Friday, February 27, 2009

The Price of Paula

This post is just to record my feelings as I have spent the past 4 hours deep cleaning my main part of my house (kitchen, dining, living, and family rooms) and all our laundry. Tomorrow I will work on the bathrooms and bedrooms.

A few years ago I had an oopherectomy. That's when they remove an ovary. I remember when it happened I thought my life would never resume and I didn't know how I would ever recover from being sliced open to remove my broken ovary. As I recuperated on the recliner I watched my house get more and more cluttered and dusty and the cleaning stacked up. At the time, my oldest child was not quite 6 years and very busy with her kindergarten career, and my others were 15 months and almost 3 (not quite old enough to pick up my slack.) So, my mother-in-law passed along the number of a cleaning service and that's when my relationship with Paula began.

Paula came every couple of weeks until I got my strength back and then, funny thing, she kept coming long after I was back on my feet. I knew that every two weeks Paula would come and wipe down the dripped ketchup in my fridge, empty the crumbs from the bottom of my toaster oven, change all the bed linens, and clean out my garbage cans. After a while I knew my relationship with Paula was a little self-indulgent and we had a little break-up.

It was a short break. Shortly after I got pregnant with Brock I called Paula back home and we began our bi-monthly trysts again. It was a wonderful arrangement that made everyone happy. And by everyone, I mean everyone! Caylee and Brevin would hang out and listen to her clock radio of Mexican music in every room she was cleaning. I was usually in the next room "pre-cleaning" for most of the day Paula was at our house and it was always nice to feel like we were on a team. Granted we didn't bond through conversation, but we would laugh at the kids together and she would come in and pick up the crying babies I had while she was working for us (Brock and Briggs) if I was in the middle of something. I would often find my boys practicing their light saber skills on Paula's backside while she tried to make the bunk beds simultaneously fending off their offenses. Instead of getting mad at them, she would tease them in Spanish and pretend she was going to get them and they would squeal and run and then return shortly after to interrupt her again. I think she was so patient with them because she had boys of her own.

I often wondered what Paula thought of us. Was our house dirtier than others? Did she think we were snots for not cleaning our own house? Did she resent my kids being the ones that were bugging her instead of her own because she was a working mom? There were some Monday mornings when I would get a call asking if I wanted someone else to come clean because Paula had a sick child or was out of town. I would decline. Paula was my girl. She was my partner. We worked well together. I trusted her enough to leave her in my home. AND, I found her honest and hard-working and kind. She would bring me notes written in English if there was anything important for me to know. I would give her small gifts and some of Caylee's hand-me-downs that Paula would pass to her niece. I know there was more to me looking forward to Paula's scheduled days than just having a clean home. I SOOO appreciated what she gave me.

Recently we've needed to cut back. We're definitely feeling the downturn of the economy and we're trying to live within our means, which means for the past few months I've been given the "we've got to cut back" talk SEVERAL times. Now, I KNOW paying Paula to mop my floors and scour my shower is an excessive expense. Actually, it was self-indulgent. I like a clean house. I need order. I need to know that every two weeks I can have a completely shiny, mopped, dusted house. Between the 6 hours Paula cleaned and the 4 hours I would spend putting all our stuff away, we got it all done. And I know I could do it. Give me 10 hours and no kids in the way, and yes, I could do the same job for no cost.

But there is a price. To prepare for my ultimate cut-back (I've already cut the pedicures, fake nails, date nights, and trips away . . . not to mention the homemade meals I've been making and the coupons I've been clipping) we spent Valentine's Saturday deep cleaning my house. I invoked the help of the entire family to put EVERYTHING where it belongs, then we dusted and vacuumed and scrubbed and mopped. Well. I hollered at the kids to do it, and they sorta did it until it became un-fun and then they'd disappear and wander off and meander to the other room. And then I'd get frustrated and do most of it myself. But then I'd get irritated that the "cutting back" meant I was picking up that entire job. And then I'd holler at the kids again. I'd show them (again) how to clean the counters and then how to mop up all the water they got on the floor. [You see, even though you have someone to clean your house every other week, with 5 kids you still have to clean it every day . . . we call those chores . . . so don't be getting the impression we sit on our chaise lounges until Paula comes to clean up after us.] Tyler, bless his heart, spent 2 1/2 hours cleaning our bathroom. IT WAS NOT THAT DIRTY! So I'm going to call Tyler thorough (because that is a lot nicer than making the connection that the kids' disappearing/wandering/meandering off may be an inherited trait.) By early afternoon Tyler went outside to work in the yard (where he busted his tail, fer reals!) and I was left inside to keep the troops working. By the end of the day, I was tired. I was worn out more emotionally (because of our financial state) and physically (from all the work) and mentally (from controlling myself from losing it with the kids all day long.) Yes, the house was cleaned. But yes, too, the price was WAY more than we ever paid dear, sweet Paula.

