When I look around the house, I miss her. It’s been a few months now since she left, and this place is not the same.
I met Diana at exactly the right time. I was almost nine months pregnant with our third child. In addition to the baby kicking around in my womb, there were also a four-year-old and a two-year-old kicking around the house, making messes wherever they went.
I was in that early phase of motherhood when you foolishly believe being a “supermom” is an attainable goal. I was in a constant quest to keep the house clean — awkwardly bending over my pregnant belly to mop the kitchen floor or get Lego blocks off the rug. And it felt like I was continually frustrated with the boys for undoing most of my cleaning work the moment I did it. I just wanted a clean floor. They just wanted me to play.
Then I had a checkup with my obstetrician who ordered me to go on “partial bedrest” for the rest of the pregnancy. He assured me the baby would be fine, but I needed to put my feet up for several hours a day, every day.
I wanted to hug my doctor, weep tears of joy into his white jacket and say, “Oh, thank you! You have no idea how good that sounds.” Ask any young mother how she’d feel about a daily, mandatory rest period. She’d jump at the chance. Not only does it bring some much-needed rest, it also comes guilt-free because “the doctor said so.” It’s the ultimate “get-out-of-mopping-free” card.
Happy as I was to not be schlepping up and down the stairs with a vacuum cleaner, I knew it would be hard for Tom. He was working long hours and traveling. Even though he was great at making dinner and doing the kids’ bath and bedtime, there wasn’t enough time or energy leftover for cleaning.
Maybe I should have just let it go, but by the ninth month of pregnancy, the “nesting” instinct is strong. I couldn’t stand the thought of bringing a newborn into a sticky, dusty house littered with laundry piles. Finally, a fellow mama friend looked me in the eye and said words that changed my life: “Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve got two little kids, a husband who works long hours and travels, no grandparents in town to help, and you’re almost 9 months pregnant on partial bedrest. There are people who clean houses for a living. Pick up the phone and call one — today.”
She was right. It was worth doing without a few non-essentials to get my house clean and sanitized before the baby came. And it just so happened that a cleaning service had left a business card in my mailbox a week before. I called the number on the card, and that’s how I met Diana.
She was only 18 years old at the time and was starting her own cleaning company. I was her first official customer. While I stayed with the boys watching cartoons in the bedroom, Diana swooped in with a team of cleaners and a bucket of supplies and worked a minor miracle on our house. It was sparkling clean — top to bottom — and it smelled amazing.
I took one look at the gleaming floors, the sparkling sinks and the fresh vacuum marks, and I fell in love. It was some of the best money I’d ever spent, and my stress level plummeted immediately. Soon, our “Diana day” which came every two weeks, was my favorite day of the month.
Six weeks later, we welcomed a healthy baby girl into the family. A few weeks after that, Tom asked me a poorly-timed question: “So should we get rid of the cleaning service now that you’re not on bedrest anymore?”
“Only if you want to get rid of me, too,” I replied cheerfully.
There must have been a threatening gleam in my eye when I said it because Tom immediately sensed this was not an expense he would be wise to cancel. When your wife is up half the night nursing a newborn and then up all day potty-training a two-year-old while reading picture books to a four-year-old, you don’t poke the bear. You give the woman what she needs to survive.
Over the next 12 years, Diana and her magical team of cleaners helped us every other week and eventually began cleaning most of the houses on my street. During that time, she got married and had two babies of her own. My kids continued to grow, and I started my own business. And then a few months ago, she told me she was shutting down her cleaning service and going off on a new professional adventure. I was happy for her but a little devastated, too.
Since the kids are now teenagers and capable of doing more housework, we divided up the cleaning chores among ourselves. For the most part, it’s working. But the house never gets clean all at once, like it did when Diana came. A floor gets cleaned today. A bathroom tomorrow. Dusting a few days after that — just whenever we can fit it into otherwise busy schedules. Every time the kids scrub a toilet or Tom and I mop the floors, we think longingly of Diana, who has become somewhat of a cleaning folk hero in our minds.
If you’re looking for the best group baby gift for an overwhelmed new mama, arrange for her to have her own Diana for a while. She’ll never stop thanking you for it.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book is available on Amazon.