I remember my first (good) maid.

Her name was Maria. She lived with us full-time (in our 6500 sq ft ridiculous mansion in Costa Rica).

At the time, my kids were 4, 3, 2 and 6 months. I NEEDED help.

In the morning she would make breakfast and do all the clean-up. Then she'd wash the clothes, sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, make lunch, clean up, pick up toys, change diapers, mop the floor, fold the laundry, pick up toys make dinner and clean up before she went to bed.

She was awesome, and we loved her. Greg would teach her English, sometimes she'd go on vacation with us, or we'd take trips to visit her family in Siquirres.

It was grand, and I loved having the help. But I often felt guilty, letting someone else do MY work and clean up after MY family. That was my job, wasn't it?

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Now we're renting a house in Panajachel (we just moved to a new place, from where we were before. Rent at the new house is only $230 a month.)

After moving in, we decided we needed to hire a full time muchacha to help out while we put more focus onto education and business.

As I sit and write, she's preparing lunch, cleaning up, and doing the laundry. And I don't feel guilty. Not one bit.

What changed over the last few years?

Here's a few of the things I've learned along my journey that has helped me to hire a maid without feeling guilty:

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Know how to work, but learn to delegate

Back in Costa Rica, I was young and inexperienced, and honestly, not that good at housework.

Since then, I've learned how to work, and how to run a home. I can cook and clean and do a dang good job.

But I also know that I can't do all the cooking and cleaning AND be the teacher and run two businesses.

Yes, I'll admit it, I can't do it all.

So instead of running myself weary trying to, delegation is a far more sensible option. I can't hire someone to write for my blog - to do my art - but I can hire someone to make lunch for my family and wash the dishes. So why wouldn't I?

But of course, if I do hire that help, that means that I need to make sure I...

Spend the time working on more important tasks

If I hire a maid so I can kick up my feet and watch novelas (Spanish soap operas) all day long, then I should feel guilty. Idleness doesn't develop the soul.

But if I hire help so I can spend my time writing, recording, networking, educating my kids and creating - well then that's only good business and parenting practices.

Let someone else do work that most anyone can do gives me more time to do the things that only can do.

But just because she's there to do the cleaning, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't...

Let the kids keep their chores

I've worked hard to train my kids to pick up after themselves and do their daily chores (well, it is still a work in progress of course.) But why throw all that away just because 'that's what I hired her for.'

The kids still need to learn how to work, and how to clean up their own messes. She's there to do my jobs so that I can do other, more important tasks (see the point from above).

This ensures that the kids understand that having help doesn't equal more laziness on your part. Help is there so you can work harder on your 'jobs'.

Besides that, hiring local help allows you to...

Invest in the local community

When all is said and done, why would I feel guilty when I'm providing an income for another person or family? What seems incredibly cheap to me is a good salary for many of the local people. They're eager to get a good paying job like this. I'm blessing their lives and making an investment in the local community.

(Affordable hired help is one of the biggest reasons I love living 'abroad'. It's a big boost in the quality of your lifestyle when you can get full time help in the house for less than $25 a week.)

We also like to take the opportunity to improve other skills while they're in our employment - like teaching English, computer skills, or how to bake bread. That way, when they no longer work for us, they'll hopefully have better job prospects.

Have you ever had a maid?



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30 Responses

  1. Oceana

    When I lived in Indonesia as a child my mother worked full time and I had two younger brothers. Having a maid was absolutely a necessity. We found the perfect lady and she went on to work for us for over a decade (and continues to do so now). I see her as another mum or an auntie and I’m quote close to her daughter, who is the same age as me. Being Australian, and also being a teenager at the time, I was really apprehensive about having a maid, and saw it as something I should feel guilty about because it made me appear as though I was somehow better than her. But now I’m able to look at it differently and I’m so glad that I have that connection and that I was able to have the experience of growing up with such a wonderful and positive person in my life.

  2. Lana

    Yes, same for me. Between working with some high risk kids that I lived with, and working on my business projects (which at that time, still wasn’t getting done enough because of the kids, why I’ve scaled back even more for a time), hired help was a lifesaver. Its a simple business step. Its called leveraging time. I wouldn’t mind getting to the point someday where I could hire someone to answer emails for me too.

    And yes, big plus to living abroad. I am glad you see investing in the help as important too. I have seen a lot of missionaries pay the help the minimum salary but not give them any addition perks, such as eat with them, their own holidays, and give the help leftover food that’s going in the garbage, even if its moldy etc. (poor people will always recycle or give food to the animals) Because I speak the local language in the country I live in, I’ve seen how this has created bitterness towards the westerners. Part of owning a business, for me, is not to hire someone to build my dream, but also help someone else build theirs. I am not there yet, but it is something I’m working towards.

    • Rachel

      I love that part especially at the end – ‘not to hire someone to build my dream, but also help someone else build theirs.’ It can be an opportunity to share ideas, which in reality, is the biggest contributor to poverty (the lack of ideas).

  3. Beth Hedquist

    I would never feel guilty about hiring a maid. Period. But I love that you teach your maid English and other skills that will benefit her later. Sure they are happy to have the pay now, but to invest in their future like that is above and beyond the call and I commend you for that!

  4. Joy

    I had a maid the first few years of my children’s life. I was a stay at home mom, so at first the idea seemed ridiculous…but my goal in staying home with my children was to share quality time connecting and learning and growing, being present to (and with) them. I found it was much easier to vest full presence when someone else could take care of larger cleaning projects in our home.

