First World Guilt: Why do we feel so guilty for paying for help?
The guilt that people seem to feel these days is in everything.
From the guilt of having more than enough for your family to eat, to the guilt of wanting to pay for help to make your life easier.
I have friends who are parents and singles (sometimes dual incomes without kids as well) and every single one of them has confessed to feeling guilty for hiring a cleaning person to come bi-weekly or monthly to help out.
Each time, I’ve said: hey whatever makes your life easier!, although I’ve noticed that some people are less laissez-faire about it and are truly smug about doing it all themselves, all day, everyday even if it kills them.
THERE IS NO NEED TO BE A MARTYR
My friend texted me the other day saying: “I feel ashamed for even saying this but my wife stays at home with our baby and I work full time, but we just had to hire a cleaner bi-weekly. I feel terrible about doing it but it has made such a a big difference in our lives and our sanity.”
He feels guilt because his wife is at home full time with the baby and is exhausted from nightly feedings, etc, and he works full time but knows he has to come home and help out like clean, take the child to give her a break and so on. They have no outside help (like us), and no family around (like us).
They’re both at the end of their tethers mentally and I sympathize.
If you need help, what’s the big deal? In the past you had extended family members, cousins and children helping out with chores as a big family. These days, we are isolated suburbanites who are too far from our families to ask for help, and if we have to hire someone to do it, I don’t see the big deal.
It makes your life easier, you’re happier and more relaxed. Win-win.
WE THINK IT IS ONLY FOR THE RICH
Like taking the taxi, it is definitely something I associate with the rich but I don’t think that is accurate any longer, although I’m finding it hard to reconcile this internally as we have a combined net worth of over a million but don’t feel “rich”.
I still pack my lunch for work, I try very hard to curb my shopping tendencies and try to negotiate wherever I can.
People who work full-time, tend not to work only 40 hours a week (overtime is common amongst employees in a fearful attempt to show how employable and useful they are), but then to come home and have to make dinner too AND keep the place clean? It is exhausting, especially if you add kids on top of it.
But why the stigma? You’re only hiring someone because you need help, the way you might hire a babysitter or hire someone to shovel the snow off your driveway.
You can’t and shouldn’t think that you can do it all and if you are LUCKY enough to have that money to spend towards making your life easier, then by all means!!!
IT IS A LUXURY THAT HITS TOO CLOSE TO HOME
I personally don’t have a cleaning person nor am looking for one (but would be curious what it is like to have one).
Another colleague of mine doesn’t want to even be there when the cleaner is around. I don’t know if it is an acute case of class-it is or what, but he wants the cleaner in and out before he even gets home.
The reason why I myself don’t have a cleaning person is because I think I could do a faster, and better job for free (just need to exchange some of my time for it and our home isn’t a 3-level monstrosity), but also because it hits a little too close to home, having family members who have been cleaners their whole lives.
It is backbreaking, thankless, low wage work and I don’t fault ANYONE for having hired them (on the contrary, thank you!) but it just tugs at my hear my strings to know firsthand what they have to do to keep that job.
Of course it probably isn’t as bad as it was in the past when segregation was far more overt and some employers insisted that the help wash their hands with bleach as not to sully their home with their colour (read: The Help, which is fictional and so very decidedly NOT at the same time.), but I still feel awkward and odd to have people waiting on me in any form.
For others, it may be the same thing — their parents were cleaners or what have you, and they feel a strong guilt in it.
Conversely they could also feel a strong sense of pride of having “made it” as a former cleaner’s child to be able to hire their own help. Who knows?
HAVING A CLEANER MEANS WORRYING ABOUT JUDGMENT
It’s funny but it’s human nature.
I’ll bet if you have a cleaner you have done this — you’ve cleaned before the cleaner comes!!!
Just like going to the dentist to get our teeth cleaned, we spend time flossing and brushing just before our appointment in the hopes that they won’t notice and judge us to be the tired slobs that we all are. (I’ve done the dentist thing many times. 😉 )
We worry about judgment from our friends, family, colleagues and even our own cleaners.
Who cares?!? If it works for you, makes your life easier, and you aren’t in debt for it, go for it.
Except.. we do care. We care a lot about what people think about us.
IT IS JUST A SERVICE TO HELP YOU OUT
I see it like paying for a service — we go to eat out all the time and we don’t feel guilt from paying someone to cook for us, whisk our plates away and generally take care of us the entire time do we?
So why the guilt about a cleaner, specifically?
Perhaps it is because we can justify eating out as it is food or meals we can’t necessarily make due to skill, time or other constraints, but a cleaner? We can all pick up a broom and sweep or vacuum like a dervish. It isn’t a skill we can’t learn or claim we are unable to do, health-issues notwithstanding.