eyed exhaustion, I like it.

Which reminds me -- the dryer is full and there's laundry to fold. And all my little helpers are at school...

May 9, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 31

(31) Miriam, May 21, 2009 8:42 PM

I'm all for help

B"H I'm happy when we're able to have help at home, first because it's a Mitzvah to give a job to another person and second because time it's important. And I try to do what I do best, which is not cleaning. But when I need to clean I do it with joy and as many of you have said I work with music - try Jukebox Radio Israel National News - in your computer... Shabbat Shalom

(30) Aliza Hausman, May 17, 2009 10:18 PM

Illegal Immigration?

I hope I am misreading this. "In the land of illegal immigration?" Comments like these lead the stupid and clueless to assume that all Latinos, especially all CHEAP Latino maids are illegal immigrants. I think that line was grossly inappropriate.

(29) Annette, May 16, 2009 9:21 PM

ours were Maria & Maria!

in fact they were affectionately called 'the fat Maria & the skinny Maria' - in Spanish it does not sound so offensive, they were wonderful women, worked for my Mum for many years, fat Maria cleaned house & did laundry and I was her favourite, had been widowed twice and needed the money to feed her 9 kids, skinny Maria cared for my baby sister and looked after the kitchen, shopping and had a budget! unusual for a maid, had a husband and never concieved. My parents were in a near fatal accident when I was 6, my mum bedridden for the first year and Marina nursed her, my mum & I never bonded much (I am the 6th child) and so these women became 'my most influential women' - HaShem had a plan for me through these women, lessons to learn such as happiness wasn't having the cleanest house or the money to pay for it, both Marias' had many woes in their personal lives, but they were overcomers and happy and lived with deep gratitude, fat Maria left us for some time and Marina the nurse took me under her wing, they had many more wonderful attributes to go into for this comment section. My parents loved these women, and most of us 7 loved our maids! yes, that too was very unusual, and the people in our town (of non jews) knew we were different. No one was welcome to stay if they offended our maids. These women should live and be well. When in a position to give others tzedakah through employment it's good to remember that it is given to us to benefit the impoverished, as we learn in this week's parsha. It's not about us!! Memories of how many ways these women cared for themselves and their families are good experiences I shared with my kids, keep me humbled when I feel sorry for myself, and remind me of just how much I have to be grateful for... Thank G-d for righteous women. So if you're going to hire and find a good one, build a relationship first, and be a good employer. People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Think of Abraham & Sarah and how they performed outreach/kiruv! and people so desperately wanted to be with them for generations!

(28) Anonymous, May 14, 2009 5:02 PM

I am someone who does not have help in the home. I have just started having the children make their lunches. They help erev Shabbos and with other chores per need (dinner prep, setting the table Shabbos prep etc.) I find that one way to make things easier is to have the children take about 5 minutes a day to "straighten" their rooms so that they do not have to "clean" their rooms and they see the reasoning behind this. Same goes for me. If I see something small-even as small as a dolls shoe and the kids are around or I am able,they or I bring it to it's place immediately and that way I am preventing myself from "cleaning" and only straightening. There are many strategies to help. Do I still have laundry? Yup! Do I stll have to mop the floors? Yup! You bet, yet if I can cut corners, well then I have cut down on the workload.

(27) Cathy, May 14, 2009 1:23 PM

Having maids can spoil children

My mom grew up in a house with maids doing everything. She didn't learn how to keep a house clean or cook and it caused a lot of unhappiness in my parent's marriage and they eventually divorced. I thank G-d everyday that my neatnik father took the time to teach me how to clean and keep things from getting dirty in the first place. I learned to cook from cookbooks. As exhausting as it may be, I decided not to hire help while my children are still in the home. I want them to see ME doing our housework and they have to do it, too. There is no way you can appreciate the effort and care involved if you don't do it yourself. I am a "professional" woman - whatever that means, but cleaning and cooking for my family gives me more satisfaction than any of the business deals I get involved with. But when I am old and tired, I will hopefully be in a position to pay someone to help me.

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