I think I am finally ready to talk about why I hate having a cleaning lady. It has been marinating since I moved into my apartment back in September, but I couldn’t put it down until I started to formulate something on it. This is still incomplete, but I think it starts to get at what I really feel about the situation.
Even the fact of having a cleaning lady makes me uncomfortable. It makes most of the gringos I know uncomfortable, though they still hire cleaning ladies too. It is because we are all middle class in the States and are used to cleaning our apartments ourselves.
For me, all my class baggage aside, just having someone up in my shit is kinda weird. I don’t have my cleaning lady do my laundry, for example. It’s bad enough she makes my bed and roots around underneath it. Rearranges my shoes and dusts the items on my dresser.
Another source of discomfort is that me and the other gringos are actually middle class here in Mexico, too, yet we can afford cleaning ladies because the going rate for a weekly visit is $200MXN. At least for my apartment (2 bedrooms, pequeño, poco espacio).
I think she could do the apartment in 4 or 5 hours, including my roommate’s laundry which air dries, but she tends to dawdle and make phone calls and stuff, normally does the whole job in 6 or 7. So not only is she there with me in the apartment for almost an entire day while I’m trying to work, she only gets about $15 for it. Wack.
Wack for the inequality, even more wack for the fact that she is willing to spend that much time for so little money.
I spoke to my roommate, who is Mexican, about my unease with the situation to try to understand it better. She let me know, as many of the gringos have also related, that part of the reason she hired our cleaning lady is because it is seen as a way to provide work for someone who would otherwise be unemployed. Considering we don’t actually need a cleaning lady, this rationale makes sense to me somewhat. I guess. It’s like an informal welfare system. We hire her because it’s good for the economy? Oh yeah, and don’t forget because she works for so goddamn cheap.
Anyway I’m not sure I can really accept the idea that she wouldn’t be able to find any other work.
My roommate and I also talked about giving her a raise. I am not for this, partly because then I would have to start letting her wash my underwear. Also because I think it’s weird to give someone a raise solely based on the fact that the wage they agree to makes me feel uncomfortable. And, perhaps the most emotionally compelling reason to me, I don’t want to pay her more for the reason that she doesn’t do a particularly good job. Yes, I would probably be half-assed too if I were paid that little money; however, at the same time giving her a raise might make her think she had done something to deserve the extra pay…
…Ugh. That sounds so horrible, I know. The bottom line is we are paying someone for something we don’t value. That is why the wage is so little to begin with; if it cost us more, we probably just wouldn’t hire her. As it stands everyone acts like we’re doing her a favor, when I suspect in reality if she couldn’t work as a cleaning lady for people who didn’t need her, there is a chance she might actually be working at something that contributes to society, and making money.
This makes me realize the benefit of real social welfare programs vs this bullshit. At least if the Mexican govt could afford to give her welfare maybe she would have time to go to school or something. But would she go? I dunno, I get the impression she’s pretty satisfied with the status quo.
Maybe my roommate and I should just pay her not to come…
Seriously, I hate the whole situation. TBC.