I have a goodly amount of shame around employing a house cleaner.
For Goddess’ sakes, I used to clean houses for other people, AND keep my own house clean. Over the space of about 15 years, I worked for the City of Monash and sometimes was the first cleaner into a house in five years(waiting lists, or no one caring enough to alert the Council that someone could not clean for themselves, and yes, this includes visiting family members who could have easily given the kitchen a wipe down, or the toilet, or at least phoned Human Services, for fucks’ sakes). I saw some sights. One bedridden lady had what I thought was a black toilet. I cleaned. It took three hours, and two containers of bleach, but turned out the toilet was white. She had four adult daughters who visited. Did they use the black toilet? Did they go in the yard? I’ll never know.
Two years before I quit cleaning, around age 41, my body started breaking down. I hurt all the time. Nothing I ate seemed to gee me up again. I got sleep. Good Goddess, I FELL into bed most nights, because I was also teaching belly dance most evenings at neighbourhood houses. I was managing teenage children(with disabilities) and attempting to have a relationship(with a with-holding, near paranoid man). I got through with willpower.
Kelp supplements helped for a little while, then didn’t. Ditto spirulina, and more expensive mult-vitamin, and iron tablets never seemed to make much difference. Twice, I had an iron infusion at a hospital, but that only made me more exhausted. My brain my was fuzzy, and if I look back on my old book-keeping records (I was self-employed as a dance teacher, and part-time palmistry tutor), I can see where I started forgetting work I’d done, forgetting to send invoices. My writing is more cramped, less legible.
Come age 46, I had leaky gut syndrome, and slid into fibromyalgia. Acupuncture, and naturopathy kept it at bay, but there were a few really painful lost years there. Finally, the housework wasn’t getting done, and I was exhausted all the time. I couldn’t think straight, and would simply look at mess and dirt, and wander away again.
Time for a house cleaner. I’d remarried, and my husband said we could afford it. Cue a huge guilt complex. I felt, and feel sure everyone is judging me for having a cleaner.
“Oh, nice to be some people.” “How lovely to be that rich.” “But you used to do it for others.” “Lady of leisure.”
As if Lady of Leisure was something to be ashamed of! I am, though. I don’t have to work, like most of my friends. I’m not in the middle of raising children any more. I can pretty much choose my life. And then Annie arrives on Thursdays to clean. I sit on the couch, answering emails, or writing, or writing penpal letters. I get to sit in sunshine, and read. All while the house gets cleaned.
During lockdown, we’ve returned to doing our own housework. I can do it, but it’s still tiring for me. I’m 56, not 76, and I know that if I put down my laptop, put the memoir away for two hours each day, I wouldn’t need a cleaner.
But I tell you what, I’m going to ignore my fear, and welcome Annie back as soon as she’s allowed to come clean.
It’s really hard for me to see myself as hosting illness – fibroymyalgia, which may have been an underactive thyroid all along, and is now Hashimoto’s Dysfunction. I still get tired easily, but I tend to forget that when I’m bulling my way through the bathroom, ensuite, or powder room, or hanging three baskets of laundry, and giving the kitchen a huge scrub. At the time, I’m okay, and then I find I’m useless for the rest of the day.
So goes it. I don’t want to own my ‘disease’ but for now, I have to function within its confines, and that means a cleaner. Yes, I’m lucky to afford one. If it means lugging around some guilt, so be it. Annie, I love you. Thankyou.