Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Danger! Ethical minefield ahead! Again.

Sometimes things happen that make me feel weird about myself.

If you’ve been paying any sort of attention, you’ll know (from the forty-three references that I’ve made to it) that we’ve recently moved house. Our house is beautiful. We love our house. We’ve even sort of got used to the thumpy neighbours, in that we only spend two or three evenings a week idly discussing our favourite ways to bump them off without getting caught/damaging their property (and ours, via the party wall) in the process. We have a small but perfectly adequate garden. The location is good, on a sunny plot, in a nice area. So, you’d think I could just be grateful with what I have. Well. You’d think that, but this is me, after all. Miserable, ungrateful me. And, it seems, unbearably middle-class me.

What we don’t love about our house is the time it takes to clean it*.

You know what? Before I even write any further, let me just make it clear that I know exactly how that makes me sound. It makes me sound petulant, spoiled and the sort of person who would quite happily sit eating expensive chocolates while an exploited eastern European skivvies on my behalf, thus freeing up more time for me to have my nails painted and bitch about whatever friends I’m not currently sitting around bitching with. Well, I’m not that person at all.

What I am (for “I am” read “we are”) is Busy. I work full-time. So does the Other Half. This means getting up at six thirty every weekday morning to get Small Person to school/Breakfast Club, and arriving home at around six every night after picking her up from the childminder. The exceptions to this are Wednesday night (when I have to bring her home, give her a bath because she spends the following three nights with her father and he appears to have forgotten where the bathroom is in his house, and take her over to his parents’ house because although he protests that he “doesn’t see enough” of Small Person, he routinely goes out every Wednesday and she sleeps there), Thursday (grocery shopping) and Friday (by which time we feel we’ve earned an early curry and a few drinks). In between all this, Other Half has two evening football sessions, and Small Person has spellings, general homework and an additional project to work on, all of which require parental supervision. There is laundry to do, dinner to cook, dishwasher to load/empty, more laundry and do you know what? This whole paragraph just makes me sound even worse, doesn’t it? Whine, whine, whine.

The bottom line (and the bit I struggle with) is this. We feel that we work hard enough during the week. We have a fairly large house. It has two-and-a-half bathrooms, three and a half bedrooms , grillions of stairs and a lot of stainless steel things in the kitchen**. We both resent spending so much time at the weekend, when Small Person is away, doing nothing but cleaning. We know that we are lucky to have time to ourselves – please bear in mind, however, that my feelings of good fortune are tempered by the fact that I have to spend one day of the weekend, albeit with the man I love, bereft of the company of my precious Small Person. Being up to my elbow in any one of our three toilets just tends to make me feel worse***.

So we’ve employed a cleaner. Well, two cleaners actually (but that wasn’t our idea, honest). To do what we are perfectly capable of doing ourselves.

I am trying to understand why this makes me feel guilty. We are using a reputable agency which is as committed to safeguarding the rights and reputations of their staff as it is to promising us a reliable, honest service. We can (just about) afford to pay a rate that ensures that whoever comes to clean our house is doing so for a fair wage. We work hard, and are fully entitled to utilise a service that lets us maximise the time we do have spare. I thought I would be worried about a stranger being in my house and rifling through my knicker drawer/eating all the hobnobs/hooting with derision at all the Jackie Collins books in the study. Instead, I’m more worried about what people will think of me, and am doomed to become the sort of person who cleans the house because the cleaner’s coming tomorrow.

Stupid conscience.

* Disclaimer: I will not be entering into any sort of actual moral discussion regarding the ethical rights and wrongs of employing someone to undertake a task that I am capable of completing myself. I am not making any assumptions/offering any generalisations regarding the potential gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or lifestyle choice of any prospective person who may or may not undertake to clean my private residence. Seriously, if you want to get into all that, please go somewhere else and do it – this is not your platform. I’m just thinking out loud on this blog, not seeking approbation/condemnation from anyone who feels moved to comment. Hell, nobody’s saying you can’t agree or disagree with me, and I’ll defend your right to do so. But I’m shallow, you see, and lazy, and at this stage I’m more worried about whether a cleaner will tell his/her friends that my towels are shabby and mismatched, and whether I am indeed turning into my mother. See? Shallow.

** Yes, it has a living room as well. I just became aware that I was just listing rooms. And now I’m making it worse. Bugger.

*** See?! See how I attempted to justify myself there by making out that cleaning toilets makes me feel worse about not seeing my daughter/ruining her life****? Talk about your avoidance of responsibility.

**** Can anyone recommend some sort of therapy to help me just, I don’t know, get over all this already? Even I’m bored now.


Anonymous Whinger chimed in with...

Partner and I have no small person.

We employ a housecleaner. Refuse the guilt. It will go away about the fourth time you come home to a beautiful house.

02 May, 2006 20:09  
Anonymous Stu Savory chimed in with...

Tried hedonism?

02 May, 2006 20:16  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

as in the club where people do it with other people and still more people watch?


that isn't what you meant, is it?

