Mary Oves Danny Drake

I'm getting my housecleaned next week.

We've had some family adversity this summer, and as I struggled along with my two teaching jobs, my two writing jobs, my three great kids and my dog, some things just got neglected.

The house. The cars. The refrigerator and pantry.

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I joined a local weight-loss program halfway through the summer, because I have always feared that one day I would wake up and look like a Russett potato. So I have been eating well and following a very strict physical regime.

But do you know what I have discovered as I have worked with my nutritionist?

I put myself last.

Now there's a shocker. What woman doesn't?

I exercise six days a week, I wear a bracelet that represents all the colors of the foods I should be eating every day, and I drink plenty of water. But the most important lesson I have learned during this program is that I must not neglect myself. I know, it sounds corny. But it turns out that I do neglect myself. Because when work is done, homework is completed, the dog is walked, dinner is cooked and dishes are cleaned, there's still a dirty house, an empty refrigerator and a woman who needs a good hard run.

So my friend's suggestion was simple: get someone else to do the stuff that takes the most time, so you have that time for yourself.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't like to ask for help. But this summer has proved especially challenging, so I thought I'd try it.

First thing are the cars. They're filthy from the summer of sand, sweat and salt water. Other than my house, my cars are my sanctuary, and when they are messy, everything feels messy. So they would have to get detailed.

But how to transport my messy cars to and from the detailer?

Turns out they have a pick up and drop off service. You leave the keys in the car, they pick it up, clean it and return it with a smile and a bill on the front seat.

If you've never tried this, you must. All you busy mothers out there, you think a pedicure is the ultimate luxury? Try coming home to your family truck so shiny and clean you slip off the seats. When they drop one off, they take the other.

By the end of the week, you have a little piece of mind that that area of your life is organized and neat. It's not cheap. But it's only once or twice a year, and I am a great believer that you can't put a price tag on peace of mind. If you can afford it, it's worth every penny. Oh, my poor house. When you walk in it, it looks neat. No clutter, rugs vacuumed, no dishes in the sink, pillows properly positioned on the couch.

But if you look a little closer, you will see grime on the window screens, dust on the baseboards, grease in the oven and smudges all over the appliances. Love of housework does not run in my family. I'm not good at it. Three hours will find me writing, reading or doing something fun. But my house is suffering. I had the owner of a cleaning service come through to estimate the cost of a spring cleaning. She pointed out all of the things they will take care of for me, things that I can't possibly get to. If it works out, I may go for weekly or bi-weekly cleaning. I work hard, and can afford it. I love grocery shopping, but it takes three to four hours, if you count loading and unloading. I went onto ShopRite online and I discovered that I can shop online and pick my groceries up at an appointed spot. There are things I won't order, like nectarines, because my sons and I love them crunchy, so it's a personal purchase. But being able to pull up to ShopRite and have someone load my bags into the car for no charge gives me three hours with my boys that I wouldn't normally have.

My nutritionist suggested I pay for a food service to deliver healthy meals to my house two to three times a week. That sounds a little Jennifer Aniston to me, but I'm considering it.

I know this all sounds very self-indulgent, but there are periods in everyone's lives when they need a little help. I'm at this juncture now.

So if anyone is reading this, have a lovely year, and remember moms: put yourself at the top of the list. You're worth it.


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