Life & Culture

First person: I’m helpless without the help

Keren David confesses that she is the very personification of the cleaner-dependent Jews surveyed for World Jewish Relief.


I am writing this in a crumpled dress, picked from a mountainous laundry pile this morning and swiftly and inexpertly ironed, the perfect metaphor for my inner turmoil. For I am suffering the ultimate first-world problem, the overnight desertion (no, I’m not taking it personally) of my wonderful cleaner-and-handyman team, due to a family emergency in their home country.

Yes, I am the personification of the Jews surveyed for World Jewish Relief. I had — sob — frequent visits from the cleaners, who also did all the ironing and any odd jobs, from putting together flat pack furniture to hanging pictures.

I also have regular visits from a gardener and a window cleaner.

I could tick every box in the survey’s list of why I employ help. I don’t have the time (cleaning my house takes ages), quite often I don’t know how to (gardening) or don’t like doing it myself (ironing). And some things (window cleaning) I am not physically able to do.

It is most definitely cheaper to get someone else to do it, because my husband can earn far more money as a business consultant than he would save by doing the hoovering himself. And he would be doing half of the work, because it is most certainly half his responsibility. In fact, having help saves us from many tedious gender-based arguments.

It’s not as though we do nothing around the house. I spend a huge amount of time cooking, tidying and, yes, cleaning, despite all our help. So does my husband and so do our kids, who clean up after dinner every night, including dealing with rubbish, washing-up and vacuuming, which they do with a Scargill-like attention to contractual niceties.

I had thought that once one child went to university the household chores would diminish. But when she went, we foolishly adopted two cats, not quite realising the perils of muddy pawprints, shed hairs and scattered cat litter.

Most of my friends have some sort of help, although no one tops the woman I knew from the kids’ primary school, who was married to a billionaire and ran her own very successful company. She had a house manager and a housekeeper to manage their phalanx of home help. When we went there on play-dates, the house manager would serve canapes. “If women are unhappy,” she would pronounce, “they should just get some more help”

I tend to agree. Anyone know a great cleaner in north London?

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