Don’t take this the wrong way…

My writing partner Elisa and I have a joke that whenever someone starts a sentence with, "Don't take this the wrong way, but…," you know you're in for it. Basically because it's a dead giveaway that they're about to deliver a blow, which they're lamely attempting to soften. So recently, when I found myself thinking, "I hope they don't take this the wrong way…," I knew I was in trouble. It concerns whether or not to send a gift that I fear could easily be construed as criticism.

My husband and I have friends in another city whose house we visit occasionally with our kids. After each visit, I always like to send something to thank them for hosting us, for example, a gift basket or gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. But my dirty little secret (and in this case, I do mean dirty), is that the gift I'd really like to send them is a house cleaner! 

Now, I obviously realize the friendship-ending damage such a gift could have, which is why I haven't ever actually gone through with it. But I've seriously considered it because the truth is, while we try to tidy up our own mess throughout the weekend, we all know that hosting overnight guests (let alone guests that include a toddler and a baby) always requires a serious post-departure clean-up. And wouldn't it be nice to have that clean-up taken care of (and paid for) without the hosts having to lift a finger?

If I were staying at someone's beach house while they were away (as some very generous friends have allowed us to do), I would certainly pay to have the house cleaned before my friends returned so they could walk into a house that's even more sparkling clean than when they left it. So why does it feel so much more critical to send a cleaner to a friend's house when you've just spent the weekend together?             

Is it rude or gracious to send a house cleaner to a friend's house after you've stayed there for the weekend?