What is it about domestication that makes us put such a heavy burden on ourselves? Why, as a woman, do I feel the need to work 50 hours a week, cook healthy meals, keep a spotless house, work out regularly, always be dressed to impress, attend all the social functions, give the best gifts, be the best friend, mom, wife, daughter, granddaughter, and neighbor, throw the best parties, and take the best pictures of my kid? Essentially, why do we always feel like we have to “do it all” only to realize that “doing it all” is impossible? Or rather, doing it all WELL is impossible.
You’ve heard the old adage, “it takes a village” when it comes to raising a child, right? I’m not sure I ever really believed that, but the point is that in order to raise a family, one needs help. And I’m not just talking about a husband who happens to get his dirty socks IN the laundry basket instead of next to it 75% of the time. I’m talking REAL help.
At work, it’s my job to work as efficiently as possible without sacrificing quality. I approach my home in the same manner. So much so, that I end up dropping a ball because I’ve got too many in the air. I’ll try to do laundry while cooking dinner and end up letting the water boil all over the stove, therefore creating another mess that will need cleaning later. And no matter how hard I try, I cannot fit working out into my current schedule without sacrificing quality time with my family. Or quality sleep for my sanity.
A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to one of those meal prep places. As someone who fails miserably at meal planning and hates to cook or grocery shop, this has been a huge time saver for our family. Yes, I still have to go to the grocery store. And yes I still technically have to cook. But it’s so easy to just toss something in the oven and steam some veggies or microwave a baked potato and still feel like you’re eating a quality, home-cooked meal where you know every ingredient that went into it without any added preservatives. It’s worth the hour and a half each month to prep roughly two weeks worth of dinners and the cost is probably about the same if you were to purchase all the same ingredients on your own. Could we eat more cheaply? Sure. McDonald’s every night for dinner would be cheaper. But that’s what I mean about quality, home-cooked meals.
I still have a few things to work on diet-wise, but for the most part, I feel like we’re in a good zone as far as dinners go and how much time we spend on cooking/grocery shopping.
Then came the house. Some of the biggest fights in our marriage have stemmed from the “who does more” argument over household chores. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but it drives me absolutely bonkers to have a cluttered or dirty house. I once took a spontaneous vacation day from work to clean the bathroom because I just couldn’t take it anymore. And now that D is crawling, I’m even more aware of how dirty our floors get after just a couple of days, thanks in part to our giant, shedding dog and my husband’s incessant need to always be wearing shoes. And it would be easy if we could just run a vacuum every day, but when you live in a tri-level home with carpet, wood, and tile floors scattered throughout, it’s not that easy. It takes us at least an hour to do a quick sweep/vacuum of our entire house. Not including the mopping. So 2 hours total. Add on wiping down the two bathrooms, the kitchen, and all of the dusting and it’s an easy 4-6 hour job to tidy up the whole house. Not including all the laundry, mail sorting, and errand running. So basically, every weekend was dedicated to household things. Or rather, every weekend SHOULD be dedicated to that stuff but we’d rather do things like go to the park or hang out with friends and so that stuff just fell by the wayside until I’d have a freak out moment from all the dirt and clutter and spend an entire weekend trying to catch up only to end up collapsing in a heap of exhaustion after a few hours.
And you guys, that got REALLY old REALLY fast.
I thought about paying for a cleaning lady to help with my mess of a house, but it always seemed too…privileged. My grandma was a cleaning lady. Two of my aunts were cleaning ladies. WE did not hire cleaning ladies. My family WERE the cleaning ladies. Cleaning ladies were for people with money to burn, not people like me who drives an 8 yr old Hyundai with dents in the door.
Then a couple of years ago, my best friend started employing a cleaning lady once every 3 weeks and they don’t even have kids. She’s not rich or overly privileged and it started to change my perception a little. She NEVER complained about housework; only laundry. And I can handle laundry.
So last week we made the decision to start working smarter, not harder, and starting today, we’re employing a cleaning service twice a month. And if unforeseen expenses come up and we need to cut budgets, we can always cancel it. But after weighing the pros (time saved I can spend with my family; less daily stress; fewer arguments with my husband; healthier living for all of us) versus the cons (cost), the choice was pretty simple and I’m only mad at myself for not swallowing my pride sooner and learning that it’s okay to ask for help sometimes.
Coincidentally, as I was coming to terms with all of this in my head, I read this post over on Design Mom about “Hiring Help” and the comments made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about my choices and less like an over-privileged woman who shirks her household responsibilities. Why is there such a stigma with hiring help? Why is it so hard to even admit to you guys that I’m hiring help? I don’t know, but I wish it wasn’t.
So meal prep places and cleaning services are my two not-so-secret secrets in my quest to “do it all”. What’s yours?