Like most of you, when schools extended spring break in March, I was ok; we’d just dust off the bikes and try our best to enjoy the gift of extra time together. But then came April and still no school, along with an official quarantine and stay-at-home orders. That’s when it hit me. Oh heck, my kids are not going back to school this year.
Suddenly I was staring down the barrel of a very long spring and summer, possibly even longer, with unlimited face time with my 5- and 7-year-olds. (Can we all just agree right now that we love our kids, but that it’s human nature to need some separation, even from the ones we love most? Especially the small ones with sticky fingers and one million details about Minecraft.)
Fast forward about a week into the stay-at-home quarantine, and I broke down. I sobbed as I tried to explain to my husband how I felt like I was failing at everything I was supposed to be good at; how it was going to scar my children for life, and how it was all my fault. He calmly asked me where my biggest frustration and sense of failure was, and, without missing a beat, I answered, “THE HOUSE.”
Just a little tidbit about me: If my house is messy, cluttered, or disorganized, I simply cannot function. Part of this is personality, and part is that we live in a modest, 3-bedroom home, so if even just a few things are out of place, everything feels like chaos. It’s probably the most annoying thing about me and the thing I most wish I could change about myself. But there it is…if my physical space is a mess, my mental space is a mess. But I felt that if I could get the house under control, I could get most of the other things to fall into place. I just needed help.
I don’t work outside of the home, so our family of four lives on my husband’s income. He is a good provider, but we still choose to stick to a budget which, before the COVID quarantine, did not include a line item for a cleaning service. I just tried my best to keep the house under control. But do you know when I did all of that housework? When my kids were at school. But with traditional school out of the equation, there was just no keeping up, and it broke me.
So my very reasonable and understanding husband (who doesn’t want to deep clean toilets and showers any more than I do) and I tinkered with the budget, taking a little from here (hair and nail budget? Not doing much of that these days) and a little from there (gas and tolls…it’s not like we’re going anywhere any time soon) and came up with enough to hire a cleaning service to come in every three weeks to help out. And it’s been a game-changer for me. Here’s how hiring a cleaning service has saved my sanity during quarantine:
It Allows Me to Have Grace for Myself
As an Enneagram 1 (for me, that most often means controlling perfectionist), I initially declared that the quarantine wasn’t going to break me. In fact, I would be the best (albeit reluctant) homeschooler with the cleanest and most organized home there ever was. That worked for exactly three days. It turns out that a single person, no matter how motivated, cannot do it all. I realized I just don’t have the same academic effect on my kids as their real teachers do, I can’t bake bread, and I simply cannot clean up the house faster than my family can destroy it. (Yes, I require my kids to do daily chores and to pick up after themselves. But as you may know, sometimes young kids’ version of “helping” is not quite helpful.)
Admitting and accepting that I couldn’t do it all—and that no one person is even capable of wearing all the hats we’re being asked to wear right now—gave me the grace and permission I needed to ask for help instead of trying to power through, impairing my mental health and family relationships in the process.
It Gives Me Something Reliable to Look Forward To
Much like my children, I function best with a reliable schedule and routine. Before we hired a cleaning service, my biggest fear was that entropy would take over and the house would reach a level of disorganization from which we would never recover (I may also watch too much Hoarders). But now, I know that my new best friends will whip my house back into shape exactly every three weeks. I’m no longer distracted by the dust accumulating on the blinds and baseboards because I know help is coming. So while I still do my best to keep things in order, in the meantime, I no longer fear going over the cliff into the Hoarders abyss.
It Makes Me a Nicer Person
You know who’s not a good hang? Me, when I was constantly reminding everyone not to make a mess and don’t allow certain activities for fear of the mess it brings. I won’t say that hiring a cleaning crew has allowed me to be the kind of mom who allows glitter in the house. But knowing they’re coming to save us from ourselves allows me to relax a little in the interim. That means I’m nagging and stressing less; I’m able to be more present with my kids instead of being overly distracted by the never-ending task list that’s on infinite scroll in my head.
While incredibly challenging for everyone, there have been many reality checks and silver linings to come out of this pandemic. For me, the biggest ones have been the lessons in relinquishing control and asking for help when I need it. On the surface, it may seem small or shallow to say having a clean house is the key to my sanity. But learning and applying those lessons in control and humility through outsourcing some of my previously unprecedented wifely and motherly roles has helped improve my mental state in the middle of a very stressful situation. And you better believe I’m already scouring our budget to come up with post-pandemic funds to keep my housework saviors around!