Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Hiring a Cleaning Lady–Or Any Other Kind of Employee

It’s a #throwbackThursdaypost

In honor of National Women’s Day, working women are supposed to fret about other working women who happen to work for us.

Let me explain.

Sally Howard researched cleaners, by working with them. Fair enough. There’s plenty of things to say about how some people treat their house cleaners and nannies to argue that all these people (usually women) deserve to be paid fair wages, and treated with respect. This is the same way we should treat all our employees–from Senior Vice Presidents to Interns. Everyone is worthy of a fair market wage.

But, Howard draws the opposite conclusion and decides that having someone else clean her house devalues women’s work and sets a bad example for her son. She writes:

The clincher, in the end, was my three-year-old son, who quizzically followed Jurate around the house as she squeezed her mop and brandished her ever-present Viakal. I did not want him to see the labour of some women as less worthwhile than the labour and leisure of other women and men. Middle-class women’s emancipation from housework has come at the cost of reinscribing poor women’s ties to it.

Did I find I could hire a cleaner with a clean conscience? No, but I found I could ease my feminist conscience by scrubbing my own toilet.

The labor of some people (male and female) is worth more than the labor of other people (male and female). Why? Because people have different knowledge, skills, and abilities. They bring different talents to the table. I pay my dentist far more per hour than I earn per hour. It’s not that my dentist devalues my labor, it’s that she has abilities I don’t have. She sacrificed years of her life to learn how to take care of teeth. I chose a different path.

A cleaning lady may not need an advanced degree. (And while men can clean just as well as women can, Howard makes this about devaluing women’s work, so I’m sticking with the cleaning lady title.) But, the work is valuable and has a place in the market.

If you are trying to launch your startup and working 80 hour weeks, or are managing a busy project, or if you work 35 hours a week but want time to focus on your kids, your hobbies or even Netflix, hiring a cleaning woman is a great idea. You exchange money for a service–and that service is a clean toilet and a sparkly kitchen floor.

The cleaning lady takes home a paycheck.

This values women’s work. Every year at Mother’s day, all sorts of organizations publish the value of a mom, trying to push the point that women’s work does have value. And now, Howard wants to say that paying for that value is wrong.

It’s not wrong. If it’s wrong to pay someone to clean your toilet, it’s wrong to pay someone to make your dinner. It’s wrong to pay someone to mow your lawn, paint your house, grow your food, tend your children, or fix your car. It’s not.

It is wrong to pay people under the table. If you want to hire a cleaning lady (or anyone else) do so above board. Pay the required taxes and insurance. It is wrong to treat your employee (any employee) poorly. It is wrong to not provide the proper tools for a job. But, it’s never wrong to hire someone for legal work, who wants to work, and to whom you give a fair paycheck.

Right now, I don’t have a cleaning lady. I made this decision for financial reasons–I can’t afford one right now. I have in the past, and I will again (I hope!) in the future. I always pay all taxes and conduct everything legally. Many women who clean do so because they have the flexibility to take care of their own homes and families when they do so. Why would you want to take that away from someone?

So, yes, a feminist can hire a cleaner. A non-feminist can hire a cleaner. Anyone can. No guilt involved unless you’re not treating her with respect.

This originally appeared at Inc. Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Hiring a Cleaning Lady–Or Any Other Kind of Employee

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3 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Hiring a Cleaning Lady–Or Any Other Kind of Employee

  1. I agree with this 100%. When I was a single mother, transitioning from one industry to another, my pay was not very good. I made about 65% of what I had previously made with no way to work overtime. I could not work an additional, traditional part-time job. I had a pre-teen child and no childcare. So I became a “cleaning lady”. From 5:30 to whenever I choose, during the week I would clean apartments that had recently been vacated at several complexes near my home. I could take my daughter, or she could stay with a friend sometimes. That job gave me flexibility and income when I needed both. I received a list on Sunday evening and the work had to be done by midnight on Friday. I was paid a flat rate per unit, and I could clean them all in one night or I could do one a night, or whatever was best for me.

    My best friend currently works as a housekeeper for a hotel and has several clients that she sees on a regular basis to help them clean their homes. She has flexibility and income, and she is appreciated for her help and the job she does. Work is work. As long as the compensation is fair, then we should let go of the idea that anyone’s labor is exploitative.

  2. What the article emphasizes is that whatever services are available to use, make sure that you pay for the service in the correct legal way—which includes paying the taxes and filing that service paid with the legal tax system. Any services paid “off books” creates a legal liability for both parties. Problem with this kind of service is that mod workers may not have legal documentation and in that case, you may be paying for slave labor. Do it the right way. Especially if you have the extra money in your budget.

    1. > Do it the right way.

      That’s where your post should have ended. If you can’t afford to pay people fairly and legally, don’t hire them. Period.

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