Monday, August 12, 2013

The Househelp Question

I promised I would write about this and I must say, I have wanted to, for quite a while. Recently there have been so many stories in the news about House-helps (domestic helps/cleaners) being abused by their employers.

Often its not a case of abuse but that of sublime slavery where the “agents” who are usually referred to as “Aunties” and “Uncles” take such a large portion of what the house helps earn that what these people end up with is less than half the minimum wage (they are often not paid directly). Last week my in law was shocked to discover the girl she had been paying a certain amount on a monthly basis hadn't even seen her salary for months . When the "Aunt" was asked, it appeared this was totally intentional. 

I have visited homes where the housemaids were afraid to sit on chairs so they always found a corner on the floor to sit and eat their meals, they never seemed like they cared because they feel no one cared for them they were always tense.

So many women, especially in Africa ask themselves “Should I get a househelp?” at one time or another. There are so many schools of thought, from those who feel that having a maid is a necessity to those who feel they are performing a humanitarian service by offering education, housing, feeding in return for their chores being done and we also have those who judge those who have househelps, they feel if you need a househelp you are a lazy, unscrupulous, and a child abuser who does not deserve to be called a wife.

It is wrong to make such harsh generalisations, many women do require help and rightly so. If you take pride in being self-sufficient, but just because you can do something doesn't mean you always have to. Particularly when there are a lot of other somethings competing for your limited time and energy. Many women work hard in all aspects of their life, but there are no extra points awarded for working harder than you have to. Just what are we trying to prove, and to whom? We all pay for conveniences and we all choose different things in which to invest our time. I don't think I'm “too posh” to make bread just because I buy mine at the store.

However there are certain guidelines I think should be adhered to when to comes to the matter.

  • A house help should be capable of keeping all the money she earns if she is not considered old enough to do this then perhaps she is not old enough to be a domestic help in the first place. This cuts off the harsh profiteering of the agents.

  • For young live-in househelps, they should be encouraged to have a life that does not only revolve around cleaning your home and taking care of your children. If she is not schooling then she should be enrolled in some kind of vocational training etc…An idle mind is the devils workshop, many women will agree with me when I say that washing the dishes and sweeping floors are tasks that don't require much thought, their minds need to be stimulated as a matter of course.
  • As a rule of thumb, if you cannot afford to pay them the minimum wage then having a house help might really not be an option. Before you work with an individual there is a lot to consider–one issue being whether you'll be using that person’s services frequently enough, and paying him or her enough for the frequency and duration of their labour. It just makes things feel simpler and frankly, less sticky and in line with your conscience.
  • Husbands and wives should come to the decision together. If you agree that there will be no hired help then both of you need to pull your weight. If there is going to be a hired help then you must agree to treat such a person with as much care, love and Godly counsel as you would any other member of you household.

Many of the people I know who have cleaning help have them come once a week, to do major scrubbing and other things while they maintain their homes themselves during the week. I think this is an option many families should explore. 

You don't necessarily have to “import” someone from a faraway village who you are scared to leave around you kids because you are not sure what they might teach them, or if she or he is bitter because they feels "left-out". Find someone who would be pleased to make the extra cash without you taking on their entire responsibility because to be honest, that takes A LOT and very few people can do that efficiently without searing their conscience somewhere along the line.

Whether you hire help or do every blessed household task yourself, the most important thing is that your home is maintained. This does not only refer to keeping it spick and span it also refers to the “emotional and spiritual environment” in your home.


Much love

By Ijeoma Olujekun

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