Filthy fur-balls, specks of cat litter and rice-cake crumbs are usual sightings on my floor at home – or at least they used to be before I finally gave in and hired a part-time cleaner.
And now, obviously, I feel foolish for not having considered it earlier.
When my sister and I were growing up in the United States, we were expected to make our own beds, fold our own laundry, set the table for meals and wash the dishes afterwards.
Dusting, mopping and vacuuming were normal household chores for us. So, when I got married and moved into a flat of my own here in Dubai, I somehow felt that I'd be doing a disservice to my down-to-earth upbringing and would be sacrificing a little part of my soul if I jumped on the hired-help bandwagon.
Even though my friends had households complete with nannies and
cleaners, some live-in, some part-time, I was confident I could manage without that perceived luxury.
I kept telling myself how much of a waste of money it would be to pay someone to clean my own home – something I was perfectly capable of doing myself.
And then one morning, my pesky cat swiped one of my pens and pushed it under the sofa, and when I knelt down to retrieve it, I was horrified to see the dust bunnies, bottle caps and hardened grains of rice thriving underneath.
It was time to call in the professionals, and so began my relationship with my cleaning service. For Dh35 per hour and a minimum three-hour booking, a woman came to my Jebel Ali apartment once every other week to give my home a scrub-down. Sheets were changed, carpets thoroughly vacuumed, tiled floors mopped, clutter nicely organised and sinks left pristine.
Suddenly, Dh105 – or, Dh120 with a tip, seemed like a small price to pay for fresh, clean scents and spotless floors.
After a few months, we amended the schedule, increasing the frequency to every week.
After more than a year of making do with our own amateur attempts to clean the place, my husband and I had officially caved.
And to be honest, I wish we had done it earlier. There are lots of cleaning agencies in the UAE, and if getting someone full-time is not an option due to costs or a lack of living space in your home, then affordable, part-time help is a highly advisable alternative.
In the Middle East, employing a house-helper isn't a mark of just the elite – it's a normal, mainstream practice, and those who are on the fence shouldn't feel guilty or inadequate about giving it a go.
It's a dilemma a lot of expats often face when setting up home in the
Emirates, where labour costs are exceedingly more affordable than they are back home.
Never once, back in the US, did my family ever employ cleaning help, aside from the occasional carpet-shampooing or sofa-steaming service once in a blue moon – and only if there was some sort of Groupon-style deal on offer.
If any peers ever even mentioned the word "maid", it would evoke images of lavish mansions with well-dressed butlers and frilly, black and white French-maid costumes – a scene out of the movies.
Children growing up in the UAE on the other hand, are so accustomed to their nannies, drivers, cooks and staff, that those without any hired help can sometimes feel like outsiders.
For some, a sort of moral code inhibits the hiring of home help – and while we've all witnessed a few ill-mannered mothers obscenely admonish their nannies in public, the experience is what you make of it.
If you behave kindly, generously and professionally, there shouldn't be any problem, ethical or otherwise.
After all, you're living here now and you don't really know for how long, so if your budget allows, why don't you make your life a little easier by outsourcing your housework, freeing up time that you can spend doing something you enjoy instead?
I hate to sound like a Dubai diva but after living in the UAE for 13 years, I've become so well adjusted to the lifestyle, that, frankly speaking, it would be difficult to go back to life elsewhere, where chores like cleaning the bathrooms would once again become endless entries on my to-do list.
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