I have a houseboy, and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent.
He’s not really a boy. His name is Beh, he is Iranian, and he is maybe in his late 30′s, maybe early 40′s. He comes every weekday except Tuesday, and he washes all the dishes, cleans up the kitchen, washes and folds and puts away the laundry, sweeps and mops the floor, changes the sheets, cleans the bathrooms….he does it all. He does windows. He sweeps out the garage. He rearranged my pantry contents and wiped down all the drawers the other day, after I discovered that the Indian Meal moths had come back and were replicating in an open package somewhere.
I heart him. He makes my life so much easier. I can’t tell you what a wonder it is to toss a filthy, baby-barf-covered garment into the hamper and then find that same garment clean and perfectly folded in my drawer the next day. THE NEXT DAY! Miraculous, that’s what it is.
Before Beh came along it was taking me an average of THREE WEEKS to get clothing folded and put away. Most of the time I just picked clothing out of the unfolded pile in the laundry room, it never even made it out of there into the drawers.
I got the idea to hire a housekeeper slowly. First I was watching “Weeds” on DVD, and the main character is this busy suburban mom whose husband dies, leaving her penniless (and yes, that made me think about life insurance as well. Isn’t TV great?) Well, to support herself and pay the mortgage, she ends up selling pot. She has this housekeeper who takes care of things, and no matter how desperate her finances get, she still never considers getting rid of the housekeeper. Because it’s THAT GOOD having domestic help.
Secondly, my friend Erika just came back from India not too long ago, where many people have houseboys. I use the term tongue-in-cheek, but I don’t think it’s too pejorative there. It’s literally the person who helps you run your house. I mean, it’s an important position. So I was thinking about how wonderful that would be, having a houseboy, and why don’t we consider that here?
People get cleaning services here, but I don’t want a cleaning service. I want someone who comes every day and does the stuff that needs to be done every day. Like dishes. Like laundry. Like sweeping the floors. If the maids come once a week, your bathroom may be clean but you STILL have to do your dishes and laundry and sweep or vacuum. Usually they don’t do that. But that’s the most time-consuming stuff of all, especially with kids. And if your dishes or laundry piles up, the house doesn’t feel so good to live in.
I put an ad on Craigslist, but I also saw Beh’s ad there. He said that he was excellent, and he worked for a reasonable hourly rate, and he could do all kinds of tasks. So I emailed him to propose my idea of daily housekeeping, and he said he was interested. He had good references, so we started right in. He was a little slow at first, but now he just runs on auto-pilot. He comes in and knows just what to do.
He is very personable, very polite and pleasant. He calls me “Miss Laura”, and Julian is “Master Julian”. Adrian is “Baby”. Someday he’ll be “Master Baby”, I’m sure.
At the end of every day he comes and tells me what he has done, and says goodbye with a smile.
“Is there anything else I can do today?”
Did I mention that I heart him? I mean, he kicks ass over the mostly surly Mexicanas that we had coming to clean our house before. They would flit around the house like shadow creatures, never looking you in the eye, practically running away if you ever tried to talk to them. Never asked a question about how something worked, or where it belonged. And that’s why those are MAIDS and Beh is a HOUSEKEEPER. Because he actually keeps house.
He was asking me about my cleaning products, and I realized that I had nothing but orange cleaner and Simple Green. Fine for me, but the man needed some tools. So I got him all the fancy Method cleaning stuff from Target. You know, Method is the non-toxic cleaning stuff in mod designer packages. Now I have to get him a new broom, because the old one is sad and pathetic, with curled up bristles.
He’s a Swiffer Man. The other day he showed me his used Swiffer cloth. It was all dirty and covered in dog hair. “Miss Laura, this is why I LOVE the Swiffer. Because it can pick this up after I sweep and vacuum.”
And then for emphasis, “I SWEEP, then I VACUUM. Then I use the Swiffer and all this I pick up.” I have to say, I love the Swiffer too, after seeing that. He is a man after Dan’s Speckmeister heart, what with all the floor cleaning.
He does have a few faults. He doesn’t remember to empty the lint screen in the drier. He keeps putting my mixing bowls all over the place. But minor, minor. I’m so happy, I could care less.
