December 28, 2009

Cleaning Girl

I've posted before on the topic of maids so you know how I feel about it. That said, this past week my neighbor told me she had a woman come clean her whole apartment for 50LE. She said she did a great job and finished in like 5 hours. I thought hey, that would be great. So I contact the cleaning lady and set up a time and day and right away, I start to regret it.

I kept wondering: What is the protocol here? Do I de-clutter and tidy up first? Do I make small talk? Feed her? I was stressing out. My neighbor made it seem like I had to hide all my stuff and lock it away or any cleaning woman would want it/steal it or just feel bad. I was like, whatever.

The night before the woman who was supposed to come called me and said she had a toothache and couldn't come but she would send her relative and that she was very good and very trustworthy. I was like alright. 8 am? 50LE? Yep? OK.

8 am today rolls around and no cleaning lady.9 am finally the doorbell chirps. I let her in and she looks so young. I told her to sit and rest from the stairs and gave her some water. I asked her how old she was and she said 15. FIFTEEN! I was like. Ummmmm I didn't sign up for this. I told her I thought an older woman was coming. She looked down and said she was very good and that I would like her a lot. I felt so bad for her. She already took public transport to get here and I figured she/they need the money. So I told her the plan and we got to work.

She said she'd start with the kitchen. While she washed dishes for an hour I dusted the whole apartment. Then she moved on to wiping down the cabinets. And I washed the walls and doors. Basically I cleaned the house and she helped out. She was pretty slow and didn't' clean very well. Could I blame her? She's a kid! She was enthralled by the vacuum though.

I really felt bad for this girl. She should be in school but sadly, many poor families have their children work to make money instead of going to school and learning. She asked me twice if I knew anyone who needed housecleaning. I told her I'd call her mom if I did. You see her mom called to check on her when she wasn't back yet at 3. I told her she was just about done and when she asked how she was I said she is very nice but still very young. So she finished up and I paid her and figured she'd be on her way. It was almost 4 pm by now. She didn't want to eat so she just sat there after she finished her sprite. I don't know why she just sat there or what she was waiting for. It was awkward. I asked her if something was wrong. She said no. So I told her not to keep her mom waiting.

NOW, I am totally off the idea of anyone cleaning my apartment but me. I thought the help would be good but I could have done it better and faster. I have a small place so I can handle it, for now.

I gave her an extra 10 LE for helping me wash a rug and I unloaded a bunch of old clothes, shoes and some half empty shampoos/lotions and stuff on her. She seemed pleased. She thought I wanted her to come weekly but I told her that it was just a one time thing and thanked her.

Seriously it was so weird to have this young girl cleaning in my house. I'm old enough to be her mother. I felt so bad.


  1. Awww Mona - I really felt a lot when I was reading your story...that must have been hard.

  2. i think its weird to have anyone cleaning yourself but you. i even feel weird when my mum or mum-in-law takes stuff to the kitchen. i dont like people touching my stuff and also it makes me feel redundant or lazy to have someone else do it when im quite capable of it.

  3. I know that the whole concept is more common in the ME, but I would have trouble with allowing it either. It sounds like you could have gotten the work done faster yourself anyway b/c you were spending so much time working right next to her. It would probably be better once you got to know a person and could sit in the next room doing something else while they worked. You could have been reading blogs pretending that you were working from home, lol :-)

  4. i just recently got a maid service to come to my home weekly. mostly for my mom. she takes care of the home...but her health is not as good..and i feel better if she doesnt have to do the weekly deep cleaning....and its amazing! it is through an agency...and they send 2 people out..they clean everything from the baseboards up to the ceiling fans. maybe, see if they have an agency in your area....
    especially you have will be nice to have someone do the deep down stuff, so you can spend that time with your children.

    ....on another note...i wish that school is something all children had access to. its not fair a young child is missing out on a important rite of passage as simple as school.

  5. We usually get help from this lady to clean my mom's place about once a month. My mom needs help esp since she looks after my daughter while we work and has to handle my dad (who is not well).

    the lady is an Indonesian lady that is younger than my mom, she's lived here for abt 15 to 20 years now and they get on famously. After she cleans (and my mom cleans at the same time too, just like you did, Mona) they'd have tea together and chat.

