Being spoiled isn’t easy.

June 10, 2009

I love a clean house.  And I know how to clean a house.  I challenge anyone to a house cleaning competition, and I would suggest you put your money on ME! I can’t say I love to clean, but I love it clean, so somehow the two come together, anyway.

Now that we live in Mexico I have help in the house.  Help everywhere, really.  Our car is washed once or twice a week.  Our groceries get loaded into the trunk.  A whistle helps us find our way out of a parking stall.  And Guadalupe comes over twice a week at about 9 and cleans until about 1.  One day upstairs, the other day, down.

She mostly sweeps and mops and dusts.  And her personal specialty, of which she is not even aware, is making me uncomfortable.

I just get uncomfortable when she is here and I am not working.  There’s no way I can read a book or knit or look at the computer when she’s here.  I just feel so damned LAZY!  She couldn’t care less, why do I?

Paul can work on the computer or read a book or even stretch out on the couch for a nap when she’s here.  What’s wrong with me?  She is a friendly person, and we have talked about our families and what we like to cook, etc., but I have just never relaxed around her.

I know she couldn’t quite figure me out for a long time, and then we had family visit.  She has met the whole gang, and now thinks I am OK because I love my family, and she gets that.  The problem is, she gets me, but I don’t get her.

Recently one of her sons had a spell of bad luck (should I have said more?) and now she asks if she can take the classifieds with her when she goes.  Gulp.  Another son this time.   What should I say.  Do?  No idea.

I am just not relaxed when she’s here.  I find excuses to go do errands.  What the hell is wrong with me?

More about Nancy

I'm Nancy, a US expat living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco after 11 years in Mazatlán, México.

12 Comments
    1. I’m with you. Our helper is Gaby, and she is a lovely woman. She has a husband who drives a big truck locally, 2 kids one boy 8 and a girl 14, she worries about the quincenera now. She does not cook, and says she doesn’t have a kitchen, she appreciates my cooking. I always cook and clean while she is here, or goto the super, or run out to pay bills, or…
      I can’t just sit and read, or sew, I can get on the computer which makes no sense except sometimes the computer stuff is sort of work because I do stuff for charities, and Women’s Group, and, and, and…
      What is wrong with us, why can’t we take a nap, or float in the pool, that is why we have the helpers isn’t it?

    1. Nancy, I am glad you posted this. I have been having the same problem, but I think I know its roots — for me. Marta has been helping me with my Spanish, so I know my concern about having her around is not her. It is me. I have lived alone for the past 30 years. Whenever she starts sweeping and mopping, I revert to being 12 and end up evicted (voluntarily) from thye house until “Mom” is done. As a result, I spend half a day, two days a week skulking around on the porch where I sit and read. Now and then I sneak back upstairs to ask her about Spanish words. Maybe I will try Paul’s nap approach.

    1. Well, I think your feelings are correct. I have a group of 4 women who clean my house. Granted, being as this is the U.S. and things are more expensive, they only come once every 2 weeks. Also, because there are four of them, they clean the whole house in only one hour. This same group has been coming to clean for over 10 years. I would not dream of hanging around getting in their way while they worked. These women are professionals and while they are here my house is their work space. If I had to stay in the house I would designate a room as a no-clean room and I would stay in there and work on the computer. Christine

    1. I also have Gaby (which I thought was spelled Gabi) and Debi knows a whole lot more about her than I do. Partly because I have a very hard time understanding her but also because she works with her earphones in and her music on, I love that. I really do like that little conversation is expected. I hang out on the computer, in the pool, talking with friends, I guess it doesn’t bother me as much.

      At first, when you don’t know them and they don’t know you it can be uncomfortable. But really, as long as what you are doing is legal and moral who cares if they think you are lazy or whatever? I’m sure they do have some opinions that we would not love but they aren’t sharing them with you or your friends so? Now that I think about it, Gaby could be dishing me to Debi but really, would I care? No. I did balk at hiring a friend of my next door neighbor as I thought that would put all my business on the street. I prefer it to be bantered about out in Gaby’s neighborhood – and perhaps over at Debi’s! In truth, Gaby seems very reticent and I doubt she talks much about either Debi or I. When I have asked her about things like how the party preparations were going at Debi’s she was very vague. I like that about her.

      I have many years with Manuela over in Akumal and while she is also discreet about me (I think) she talks to me when I am there. I hear about all the dish over in the pueblo, her family, the other maids that are or are not really working, the management at the other places she works… it goes on and on. I still get on the computer or the phone or have friends over but if I’m alone she is much more likely to start talking as she works. Since I don’t see her very often anymore that is OK, if I were there for weeks it would calm down.

      My advice, force yourself to just read a book one day that she is there. Even if you are uncomfortable, just sit there and read and eat bon bons. I think it will break the barrier and then it will get easier. Well, you do have to give up the idea that sloth is bad and someone is keeping score.