02 May, 2006 20:17  
Blogger Kellycat chimed in with...

So we're not to refer to them as Rosario and Consuela any more then?

02 May, 2006 20:22  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

not while the serious people are watching....

02 May, 2006 20:33  
Blogger Inexplicable DeVice chimed in with...

Yay for cleaners and Fart to anyone who disagrees. It's a job isn't it? They get paid, you get a clean house and precious time with lovely OH. Everyone's happy! Yay, again : )

02 May, 2006 20:39  
Blogger belladona chimed in with...

Exactly. I live alone and have no small person and if I could afford a cleaner I would get one. Where's the harm? Someone gets gainful employment, you get to not clean the toilet. Wahey!

02 May, 2006 21:01  
Blogger the Beep chimed in with...

I yearn for a cleaner. I lust after a cleaner. I'm desperate for a cleaner. Someone please find me the income to have cleaner. I am so envious.

Anyway, enough about me.

On the plus side it gives you more time for blogging, and they earn a crust. So we all win all round. Hooray for cleaners.

02 May, 2006 21:17  
Blogger rockmother chimed in with...

Two and a half bathrooms - you are so lucky! I'm glad you've posted about this as I have been thinking about employing 'help' in the cleaner dept for a while. I visited friends in Thailand recently and couldn't believe how CLEAN their house was. And they had two ladies that dropped off beautifully ironed clothes each night, and a driver and...anyway - it got me thinking. I've got over my sulky I'll still pretend I'm a really cool incredibly hard-working mother who wastes valuable time cleaning when someone else who needs money could do it - and I won't even give them that much to do because of course I'll clean (but not as well as them) before they arrive! Good on ya I say. Ah cleaners - more peopel have them than you think you know. Oh my goodness - my word verification is hialp - that's almost help - it's a sign!

02 May, 2006 21:19  
Blogger GreatSheElephant chimed in with...

stop feeling guilty and just enjoy the cleanliness. I used to be married to someone who disagreed morally with employing a cleaner and it was a total pain in the butt. Actually, he was a total pain in the butt.

02 May, 2006 22:03  
Blogger othur-me chimed in with...

I have employed a cleaner for 4 years now. The best advice I can give you is RESIST RESIST RESIST the urge to clean before they get there. The urge will be great, but you'll find you spend more time cleaning than you did before you hired them, and doing it during hours you didn't plan on, and then putting off other things you HAD to do to get it done. Be shallow, let them clean, pay them and find ways to spend that extra time with the people you love in you live (then you won't feel as shallow).

02 May, 2006 22:35  
Blogger garfer chimed in with...

I have a butler called Desmond.

He ensures that I have no contact whatsoever with my menial employees (working class scrubbers the lot of 'em).

I like it that way. It's so hard to get the staff these days.

02 May, 2006 23:02  
Blogger frangelita chimed in with...

Wow, you sure can whinge. I wish I had a cleaner. I live in a ground-floor one-bedroom flat. And I'm still sick of cleaning.

02 May, 2006 23:17  
Blogger Arabella chimed in with...

That surprises me Garfer. I pictured you with a capable and matronly housekeeper called Janet McTaggit.

03 May, 2006 01:27  
Blogger mig bardsley chimed in with...

It's all been said.
Cleaners are great. And good. And wonderful. And we all deserve one.
Oh I wish I had one. two. An army of them.

03 May, 2006 02:44  
Anonymous Other Half chimed in with...

I have no guilt whatsoever about us employing a cleaning firm. We work hard and if we choose to spend some extra cash to release us from the hell of deomstic drudgery so the 3 of us can make better use of our free time then, to me, that is a sound investment.

I will also not allow SG to clean before the cleaners arrive. We will of course tidy a little as all obssessive compulsives would do but to deprive well paid cleaners of their work would be very wrong !!!

03 May, 2006 08:40  
Blogger Sherbert chimed in with...

Stop whining and then justifying Surly - it's perfectly OK to employ a cleaner.

03 May, 2006 09:22  
Blogger Donna chimed in with...

"**** Can anyone recommend some sort of therapy to help me just, I don’t know, get over all this already?"

I have a club (well, actually I don't, but I could get one and come and beat you - thus avoiding doing my cleaning and OU for another weekend).

03 May, 2006 09:32  
Blogger rockmother chimed in with...

Isn't that called domestic violence! :-)

03 May, 2006 10:41  
Blogger Perry Neeham chimed in with...

I don't come close to understanding why guilt should be stirred by giving someone some cash in return for them cleaning Surly Towers.

Don't be wet! They presumabley need the sponds, you want your shag pile hoovered: win, win.

03 May, 2006 11:10  
Blogger crisiswhatcrisis chimed in with...

Stop worrying. Just lift your feet up for the hoover and let them make as much tea as they want and that's all that's required from you. Guilt isn't.

And while you're at it, give your ex a slap of the week from me. He sounds like an arse. Using his SP nights going out so you have to take her to his parents'? For fuck's sake. It sounds like co-producing the SP is the only worthwhile thing he's done. Prat.

