Just like behind every successful man, there is a woman, behind every successful woman, there is a loyal or a disloyal domestic housekeeper.
Have you ever thought about this?
Most working professional women and even housewives, have domestic housekeepers at home to help them with the house chores, gardening, taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning and whatever else needs to be done around the house-the list is endless. Some housekeepers even go beyond their job descriptions!
Housekeeping is a full time job that should be respected by domestic housekeepers themselves and their employers. If you are a working woman, it’s hard to juggle your work and your domestic duties. It’s hectic and sometimes impossible and most of the time you are left with no option but to hire some help. Luckily, in African unlike in western countries, the majority of the middle class and below can afford a housekeeper However, hiring and dealing with housekeepers is not a joke! You may get discouraged after going through certain experiences with them and swear that you don’t want them in your homes anymore but soon circumstances will force you to retract and hire them back. It’s like a forced marriage union- you want them but at the same time you don’t want them, whether they sleep in or day in.
In January especially, you are either having new ones on probation or looking for one with the demand being very high. . You go to social media at that time and what you find is desperate women searching or looking for recommendations. Some are ranting on how they had nasty housekeepers, with some going further to post their identity cards and pictures to warn others not to hire them.
In December, most housekeepers usually go back to their villages. Most of them save up throughout the whole year, looking forward to their long vacation and spending time with their families. However, few come back from their vacations! Worse, some of them will dupe you into sending them bus fare for their return journey and once you send money through Mpesa, they switch off their phones. Leaving their clothes behind is not a guarantee that they will come back. It might be a good idea to check the bags they leave behind, as it’s possible that they have just stuffed a blanket inside to fool you into thinking that they will come back. Shock on you!
There are three categories of housekeepers
They are very polite and humble. They know what brought them and importance of their work. Once they get into the system, they work like robots. Don’t you dare disrupt their routine.
They are very loyal and they may end up staying with you for years. They are the ones when they leave at some point; you are left disoriented and confused because they literally running all the affairs of your house. They are gentle with the kids. Jovial and everybody around is just happy. A darling of your household. However, these tend to be few and far between. Should you be lucky to find one of these, please style up, do your bit, and be a blessing to them same us they are a blessing to you. Pay them and treat them well. Show them appreciation. Take care of their welfare in general. They deserve it. They deserve to be respected too.
They are constantly on the move! They are confused and don’t know what brought them to your house in the first place. Their peers and the guards easily sway them. They keep hoping from one house to the other looking for big money and less work, which does not exist.
When you interview them, they ask you how many kids you have. How big your house is. Come on, if I had a tiny house with no kids why would I want to hire a housekeeper? For what reason?
Your instinct can easily tell you ‘’nah she is not the one you are looking for’’ but out of desperation you will ignore and take risk, hoping they will change. They never change! They will never be content with what they are getting. Always looking for more, yet very lazy. They are difficult to advice and behave as if they are the owners of the house. Very bossy with big attitude.
You will find yourself ignoring them and leaving them to do what they want since you don’t want confrontation, or the worst to happen, until you get their replacement. They may leave your house pap without notice or sneak out just when you are scheduled for a busy week at work and the kids are young and in school.
You will keep dreading that call from your neighbour in the evening, ‘’ your kids are back from school, knocking at your gate and no one is opening….!’’ I know you are familiar with this kind of telephone conversation and you know how it ends…very disturbing and annoying!
The smooth operators
They have learnt the art of keeping low and always working on something sinister. When they seize an opportunity to exploit you, you are in trouble. These are the most dangerous ones. They also leave without notice and they can sweep your house clean if you are not around. They are both petty and massive thieves. Small things keep disappearing in the house and when you ask they will not know. They can fool you. By the time, they are leaving, your clothes, and jewelleries etc. will be missing.
Searching their bags when leaving is pointless. Most of them steal things one by one on Sunday when they go off. You will never suspect anything. Shock on you one day when you look for that expensive suit to wear and it is gone!
Since this is a love hate relationship, we have to tolerate one another. For sure, some of the domestic housekeepers will not go to heaven, same as some employers. Regardless of their annoying behaviours sometimes, there are people who treat them as if they are third class citizens. They are human and they deserve love, care and respect despite their annoying habits. They have needs and feelings just like the rest of us. For example, they need to go out to rest and mingle with their peers and vent. Otherwise, if you confine them without giving them any space for a breather, be ready to deal with heart-breaking repercussions.
We’ve heard of horrible stories where they became co-wives. They study you, know your capabilities and weakness and capitalise on them for their selfish gain. They can be very submissive and may end up confusing your men/husbands and before you know it, the competition is too tight and they have won!
Even worse, they can mess your young boys or girls. These people are capable of doing anything, from harming you through the food they cook for you! Do you know they can poison you slowly if they want even get away with it? Food for thought, but not to scare you.
They spent most of their time in your homes and enjoy your luxuries more than you do! In short, you work for them, they are your bosses! Even those nanny cameras will not help much. It begins with your attitude first and then letting God guide you. It’s God who protects you at the end of the day. That is why they are domestic housekeepers! Even you and I will behave same way if we change our profession and become domestic housekeepers.
For me, I have had countless of them. They come and go when they want. Some I chase just because we can’t cope and to avoid grave issues later on. I have also learnt how to network with other women and have backup plans since getting replacement immediately is not easy.
I stopped being emotionally attached to them. I also taught my kids not to become emotionally attached either because when they leave you are left suffering. Change of guard quite often is sickening. Sometimes the turnover rate is super high and you can’t help it. Of course, sometimes you find yourself desperately requesting them to stay a bit for you to look for replacement of which I learnt there is no point. Once she decides to go, let her go.
They have also become scarce due to free education since majority are going to school, which is good for them and our society’s development and empowerment. Am glad that we have smart ones working to save money for college/ or to further their education. We should encourage and support them. They should know housekeeping is just like any other job and they can use it as a stepping-stone to build their career and better their life in future. We all started from somewhere to be where we are.
The problem in African especially in Kenya is that domestic employment is not well defined and regulated by the government. Recently, the government came up with some policy (kenyaemploymentlaw.com/2017/01/19/domestic-workers-statutory-obligations-n-s-s-f-n-h-i-f/).
However, it flopped because it was not all-inclusive and was done in a rush. There was no follow up and goodwill after implementation. Issues came up and majority felt that the policy did not favour them. The government ought to have done more research and come up with realistic policy, which is favourable to all.
Nevertheless, we still need housekeepers in our homes. Let us therefore appreciate them. After all, they do take care of our most valuable things; our children and homes when we are busy chasing our dreams out there. Let us treat them well and bless them. It’s up to them to do good or bad. Do your bit and God will guide you and will bless you.
We all have mixed stories about housekeepers. If we start writing or narrating them, we will, all cry with pain and laugh with joy at the same time. It is a love and hate relationship.
However, it is important to focus more on the positive stories. At the end of the day, we are where we are comfortably, because they are watching our back at home. Right?
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