  5. tereza crump

    I had daily maids or cleaning ladies that would come once a week to clean my house in Brazil. My DH tries to tempt me into moving back to Brazil with the maid offer. He says: “You know, in Brazil, you can have a maid clean up the kitchen for you. In Brazil, the maid would be cleaning the bathrooms. In Brazil, the maid could do that…” Ugh! I guess I got to move to Brazil to have a maid!! 🙂

    Enjoy your maid! They are wonderful God sent angels!!!

    PS Unlike how you are teaching your kids, I remember that when we were kids we actually learned how to do chores and clean up while we lived in California for 2.5 years when we did NOT have a maid! Other than that time, the maid did most everything. I did have to organize my bedroom from time to time. Ugh!

    • Rachel

      Maybe you should move to Brazil 😉 We’ll be there in 2016, and we’re planning a meetup with other families!

      • tereza crump

        @Rachel: we might be. Just had a talk with hubby today. 🙂 Will see how God directs us. Reading your thought provoking book. It’s freeing and uncomfortable at the same time, if you know what I mean! 😉

  6. Renee

    We moved to Mexico a month ago and don’t currently use a maid, though I’d love to free up my time for writing and other work.

    When your first began using household help, did you feel uncomfortable having someone in your house all day? That would be my big concern, having an outsider in my personal space.

    • Rachel

      Sometimes there is discomfort, but over time, they really become friends and maybe even part of the family, so the discomfort disappears. My husband is especially good and making others feel welcome and comfortable, and if I do need space, I go to my room 😉

  7. travelmomma (Sj)

    We have always had a maid. I agree, it’s one of the best parts of living overseas. I like to make at least one meal just because I want my children remembering Momm cooking for them. As our children have grown older I covet more alone just as a family time so live in maids are not for us. I choose two or three days a week. I send my laundry out too just because it’s a way to get a chore done but more private time with the fam.
    It’s important to teach kids to work and also important they they show culturally appropiate respect to the workers.

    We always have one day that’s our going out for fun day while the worker cleans and had supper waiting for us. That is the best day of the week for me.

      • travelmomma (Sj)

        Hi Rachel, we currently live in Belize. We are that crazy family of ten (8 kiddos)traveling around and lovin’ life. I love following your blog. I so badly want to have a good blog too. I am a newbie in the world of blogging and am trying to find my way.

        By the way, your new house looks wonderful. Enjoy!

      • Rachel

        Oh, okay! Where in Belize are you?

        There’s a lot that goes into having a good blog – it’s almost like a full time job 😉 We have a project in the works that would give an introduction on how to do it though… stay tuned.

  8. travelmomma (Sj)

    Sounds Great…I look forward to it! We live on the beautiful Humming Bird Hwy. in Belize, but we are moving soon. We are going back to our favorite Cozumel, Mexico for a breather and then, we will begin slow travel down through South America. Maybe we will get to meet you in real life as we travel along.

  9. travelmomma (Sj)

    Just a question–You said your worker does your meals. Do you give her a menu that you want her to follow or do you let her decide each day? Also, how does that work with your shopping and knowing what to buy.

    Also, what do maid breaks look like in your home?

    • Rachel

      Right now she makes the meals she knows how to make – which is fine for us. We have taught her a few things, but it takes an investment in time to teach her to make things other than traditional foods. I don’t want to make that investment right now 😉

      I make a shopping list of our usual foods and snacks, etc, and then ask her what she would like to add to it for meals she wants to make. Then I send her in a tuk tuk to the market. My daughter Kyah goes with her, because she loves to do that kind of stuff, so I give her the money.

      She doesn’t really have a break during the day, because she only works from 10 am to 3 or 4 pm – it’s all work time, however she does eat lunch with us, or have smoothies or snacks if we make some.

  10. travelmomma (Sj)

    That’s great. Thanks for answering. In the Php. I had our maid doing our meals. The food was wonderful but I did not realize just how much oil she was using until I started having serious gallbladder pain.

    I like the hours you have chosen. That gives you plenty of just family time and yet gets the work done.

    • Rachel

      Yes, that is one of my concerns as well – they cook with lots of oil here to. I try to compensate by limiting portions and eating fresh fruits and veggies for other meals/snacks.

      Right now, my focus is on productivity, so unfortunately the ideal diet is not a top priority (due to her doing a lot of the cooking).

  11. Christina @ Interest-Led Learning

    My sister-in-law hired a maid when she was in China. She actually saw it as an investment in the people there, too, because at that time is was very hard for local poor people to get any work. She was providing a very good paying job for someone. Somehow I don’t think it would be the same thing in the US though!

    • Rachel

      Yep, you’re right – not quite as affordable in the States either. I did hire a maid a few times in the U.S. and I paid about $75 for 2-3 hours… now I pay about $25 for a WEEK!

  12. Mel

    I have a cleaning lady! She is a friend of mine, and she cleans for us three times a week. I was in a bad car wreck last October, breaking both of my legs- and had 3 surgeries, plus I have lots of hardware.It is very hard for me to clean and stand for long periods of time. Hubby has been a trooper, but now he is going back to work… and won’t be able to stay on top of it. So we hired a friend of ours who freelances house cleaning. Best decision ever… my house is clean…. and I can relax, focus on school and recovery.


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