Oooh, I'm going all curmudgeonly now I'm old.

03 May, 2006 11:58  
Blogger Betty chimed in with...

I can't see any bad ethics argument provided someone is paid the going rate and is treated with respect.

Anyway, if I had the money I'd willingly pay someone to do stuff because I'm a complete slob ... a cleaner ... a gardener ... a handyman ...

Don't know of any agencies that just have tasty Frenchmen on their books do you?

03 May, 2006 12:31  
Blogger spindleshanks chimed in with...

cleaners are the best thing in the world. ever. the guilt will pass. try counting the months since you picked up a toilet brush - that'll help.

03 May, 2006 14:58  
Blogger Urban Chick chimed in with...

good lord, coudn't even wait to read the other 23 comments before i said:

get OVER yourself!

you're giving someone employment and your 'free' time is precious

ENJOY for christ's sake!

03 May, 2006 16:40  
Blogger claire chimed in with...

Ugh.. i WISH i could afford a cleaner. I also wish i wasn't embarrassed over the state of my house to let a cleaner in it to make it ok for other people to enter. It is a vicious cycle.

Surly - you're just being overly sensitive to the working-class population. Just eat your bon-bons and don't let them use the vaccuum when your programs are on the TV. :)

03 May, 2006 16:54  
Blogger First Nations chimed in with...

problem solved.
I used to be the person you hired. Just as long as you are not inconsiderate-and that means being spitefully filthy the day before the cleaner comes just for the sake of having someone else clean it up after you...and as long as you engage in no obvious,foul-evidence-leaving sexual practices, then you have nothing whatsoever to worry about. We know that everyone has the occasional splatty poo. now, leave a shitty diaper clinging to the wall in the front room, and thats another story entirely. (and a true one.)

03 May, 2006 17:35  
Blogger Jemima chimed in with...

I did a spot of cleaning for money in my youth. It was fun, not exploitative, much better than doing your own. I'm hopeless at mine, but I was a fantastic 'woman'.

I couldn't be arsed to examine the diary/knicker drawer. Mostly I serviced my relatives though, so discovering secrets might not have been so pleasant for me.

You're putting money back into the economy to keep our country afloat, hold your head high and proclaim your good deeds with pride.

03 May, 2006 18:15  
Blogger funny thing chimed in with...

Cleaning someone else's house is so much easier than cleaning your own. I bet they love it.

In fact...
... why don't you nip over and clean theirs, while they clean yours?

It'd be polite, and we like polite, don't we, sg?

03 May, 2006 18:23  
Blogger Wyndham chimed in with...

Having a cleaner is perfectly fine and dandy. As long as, and this is important, you don't beat them to within an inch of their life for missing a spot above the hob. We got into trouble for the authorities for doing that so I wouldn't advise it.

03 May, 2006 19:16  
Blogger The Boy chimed in with...

LL and I have three small persons and we both work 50-60 hour weeks. We have a cleaner, its a necessity. I do sometimes feel the guilt, but then our cleaner's been working with us for 8 years, she's a single mum and she stays off the dole by working for us and the local school.

As First Nations said, we try hard to make sure the house is tidy before and kept that way after she comes and make sure she feels a part of the family. It works for us.

03 May, 2006 19:26  
Blogger Kyahgirl chimed in with...

I'm kind of pissed off at you for being so clever. I don't have a cleaner. what is wrong with ME?

03 May, 2006 19:26  
Blogger DavetheF chimed in with...

You both have jobs already, why would you want to take away their jobs? They want to work for you to earn a crust. Guilt is so middleclass.

I have a char and a gardener (once a week) and they wouldn't like me sacking them in a fit of remorse.

03 May, 2006 19:44  
Blogger DavetheF chimed in with...

In the course of reading an a very dirty article about where to look out for germs today, I learnt from a germ scientist that the filthiest germy places are desks, keyboards, sinks and washbasins and that clean laundry is very dirty. The average pair of dirty underpants contains about one-tenth of a gram of faeces, says scientist, so don't put them in the washing machine with your sheets, eh?

03 May, 2006 19:49  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

eeuw! thanks, davethef. now i feel sick..

and first nations? tell! tell! tell! tell!

and the rest of you? i hear you. i feel better now.

03 May, 2006 20:25  
Blogger Annie Rhiannon chimed in with...

I spent my childhood presuming that it was rich, spoilt people who got cleaners. Then one day after I had grown up and left the nest, my parents got one. "Why?!" I exclaimed. "Because we don't want to do it anymore", they said.

Fair enough. Don't worry about it.

04 May, 2006 10:25  
Blogger Fisigirl chimed in with...

I wouldn't worry about it. If you are paying a fair wage and you treat your cleaner with respect and like a human being (rather than like a machine) then you have nothing to feel guilty about.

My Mum is a cleaner. Does it show?! :)

05 May, 2006 10:22  

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