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Feb 21, 2017 12:08PM

It's OK to ask for help (Just don't tell my dad!)

By Julie Stamper
I'd like to go on the record to say that 2016 was not my favorite year.
Nearly every person in our five-member family had a major medical issue, my husband and I both had job changes that brought additional stress, and the house we bought in 2015 had four separate major water issues, bringing the total to six since our purchase.
Because of these added stressors, I've been looking for ways to save time, which has become my greatest commodity. While I was recovering from breast cancer last year, my friends rallied together and hired a cleaning person for our family. It took a long time for me to pick up the phone to schedule her.
Why? I grew up in a family where you do your own work and clean up your own messes. My grandma would regularly walk in the yard, grab a chicken, break its neck, pluck it and then gather vegetables for a side dish while it roasted. Every few months, my dad would spend an afternoon changing the oil in our cars, usually while I was out mowing the lawn despite my grass allergy. My people do NOT hire out work we can do ourselves. My husband's family is the same way.
Eventually, I scheduled the cleaning service, and after the gift time was up, I booked her for a regular time every other week. I'm hooked. Everyone in my family gets excited for cleaning day. We come home and the floors are clean, the bathrooms seem less likely to spread rotavirus, and our normal home fragrance of "Wet Dog Chewing on Gross Toy" is eradicated. I found myself wondering how many people have their houses professionally cleaned. Who has been in on this magical secret?
According to a study by investment bank Scott-Macon, Americans spend approximately $4.2 billion dollars per year on residential cleaning, with an annual increase of nearly 2 percent a year. Why are people willing to spend this money to have strangers clean their bathrooms? A Nielsen Company global survey of more than 30,000 respondents determined that the choice is shaped by various forces, including cultural tradition, product availability, innovation and financial considerations.
Who decides to hire the service? Globally, 44 percent of women say they do the majority of the cleaning in the house, while 17 percent of men globally say they do the majority, and the rest consider it a shared task. In North America, 32 percent of men say they do the majority of cleaning, nearly double the global average.
I would argue that this survey shows men in North America are completely delusional. They don't do as much as they think they do. My husband is a rock star, and cleans a mean bathroom and irons way better than I do. But if you ask him how much cleaning he does, he'd say it's probably 50/50. I will tell you without hesitation that it's closer to 75/25, because I do a lot of things that he doesn't even think about. It's true, honey. You know in your heart that it is.
With our new job roles, my husband and I both work more hours per week, including work from home at night. I'm getting my master's degree by taking night classes. Our kids are busy with extracurricular activities and hours of homework at night. And HGTV isn't going to watch itself, so when I have any free time I tune in to "Fixer Upper," like a shiplap junkie instead of deep-cleaning my shower.
Just the smell of the house alone is worth the expense, but there is still the inexplicable guilt. Who, exactly, do I think I am? Too good to scrub my own sinks? Too lazy to vacuum? I think it's more along the lines of too tired to lift the broom, and too aware of my kids starting to leave the nest that I want to spend every minute I can with them. And here's the thing — it's spring cleaning season, but in the past I wouldn't have done my summer, fall, or winter cleaning yet. I still have tomato plants in my backyard, dead, with a glimmer of the Roma tomatoes they used to be, in shriveled red ovals hanging from gray branches.
Every two weeks, my house will be clean. My children are less likely to contract Ebola. I have more time. Just please don't tell my dad.
Julie Stamper is a regular Radish contributor.

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