I took on a part-time web design job with Dan’s company. On top of that my Portable Baby business is booming, and the kids are of course demanding a lot of attention. Adrian naps, but otherwise he wants Mama to hold him. Julian is pretty much on top of me all day long. Add swim lessons, grocery shopping, other household choring, and the thousands of little tasks remaining…I am seriously overwhelmed right now. But when I can put my dish down next to the sink, or drop my shirt in the hamper and know that it will be taken care of…life is just a little bit easier.
I think I mentioned before that Dan has to go out of town every two weeks for three days at a time. So every other Wednesday – Saturday really bites the big one for me.
Last time he left…well, I forget what happened, but I do remember crying hysterically on the phone to him. Blocked it out already, I suppose. The skylight broke over Julian’s head while he was taking a bath, but that didn’t make me cry. It was something else. Now I can’t remember.
I just had another crying breakdown the day before Dan left, so I was really not looking forward to this trip. Julian was acting like a real brat, Adrian was screaming his lungs out, and I was in the first awful throes of an icky, miserable cold. Horrors.
But Dan had to go, and off he went. And it hasn’t been *too* bad so far.
After my meltdown the other night I resolved to just try to be more zen about this parenting gig. Adrian is going to scream sometimes, Julian is going to act up sometimes, and it doesn’t help for me to lose my mind over it. I just need to stay calm, not yell, and remember that this too shall pass. The kids are not out to get me, they are just little and need my help. I’m the grownup here. Breathe…..
So I have been pretty good. After I discovered the missing keycap incident I thought for sure Julian had done it, but then I stayed cool, asked him about it, and then asked him to go play in his room for a while. I did utter quite a few choice expletives once he was safely out of earshot, but then I figured out that Bugs might have done it. Which still pissed me off…the damn “e” key out of ALL the keys! It’s killing my finger as we speak, pressing the nub that is left every time I need an “e”, which is like, every other letter in written English.
But I did calm down and I didn’t yell directly at anyone. Good for me.
Last night I got everyone bathed and fed on time, but then just as we got into bed to read Julian a bedtime story Adrian started screaming. Like, a BLOODCURDLING scream that permanently damaged the remaining hearing in my left ear. It was absolutely DEAFENING. I don’t know what was going on with him. Gas? He hasn’t screamed like that in a while, but he hadn’t pooped in two days either.
So I had to put off bedtime until I could get the screaming under control. I walked him around and patted him and bounced him and swaddled him up tight and dosed him with anti-gas stuff and gripe water and probiotics and nursed him. Finally something worked and he stopped screaming. But by then Julian and I were frazzled and it was an hour an a half after bedtime.
So that sucked ass big time. I am so not into single parenting. I have no idea how people do it. One kid? Maybe. Two? Might as well prefill a prescription for anti-psychotic drugs.
Tonight was much better. I got everyone fed, then I put Julian in the bathtub while I went to go take a shower. I put Adrian in the bouncy seat by the shower, and he did scream for a while, but the water noise kind of drowned it out. Then he got tired and stopped screaming. Sorry kiddo, but after the pee and poop and snot exposure today I NEEDED a shower.
I threw on my nightgown, grabbed Adrian, went and got Julian out, dried him off, put on his jammies, and told him to pick out some books. Meanwhile I got Adrian all cleaned up and diapered and swaddled, nursed him, and put him in his swing. It was still an hour and a half after regular bedtime, but at least there was no screaming.
With Adrian in the swing, I went back to Julian, read him two books, cuddled him, sang him some lullabies and got him to sleep. Then I got up and came back out to find Adrian squeaking in his swing. Awake! But the swing keeps knocking him back out.
Anyway, one more day. Dan gets home tomorrow, late. I have one entire day with no preschool and no babysitter to get through. Then one more bedtime, and then I have a reprieve for two more weeks.
Must stay zen. Let the screaming wash over me like ocean waves on the shore. This too shall pass. The kids are not out to get me, they are just little and need my help. I’m the grownup here. Breathe…..oommmmmmmm.