The dirty secret of a happy marriage

Hiring a cleaner can go a long way towards a harmonious home by relieving the stress associated with who does what around the house, writes Arlene Harris.

The dirty secret of a happy marriage

Hiring a cleaner can go a long way towards a harmonious home by relieving the stress associated with who does what around the house, writes Arlene Harris.

Most people are in favour of equality but despite our best efforts, the scales are still out of balance when it comes to household chores.

Recent research from The Office for National Statistics in the UK has revealed that women spend 40% more time cleaning their homes and completing unpaid tasks than their male partners.

This equates to men getting their hands dirty with 16 hours of housework a week while women clock up an unfair 26 hours each week.

So what is the answer? Well according to some couples, the only way around this problem is to hire the services of a cleaner.

Jennifer McCreery founder of McCreery Contract Cleaning has seen a 15% increase in demand for the services of her 65 employees over the past six months.

“Time is precious and more and more people see the value in having their homes cleaned,” she says. “This frees up quality time to spend with family, friends and taking a break from work. There is nothing like coming home to a beautifully clean house. It’s like a fairy has been in with a magic wand and we can get on with living.”

Sally Leadbetter, Nameer Kazzaz, and their sons Tiger, 7, and Omar 10 months.
Sally Leadbetter, Nameer Kazzaz, and their sons Tiger, 7, and Omar 10 months.

Sally Leadbetter agrees and says hiring a cleaner has most likely saved her marriage as both she and her husband Nameer work long hours and despite trying to share the household chores equally, she felt she was doing the lions share, while he believed his housework was more efficient.

“Throughout our relationship my husband and I bickered constantly about housework,” says the mother of two (Tiger, 7, and Omar, 10 months). “It was a real bone of contention that only escalated as we got busier and our family grew. We disagreed about whose turn it was to do the dishes, who was spending more time on the household chores and even squabbled about what was the best way to do different chores.

“So sometimes I’d feel like I had done a great job on something but then he wouldn’t really notice the effort, which was very disheartening. Since Nameer works in Dublin and has a long commute, I felt obliged to do more housework but also felt resentful and didn’t want to fall into a traditional housewife role; I also have a busy job. So we hired a professional cleaner and never looked back.”

The mother of two, who works in her family business — Jerpoint Glass, a handcrafted glass blowing studio, started with a ‘once-off’ clean and was so impressed that she and Nameer have agreed to make it a regular thing.

“We decided to get a cleaner about a year ago by starting with a ‘deep cleaning service’ ahead of the birth of our second baby,” she says. “A team of cleaners dealt with every nook and cranny of the house — so it was pristine, like coming home to a brand new house.

“Now someone comes once a week for three hours which is fantastic, every room is dusted, de-cobwebbed, hoovered, the floors are spotless, kitchen surfaces and cooker are sparkling, the bathrooms are gleaming and we feel confident that our home is clean and safe especially when there is an infant just starting to crawl into everything.

“It’s such a pleasure to arrive home and find it spotlessly clean and smelling incredible. The cleaner brings all her own materials and she is very respectful of our home. Nowadays I cook and Nameer does the dishes. We stay on top of the laundry between us and the cleaner handles the rest and things are a lot more harmonious. I often tell her that she ‘saved our marriage’ which isn’t too far from the truth.”

Relationship expert David Kavanagh.
Relationship expert David Kavanagh.

Relationship expert David Kavanagh believes the Kilkenny woman did the right thing in hiring a cleaner as the stress over ‘who does what’ causes many unnecessary rifts in a relationship.

“The four biggest stress factors in a relationship are money, power, sex and housework,” he says. “Research has shown that women do the most housework in the vast majority of cases and even when both parties believe they are sharing the workload equally, hidden cameras (in households participating in a UK study) have revealed that up to 80% of the work is actually done by the female.

“So while hiring a cleaner is not the answer to everything, it can go a long way towards a harmonious home. Some people say that they can’t afford to get someone in to do the cleaning, but those are the very people who will get a Chinese takeaway once a week so it’s all about deciding what you value most – do you want to reduce the stress in your relationship by not having to quibble about chores or would you rather a takeaway?”

Michael O’Reilly has no problem spending money on a cleaner, but his wife, Joanne says it’s a waste of money. And while statistically it would seem as though the Dublin woman was making a rod for her own back, in this instance, it’s her husband who does most of the chores.

“We have two children who make a lot of mess and when I get home from work the house is always in a state,” says Michael. “Every evening, I spend time putting everything away, loading the dishwasher and then preparing dinner. Joanne says she has no time to do anything because the kids are such a handful but I genuinely can’t understand it.

“I buy the shopping on the way home from work, or we go together at the weekend, I tend to put on the washing and sort it out afterwards and I do the cooking and most of the cleaning up – so I definitely do the majority at home – not to mention the fact that I am out all day at work too.

“I suggested we get a cleaner for one day a week as I am genuinely exhausted every evening and can’t live in such a messy house, but Joanne doesn’t see the point and would rather go out for the evening than ‘waste money on a cleaner’. But I’m determined to make 2018 the year when we sort this out – because while it might not bother my wife, I am sick of doing everything and would much rather pay someone to keep the house in some sort of order, than try to relax amid chaos.”

Sally Leadbetter agrees and says while both she and her husband believed they shared the housework, it did cause a lot of rows and the weekly cost of a cleaner is definitely worth it.

“I would have said that I did most of the housework but my husband would probably not agree,” she says. “Sweeping, mopping, hoovering, laundry, cleaning under sofas, tidying toys, making beds, cleaning the bathroom, kitchen worktops, doors, drawers and inside cupboards, cleaning out the fridge — it was endless.

“Nameer dealt with anything which needed fixing and also the bins and dishes, while on weekends he would do deep cleans and laundry. But in fairness to him the quality of his cleaning is much better than mine but he would dedicate hours to achieving this standard.

“And now although I’m paying €17.50 per hour for home cleaning which is costly, it’s definitely worth it and I would recommend it to anyone with busy jobs or young children. Our time is better spent enjoying family life and quality time together. Having a cleaner just alleviates so much pressure when we’re busy with family, jobs and trying to maintain some semblance of a relationship. It’s definitely money well spent.”

- www.mccreerycleaning.ie

- www.familytherapyireland.com

- www.davidkavanagh.tv

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