It’s Not You, It’s Me.


We fired our cleaning ladies this morning. It’s a little heartbreaking because we’ve had them for years.

The urge to do it wasn’t an urge at all, but a slowly moving snowball rolling down a 30˚ slope toward my face. I am at the bottom of the hill, lying in a pile of my own havoc and the havoc foisted upon me by my three wonderful and active boys, two dogs, busier than bananas husband and newly busy self.

It’s probably The Worst Time of The Year for me to do this, to let them go. Halloween candy wrappers everywhere. Dog hair is at an all-time high although I’m not sure why because don’t golden retrievers keep their hair in the fall? Tree leaves and those little sharp-as-frack seed pods from the tulip poplars are all over my front walk-up, they look like confetti in my front hall, and in other places they have assembled in neat little piles beneath my dusty furniture. They’re insulated by the dog hair; perhaps they will all commingle and create a small yet dense forest beneath the bench near the umbrella stand crammed into a darkened corner.

I can feel it in my gut: letting the Cleaning Ladies Go is The Wrongest Idea Ever.

The thing is: it’s me. I can’t do it all. I turn into a VIPER FROM HELL the day before they cleaning ladies come. I’ve written about it and I’ve also suppressed the hell out of my emotions regarding this situation.

“Three boy,” one says in her broken English. She’s a lovely person. “That mean hard works for ju. Ees a lawt.” Part of me realizes this is an affirmation on their part that I NEED them. That I can’t exist without them.

I can exist without them. I just won’t clean my microwave without them. When I see them, I want to fold into their ample bosoms and heave and cry because it IS A LAWT. Driving to soccer five times weekly, music lessons twice, therapy once, teaching yoga four times a week, taking yoga just once, grocery shopping, cooking, walking dogs, laundry (just mine and the youngest’s), using the bathroom, and wiping down a freaking countertop … We don’t really over-schedule our kids, but I’m wiped out by Friday and that’s when they come. Fridays. And peeps, having them come the same week as my Lady Time, IS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER.

don't eff with me.

the cleaning ladies are coming and I’ve been bleeding and sleepless for four days? don’t eff with me.

Prepping for the cleaning ladies and then having my kids NOT HELP AT ALL hits a very exposed nerve.

It taps the utterly most raw and deepest part of me: feeling invisible and unheard. That I don’t matter. That I’m replaceable.

It’s not the cleaning ladies who do this; they are amazing. They get that shit done in two hours and the house is presentable. It’s my team. My family. I honestly fantasize about taking off to Newark and finding a five-star hotel and crashing there, using all my yoga teacher money to stay one hour there and then get back in the car and drive to Trenton where I can find a diner and order a grilled cheese on rye and a bowl of tomato soup and I’ll use the VISA rebate gift card I got when I switched contact lenses last month. Then I’ll buy gas with the rest of the balance and drive back home to children who when they see me after my long, unexpected and restful journey, will say,

“Where are my cleats?”

So it’s not you, dear cleaning ladies, it’s me. I can’t handle the stress of prepping for you the night before. My kids don’t give a damn and having you show up just to stack the piles of their collective crap, and the crap I’ve not put away in time and the crap my husband hasn’t put away in time… It’s not worth it. Not this time of year. Not when Thanksgiving is three weeks away and then freakin’ Christmas. (“Mom, can we get a PlayStation 4??? Everyone says our PS3 sucks…” <– that. I want to take a sledgehammer to the PS3 and ask them if it really sucks then.)

When I say to people, my public, these things… these sort of quasi-deep yet revelatory (if you get where I’m really coming from) confessions about the State of my State, it’s because I’m tired. I’m tired of being The Answerer here.

The other night, we grilled the most fabulous pork chops. They were on the grill for 20 minutes after marinating in brown sugar and mustard at room temperature for about four hours. My husband, whom I love, cut into the chop and asked me, “Is this done?” as he showed me the cut loin.

Internally I SCREAMED, “WHO THE FUCK AM I? A HUMAN GRILL THERMOMETER? DO I LOOK LIKE WOLFGANG FREAKING PUCK??” but externally I coolly said, “Sure.” And returned to sharpening my knives.

I am not Everyone’s Mommy here. I am a human being too.  Everyone knows that when I’m sharpening knives, I’m NOT to be disturbed. That’s why I walk around with the sharpening steel at all times now.

So this morning, I did what I could. When he was getting ready for his escape from the house work this morning, my husband sensed my disposition. It couldn’t have been the knife-sharpening again…

“Ev-everything ok, hon?”

“No. Yes. No. It’s all FUBAR,” I said. “I can’t do this alone. There’s a hammer in the dining room and I don’t know why; my pruning shears are in the bathroom — I DIDN’T DO IT… and shit everywhere. A firewood log in the playroom?? Cleats, shin guards, soccer balls, those effing black rubber flecks from turf fields… I want to stab a phone book except THOSE don’t exist anymore…”

“Let’s just cancel them.” He said.

IT WAS LIKE THE SUN SHONE IN MY HOUSE. The angels were singing.

So he left and I did what I could.

I prepped the front walk-up. I swept the leaves and seed pods out of the way. I got rid of catalogs (OY! WITH THE CATALOGS!). What I really need to do is go out with the girls in my life. But we’re all so busy. I think this is why people plan adventures to far-flung places (Hoboken) and get impossibly drunk because when you’re on a schedule like the ones we endure, there’s no time for R&R.

I know I sound ungrateful. I’m not. I’m blessed like no one’s business. Three healthy boys, a great marriage, the dogs, the yoga teaching and so much shit that I lose my mind every fortnight to get it the hell out of the way. I get it; it’s just … that I’D LIKE SOME HELP for THE HELP.

