What is it with us Brits?
I'm a fairly mature individual - at least, I like to think so. I run my own home (mostly). I have successfully produced and managed to sustain two gorgeous boys. Husband and I have a happy marriage. When I worked in paid employment I was successful and was able to manage a team of people to achieve the end result I was after.
So why is it then, that when faced with dealing with someone who is cleaning my house - someone who I am paying a very decent wage to clean my house - I am seized by a crushing embarrassment and find myself totally unable to have a proper working relationship with them?
It's not as if I'm new to the idea of having a complete stranger come into my home and clean up after us; it's been at least 16 years that I 'recycle cash into the economy' (well, I had to come up with some way of rationalising it and dealing with the guilt). And yet, in all that time, I've never managed to crack it.
Some of them have been good, and some haven't. Some have stayed with us for years and have become pseudo aunts to the boys. Some haven't. But with none of them have I ever felt able to say - in the way I might with a colleague in the office - "I think this needs to be done again." Instead, when I spot the cobwebs in the corner of the ceiling or under the cupboard during their visit, I won't mention it, because that would be rude and of course they're going to deal with it. Aren't they?
But no. They finish up, put on their coat, I'll ask them about their life, sweetly hand over the cash, wait until they've left, and then... do it myself. Muttering about it, yes. Cursing, perhaps. But I'll still do it - and then not say anything the next week, simply handing over the readies for a repeat of the whole process.
For goodness' sake, what's all that about?
Don't answer that question, I know. It's the guilt. Unless you're from a very upper-class or moneyed background (and I'm not), we're just not used to having people in our own home 'serve' us. Indeed, the very word 'serve' is part of the world 'servant', and we've not been comfortable with that for some time in the UK. Or is that just me?
This is top of mind for me right now because our latest cleaner has just called in sick - again. She's probably managed only a 50% hit rate since she started with us a few weeks back. On the one hand I find myself thinking "It's just not good enough, I need someone I can rely on, I'm paying good money, I really should find someone else." On the other hand I also think "Oh, but you should be grateful! She's being good enough to clean up after you, a job that you don't want to do, don't you think you should give her a bit of leeway?" Which is all very well, but she's actually not very good at her job. Now, if this were an office-based workplace, those two facts - low attendance and poor performance - would be enough on their own to merit at the very least a discussion and if a decent explanation were not given, possibly result in a warning.
When you're dealing with a person who has the keys to your house, however, the goalposts tend to move a little. In my case, somewhere outside the stadium. So whilst I know I should sit down with her, ask her what the problem is, and explain that I need someone who, whilst allowed to call in sick every now and again, shouldn't be doing so every other week, and who notices the cobwebs / soap scum / water marks on the shower door, I also know that I probably won't.
She is cleaning up after us, after all... And god, does that make me feel guilty...