I didn’t think that our first time hiring professional cleaning services (thanks to LivingSocial) would include a moment in our tiny kitchen with my consoling and nearly hugging M, the cleaning lady sent to us at 9 a.m., as she broke out in tears. I knew this day would come. The state of our kitchen made someone cry. I’ve been close myself.
When she arrived promptly at 9 a.m., I thanked her for her punctuality and offered her a bottle of water. I told her which three-to-four rooms we needed cleaned during the three-hour time slot. I showed her the supplies her boss had asked us to provide. She said she wouldn’t even need the mop we had bought for the occasion since she gets down on her hands and knees for a good old fashioned scrubbing. I was feeling so blessed and grateful to have this timely service before Baby arrives.
She started in the kitchen at 9:05 a.m. Micah and I were reading books and playing in the living room. I had to corral him a few times as he became curious about what was going on in the kitchen. After all, we hadn’t ever had a guest come over solely for the purpose of cleaning for us (unless you count CA Grandma). I noticed that it was 10:40 a.m. and she hadn’t moved onto any other room. I popped my head into the kitchen to say, “Hi, M. Are you going to have enough time to move onto the bathroom and living room soon? I just noticed the time since we only paid for three hours.” She said something about how I should’ve paid for more time because she couldn’t leave it the way it was. I said well, this is just our first time to check out the services and I will call the company owner to ask about paying for additional hour(s).
When I called her boss lady, another M, she said this has never happened in all her years of running this service. That this M was new and a perfectionist but should’ve called her early on to say she was going to need more time. She was a savvy businesswoman as she explained very charmingly in her French(?) accent that this happened because M wanted to do such an excellent job for me. And thank you for being SO understanding, unlike some other clients.
I said that everything was fine and that I understand she probably ended up doing a deep cleaning of the kitchen, rather than the basic cleaning that we paid for. I said I am fine with paying for additional time as long as she can get to the bathroom and living room while she was here. We worked out the fees and all was well…
Until M broke out in tears saying, “I do my best. I cannot leave it undone and now my boss is mad at me. But if I had left it the way it was, you would have complained.” I had even heard her tell her boss that she had moved onto the bathroom when she hadn’t yet. I knew she was scared to be reprimanded or even fired. The sweat on her face was mixing with her fresh, new tears. Then I got verklempt because I could imagine so many other immigrant women having to work such a labor-intensive job just to live, while also fearing the loss of these dirty jobs, their only livelihood.
“Nooo, M, no one’s in any kind of trouble! I just had to pay for additional time. Your boss knows you’ve been working hard, not resting. I told her twice that you’ve just been doing a VERY thorough job in our kitchen. She is not upset. No one is upset. She just wanted you to call her as soon as you noticed that it was going to take longer than what I paid for.” I put my arm around her and patted her on the back. Micah peeks in and starts to play with the debris and cleaning supplies. I tell him, “NO TOUCH!” and he thinks HE’s in trouble so HE starts crying. I am consoling the both of them. Oh, Lawd.
I told her not to worry about the rest of the kitchen. I can do the dishes. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT A THING! No need to put the stepstool away. I can do it later.
After the original three hours, she moves onto the bathroom. When her boss calls me to check in, I make sure to say AGAIN she is doing so well so that M does not fret. I had to pop in to use the bathroom again after checking that she was done. “Sorry I have to pee so much!” She tells me she knows all about that. I ask her how many times she’s gone thru it. Three kids, though one passed away at age four. Okay, now I’m about to cry. I just say, “That must’ve changed you forever.” “Yes, deep shock.” Why I gotta ask about her kids? But that is how I am wired!
After paying double the amount we originally paid, not including the handsome tip I have to give her, after seeing her sweat all morning and through lunch, all with a sprained right ankle. Maybe because it was my first time, but I don’t think I feel comfy with this role of lady of “leisure” (blogging while she cleans and my boy naps) v. The Help. It feels so blatantly classist even though it was a much-needed service at a steal of a price.
I keep offering her more water but she said she is fine. She must be hungry. I sure am. But our kitchen is so spotless that I am afraid to step in. We have half an hour more to go. What a surprising half-day it has been.