Putting Your Kids to Work Day


When you rent a temporary apartment in Buenos Aires, the apartment often comes with once-a-week housekeeping service. The mucama arrives, changes the ropa blanca (linens), cleans, and eyeballs the apartment for the owner to ensure that you aren’t going all rock star on the dwelling.

Before I launch into our current housekeeping debacle, let me say that Tom and I are always rather sheepish about having cleaning help, and when we do have it, we are methodical about preparing the apartment for said person (Ian always laughs at us for cleaning before the arrival of the maid). We figure that we just want assistance with cleaning the major stuff (mopping floor/cleaning bathrooms), so we make sure that everything is picked up, the dishes are done, etc.

When we moved into our new casa in Las Cañitas, it was clear that Liliana, the housekeeper, really had no interest in the work. When she did show up (and often she would pull a no-call, no-show), she never actually cleaned anything. And whatever she did do, we usually had to spend time undoing. For instance, she once “mopped” the wood floor by spraying furniture polish on it, leaving a thick greasy residue we had to remove. Or, she would dump dirty bucket water from bathroom cleaning directly into the kitchen sink, and then leave it like that…*sigh*.

After a month-and-a-half of this, we arranged with the owners to obtain a refund in exchange for handling the maid services ourselves.

Our first thought was to hire someone, but then, we realized that the little towheads that live with us are practically a built-in labor source, besides, it would be character building, right?

So yesterday, the girls and I went to the grocery store and bought nothing but cleaning supplies (pictured above). The clerk commented that we appeared to have a fun Saturday planned! The girls were mortified that we were carrying around mop handles on the walk home. (Yet Zoe and Zelda didn’t find anything embarrassing about building a paper airplane out of a label they found in the grocery cart and flying it around the crowded cleaning aisle while I hissed at them…)

Funnily enough, Zelda was beside herself with excitement at the prospect of learning how to clean a bathroom, so we’ve been giving her a hard time about that all weekend (poor girl).

I’m happy to report that their first lesson was successful — they were digging on the shining porcelain after it was properly cleaned (further proof that the bathrooms were hardly touched by Liliana). The new plan: Zoe and Zelda are in charge of changing their sheets (we had a hospital corner lesson last week) and cleaning the bathrooms every Sunday. Tom and I are in charge of mopping, dusting, and other general cleaning and changing our own sheets.

The family that cleans together…gets exposed to noxious chemicals together?!?

4 Responses to “Putting Your Kids to Work Day”

  1. Chris

    i think zelda’s got the right idea – it would certainly be helpful if i were more enthusiastic about seeing sparkling bathroom tiles!

  2. ian

    a laugh out loud at zelda’s bathroom cleaning anticipation…and i thought it took a year of working as a glorified janitor, cleaning the nasty apartment toilets of perfect strangers to inure oneself to the inherent gnarliness of bathroom cleansing…when all it takes is youth and a mother with liberal views on child labor laws.

  3. Michele

    Chris, your brother did say that he could have benefited from having to do more cleaning himself at a younger age. (I love to tell the girls the story of how gross his bathroom whas when I first met him while he lived with Andrew. The Zs think it’s hilarious.)

  4. Michele

    Kip — yes, your days of apartment turnaround would have prepared you well for facing our bathroom after it was non-cleaned by the maid over the course of several weeks!

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