    She even comes to my place to clean too when I've been extra busy with work and daughter. She's more like a family friend, like... our plumber, the vet, the doctor...

    Its just something normal to me. And many families here too, I think. In fact, most families have live in maids, I am still trying to come to terms with that. I can't imagine someone else living in our home. So I definitely prefer this method.

    15 years old?? Oh the poor thing.

  6. Ms M. Not so much hard as sad.

    Ange. cleaning yourself? lol Yea I agree. I'm kidding I assume you mean your place? I don't care so much about people touching my stuff as I do about how maids here live. I wouldn't have a problem with a cleaning service in the States. They are pros and clean while you are out.

    Stacy aka Fahiima, Yea, I don't want to get in the habit of it. I think it's way different in the gulf than it is in Egypt though.

    Angie Nader, That sounds good. Professional cleaners are a different story than Egyptian maids.

    Kit, I hear it's common and it's a good thing when done correctly.

  7. Aww, poor girl, that's sad that she's out working and not in school learning :( I feel bad for kids like this.
    So sad :(

  8. when I was 15, I got my first job cleaning motel rooms. I dont think it is such a big deal. I mean her mom was checking on her and everything, so it seems she is cared for. If she was younger, I guess I would feel sad, but it is not that young to be working. It is the legal age in Canada to get jobs.

  9. Melissa, She was probably in school till grade school just to learn to read and write, but yea.

    Umm Travis, It's not so much sad about her age as it is about this young girl was doing my housework that I should have just done and that she needs the work so bad that she isn't in school.

    In the US the working age is 16 and I worked then too. But you probably still went to school and most teens get jobs for extra pocket money or gas money. Not to earn money for the family to live. There's also more of a stigma here for a girl to clean houses. In the US or CA it's strictly professional. Know what I mean?

  10. Wow, it breaks my heart to see young girls like that having to work to support their families. Like you said, she probably needed the money and had you not hired her, someone else probably would.

  11. Hijabee, Yea, it's just a fact of life here.

  12. It's pretty sad that she is working to support her family for sure... I had my first job at 13 but it was just for extra money -- no pressure. Not the same as this.

  13. Candice, Yea. The next day the woman who was supposed to come called and apologized for not being able to come.

  14. Mona, you are blogging about things that have been on my mind this week!! I got a lady into clean for the first time a fortnight ago on the recommendation of a friend. We agreed on a price, she came on time and we set to work. She brought one of her children with her so that child played happily with my children all morning, they all had brunch together and things were good. She worked very hard doing jobs that usually take me hours. I am not good at doing the whole wash down the bathroom thing nor under the beds/rugs etc.. I love homemaking just not that part - v.hard with little ones constantly around you.

    Anyhow, I gave her agreed upon price PLUS extra as I was really pleased with what she'd done. I'd cooked a few meals while she'd finished the bedrooms and she cleaned the kitchen for me thereafter including all the dishes. When i gave her the extra she was like 'is that it for all my hard work?' - I explained that it was a bonus but she seemed upset (all this was agreed beforehand and I omitted the ironing as the kitchen was more important) - it's like the days of taking taxis in Egypt - start going on about the price and moaning the whole way i give nothing extra. Stay quiet and take us to destination safely get a nice big tip....grrr!
    Sorry Mona, bit of a blog there!!!

  15. as salaamu alaikum my dear Mona...Wow! That was an ordeal, eh? DEFINITELY different here in Dubai, as it IS very common to have house help (although I prefer part timers to live-ins)...and being the true blue-blooded american that I am, certainly wasnt living the high 'maid life' when I was back home...WE clean in America. Now, I'm a teacher, away frm my family all day and prefer help cleaning, washing, etc. to doing it solo, taking more time frm my kids and hubby. It's cheap, quality work and u can trust 'most' help not to clean u out when ur not lookin! My choice...anywho...def. not lazy, just come home BEAT and dnt EVEN wanna see a nasty house I gotta clean! Sry it wasnt a better go 4 u, Mona dear! ;)


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