Before we lived in Mexico, we never had “help.” Now we have Pati, who cleans the apartment twice a week. She basically came with the apartment — we moved in and she showed up several hours later (she cleans for our landlady). We hired her on the spot. How could we not? Why would we not?
In Mexico, “help” is a pervasive part of the societal layer, many people have maids, drivers, gardeners, nannies and more. It took me awhile, but I’ve gotten used to it. I hope I will never not have a cleaning lady ever again. Besides the absence of filth, I love the little things she does, too. Like finding my belts – typically thrown haphazardly into a drawer – neatly curled up and placed on a shelf in my closet. Ah, there’s such serenity in cleanliness and order.
As much as I love this new part of my life, it’s also the oddest relationship I’ve ever had.
This woman, this tiny, sweet little woman, knows everything about us that can be known without needing to know English. Like what underwear we wore since she last visited (she does all our laundry), if we ate pancakes for breakfast (she does the dishes) and if I bought new shampoo (she scrubs the shower).
Because she’s doing a job I would never want to do, I try to show her as much respect as possible. We pay her when we go on vacation, and I let her have flexible hours since she has a 5-year-old son who has lots of school activities.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about how odd she must find us. We own carpeted steps so our dog can jump up on the bed. In my home office, I spend long hours on conference calls, only speaking every few minutes (think about how odd that would appear if you didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes), and I own three different types of hair conditioner.
And I spend a lot of time worrying I might do something culturally offensive or stupid, and she won’t realize that I’m just ignorant. There’s plenty of little awkward moments, like the time she said she was hot after she finished ironing, and I thought she was talking about the weather. But, she’s been around since November, and so far, so good. She’s also been great for my Spanish.
Tuesday was a particularly good day. She brought me two Oaxacan scarves/shawls as “un regalito” (a little gift). I was so relieved, not only because I like them (one is pink, the other black, both very cute and wearable) but because it means she likes me. She handed them over with a giant smile.