The Housekeeper

I did something today that I never thought I’d do:  I hired a housekeeper.

I had recently accepted a freelance writing job, and on top of the part-time teaching job, care and keeping of two normal, healthy little boys, and one severely disabled older boy, things were getting left by the wayside.  The pink mold ring slowly expanding in the toilet bowls was stressing me out.  Dust was accumulating on the constantly rotating fans staving off the blistering Florida summer heat and sending off colonizing dust bunnies.  There was black gunk on the sprayer for the kitchen faucet whose presence offended me.  I was aware of all of these things but unable to do anything about them.  My days were spent attending to infinite needs:  A kindergartener adjusting to the rules and routines of a new school.  A 3-year-old on the cusp of potty training.  An eight-year-old with the developmental equivalency of a 6-month-old demanded my constant vigilance — doctor’s appointments to be kept, therapy schedules to be arranged, in-home nurses to be consulted, battles with the school system about his special education to be fought.  My students’ whiny emails were answered in short bursts during episodes of “Super Why” and writing was pounded out after bedtime.  I was drowning.

I researched professional cleaning companies and sought out references for private housekeepers from friends.  I compared costs and pondered having yet another stranger invade my personal space on a regular basis.  Finally, I settled on two housekeepers who came highly recommended.  I scheduled each to come to my home to survey the wreckage and give me an estimate of their charges.  Suzy was lauded in glowing terms, and Holly was described as “anal and meticulous.”  How could I choose?

Suzy made a brief tour of our living room, family room, and bathrooms, discussed the supplies she would need, and quoted me a price as we made our way to the bedrooms.  When we opened the door to Ethan’s bedroom, she balked.  “Can I clean in there?”  “Of course,” I assured her.  “Just ask the nurse to move him to the other room so that you can vacuum and dust.  His room is pretty tidy — you won’t need to do much.”  She turned from the room, clearly uncomfortable with the prospect.

The next day, I opened the door to Holly, clad in a tube top, with a 3-year-old in tow.  I shook her hand with my traditional returned-missionary-style handshake, and she answered back with a hand that was strong and warm.  She surveyed my home.  I, embarrassedly showing her the grout in my shower, black with mildew, she commiserating on the woes of potty training.  “I won’t lie to you — it’s a big job.”  Her price was higher than Suzy’s quote.  I hesitated as I showed her Ethan’s room, giving her a brief explanation of his condition.  “Hi Ethan!  It’s nice to meet you!”  She knelt at his side, taking his hand in hers and kissing it.  Turning to me she said, “I have a nephew with hydrocephaly and spina bifida,” then turning to Ethan, she asked,”Can I come and clean your room?”  Ethan smiled, groaned his happy groan, his sightless eyes turning in the direction of her voice.

“You’re hired.”

About Andrea R.

(Blog Team) is the proud mother of two living sons, aged 9 and 7, and Ethan, who passed away in early February 2014. She is currently working as a freelance science writer and blogger and will begin a PhD program in Science Education at the University of Central Florida in Fall 2014. When she's not juggling the laundry, her writing work, and the busy lives of her little boys, she likes to squeeze in a triathlon now and then. Also, her husband rocks.

46 thoughts on “The Housekeeper

  1. Who knew that reading an article about a housekeeper would make me cry? Hooray for Holly! And, hooray for you for getting a housekeeper. I’ve considered it and I have nowhere near your level of obligations. :)

  2. I hope it goes well, Girl. I have a small tear in my eye for Holly’s handling of Ethan. When she gets a chance, have her swing by my place in Toledo. love you.

  3. Very proud of you my dear! I loved that story and I LOVE that you made a choice that makes your life easier! :) Good for you for delegating ;) and Hooray for Holly and her acceptance

  4. Thanks everyone for your kind comments. It wasn’t my intent to make everyone cry today — I just wanted to share a little moment of grace.

  5. Beautiful! Whate’er thou art, act well thy part.

    You’re lucky to find someone with understanding & compassion.