The past few months Paula has only come once a month. Today I called and told the company we could no longer afford to pay her to come. It was sad for me. On many levels. I think Paula was a symbol of better times. And that is over. Because she made my life easier, it was obviously something that I treated myself to. And now that is over too. When Paula came every two weeks, I knew that the chores that I hated to do and didn't want to fight my kids to do were going to get done. And now I have to do that and fight that fight on top of all the other things moms do. AND YES, I know many of you have been doing it for the past 3 years since Paula and I have been a team. Still. Tonight I mourn the end of an era.

Please tell me it will be okay. Not to lower my expectations about my house. But, tell me how to get it all done without a Paula every other week. Blech. I'm a boob. Thanks for listening.


chris jenkins said...

it will be ok. and believe me, i know how you feel. meandering happens a lot at my house too. and i will not tell you for one minute to lower your expectations because then i would be asking you not to be Sarah. as long as i have known you, you have always put your heart into and given your best to whatever it is you may doing - whether it be a calling, a project, helping others, being there for a friend when they need you, and trying to stay on top of things like organization and cleaning. all i am going to tell you is that just keep on doing what you always have done. give your best. and keep breathing.

love ya.

Troy and Nancee said...

This post made me feel better. Here I was wondering how you do it all and you spilled one of your secrets. Now you can stop being super mom and more human like the rest of us. (: Your house may have to be dirty sometimes. Mine is gross. I just mopped the floor for the first time in a month. I've just accepted that my house will not be clean until my kids are gone.

Erin said...

You know that my initial reaction would be "someboday call the waaaahhhhhmbulance," although that is meant only in a loving way-- you KNOW I would have a Paula too if it were possible. :-) I know it sucks. But for now (and I say 'for now,' because better times WILL happen again) be happy that you had Paula during some of the worst and hardest adjustment periods for you over the last few years--while you adjusted to being a mom of 4 and then again a mom of 5. And that she got you through to a point where you can now pass on more of the work load to your kids, who are older now. It may mean more nagging & threatening & yelling and all that good stuff, but hey--where would you & I be today if it weren't for our beloved JOB CHART for all those years? It builds character & teaches responsibility. Yeah, I know you already know that. But you can do it. You can do all, remember??? And sometimes ALL means delegating to your chillens, but maybe letting go of the towels not being folded EXACTLY the way you would fold them. And in the meantime, you know I'm always here to commiserate with you.

chanel said...

sisters know best, erin had some great advice and insight.
you'll be all good, i mean you're surviving without fake nails and one ovary- a housekeeper is nuttin!

Babs said...

Cutting back is hard to do. I shed a tear for you. And while I'm at it, one for me too! We're going make it. We might be one big hairy mess some days, but we'll smooth our hair and clean the surfaces just enough to get by until we figure how to manage it all again.

Angela said...

I can only imagine how hard it would have been to give up Paula. It's so HARD to keep a house clean and I'm with you on how hard it is to nag your kids to keep a clean house. This economy sucks and we're feeling it in every way. I'm sure that giving Paula up was also giving up a friend, or friendship and that had to be hard. Hang in there! It's good for your kids to feel that extra responsibility too. Don't worry, it's gonna be fine.

Jerolyn said...

We all just spent the entire weekend cleaning the house and garage and while the kids didn't love it so much they did appreciate how it looked when all was said and done. AND they were reminded that if they didn't want to spend thier whole entire weekend cleaning...they could make a better effort throughout the week to keep things tidy.

I say these things in the name of a clean toilet AMEN!!!