When Did I Become The Maid?

I woke up this morning, came down the stairs and looked around. It was like I had just been born and could see everything with fresh, brand new eyes. At some point over the past two years I went from hot wife and cool mom to glorified maid. It’s true and I don’t think I like it.
When did I become the maid?
When did I become the maid?

I went to college. I worked. I was a professional and people respected me. I had friends. I was fun and cute and friendly. Then I signed up for wife and mother and I was busy and happy and funny. Then, out of the blue things took a turn for the worst. I became Cinderella except instead of two mean step sisters and a bossy, cranky step mother I have three dogs shedding (and none of them know how to work the vacuum), a toddler that obviously got her training from a school based on the life and times of the Tasmanian Devil, and a husband who knocks over potted plants and leaves the dirt in a pile on the floor for three days until I clean it up.  One day recently, I came in from the backyard (I had run outside to get something which required a 3 minute absence tops) and  there, in the hallway were two dog bowls filled with dog food and one bowl that was empty.  The contents of the empty bowl were all over the floor in multiple piles with pieces scattered in every direction. I almost just turned around, shut the door and drove off into the sunset. Instead, I marched into the house and complained that Tiny-Small was driving me crazy and needed to be kept away from the dog food at all times. Jim said nothing. It wasn’t until two days later that he finally confessed that he had, in fact, spilled the dog food all over the floor and left it for me to clean up. He actually said those words, “I left it for you to clean up.” I wasn’t sure what to do with that. It did make me insanely furious though. How did I allow this to happen? When did I become the maid?



I wonder if this happened to Cinderella too? Did she marry Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset only to find herself once again living the life of a scullery maid? I sat at the kitchen table this morning and looked down at my hands which are raw and chapped due to a ridiculous amount of hand washing, cleaning, gardening, and of course painting. My haircut has been overgrown for two months now and I am probably wearing clothes that are at least 10 years old. I don’t get enough exercise and I don’t get enough sleep and somehow deep down I know this is all my own doing. I am becoming some kind of living martyr or worse a beaten down, dumpy housewife. The kind of woman I so desperately did not want to become. These moment of clarity can be very stunning when they come to you in the quiet of the morning. Solutions to these problems are often elusive and impossible to formulate during the fog of fairly new motherhood. I don’t want the role of scullery maid. I want to have time for things that don’t involve cleaning. I want to have glossy hair, shiny eyes, and skin that doesn’t flake off in the wind. I look in the mirror and wonder how I became the person staring back at me?


Here I sit contemplating my present status of mom and maid to all, determined to make some changes. I’m not willing to accept this as my life sentence, but how do I navigate my way to a solution that can be satisfying to all involved? Do I just give up cleaning up after other people (especially adults) and live in squalor? Do I become a nag who is militant about structure and neatness? Do I hire someone to come in and clean the house once a week to lessen the burden? That might be the best and easiest solution. I cleaned houses to put myself through college and one of my customers told me that she and her husband were fighting all of the time about household chores. They finally went to counseling and the therapist said, “If this is what you fight about all the time why not hire someone to come in and clean your house?” So, she hired me. She said I saved her marriage! At the time I just thought she was nuts, but now that I am home struggling to keep everything running smoothly and living with two people who think I was born to be a personal butler I am reconsidering. It seems ridiculous to hire a cleaning crew when you are home all day and SHOULD be able to do it all yourself. I can’t do it all by myself though. I can’t be a mother, wife, maid, handyman, gardener, accountant, and cook simultaneously for 24 hours a day and still keep my sanity or feel even remotely healthy or look even slightly attractive. I need help. I am learning my limits. The saying, “If Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy” wasn’t said on accident. Who ever said that really knew what they were talking about. On the other hand asking for help or paying for help makes me feel guilty because I truly believe I should be able to do it all, do it all by myself and do it all well. My thinking is obviously quite faulty because one quick look around provides enough evidence for any logical person to determine that I am not doing it all nor doing it all well.


It’s time for me to make some decisions and stop being afraid to ask for help. I need childcare, a cleaning crew, a yard maintenance worker or some combination of all three. At least until Tiny-Small is big enough to help or not get into mortal danger while I am pruning some shrubbery. Time and energy are finite. At some point I have to start putting my needs into the equation. I say better sooner than later and also better late than never! It’s time to set some boundaries and be a good role model to my daughter. I need to teach her that there are ways to take care of and love your family without having to give yourself up entirely in the process, but first I have to teach this to myself!

34 thoughts on “When Did I Become The Maid?”

  1. Well, you're not alone! But my first thought was that you will always be a mom (just not to your husband!). You should never be a maid. I'm from the mindset that we all give 100% when we are able. Sometimes we're not able to give it all for whatever reason. Then someone else gives a little more to make up for the lack. We do that for each other. But a maid?? Never!

  2. Oy! Not fun…but I have to say we teach people how to treat us. Now that being said I also have the same belief of “why shouldn't I be able to do it all.” I think from the time we are little girls we watch our moms and our moms moms and our friends moms and any other woman do everything around the house, seemingly without a complaint. (Although, they were probably seething inside.) So that thought is ingrained in us from a very young age and we take it with us on our journey and say well my mom could do it, why can't I be super-mom, wife, etc… The fact of the matter is even if you “can't do it all” or you need help doesn't mean you're not super mom, wife.. it just means your human! And we should be respected as that. We shouldn't be just mom or wife.. we are “insert your name here, human!”

    It's ok to ask for help and you should let your husband know that. Maybe don't put in a nagging form or confrontational form.. but maybe, “hey honey can you clean up the living room while I make dinner, or hey babe, I'm gardening, would you mind washing the counters.” Let him know that you are doing some other type of work so you need help doing other chores around the house….

  3. My mother once told me the more you do the less your husband will. It might be time to establish chores for everyone. You don't have to do it all. If your feeling overwhelmed then its time for your family to step up and help out.

    1. I have actually thought about making a family chore list. I bought a giant calendar and everything. It seems like a good idea, but I want my hubby to develop it with me so he has bought into the idea. We just haven't had a chance to sit down and get it done yet. I have no problem with doing more since he is working out of the house, but I can't get it all done by myself. Plus, I am trying to build my art business, blog and my #1 job take care of Tiny-Small. That counts for a lot in my book!

  4. Just from reading both of your replies I have a feeling I am going to get myself into hot water for writing this one! I know much of this stems from my need to make up for not bringing in some sort of income. I sruggle with feeling like my contribution to the family does not make up for my lack of income and so I keep pushing myself to do more and more. I drive myself crazy feeling inadequate one minute and overworked the next. I can't quite embrace the idea of being completely dependent on my husband financially and yet I am. That alone doesn't jive well with how I see myself as a person. Sometimes I feel caught between two generations of women. I consider myself a feminist and yet my lifestyle doesn't exactly reflect that. My husband isn't a tyrant that expects me to be his maid, but he is human. If I am cleaning up after him it's not like he is going to stop me! I imagine many women are struggling with these issues. It's truly difficult to find balance. I don't want to be a freeloader or to feel taken advantage of. Unfortunately I tend to be oscillating back and forth thinking my contribution is quite valuable and under appreciated some days and other times thinking it lacks worth and I should be trying harder. I hope I will find that place of balance and contentment soon and just let the rest go. Until then I'll probably just keep trying to sort it all out!

    1. haha… no hot water. I do understand where you're coming from. It's definitely something you, yourself have to come to terms with. Yes, you're husband works and brings money in, but don't undervalue what you do. You're raising a tiny human being.. the “stay at home mom” is the hardest job in the world because you encompass everything, don't get paid (in a traditional way), and you're job never stops. And I think some people really don't realize that, even yourself at times.

    2. You are not alone. I took a break to raise my elder kid and was overwhelmed to say the least.Before I had second kid, I went back to work , took a maternity leave and then hired a nanny.
      Both kids go to day care full time . We have biweekly cleaning help and my husband does dishes .I guess the trick is in asking help in a firm and nice way(Easy said than done, I know )
      Take care 🙂

      1. When I was a kid I never understood why moms and grandmothers were so demanding about picking up, etc. but now I get it. You really have to put your foot down and make sure your family knows you mean business. I just wish I was better at that…maybe with practice!

  5. Alison, you are so right! Haha…I meant I am going to get into hot water with my husband and possibly with my in-laws when they read this! Or, he might be in hot water. I know his mom didn't tolerate that kind of mess making when he was kid. I can hear her telling him, “You know better than that!”

  6. I totally identify with this, Lillian – especially your comment above. I don’t bring in an income either, so I take responsibility for most of the household chores. However, that doesn’t mean that I will put clothes in a hamper. I will wash clothes that are in the hamper, but I won’t put them away if they aren’t mine. I will cook dinner, but everyone puts their own dishes in the dishwasher. I try to find the balance, but it’s difficult with two lazy and sloppy teenagers!

    1. Your hamper example reminded me of how much I hate it when someone throws something towards the garbage can, misses, and just leaves it on the floor. I really do resent feeling like a maid. It sounds like you have worked out a nice balance there. I am taking notes!

  7. This is such an incredible post, Lillian and I do hope you got yourself the outside help you needed! Why would you feel guilty about it?! Everyone deserves a break and you deserve to have time for yourself!! Just love this post!!

  8. My husband did sort of the same thing years ago. He would pile his dirty laundry in the corner of our room and leave it there. Now i dont mind doing laundry, but I sure as hell am not a maid, so instead of picking it up iI left it there…for over a week. He got really upset one.morning when he found he had no clean underwear and he had to wear his old ones. I told him flar out”I am not your mother, nor am I your maid. You want clean underwear you mo e your pile to the laundry basket or wash it yourself”. Needless to say he did not speak another word and washed his own stuff. He still doea the pile, and occasionally I pick it up and wash it. But once in a while he needs reminding who’s boss of this dojo and he has to go dirty or comando for a day .

    1. Aren’t we seen as rude and given other names when we do this. Household work with small kids is a hell when you have a husband saying you have done nothing, just look at the messy house, dirty dishes and the unattractive you. That’s when you realise I indeed have done nothing. And he’s right. Where’s the help from this everyday thing

  9. Oh I know exactly how you feel!nI went through exactly this not so long ago, well, maybe a year ago, but I thought that I could no way justify a cleaner when I was home all day, and put it off, and off, and off and off – and then when my father in law finally admitted he needed one, I grabbed my chance. We share a cleaner, she does my house one a week – and it makes me feel SO much better about life.
    Go for it.

  10. Thank you so much – your article was the first one I selected while searching about “glorified housekeepers”. IT HIT HOME AND is a GREAT READ!!!! I’ve been going through the exact same thing and I don’t see myself hiring anyone to clean since I’m home half of the week (which is probably contributing to the cycle). Sometimes I feel guilty if i stick to my guns and not do anything but as everyone has been saying- Being someones girlfriend or wife does not make you their surrogate mother

  11. Lillian,
    WOW! Interesting article…and equally interesting replies…
    I was shocked to read that after all you do for your household, you (or any of the other mothers replying) would have one ounce of guilt or remorse regarding feeling the way you do…! I agree that it is the most difficult job on the planet!
    I dont know what cultural norm is where you all live, but i dont think it matters. Sounds like its time to raise hackles and kick some serious husband / teenage butt. As a kid growing up, we were expected to help keep the common living clean..and our rooms as well. I started doing my own laundry (incuding ironing by the fourth or fifth grade.. (10?)…mowing the lawn…picking up after the horses…etc..etc.
    Now, at 62 (working 30 to 50 hours a week), live by myself, if i want anything done…cooking, cleaning, budgeting, shopping, laundry, bills….whatever… theres only one way it gets done…
    So it sounds to me like its time for all the ladies doing all this work to grab those lazy, slovenly husbands and kids by the ear lobes, pick them up and expect them to help out around the house like ‘grown up, mature, responsible adults’

    1. I wrote this a few years ago and I am happy to say we have made some improvements, but after reading your comment I am staring at ear lobes and thinking about giving a yank. My daughter is five now and has started doing some chores so I think we are heading in the right direction. Husbands take a little longer to retrain, but I am working on that too!

  12. ha googled when did I become a maid and here I am. This one in particular resonated with me because I can really, really appreciate the guilt and thoughts of “I should be able to do this!!” which I realize is just that definition of insanity b/c I can’t and saying it does not change things. We’re set up to think that if we have no job we have an indefinite amount of time; we can do anything and even worse, b/c we’re here, just give us more to do! mom will do it..she’s here. And yet when you pile on things you mention like home maintenance, budgeting, yard work…no, I can’t do that on top of the daily chores and cooking, weekly cleaning, school things, grocery shopping, everyone’s errands, etc. It’s so infuriating to feel like I’m on a treadmill and can’t win. I know the resentment and guilt is super unhealthy. :/

    I actually managed until my kids were older and all in school, ironically. They make bigger messes, have more things, resist cleaning up (follow their dad there) and are busy with activities, sports, endless school projects, which is also more work for me. So I just feel guity that they are in school, and instead of working, I’m actually not working and MORE behind than I was when they were babies and I worked part time from home. I feel so trapped. When they’re in school, I’m able to sink into my depression and lag as well. Which doesn’t help. I do take care of myself now, but I feel guilty (again!) for not making money and being behind on housework and not getting to To Do lists. Also all my free time activities I noticed revolve around coping- yoga, meditation, researching nutrition for depression, etc. For a while I drank way too much wine (wonder why that’s a cliché)

    I do feel badly when I see women saying it’s “our fault” for not asking for help. I really think it’s the men who refuse to step in and help, even when asked, begged, threatened. There’s a startling insensitivity. I’m working on my boys but they see the example their dad sets. I point out that he is losin gout on a lot- second income from me, a more efficiently run household if he helped. I just don’t think he wants to see my points at all. If I had daughters I would never encourage them to marry.

  13. sorry for that novel….it felt good to let out. 🙂 I see you are still garnering comments on this age old problem so I wanted to vent. 🙂

  14. I find myself on this site because I don’t know where else to turn to. I am 25 and still live at home. I am from Africa and the quality of life here is different so people tend to move out much later in life (advising that I should move out is not an option, I simply can’t afford it. Plus I have a student loan that leaves me so broke every month, I can’t even afford to buy myself underwear).

    My mother moved to a different town and I find myself living with dad. I work full time and I contribute where I can with the meagre salary I earn and my free labour. But I am starting to feel like the maid. I don’t have a husband or boyfriend or a family to take care of yet I find myself comparing notes with the married ladies and moms at work. All I do is go to work which is an hour’s drive, come home, meals and clean. My dad is not much help really and wants a freshly cooked meal every day of the week plus lunch for work.

    I remember a day I had food poisoning, I still had to make the meals whilst I was spewing my guts out and feeling unwell. I also spent an afternoon pulling out weeds in the front yard. I came back to the house to that hungry look. He was expecting a meal again. And I was sun burnt and my fingers were swollen. I said I’d order take out and he insisted on a cooked meal.

    Weekends are the same. It’s all about the meals and cleaning the house all by myself. Lately I’ve been depressed so I just aim to keep the kitchen clean. Now, weekends are spent sleeping in my room, mostly avoiding the dirty house waiting for me, only emerging to make a meal and cleaning the kitchen. I don’t enjoy going out during weekends because I always have to cut my excursions short so that I can come back home to make him a meal. It’s irritating coming back from a day or afternoon out to a hungry man. And having to make yet another meal. Sometimes he’d call me whilst I’m out asking me what is there in the house for him to eat. If he does use the stove, he leaves it dirty. The bin is right there yet he’ll just throw the trash next to it.

    I feel youth is passing me by. This whole experience has coloured my view of living with a man. I am certain marriage is certainly not for me. I apologize for the long rant, I just needed to vent.

    1. I hope you get more freedom soon. Sometimes I remind myself that “nothing lasts forever” when I am struggling. I hope your situation changes. I can tell you are very frustrated with your life right now. Hang in there!

  15. I typed “I am a wife not a housemaid” in google search today and landed here. 🙁
    We have two children, a baby and a toddler and sometimes my step son comes to stay the week-end and part of the holidays. I am trying hard but truggling to get it accross to them that am not there to serve them. I work from home and its a full-time job but somehow am expected to be able to take the kids out to the park, when I could have a skype scheduled with colleagues… I don’t mind mind the family time and the fact that I work from home does give me some flexibility but its a if everyone ha conveniently forgotten that I actually DO have a job! I believe its my own doing for not establishing clear guidelines from the begining and now I don’t know how to undo that.
    Now the maid part; hubby and son just don’t know how to keep a place they found it or put anything back where it belongs. My husband would wash a plate or two sometimes and I would hear myself thanking him and he would say “well, its our home” but then, the plates would sit there for me to clear, cupboards open, breakfast content not put away, hairs in the bathroom from shaving, damp towels on the bad and the entry way closet is just full of so much clutter you can’t image with his clothes just crumpled in balls inside… he doesn’t like his stuff to be touched but its an embarassement everytime we have visitors and the closet is open which is all the time since he does not bother to close it.
    I wash, clean, scrub, vaccum, cook, bath and dress the kids, change diapers all the time, #2 is potty training so I feel like I live in the toilet and WORK! I feel that I have reached my limit. I KNOW that I have reached my limit and I did get help but whats the point if everything is undone two hours after she has left…
    I know this post is rumbled and not structured and that how my brain is (not) functioning these days.
    Any ideas!

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