Do you feel guilty for hiring a housekeeper?


I hear it from moms all the time: “I’m completely overwhelmed by my filthy house, but I feel too guilty to hire a housekeeper.”

To which I say: WHAHHHAA?!

Actually, not so long ago, I felt guilty, too. After all, an adult woman can clean her own home, right? If I don’t have money dripping out of all my orifces, then paying someone else to wash and fold my laundry is just throwing money away, right?

After all, a good mother takes care of her family. That includes making sure the counters are spotless, toilets are stainless, and the linens blinding white, with fitted sheets folded just so. 

Then I woke up. I hired my lovely housekeeper, and I have never, every looked back.

I am a professional person, and my time is more monetarily valuable than my cleaner’s. I hate cleaning my house, and dirty floors, cluttered bedrooms and mounds of damp, stinky laundry staring at me all day stresses me out.

So, I outsource it.

Find a housekeeper at!

You outsource all kinds of household duties. Much of it to technology. After all, you like outsource your china and flatware cleaning to a dishwasher.  Your clothes are not cleaned on rocks down at the river; this task is outsourced to a washer and dryer. Your vegetables are probably not grown in your back yard, and if you are like 99 percent of Americans, you do not raise and slaughter your meat, or source dairy or eggs from your property.

Your groceries are outsourced, as is most of your prepared food — to restaurants and the frozen food aisle of your local market.

Back-to-the-land activists aside, most people are perfectly comfortable reaping the benefits of modern technology and a sophisticated economy that gifts us the benefits of these systems.

So why do so many moms have a crippling guilt-trip about outsourcing housekeeping?

We’re still hung up on the silly notion that the stay-at-home mom is the better mom. Pew research found that 40 percent of Americans think it is actually harmful to children when their moms work outside the home, even when research finds that working moms is great for the women (who are less stressed and depressed than their full-time-SAHM counterparts), marriages have a greater chance of survival if both partners are happily employed, and this gem, from Harvard Business School:

Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time, according to researchers.

In our minds, women lump together parenting and housekeeping. It’s understandable — these have always been the domain of women. And women have always been critical to the economic wellbeing of families — historically working alongside men in the fields or family enterprises. There was a blip in this equation in 1950s and 1960s when technology rendered much of traditional women’s work obsolete, and there were scant opportunities for women to earn a living outside of the home, but those days are past. Today there is untold possibilities for women to earn livings in professional careers, and yet we are hung up on spending precious time and energy on housekeeping.

To which I say: eff that.

Hire a cleaner. If your friend can’t recommend someone, and you’re not comfortable with CraigsList, check out my friends at, which has an awesome interface to help you find exactly the type of house cleaning service at a price you can afford.

Because whatever you’re paying the cleaner, you can earn far more by using that time and headspace to invest in your career, build a business, or simply chill out and relax in your clean home.



Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.

Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.

9 thoughts on “Do you feel guilty for hiring a housekeeper?

  1. One thing I love about my nanny is that she does some light cleaning and housework when she has time, like during nap time. I’ve still thought about hiring someone to clean my house, and I might in the future.

  2. I think the reason people give other people grief for hiring housekeepers is that it’s just seen as lazy and/or elitist by the masses and an unnecessary luxury. Dude, they should try telling that to my disabled mom on a fixed income whose housekeeper has been a godsend to her.

    I plan to hire one every week or every other week when I close on my new apartment next month. I currently have a studio that only takes about 15-20 minutes to clean after I invested in really organizing it so right now it doesn’t seem worth it but will for the bigger place that could suck up more of my time. But that damn dust arrrgh. How does it accumulate so fast?! With my allergies making me miserable I’d rather pay a housekeeper for an hour of her time once a week than pay for overpriced allergy meds.

    Hiring a housekeeper is just a way to buy time that people love to conflate as class war, like the demonisation of takeout that I can’t stand. Or thinking wash-and-fold laundry is a lazy luxury. I LOVE my wash-and-fold service, it buys me at least 2-3 hours a week. It pays for itself in new gigs, writing new content, or taking a walk.

    1. “Hiring a housekeeper is just a way to buy time that people love to conflate as class war, like the demonisation of takeout that I can’t stand. Or thinking wash-and-fold laundry is a lazy luxury. I LOVE my wash-and-fold service, it buys me at least 2-3 hours a week. It pays for itself in new gigs, writing new content, or taking a walk.”

      Perfectly said, per usual.

      1. Actually, it would rule if you could do a post on how to find a housekeeper! I’m saving the search for after I move but am a bit stumped.

        A lot of “cash and carry” type services like Merry Maids don’t go where I live and others require a contract of at least six months. (But laundry services do abound by me, luckily.) When I looked at local ads, interestingly a lot said they wouldn’t clean bathrooms? Then I imagine some other readers also might need someone who’s a nanny first and housekeeper second, or vice versa depending on the age of their kids.

  3. I am in the beginning stages of marketing myself as a housekeeper. I’ve been looking around for ideas to “set myself apart.” Certainly, a housekeeper must do the job well and be efficient. What are some of the nice little things which have been done in your home to endear you to a particular housekeeper? The only thing I’ve encountered so far is fun ways to fold toilet paper… surely there’s more than that!!

    1. Some things I love that my housekeeper does .. takes it upon herself to organize my drawers and closets, moves my winter boots into the closet during the summer, makes sweet little blanket beds for my kids’ snuggle toys on their beds, etc. She’s been with us a long time so really knows our habits, and that I trust her and appreciate her.

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