I know they’ll be back. I’m no fool. The cleaning ladies are my heroin(es).

They just got here. No joke. Gotta get back to making little piles…


Thank you.

19 responses »

  1. GREAT piece today! I can totally relate but in different ways. Was totally hooked and then laughed when they arrived at the end. If you want to go out sometime Molly..I would be happy to grab drinks/dinner/whatever….I get it 🙂

  2. Lol!! So funny the timing Molly I just had a breakdown yesterday about needing help to keep up with housework, cooking, animals, groceries, etc……. As well as keep up with growing class demands and planning, and would love my own workout time, my own yoga time, and maybe a girl night, a pedicure, manicure, movie, anything for myself!! Hugs and hang on here come the holidays!!!

  3. Hmmmm. I recently fired my cleaning crew because the owner pointed out how much “worse” my house had gotten since my divorce and tried to give me parenting advice. Feel better now? It’s not easy to let someone in your house when you’re working and have boys!

    • no, it’s not easy to let someone into your house when you’re working and have kids / boys. Boys especially because they are messier (I think) than girls are, but for a vendor to tell you that is definitely crossing a line. that stinks overall and it’s none of their damned business. people can be so out of touch…

  4. It must be something we are all breathing cuz I just seriously dropped my basket this morning over The Exact Same Issue.

    I just hauled heavy teak outdoor furniture up to the attic single handedly. Yes I am grateful to own some lovely teak outdoor furniture. I am grateful for my outdoor space with which to put said furniture. That said: Then A pile of cushions which went with some of the outdoor furniture waited for me in the basement for a good scrubbing and cat hair vacuuming before being hauled upstairs by your truly to the attic. Single handedly.

    And in between I finished my laundry and the youngest’s. I picked up myriad pieces of detritus scattered hither and yon. Found my AWOL callous remover and scotch rocks ( yes..actual rocks usually kept in the freezer for adult beverages) crusty with soda residue in some child’s forgotten glass. ( yes Im glad it was not scotch. )

    And I thought..” I am the only one of my friends who does not have cleaning help. WTF is the matter with me?” And then I knew. It doesn’ t matter. I want some GD HELP.


    • i think as i’ve aged, it’s mattered more to me. that whole “invisible” and “unheard” thing is really entrenched and yes, it’s up to me to deal with that, and i do, but my kids are pigs and i shouldn’t have to be subjected to it. i also wonder if it’s part of my eventual DIL bitch-mode prevention plan: that if i teach my kids how to clean up after themselves, that their eventual girlfriends / wives (??) won’t want to stab me in the throat with plastic knives when they see me if my boys are pigs.

      one of the ladies told me today that i’ve lost weight.

      that’s impossible. she’s just trying to get me to keep her.

  5. This is a hilarious. Three days ago I went around with a garbage bag and started throwing things away. My husband and daughter were both following me pulling stuff out of the bag. I said, “Leave it around and I am throwing it away.” I shoveled it out the door. It’s too hard and having to answer all the questions. That bugs me too. My husband does the same thing. I have to know where all the things are located, when all the things are happening, and why we have to do all the things we have to do. It’s enough to turn a mind to mush.

  6. This one hits home on several levels. On the one hand, often I am the being in my clan posing as the invisible one. On the other hand, more often it is my better half complaining nonstop about the mess, the schedule, the everything. One critical difference, though, is that when I tell my kids to do something, they are usually just enough annoyed by me that they do it. My wife is terrible at delegation.I just learned a new concept today that arises from pilots and is highly pertinent to this conversation: Task Saturation. Molly, look it up. We need your take and insight on each of the key coping mechanisms described by the pilots:shutting down, compartmentalizing, and channelizing

    • Hi Dean, this “Task Saturation” is fascinating. i just read the three symptoms, i’m looking for coping mechs, but here’s what I found thus:

      “As task saturation increases, a pilot, cabin crewmember, flight line employee or maintenance technician might start shutting down, unable to continue performing. Another symptom is constantly shuffling and reorganizing while accomplishing nothing. A third symptom is a marked increase in errors, Barfield said.

      Instances of task saturation in business aviation are on the rise, he noted, possibly as a lingering effect of the recent recession.

      “We were told to do more with less,” explained Barfield. “If we needed 10 people, we got five people. We ended up with tremendously bright people who are highly cross-functional, but it comes at a cost.” That cost, he said, is degradation of our ability to focus on specific tasks as we try to accomplish all tasks in a list of things-to-do that becomes too big to manage.”

      I will read more about this and yeah, I’m intrigued to write about it at length. Thanks… 🙂


    • oops — i just read your comment again in the thrust of the content I shared and it’s just different words but yeah. I tend to do all of this if it gets to be too much.

      As for delegation and invisibility and complaining: i find that those who WON’T delegate don’t want to be in control despite their insistence that things have to be better. it’s very frustrating to be in that situation because all you want from others are solutions, no more complaining. to me, after awhile, i shut down on the complainer, and consider them an “enemy” of the effort — sometimes it’s a sabotage: they really don’t want the change, so they do what they can to keep the chaos going, no matter what the chaos is… at least it’s known.

      as for invisibility: that’s a close cousin to martyrdom and so we have to be careful about to whom we give the omnipotence and omnipresence. sometimes we just want to be small and complain ourselves. but when we’re “invisible” is it because we also don’t want to be seen? just throwing that out there. i find that when i feel invisible, i bang a loud drum and make myself heard, often far above the requirements to get things done and then i look like a hysteric.

      telling the kids to do stuff for the household is essential to them being productive and useful members of future and present society. nothing gets under my fingernails more than a twerp who won’t clear his/her plate, who won’t hold the door open or do what they’re told (reasonable request). those kids get shoved in lockers. … 🙂 i’ll read more.

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