St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Shop, chop, mop

Those are just some of the jobs Jamie Mayo performs for her clients as a "Wife - for hire."

Published March 19, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Earlier this month, Mary Paul's cocktail party was on schedule, but she had no idea how she was going to decorate, or even prepare the food.

That's when she made a call to her "wife."

Jamie Mayo prepares food, brings the flowers and even serves as bartender for Paul, her husband and their out-of-town guests.

"She's very dependable, very honest," says Paul, who moved to St. Petersburg a little more than a year ago.

It's a role Mayo plays for about a dozen people throughout the county. As a "Wife - for hire," as her business cards say, she runs the errands, cooks and cleans, but without the nagging. The divorced mother of four has turned being a housewife into a lucrative business for herself.

"God made me a worker," she says. "And it has afforded me that freedom to not have to answer to anybody except myself."

Mayo's job as a bookkeeper gave her access to many people who needed someone to help with their daily tasks. She told her friends she was thinking of starting a cleaning service. Many of them laughed. Determined, she set out to start her business a couple of years ago.

"Six months later, I paid about $100 for signs and I've been going ever since," she said.

Her clients include a single guy who can't find the time to do his laundry and clean his apartment. There are also widowers, elderly couples, travelers and divorcees.

Thursday, she started the day taking care of bookkeeping around 6 a.m. An hour later, she was preparing meals and getting her kids ready for school. Work kicks into gear after her son Charlie, 13, heads off for school.

Her first stop involved painting a house for a married woman in St. Petersburg. After that, she picked up Erica Bilecki, one of three people who help out when the work gets overwhelming.

She and Bilecki clean the house of a widower, in a little more than an hour. It's a job she says would take her more than two to complete by herself. They spend an hour in Pinellas Park cleaning for an elderly couple. They also fix them a few meals.

After dropping off Erica, who has classes at St. Petersburg College, she heads home for a quick breather. Mostly it means she can check in on her kids, make sure homework is being done, then head out to her next assignment.

She goes to Pinellas Park for her next appointment, cleans for a single guy, and takes his laundry when she leaves. She'll bring it back clean and folded sometime before the weekend is over. Then she heads to a commercial job, cleaning a house for a client who's been renovating the house to prepare it for potential buyers to see.

She makes it home by 9:15 p.m. She does a little cooking and cleaning in her own home, then sits down to watch ER. It may be a long day, but Mayo says she's built for it.

"I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and one of my gifts is service," she says.

Paul couldn't agree more. She said she hadn't been in the area for a week before she saw a notice in a community newsletter advertising a wife for hire.

It was perfect. She called right after she set up appointments to turn her utilities on.

"The first call I made, other than utilities, was to Jamie," she says. "The first thing I said was, "Help, I need a wife.' I'm a person who just needs people. I'm lazy. If I'm doing two things, she can do one."

Mayo says she's glad to help.

"That's really what drives my life," Mayo says. "If it's just cleaning their house, cooking a meal or taking their cat to the vet, somehow I've had a positive impact on their life."

Cost of help

What a "wife for hire" charges (all rates are hourly):

- $25 for cleaning

- $17 for cooking

- $15 for bookkeeping

[Last modified March 19, 2006, 01:07:22]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters