Thursday, January 7, 2010

That Time Peter Forgot to Tell Me He Hired a Housecleaner. No I'm Not Kidding.

It all happened a lovely September morning three years ago...

With my sixth child under one month old, my ensemble of sweats with limp elastic waistband and shirt decorated with spit-up perfectly matched with the tornado worthy wreckage that was my house. My husband was in the car heading to a convention lasting several days and my sister had driven up to visit her newest nephew.  We were chatting away when the phone rang.

The caller spoke in a heavy Spanish accent (which made it harder for my sleep deficient mind to understand) and asked if this were Dr. Later's wife.  We have had drug seekers call our house before so I warily asked the reason for the call. 

"I am coming over to talk about the housecleaning." 

Huh?  I have no idea what she is talking about.  Which I tell her.

"The doctor said I should come over and we could decide on a price for housecleaning.  I work with him at the hospital where I clean.  He hired me to be a housecleaner for you."

There are three obvious problems thus far.  First, my house is a disaster.  DISASTER!  No way I'm letting a stranger come in and decide what the cost of cleaning it would be NOW.  Second, I have company over.  Company that has driven 2 hours to get here.  Third I am the WORST negotiator in history.  Once, at the age of 12, I left a garage sale with a porcelain cat statue for which I payed double the first price quoted.  That's right I ended up paying MORE THAN THEY ORIGINALLY TOLD ME.  (Please don't ask what I needed with a porcelain cat, I was a weird child and it was the 80's.)

I had no idea what a housecleaner was expected to do or get paid.  None.  Never even considered it.  Do they wash toilets, windows, baby's rumps?  Paid fee for service, by the hour, set fee per time?  Combining my cluelessness with my negotiating skills and the lady might end up getting paid 25% our net income for changing the garbage liners every month, disinfecting extra.

"I need to talk to my husband.  We'll have to set up a time when he's home."

"No, I just pulled up outside your house.  I got lost, it took me a long time to drive here.  I am here now."

Please note that it was a little over a week since that woman had answered her door to a stranger and had her throat slashed and her newborn baby stolen.  Even if I was an excellent negotiator who knew everything about housecleaner expectations, had my house was in decent shape, and  didn't already have plans for the day, I wouldn't have opened my door.  I was freaking out at this point. 

"You CAN'T come in right now!  I'm sorry." 

"But I'm already here, I'm sitting in front of your house.   The doctor said he was going to hire me!  He said to come over and look at the house and agree on a payment!"  She was obviously a little freaked out by my freaking out.  Nevertheless, I wouldn't let her come in.  So she hung up and left.  I called my husband.

If oh-carp-my-wife-is-about-to-kill-me could be captured in tone, that is what my husband used when he replied to my less than coherent query with, "Oh, yeeeaaahh, I forgot to tell you about that.  One of the ladies that cleans the hospital is coming over to talk about cleaning being a housecleaner for you." 

I will not lie.  He got a tirade.  That included gems like "How could you leave me to negotiate?  You should know better by now!" and "Are you trying to tell me your embarrassed by our house?"  and "You would rather pay someone money than help do the dishes once in a while?!?" and the all encompassing "How could you do something like that without asking me and then forget to even tell me about it?"  In his defense both our mothers had been pestering him to hire help since the birth of our baby.  Something about making my life less stressful.  He had followed through on their advice, just not in the best possible way.

That poor woman wouldn't even speak to Peter after that.  And us?  We have never again discussed hiring a professional housecleaner. 

You are probably thinking along the lines of my friend who laughed herself silly when I told her the story and then laughed when she told her husband, but made it clear she would be perfectly happy if he hired a housecleaner, even if he neglected to tell her about it.  If so, I understand.


  1. YES, I laughed myself silly while reading this. I'm not sure which was the funniest part! The whole time I was thinking how sweet Peter was and what great timing to have someone ELSE clean your house. lol!!! I am definitely a "why do it yourself when you can hire someone else to do it better" kind of person.

    And, next time I need to sell something I'm going to try to sell it to you first. :-)

  2. I think that Brenda would also be upset also if I hired some to clean, and even more so if I didn't tell her about it. She has always told me that she would not like a housekeeper, because she would always make sure the house was clean before they came, thus making a waste of money.

    It amazes me how similar you and Brenda are at times.

  3. Nope, I'm with you. Ain't letting anybody slash my throat and steal my baby, all while my house is a disaster.

    Hilarious story though.

  4. And the porcelain cat is hilarious.
    I have that problem. I had a mission companion (so I was at LEAST 21) coach me on the art of price matching at the mall. When I got the guy to match my price in a color I preferred (over the less expensive store who only had a color I didn't like) I exclaimed, "REALLY!? Are you SURE!" I think my companion actually hit me when I did that. I deserved it.

  5. So very very funny! I too would have wanted to clean the house before the housecleaner came.

  6. LOL that is great. Maybe I should hire my husband to clean my house.....nah.

  7. I can understand your fear! Holy cow!

    I wonder if communication becomes worse as the marriage "ages?" Hmmmm because my husband and I often laugh over our mis-communications.

    I feel bad for that poor lady. Oy. I bet she wanted to run away as well!

  8. I thought it was a good idea to have the housekeeper. You must admit that you were overwhemed with all that you were trying to do. Peter did a nice thing just in a wrong way. It is a funny story.

  9. I am impressed that you stood your ground and wouldn't let her in...I'm afraid that in a state like that I would be hailing the UPS man or anyone else that came too the door and somehow trap them into doing anything at all..."Oh hey, thanks for the package, could you just take out the trash on your way back to the truck? Thanks, you're a lamb."

  10. Andrea- You try. I'm not so bad at negotiating with my family, and that includes in-laws!

    Bryan- Actually that is the point, you pick up and then they come and do the deep cleaning. I know that NOW (but I didn't then)!

    NOBODY- Let's not ever go to a bartering expected market together. If the house was a mess I could have considered the throat slashing part...

    Christina- Just walking into my house at that moment would have been an automatic doubling of their price!

  11. Brenda- Could you imagine if our husband's formed a housecleaning business? They would be out of business after one house!

    Ambrosia- The busier we are the more opportunities we have to forget to tell each other things. Not only are there more things to remember to tell, there is less time to tell them! We both laughed and laughed over this post today!

    Mom- Yours was Peter's favorite comment. He laughed all over again. He always insisted he was trying to keep both our mothers happy at the time. He claims he was under duress!!

    Emma Jo- But that would involve proper negotiating skills, of which I have NONE.

  12. Um I meant Christine not Christina. That letter switching keyboard fairy is working again...

  13. After the biweekly stress of cleaning and cleaning my house so that a cleaning lady could come to the house and clean it the next day (and lose all the kids' stuff) I finally started cleaning my own a while back. Not that I'm so good at it, but still. And the negotiation, the giving of the estimate, it's too much. At the very least, my children now know how to clean a house, top to bottom.

  14. Linda- I've been cleaning myself for years and am still not good at it! I have friends who always plan the day before to clean up so the cleaner can come in and they are happy with the arrangement, but I guess I'm too cheap to fork out the cash!

  15. What a funny post! I can relate with the "new mommy protective instincts"! Thanks for sharing.

  16. My husband talked me into getting a housekeeper while he was in law school and as dumb as it sounds, it's a lot of work for me! I have to get everything in order put away and ready for her every week because I only pay her to clean surfaces. Anyway, my husband, who is infinitely more OCD than me, thinks she's a saint. If I die, he'll probably marry her, just to have a clean house.

  17. LOL, I had a porcelain cat in the 80's or two, plus a lion! This is hysterical!
    P.S. Just found your blog at MMB! Happy Saturday

  18. Oh, girl. I totally shook my head the whole time I read this post.

    I DREAM of having someone come and clean my house. DREAM of it. sigh.

    Tammy and Parker
    @ParkerMama on Twitter

  19. Linda @Craftaholics Anonymous- Thanks for stopping by! I've been reading your blog for a while now!

    Steph- That is what my friends who have one say, but after they exhaust themselves cleaning, the lady comes in and does all the deep cleaning for them. My deep cleaning just stays neglected.

    Dreamer- I refuse to admit how many cat related things I had back then. I wonder what happened to that statue I bought...

    Parker Mama- If anyone deserves it, it would be you! I always like seeing twitter buddies on here, welcome!

  20. That is so funny. That poor lady! Just trying to do he job. I am behind Peter on this one. Sounds like he was trying to do something nice.

  21. Barlow- I felt bad for the lady, just not bad enough to let her in. She was very pushy which means negotiations would not have been favorable to me. I knew Peter was trying to be nice, even he thinks it is funny how it kind of blew up in his face.

    He rarely forgets to tell me major things now (like he usually tells me he is going out of town at least before he leaves for the airport).

  22. SO funny! The whole time reading that, I was thinking, I could see that EXACT situation happening between me and my husband. He always forgets to relay messages to me.

  23. I found your blog over at MMB. Hope you don't mind comments from complete strangers. I couldn't resist commenting because I would be totally the same as you! I laughed while reading your post because I could totally visualize this story unfolding. Thank you for sharing it.

  24. Mom at Our House- You'd think they'd eventually learn, huh?

    Liz- I love comments, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad I'm not the only one out there who would have freaked out!

  25. Well I wish my husband would secretly hire a housekeeper that would then disappear and never tell anyone of the mess they had found.

  26. Steph- The smart thing to do is hire one, keep it secret from ME, and take the credit for all the extra cleaning going on!

  27. Hello? What about when you hired me? I'm totally a professional! That is really funny. I've never heard that full story before. Poor Poor Peter and his wicked wiles.

  28. I loved this post, I hate negotiating, but I would have wanted the housekeeper!

    I was on 'chair rest' with my fourth pregnancy and a friend came and cleaned my kitchen floor on her hands and knees. I just wanted to hug her and keep her forever.

    You know how many women are jealous because your husband tried to do such a sweet thing--and had the money to?

    I think the funniest part was that she wouldn't even talk to him afterward. Like it was all his fault! And maybe it was!

  29. So funny! I think I would have done the same thing.

    My husband invites friends or co-workers over and often forgets to tell me. Ten minutes notice and I could have at least thrown all of the toys and stuff out of site, maybe combed my hair.

    I guess I need to be more visitor ready. :)