Why I gave in and hired a cleaning lady

I am not the tidiest person you have ever met. I’m not even close to the tidiest. My desk is usually cluttered with papers and my clean laundry usually sits in the hamper for at least a few days before it gets put away. But compared to my stay-at-home husband, I am freaking Martha Stewart. My husband is one of those people whose dirty clothes always seem to end up on the floor next to the laundry hamper. When we were first married, I was working 40 hours a week doing research. During that time (and during med school), I had enough free time to do all the cleaning and about half of the cooking, and still eat and sleep.

Then came internship. I work 80 hours per week and my husband works from home, takes my daughter to preschool, and does the grocery shopping and most other household duties. He is an amazing chef, and he has done almost all of the cooking at our house this year, which I really appreciate. But I just couldn’t keep up with the cleaning. When I got home from work, instead of spending time with my family, I was rushing around to empty the dishwasher and put away the laundry. My weekends off were spent tidying and vacuuming instead of resting and recharging for the weeks to come.

My husband and I were starting to argue. I felt unappreciated – I felt like if I was spending 80 hours a week at work, my husband ought to be able to do all of the housework. My husband tells me that he felt equally unappreciated – he was spending every waking minute chasing a rambunctious toddler, working from home, doing the grocery shopping, paying the bills, cooking, doing most of the laundry, and trying to keep the house from completely collapsing into a pile of rubble. It was a bad situation all around.

Talking to some of my fellow residents, I found out that several of them had hired a cleaning lady to come twice a month. I discussed it with my husband, and then we spent several more months trying to stick it out on our own. We both felt like we “ought to be able to handle this ourselves.” It was an overconfident and short-sighted choice. 

I should point out here that we are not rich. My husband is a disabled veteran and does freelance work from home a few hours a week. Between disability and his work, he brings in about $25k/year. We have a three-year-old in preschool. My medical education was paid for by the Air Force under the Health Professions Scholarship Program, so I have no student loans. We are doing just fine, but we aren’t going on international vacations, eating out regularly, or wearing designer clothes. I’m usually the one who begs off of group happy hour events because it’s not in the budget.

It wasn’t until March that we finally started interviewing. We started with the lady whom the other residents said they hired. It took over a week to schedule a quote. She was two hours late, and then said she couldn’t give us a quote because the house was too messy. Umm… what? She called back a few days later with a quote and made an appointment for the first cleaning. We decided to give her a second chance because my colleagues loved her so much, but she never showed up. She texted me over an hour after the appointment to say she was out of town. Lovely.

Then we went online and found a highly-rated house cleaner (more details on that in my next post). I emailed her for a quote, and she responded within minutes. She came by the next day and gave us a quote, which was cheaper than the first lady. We hired her right away. She comes every two weeks and cleans. We are still responsible for the “tidying” – keeping the floor clear so she can vacuum, and the kitchen uncluttered enough that she can scrub the counters and the stove. She does the rest: vacuuming, mopping, countertops, sinks, showers, dusting, cleaning the stove, wiping baseboards. She even cleans my coffee maker!

It was one of the best choices I have made since starting residency. I am much less stressed, my relationship with my husband is better, and I have time for actual hobbies and activities with my family on my days off. 

The bottom line: if you are having a hard time keeping up with housework, if you do most of the housework now and you are about to start internship, or if you are feeling overwhelmed, seriously consider hiring an occasional house cleaner. I wish I had done it sooner. 


Coming up next: Nuts and bolts of hiring a house cleaner in residency (what does it cost, how often do they come, what do they do vs what do I still do)

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