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Carolina Parent

Apr. 01, 07

Call in the Cleaning Pros

Call in the Cleaning Pros

Carolina Parent Magazine • April 1st, 2007

By Robin Whitsell

Diana Shoaf of Durham realized in a split second that it was time to hire help. Four months pregnant with her second child and suffering morning sickness, she watched her 9-month-old son crawl across the living room. "He pulled himself up on the couch and I was eye-level with his face. His hands, face and chest were filthy! That did it for me!" Shoaf relates. She called around for maid service recommendations that day.

Now, 15 years later, Shoaf still employs additional help. "I keep the housekeeper for a different reason. Every two weeks, the kids have to pick up their stuff in every room of the house so it can get vacuumed, mopped and dusted." She has thought about dropping the service, but with a job, three kids, two dogs and four cats, "I need all the help I can get," she says.

Reduce household stress

Juggling busy households often doesn't leave enough time to clean. And moms who were interviewed find the majority of household chores fall onto their tired shoulders. Between carpooling, caring for kids and pets, and meeting the demands of jobs in and out of the home, moms are often exhausted.

One solution: Find an extra set (or sets) of hands to help. Hiring help may even keep marriages functioning smoothly. A mother of two in Durham, Stephanie Cain attests, "We hired a housekeeper when I went back to work after Connor [our eldest] was born. I can honestly say that hiring our maid service saved our marriage."

Families find that hiring outside help provides time to focus on the kids, and they tinker with their budgets to afford it. "I've used a cleaning lady for almost a year now. When pregnant with my third child, it got just way too much for me to clean, with my bad back and huge belly," says Cheryl Sold of Clayton. "There was just no time with two kids around, so [it was] a cost we were more than happy to put out each month." She adds, "It also gives me much more time with my kids and less stress, which is always good."

Raleigh stay-at-home mother of two Kristin Hague also enjoys the time-saving benefit. "What [the housecleaner] does in three hours takes me three days. And now I can spend my weekends with my husband and our daughters instead of dusting, vacuuming and scrubbing floors."

For some moms, the initial professional cleaning is a present after childbirth. "I was headed in a downward spiral [due] to postpartum depression, completely overwhelmed and feeling guilty after my second child was born," says Christine Jernigan, a Chapel Hill stay-at-home mom and volunteer manager of www.bilingualwiki.com. "My parents gave me a housekeeping [service] for several months as a Christmas gift. It was just priceless… . It helped me feel more in control."

A Holly Springs mother of two, Cindy Tatem also received gifts of professional housecleaning after the birth of each of her children, "so I wouldn't stress after the baby came home." Tatem says she was more touched by the gifts' sentiment of reducing her stress than with any other present after the births.

How to hire help

While Triangle parents may realize they need extra help, they may be at a loss as to how to find it. Recommendations from friends whose homes you think are especially clean are the best places to start. Also, watch for coupons that allow you to try a service at a discounted rate before hiring.

According to Jane Koopman, marketing director of MaidPro, be sure to ask about whether a service is bonded and insured so the service (or individual) can repair or replace something that is damaged or broken and your homeowner's insurance won't be affected if someone is injured while cleaning your home.

She also encourages families to ask services and individuals about hiring policies. "We do national background checks and fingerprint and photograph our employees," Koopman says. Trust is important, especially if you provide a key to your home. Consider asking for a list of references and check them prior to hiring.

Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $210 a visit depending on the size of your home. A cleaning once every two weeks may be sufficient. Interviewed parents report that they can maintain their homes if they are cleaned every other week.

Keep in mind that the downside of hiring a cleaning service is the work you may have to do before the visit. Says Apex mom Jenny Credle, "I've tried to have a housekeeper several times, but it seems to generate more work. They always seem to come on the worst day, and you have to 'preclean' the night before." So be sure to establish in advance the cleaning services' expectations as well as your own.

Calling in the pros isn't for everyone, but for some families, it's priceless.

Whitsell is a freelance writer and mother of two with another on the way.

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