    I needed a housekeeper when I was pregnant with my fifth. It is good!

    Hope all goes well.

    Thanks for sharing the reminder that loving others is what it’s all about.

  6. E has, I’m sure, many varied and beautiful gifts but I would guess maybe the best is his ability to weed out the ‘wheat from the tares.’ Loved this story.

  7. Way to go, Andrea! First, I’m glad you found the right one, but even if you had picked the other, I’d still be thrilled for you. A Mom’s most important job is her kids, not her toilets. We had a housekeeper growing up–every Monday evening our house sparkled a little. I think you made a great decision.

  8. Andrea – very touching (with a delightfully unexpected turn). The choice was obvious. You made the right one. So happy you found someone who knows how to love as well as they clean!

  9. Andrea, thanks for helping us understand how much it means to have emotional as well as practical support when you’re parenting a disabled child. One of my favorite aspects of this piece is how the tube-topped woman with the toddler in tow is the hero.

  10. As I’ve been thinking about this experience and your comments, especially Kathy’s and Maralise’s, I’ve realized that the people in my life are divided into two groups: those who “get it” when it comes to Ethan and those who don’t. For those who do, I know I have an understanding heart and a soft shoulder to cry on if I need it. For those who don’t, I still think they’re lovely people, but I find that I don’t let them in as close. Sometimes the emotional support is much more necessary than the practical support.

    Thanks again to everyone for reading and sharing.

  11. “One of my favorite aspects of this piece is how the tube-topped woman with the toddler in tow is the hero.”

    “E has, I’m sure, many varied and beautiful gifts but I would guess maybe the best is his ability to weed out the ‘wheat from the tares.’”

    Amen and amen.

  12. Loved this, Andrea. I, too, was surprised by where the post went. I thought we’d be discussing whether to hire out housecleaning. But your story was so much more than that. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Enjoy having your cleaner. She sounds fab. I miss having one. I had a cleaner for a few months after each baby, she honestly saved my sanity.

  14. Oh, precious and darling. Angela…. what a magnificent posting, and what a treasure to add to your household. How magnificent it is that Heavenly Father helps us find what… and who we need specific to our needs, to prevent us from drowing.

    Note to self… email Angela and ask how she even went about starting to find a housekeeper. As I start IV antibiotics for Lyme this month, I might need one myself…. realistically, my house already needs one, I just pretend that I can do sufficient, but I know my housekeeping is insufficient. Didn’t used to be, but definitely is now…

  15. Thanks for the warm chills. Sometimes pure hearts are wrapped in tube tops. What a powerful lesson and reminder. Thank you!

  16. “Sometimes pure hearts are wrapped in tube tops.”

    Yes!

    I think you’re responsible for a lot of smudged mascara with this post, Andrea. Beautiful.

  17. You know, I fear a little that I might have responded more like the first housekeeper. I have not been around disabled people very much and might have found myself at a loss for how to respond. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have been cold or rude, but I doubt I’d have the comfort level and ease of Holly. It’s one more reminder for me to be grateful for every difficult thing because it truly enlarges your capacity to be empathetic and loving. I wish I had the opportunity to be around someone like E so I could learn.

    Hugs to you, Andrea. I’m so happy you found such a great housekeeper.

  18. Melissa Y — before I had a disabled child, I would have reacted the same way. I had no idea what to do, how to act, or what to think. I think it’s normal — if you haven’t had experience with anyone who is disabled, you’re kind of at a loss. I have learned a lot over the past 8 years, and I am so willing to help anyone that feels uncomfortable — come to my house, meet my son, and sit down and chat. I’ll tell you all about him, his life, and our life, and next time it will be easier.

  19. I wish I could! :) But just knowing you, even from a distance, and reading what you have written about your experiences has helped me understand at least a little. Thanks for that gift.

  20. Now that I’ve lost all of my 8 helping hands, I’m ever so grateful for the darling teenage girls that live across the street. They just have to keep very quiet about all my BAD housekeeping habits :)

    Kristin

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