Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Elephant in the Room

Ok, be honest. What's the first thing you thought of when you heard we were moving back to the States to be "normal" people again?

I imagine among my friends and family it was some variation of: "However is she going to manage without her maid and driver? This should be entertaining."

I'm right there with ya.

I've had maids (of varying degrees of aptitude) now for 9 long years. When I left Louisiana in 2001, Margarita was Pedro's exact age (3 years and 3 months), and Julio was just 8 months old. So, basically none of my kids know what life is like without a maid. I don't know what life is like with 4 kids without a maid.

I'm scared.

My fears fall into 4 main categories, cleaning, cooking, taking up permanent residence in my minivan, and occasional childcare. Let's examine.


For the last 9 years I've been doing "recreational" cleaning; a load of laundry here, a little windexing there. Most nights I leave the kitchen spotless because enjoy doing so. I do a little cleaning and then I feel good about myself, "look at me, I'm cleaning!" But, on any given night, if I'm too busy or too tired to clean up after dinner I know that my kitchen will be spotless by 8am the next day.

And can you imagine how lazy kids are that have had a maid? I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that our kids make their beds everyday before school and do 3 chores in the afternoon. They are basically pigs. Oh, we've tried various types of job charts and chore schemes over the years, but at the end of the day, when we tired of the constant effort that is required to maintain such programs, we knew and more importantly, the kids knew, that maid would do it. It's just not the same.

Keeping my house clean is going to be a real challenge. Cleaning just isn't a good fit with my personality; I am a goal/task-oriented person. I like things that have a starting point and a ending point and ways to mark progress and success. This is why I loved school so much-quizzes, tests, and a final exams that marked the END of the class.

Cleaning, as you know, is nothing like this. There's no start or stop and no one is grading me (at least not to my face). It is a never-ending, thankless task. I read on someone's blog once that the laundry isn't done unless everyone's naked-so, so true.

It's going to be a shock for all of us.


Pretty much the same story as cleaning, but I enjoy it more. I did almost all of the cooking during our time in Venezuela and Mexico. I even got into doing freezer meals and planning month long menus in Mexico. But for the last three years, I've enjoyed the luxury of only having to cook my favorite dishes on the weekends. The difficult part of cooking for me is the dreaded question, "What's for dinner tonight?"

I know I'll get into a routine, and get some kind of plan going, but it will take a while. If you know of any good cooking blogs (or cleaning blogs, for that matter), please let me know.

The good thing is, as I've mentioned before, my kids hate "maid food" and think think whatever I cook is AWESOME. Who knows for how long that will last...

Taking up Permanent Residence in My Minivan

I've only had a driver for the last 4 years, but oh, how I've loved it. If I had to pick between a driver and a maid, I think I'd go with a driver. Although I'm an oddity here in that I take my kids to school everyday (with my driver), he removes a lot of the burden of being a mom. He does playdate drop-offs and pick-ups, any errands I don't feel like doing during the day, and picks up items at the grocery store.

Whatever I ask, he has to say "yes" because that's his job. It's the best.

Shortly, I'll have four kids in three different school, all involved in multiple activities. It's a good thing I like my car and listening to audio books cause I think I'm going to be in it a lot.

Occasional Childcare

Although I'm not as concerned about this issue, it will still be more difficult. One of the things I'm most proud of about my 9 years overseas is that I never turned over mothering to someone else; no maid was ever in charge of bathing, feeding, bedding, overseeing homework, or caring for my children. I never had a "baby nurse" to get up at night with my newborns. I didn't participate in ongoing activities that took me away from my babies and toddlers other than helping out in the older kids' classrooms. I know these things might sound funny to someone who hasn't lived in a country where maids and nannies were the norm, but it would have been very easy to have had more help in this area.

Because I haven't I can say I know exactly what it means to have 4 kids at home. But, it has been super convenient to have someone here during the weekdays who was always available to stay with the kids for an hour or two here and there. I'll miss that. I don't like like to inconvenience other people with my kids, so I'll be lugging them everywhere until they are old enough to stay by themselves (except for when my mom wants to watch them!).

I know I'll survive-one of the important things I have learned living this lifestyle is that people, in general, are very adaptable. But it could be a rough adjustment for all of us. :)


Lynne said...

Good luck! I will say that as thankless as it is to clean I do feel a sense of accomplishment every Monday when my home is really clean. Monday is the overall cleaning day and then other days I do other things like floors, blinds, etc. I don't function well in a messy home and so I clean it. It's never clean enough and I sometimes wish I could hire someone but it works. I'm sure you and your kids will be just fine!!

Janice said...

It will no question be a transition for you. Good luck. I am crappy at all of the above with the exception of child care and drops offs and pick ups. Cooking and cleaning are the bane of my existence which is ironic since that is what my main job is right now.

Ballerina Girl said...

It will be an adjustment that I'm sure all of you will take on full steam ahead!
I am not a cleaner...ask hubby, hahaha! But, what I find helps is to task it. Set a certain day to do the washing...unless emergencies come up. Set a certain day to do the bathrooms, a certain day for a heavy cleaning of the kitchen....then, just run the sweeper and windex every other day...
or something like that! HA, what the heck am I talking about?! I love my maid...and she's only here 2 x a week and isn't even very good at what she does!

Good luck my friend....

Super Happy Girl said...

"Recreational" Cleaning. I love that.

I don't know Gabs, sounds hardcore.
But what I want to know is this: what about crazy elaborate birthday parties? Who is going to plan those for you?

Roger and Deborah Garner said...

When all is said and done, when you ask an adult if he/she remembers what the house looked like when they were young (clean or messy) they can't remember. What they do remember is the activities and family time spent together. With nine kids I had to be organized and my home was kept clean . . . on the most part BUT there were times we let it go to take the kids to the park or go on long car rides to look at Christmas lights or the Fall trees, or we played games in the the back yard. That's what they remember. :)

Fabiola said...

The only thing I can say is Good Luck. You know I was raised down here and then I went to US, then I came back, then to France and now down here again (and who knows what will happen next year). This whole housekeeping is just a touchy subject for me.

I have a few blogs and web sites that I always check for ideas. I will email you during the weekend.

I hope you are not going nuts with the World Cup thing ; )

Steve and Jenny said...

Jacquie, you are a great mom and you will do just fine as a "regular person". I have faith in you. We're very excited to have you coming back.