What is a Maid?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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A maid is a female domestic servant who helps to keep a house in order. Although maids were at one point part of an elaborate system of household staff, in many modern homes, this person works alone, performing a variety of tasks. Depending on the social standing of the household she works for, she may have full time employment caring for one home, or may work on contract cleaning multiple homes, as is the case with someone who works for a service. In this instance, the maid is primarily responsible for cleaning, but no other tasks.

The term “maid” is related to an archaic word used to refer to young, unmarried women. Many of these maids went to serve in large households, either in the position of a lady's companion if they were well educated, or in the position of a house maid. Working in this job would have been a respectable occupation, especially for a woman who decided never to marry, and she could work her way through the ranks to become a housekeeper or head of staff.


In more formal households, a series of maids work in various positions around the house. A head maid manages most of the household staff, and various others work under her to clean, assist the cook, do laundry, and attend to the needs of members of the household. A less formal but still reasonably wealthy household may hire someone to work full-time to keep the house in order, cook, shop, do laundry, and assist with child and pet care.

Whether a maid works singly full time or as a member of household staff, she is usually live-in, so that her services are available at all times. The salary for this type of job is comparable to others in the service industry, and she may come to be regarded as a member of the family. This is especially the case if she assists with child care, as children may grow attached to the maid in her position of caregiver.

On the lower end of the scale, a maid may act as a cleaning lady. Many households hire a service to clean for a few hours each week or month. In this instance, the person performs basic cleaning tasks, but does not do household shopping, assist with cooking, or care for children. Hotel maids and cleaning ladies who work for large businesses fall into this category of employment.


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Post 6

If you have ever wanted to give a special gift to someone, getting a gift card for a maid service is a great way to go. I think that picking up something like this for your wife, or an elderly relative is a great token, and offers them some real substantial help when they may be feeling a bit overwhelmed.

You can get these gift cards at most services, and sometimes even see them in places that sell gift cards for things like iTunes and restaurants.

If you are a bit nervous about choosing your first cleaning service, usually there are sites online that offer reviews of local businesses that you can check out.

Post 5

I think that maid service is very handy to have a few times a month. Often people can get overwhelmed with work and their house starts to slip a bit.

A lot of cleaning services now are quite affordable, especially if you get a package for a number of hours and particular services.

If you really hate cleaning the oven for example, you can pay a one-time fee to have this service added to your regular schedule.

Also, many cleaning services also offer staff that specializes in things like cleaning after a move. As anyone who has ever moved knows, it is a huge job, and cleaning up afterwards can be a real pain. It is great to have services like this available.

Post 4

@MissMuffet - I agree with you that the stereotype of maids is often negative, both in class terms and the way it can be sexualised. Think of fancy dress outfits depicting the hot French maid!

Unfortunately many women who work in this profession suffer as a result. I used to be a hotel manager and we had constant problems with guests propositioning, harassing and sometimes even actually assaulting the female room staff.

It was really heartbreaking to hear the maid's stories about how some men assume they are an easy target. Some people just don't get that this is a free country, and that doing a domestic job does not make someone less of a person.

Post 3

I think these days the term 'maid' is used as a nod to history, but without the same expectations of past times.

In the past people who cleaned hotel rooms were called chambermaids, which conjures up images of medieval slavery to me! I think the title room attendant is much more fitting, especially as men may do this job too.

Language is a very powerful thing, and as long as the phrase cleaning maid makes people think of servants they will never have the respect they deserve.

Post 2

@dfoster85 - Sounds like he was an old-fashioned guy! A southern gentleman, maybe?

I think you're right about how the terms are used, although I sometimes here about "maids" from cleaning services (if only in the name of the business). I know that in the past, there were several different kinds of finely graded maids; being an upstairs maid was quite different from being a parlourmaid, and being a lady's maid was the very highest rank.

But for today, I would only know about the middle class! What the fabulously wealthy call the members of their extensive staffs, I have no idea.

Post 1

Does the term "maid" get used much? I thought a part-time maid tends to be called a cleaner or cleaning lady now, while someone who works full-time for one family is their housekeeper.

"Maid" seems kind of old-fashioned and uncomfortably snobbish to me. I remember being surprised once to hear a private school headmaster refer to having hired a new "maid." He meant a female janitor!

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