    1. We have had O for the last 3 years. Comes once a week. I trust her totally. When she first gets here we catch up on local news, her family, the local economy, whatever. She likes us, we like her. What she doesn’t like is being supervised while she works. We have no choice but to leave the house in her capable hands. I don’t think for a moment that she thinks we are lazy. She probably thinks we are crazy for paying her what we do but she is worth every single peso. If you can’t get over feeling quilty, make sure you have errands to run and get out of the house when she is there.

    1. I get it. I also feel odd to “do nothing” while houskeeper cleaning.

      I have worked at home for many years which means I am at my computer. This works for me. I just move to another room when office area needs to be cleaned.

      I do prefer to be gone completely though if possible.

    1. Debi, Oh maybe someday I’ll have your confidence. But tomorrow morning I will read while she is here! Or maybe even knit! Thanks for the encouragement.

      Steve, It sounds like you and I are on the same wavelength. But every time I ask Guadalupe for help with Spanish she confuses me more. I have to do a blog post about Leeks one of these days, it was pretty funny.

      Christine, I think one of the issues for me is that I don’t know what is expected of me. UP north I could do the same as you and be fine.

      Jonna, Thanks for all your thoughts on this. One thing I kind of messed up in describing also is my angst about what to do when she talks about her family…her kids have had some issues that I couldn’t tell if she was telling me in her way of asking for help. But she didn’t ask and I didn’t offer and it just made me uncomfortable. But tomorrow I read when she’s here, for sure.

      IslaGringo, It is so nice to know I’m not alone on this! And while I feel we are friends on one level, there are so many levels where we don’t know each other at all. I mean she has never known me when I worked and was a big shot and stuff…and I have never seen where she lives, etc. It is complicated. Maybe some day I will work it out!

      AMM – Maybe one issue for me is how she works…sweep the whole floor. Then dust the whole floor. Then bathrooms. Then mopping. So it seems like no matter where I am I am underfoot. Usually we go up if she is down and vice versa but it feels like I am hiding. And I sort of am!

      Thanks everyone. Poco a poco

    1. Just about all the women I know feel uncomfortable when someone else is in their house doing the cleaning. I’ve only had help with the house a few times and I found it extremely awkward, to the point that I’d have to go out and do errands. And this is in Canada where there aren’t the cultural differences.

    1. I didn’t mean to make light of it, it can be an uncomfortable situation. The stories about the kids and their problems are really hard, I have that problem with Manuela sometimes. I’ve gotten sucked in and tried to help at times but found that it is usually an endless cycle. I think that you do what you can and when you think you can help you offer, but you hope that they don’t make a lot of requests. It’s not an easy relationship, you kind of have to walk a fine line. In many cases, just listening is enough. Realize that we are an uninvolved outsider and with no knowledge of the other sides of the story we can often just be an ear. I do that a lot with Manuela, I listen, I commiserate, I don’t offer a solution. I may be really bad at this and really obtuse but it works for me.

    1. So, a bit of success today. I exercised on the Nordic Track and then went downstairs all sweaty and red… made some salad and chatted with Guadalupe about losing weight. (It is about 90 degrees and 74% humidity and she was wearing a shirt-jacket while she worked, by the way…) I have been running around this morning taking Henry to the groomers etc so I haven’t had time to sit around and read yet.

      But I am feeling much better about things, and I guess I am not going to try to figure out what I “should” do when she says something about her kids or expenses or something, I will just wait until she asks and then cross that bridge.

      I appreciate all your help, thank you.

    1. Nancy, I know you are struggling with this. You are such a nice person, and you usually know the right thing to do, so being unsure how to handle this situation that has such potential to cause hurt feelings must be real torture for your soul.

      I asked about this with some of my Mazatlecan friends, both people who employ help around the house, and those who do the helping around the house. Here is what I was tolod:

      1. The employee/employer relationship is different here than what we are used to in the US. There are situations where you expected to provide help beyond a job and a paycheck.

      2. Talking about problems to you can be a hint, but is most likely just sharing what is on her mind and establishing a friendship.

      3. If there is a hint for help, it will usually follow the discussion of the problem. ie: If only my son had the money to pay his tuition this month. If he had the bus fare to get to a job interview. etc.

      4. If a situation arises where you are expected (as opposed to just be appreciated) to help, you will be asked.

      So maybe she is just sharing her woes and all she requires is a sympathetic ear. Maybe you just listen? I know that’s hard, because we both suffer from the problem-solving disease. Whatever you do, I know it will be right.

    1. I even have a hard time if I am walk into my hotel room and the maid is cleaning. I usually turn around and leave. I could never have someone on my own home cleaning while I was in it. So I don’t have a housecleaner at all.

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